Throughout all corners of the wellness industry, stress reduction seems to be a huge trend focus for 2021. Reducing and managing stress allows our immune system to function to its best ability, and stress can have a knock-on effect on our skin, by triggering the production of cortisol, which can mean an exacerbation of symptoms of skin conditions including acne, psoriasis and eczema. From a less nerdie standpoint, being stressed is at the least an uncomfortable feeling, and I personally do what I can to reduce that sensation!
Adaptogens, if you are not well-acquainted, are herbs that can assist in our body’s stress responses when eaten. You’ll find adaptogens galore in Chinese medicine, and Ayurveda and Siddha medical systems, so they have been used for their therapeutic properties for a very, very long time. Some examples of adaptogens include holy basil (or Tulsi), ashwagandha, and ginseng – with ginseng perhaps being the most well-known adaptogen.
In a 6-week human study, Tulsi, or holy basil, appeared to reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and depression associated with generalised anxiety disorder. It is also believed to have broad-spectrum anti-microbial qualities, and antioxidant properties. You can find plenty of supplements containing holy basil, for example, the Hush & Hush MindYourMind supplement (€55, 60 capsules, theskinnerd.com), which contains holy basil to help you relax and catch some high-quality Zzzs.
Topically, holy basil is said to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, and it shows promise as a tyrosinase inhibitor and collagenase inhibitor. What does that mean? Tyrosinase in an enzyme that acts in our skin’s pigment-making process, and collagenase is an enzyme responsible for breaking down the peptide bonds in collagen, our skin’s structural protein. For those of us who see dark marks or patches of pigment, or wrinkles and lax skin, we’re looking for ingredients that can effectively inhibit tyrosinase and collagenase! You can find tulsi in Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Cleanser (€35.41, arnotts.ie).
Perhaps the most lauded of the adaptogens is ashwagandha. In a study with chronically-stressed participants, ashwagandha significantly reduced stress, and cortisol levels were significantly reduced. Another Hush & Hush product, their DeeplyRooted (€75, 120 capsules, theskinnerd.com) supplement, includes ashwagandha as a means to help reduce stress for improved hair health – we may as well be calm, cool, collected and healthy-maned.
Just like holy basil, when applied topically, ashwagandha seems to have antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, and additionally helps in inhibiting tyrosinase in studies – read: potentially brightening. You can find it in Youth to the People Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream (€49, youthtothepeople.com).
Ginseng, when ingested, can suppress stress, and has a positive effect in those with stress-related depression. It additionally has the potential to improve anxiety. Topically, it has antioxidant properties, can boost skin hydration and can assist in wound healing and work to improve the appearance of skin ageing. You can find ginseng in Paula’s Choice Defense Antioxidant Pore Purifier (€35, paulaschoice-eu.com).
In my opinion, there are plenty of ingredients that offer the same benefits of adaptogens in topical skincare, with more research into their effects. However, when you undoubtedly see these wonder herbs crop up in more skincare formulas next year, now you’ll know of their potential benefits. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, I’d recommend speaking to your GP or to a mental health professional – or both. Prioritise taking care of yourself, and your skin will follow suit.
I believe antioxidants are the underdog of skincare, and this serum is filled to the brim with them, including turmeric extract. And you guessed it, turmeric is also considered to be adaptogenic. Ideal for those of all skin types who want a boost of daily protection, and it contains hyaluronic acid to help with skin dehydration. It’s a super soother too, with green tea extract, aloe leaf juice and niacinamide. I have always liked this serum mixed with another serum. It’s so lightweight you can layer it on easily at night, if you feel that your skin needs a boost.
IMAGE Ormedic Balancing Antioxidant Serum (€74.50, theskinnerd.com & selected salons)