What Are Adaptogens, And How To Pick The Right Ones For Your Skin Type

There's a hot new buzzword in wellness, and it runs the gamut from mushroom coffee to ashwagandha face cream: We're, of course, talking about the elusive world of adaptogens. Rooted in ancient tradition (they've been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years), adaptogens are commonly ingested for physical wellbeing. However, most recently, these once-medicinal ingestibles can now be found on the list of star ingredients in your beauty products. And while it's no secret the seemingly new fad has been popping up more and more along the skincare aisle, you might be wondering what exactly it means for your routine.

What Are Adaptogens?

First things first: Adaptogens are essentially a term coined for medicinal herbs and botanical extracts that reduce fatigue and the toxic effects of stress on the body. As we know, stress can manifest itself visually on the skin via breakouts, inflammation, and other surface ailments. If you're feeling stressed (Who isn't?), and your skin is showing it, adaptogens could be your answer.

Aptly named adaptogens adapt to what you need and regulate the body's response to stress, ultimately leaving you with luminous skin. Some common types of adaptogens include ginseng, reishi mushroom, ashwagandha, holy basil, licorice, aloe vera, rosemary, milk thistle, and turmeric. Sound familiar? Right about now, you might be realizing you actually have quite a few of these ingredients sitting in the products on your bathroom counter.

Why Should I Use Adaptogens?

Dr. Ryan Turner of Turner Dermatology tells us that while there is a lot of science behind the individual bioactive compounds that make up adaptogens, "the effect of [them] can be variable on each person's skin." However, he notes some of the most common benefits include slowing the aging process, calming inflammation, and protecting the skin from free radical damage. Additionally, he adds, "many adaptogens contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, E , B and contain trace amounts of the minerals zinc and copper that support the skin," as well as loads of "well-known antioxidants."

What Adaptogens Should I Use?

As you're learning, adaptogens can be found in skincare products from toners to serums, and moisturizers to face masks, but the vast selection can be dizzying. Here, Dr. Turner breaks down some of the most popular ones and their benefits:

For Tired Skin:
"Ginseng may be the most well-known of adaptogens that is used for increased energy, improved thought, and decreasing inflammation."
Reishi Mushrooms

For Stressed Skin:
"Reishi mushrooms are believed to improve longevity in Chinese healing traditions. Some support that these mushrooms improve the immune system and increase energy. Reishi mushrooms can improve hydration of the skin and contain powerful antioxidants to protect the skin. Reishi mushrooms naturally contain skin brighteners and powerful antioxidants."

Try: Kat Burki’s Vitamin C Intensive Face Cream
This reishi mushroom and vitamin C-infused cream penetrates deep into the skin to save a lackluster complexion and protect the skin from environmental toxins.

For Inflammation:
"Ashwagandha has been suggested to have anti-inflammatory effects and relax the body in some studies.

For Damaged Skin:
"Turmeric has active compounds called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage as well as reduce inflammation. Turmeric also has protectant antioxidant properties."

For Sensitive Skin:
"Aloe can help soothe sensitive skin and contains many important vitamins and minerals."

Dr. Turner also explains, "each adaptogen has a unique bioactive profile, and because of their versatility, they may work for each person differently based on the skin's needs at that time." In other words, it may take some trial and error and some close skin monitoring to place your finger on the specific adaptogens that work best for you. Just remember, "anyone with known allergies or sensitivities to these herbs, mushrooms, or any of the active compounds should avoid their use," he explains.