Asia has been the home of natural beauty secrets with ingredients that are native to the region and are often part of beauty formulations. We list some important ones to look out for!
By: Bindu Gopal Rao
Posted on: October 25, 2023
Asian beauty ingredients that are native to the region are an inevitable part of organic and natural beauty products. They come with a plethora of benefits that have several advantages. With so many beauty brands now turning towards these rarely known – and rarely available – ingredients, we have drafted a glossary to help you understand their benefits. Bonus? We also list some products that have them!
An excellent ingredient for excellent skin benefits, the beautiful rose is known for its natural cleansing properties, as it can unclog pores for glowing skin, and its astringent properties help in reducing acne, inflammation, and redness. Rose has vitamins like A, C, D, and E and anti-aging properties to control wrinkles and fine lines. Use rose spray as a toner to balance the pH of your skin.
Roses are packed with antioxidants that aid in regenerating skin tissues, neutralizing free radicals, soothing itchiness, and maintaining skin moisture. Used in anti-aging products, rosehip seed oil that uses the fruit of the rose has retinol. A variety of roses are available in different Asian countries.
Dr. Dendy Engelman, a Manhattan dermatologist, told New York Times: “Studies have touted that certain roses have high amounts of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. And there is evidence that it helps protect cells and has anti-inflammatory properties.”
Some products, that have utilised this much loved flower, are Elizabeth Arden’s White Tea Wild Rose Pure Indulgence Body Cream, Tatcha’s The Water Cream, Uma’s Ultimate Brightening Rose Powder Cleanser, and Drunk Elephant’s Wonderwild Miracle Butter.
Also called Indian lilac, neem has antibacterial properties that help with acne-prone skin as it helps in controlling the skin's oil production. A bitter plant, it is a soother for skin irritation. With moisturizing triglycerides and vitamin E, neem helps reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots to give the skin a toned look. Regular use is also known to reduce black and white heads due to its exfoliating nature.
Neem's antifungal properties help to reduce dandruff, reduce hair fall, and curtail premature graying of hair. A gentle scalp massage with neem oil can increase blood circulation as well. A natural conditioner, it has linoleic, oleic, and stearic acids, all of which are fatty acids that nourish and smooth hair texture.
The goodness of neem can be certified by many an Indian. Garima Ahluwalia, Founder of Joly Beauty, says, “Growing up, I suffered with severe hormonal acne. It was my dadi (grandmother) who recommended I wash my face with neem water day and night to help clear out the acne and soothe the inflamed skin. That led to a half day long expedition with my father to visit our local parks to spot a neem tree. I remember collecting neem leaves, twigs, whatever I could grab from the lowest tree branch, and bringing it back home to boil the leaves in water. We made our own neem-concoction and used it as a face rinse…it truly helped my skin so much!” Joly Beauty is a marketplace retailing South Asian inspired, American-made beauty products. They have built a niche around curating products for brown skin, addressing issues like hyperpigmentation, scarring, dullness and dryness – issues common in melanin-rich skin.
Finding products with neem is indeed still a challenge. But Joly Beauty offers Sundari’s Neem Night Cream. Interestingly, Augustinus Bader sells The Neem Comb which is made from the wood of the neem tree.
3. Amla or Indian Gooseberry
Another rare ingredient that is not so readily available in America, amla is known as a powerhouse of an ingredient that is said to be filled with vitamin C. With their natural phytonutrients, gooseberries have properties that help the skin by reducing the incidence of premature aging and protecting the skin from the sun's harmful UV rays.
Having qualities that help reduce melanin production in your skin, amla can lighten skin tone as well. Being a natural blood purifier, it not only helps in reducing acne but also helps control pimples and acne-related scarring. It also has ultra-skin-cleansing properties and can be used as a gentle exfoliator as well.
Some products that have captured the goodness of amla well are Taila’s Prana Face Oil and Nila Botanics’ Life Skin Illuminating Oil.
4. Centella Asiatica, or Gotu Kola
An herb in the parsley family, Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is part of many Korean beauty products. Said to have collagen-boosting properties, this herb has been dubbed the herb of longevity in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine practices. It has flavonoids and phenolic compounds that help combat free radicals and the effects of UV rays.
The herb improves skin barrier function and lessens redness by restoring hydration and lowering the pH value of the skin. It is also known to improve blood circulation and can maintain the youthfulness of the skin. The amino acids and beta-carotene in this ingredient help with deep moisturization as well. Some products that include this herb are Drunk Elephant’s Sili Whipped Body Lotion, Sahajan’s Radiance Face Serum and Peach & Lily’s Original Glow Sheet Mask.
A perennial aquatic flower that has been used in personal care products in China and India, all parts of the lotus, including the seeds, stem, roots, flower, and rhizome, are full of nature’s goodness. With its inherent color that works well to create natural tints, it is great in skin formulations.
Some scientific studies also indicate that lotus can protect itself from the sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The flowers also have anti-wrinkling properties, and the phenolic and flavonoid content in them helps protect the skin against any disease. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help with related skin disorders as well. It is also a great ingredient for hair, as it can help delay hair graying and reduce dandruff. The Pure Lotus’ Jeju Lotus Leaf Oil Serum and Sundari’s Gotu Kola & Sacred Lotus Cellulite Lotion are some of the rare products that include lotus.
With its woody aroma, sandalwood has always been a go-to ingredient for skin issues in ancient Ayurvedic texts – a household ingredient if we may say so. In fact, in its oil form, it has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiproliferative, antiviral, and antiseptic properties that help address skin conditions like scarring, wrinkles, inflammation, eczema, and psoriasis.
An effective ingredient for anti-skin tanning, it is common in homemade skin packs. It helps control oil secretion and gives your face an instant glow. The astringent properties of sandalwood oil are beneficial for treating split ends, controlling excess sebum, and increasing hair luster. So include Uma’s Ultimate Brightening Face Oil in your routine. Taila’s Prana Face Oil also makes use of sandalwood in its concoction.
Hailed as a magic ingredient for skin and hair care, coconut oil has long been used for long and lustrous hair in India, especially in the southern state of Kerala. Known to manage frizzy, damaged hair and nourish and moisturize the skin, coconut has been a go-to ingredient in most Indian households.
Increasingly, it is also being used in lip balms for its restorative properties. A boon for acne-prone skin, the antioxidants in the oil also contain antibacterial properties to prevent new acne breakouts. It also works as a foot scrub, as it has naturally exfoliating properties. Coconut oil for the hair helps in stimulating hair growth, reducing dandruff and lice, and preventing hair breakage. It also helps retain scalp hydration, which makes it an excellent natural conditioner. Drunk Elephant uses this white nut in its Cocomino Glossing Shampoo, Aromatica in its Natural Coconut Cleansing Oil, Pangea Organics in its Haitian, Mandarin Rind & Vetiver Body Oil, and Sundari in its Neem & Coconut Hair Treatment Oil.
With its inherent strong aroma, clove has a multitude of beneficial properties for the skin. Clove oil is known to clear acne and reduce pain, blemishes, and marks on the skin due to the compound eugenol present in it. It also works to reduce saggy skin and helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
With its anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties, it ensures your skin retains a natural youthful tone. In fact, eugenol also helps in promoting hair growth and clove oil that can be mixed with a carrier oil helps to improve blood circulation in the scalp and promote stronger hair growth. Clove has proven its abilities in Tata Harper’s Limited Edition Hemp Body Oil, Uma’s Deeply Clarifying Blemish Spot Treatment, and Pangea Organics’ Catalonian Cypress & Juniper Hand Soap.
Hailed as an ingredient that can calm the skin (think applying turmeric to wounds), its active component, curcumin, has always been known to have potent benefits. By being able to reduce inflammation and oxidation, turmeric is known to help in hyperpigmentation and acne scarring.
“So much of Indian cooking incorporates a healthy dose of turmeric. Growing up, I have applied turmeric paste to small cuts and bruises. as well as in face packs. I have seen turmeric work to improve skin conditions, and I know it's effective,” says Ms. Ahluwalia of Joly Beauty.
The ingredient is a boon for skin care products as it helps build collagen, which makes the skin seem firmer and more vibrant. Its ability to combine with ingredients like honey, milk, yogurt, and rosewater means this versatile ingredient is part of several skin care formulations. Turmeric is also known to be helpful in treating eczema and lightening dark skin around the eyes. So furnish your beauty closet with Sundari’s Brightening Glow Turmeric Cream, Taila’s Nava Jungol Detoxifying Jungle Mask, and Peach & Lily’s Peptide Pro Firming Moisturizer.
10. Bhringraj (or false daisy)
Bhringraj, a weed that is commonly found in India, has long been used as a key ingredient in Ayurvedic hair oils as it is known to help promote hair growth. Bhringraj oil has vitamin E and D, magnesium, calcium, and iron and can help with premature graying and dandruff prevention as well.
It also helps in skin care as it can reduce the dullness of the skin and reduce symptoms of acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis due to its anti-inflammatory properties. A rare find in beauty products, indulge in Nila Botanics’ Bloom Hair Vitality Oil.
So whether you wanted to understand these ingredients more, or were just searching their goodness, hope we helped!