Have you ever become obsessed with an ingredient before actually having any experience with it? That’s what happened with me and centella asiatica. This exotic sounding plant is supposed to have all sorts of soothing and renewing properties that I really wanted to work on my skin. Plus, centella asiatica looks like miniature lily pads! How cute is that?
Unfortunately, this is not a rave review. I find this product to be harmless but seriously underwhelming. Let’s get this over with, shall we?
What Is Centella Asiatica + Why This Toner Probably Doesn’t Work
Centella asiatica, also known as gotu kola, is a plant native to the wetlands of Asia. It’s been used for 3000 years in Asia and India as a general heal-all. There’s a good amount of mythology around this plant, particularly around the sub species hydrocotyle asiatica minor, which is referred to as “fo ti tieng” which translates into elixir of long life and was theorized in the 70’s as containing a mysterious youth preserving factor called “vitamin X.”
Unfortunately, the existence of this subspecies has been debunked since then, but within all this mythology, there are a few sound bites of truth. There is a substantial amount of science testifying to centella asiatica’s potential as a wound healing ingredient, specifically around the plant’s primary compounds asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic and madecassic acids.
Amongst some of the findings, topical application of extracts of centella asiatica have been shown to increase collagen, decrease inflammatory reactions, exhibit anti-psoriatic activity, enhance type I collagen and demonstrate significant improvement to skin firmness, elasticity, and hydration when used in conjunction with 5% vitamin C, and reduce the likelihood of developing stretch marks in pregnant woman (source). There is also some promising in vitro research that madecassoide may inhibit UV-induced melanin synthesis (i.e. tanning) and that centella asiatica extract could protect DNA from ultraviolet light induced damage.
The science is obviously there so why doesn’t this toner work? My (uneducated) theory is that there’s just not enough of the active compounds in this toner. The most pharmacologically active compounds mentioned above are just some of the centelloids that centella asiatica contains. Others include brahmic acid, madasiatic acid, terminolic acid, and centellic acid. All of these centelloids together make up only 1% – 8% of the things in a centella asiatica plant. A lot of the research on centella asiatica use very specific extracts. For example, the first benefit mentioned in the paragraph above was based on a total triterpenic fraction extract of centella asiatica, which apparently means this extract comprises 60% asiatic acid and madecassic acid as well as 40% asiaticosides.
From this, it seems like using centella asiatica extract for its active components is akin to using kiwi extract for its vitamin C – you probably do still get some of the benefits, but it’s not going to be on par with the results you get from a product containing purified ascorbic acid. Moreover, this toner is actually mostly (82%) mineral water and only contains 10% centella asiatica leaf water, so whatever benefits the centella asiatica compounds are producing are even further diluted. There are products that do contain clinically studied extracts of centella asiatica though – Madecassol, for example, is a Korean scar-prevention cream that contains a specific titrated extract of centella asiatica.
I have inflammatory acne on my face that tends to leave behind a lot of hyperpigmentation after it heals. Because of the anti-inflammatory and general healing properties of centella asiatica, I was hoping this toner would have a positive effect on my acne.
The ingredients, which are few and clean, are as follows:
Mineral Water, Centella Asiatica Leaf Water , Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Betaine, Panthenol, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ethyl Hexanediol
Unfortunately, I am halfway through my bottle of toner and I can’t really say that it’s done anything. In fact, if someone had dumped out the actual toner and replaced it with tap water, I would not be able to tell. I do plan on finishing this toner – I use this to mist my skin before applying serums and creams – applying skincare products to damp skin allegedly helps the ingredients absorb – but again, I feel like bottled water would suffice just as well.
The Bottom Line
Harmless but ultimately very boring skin mist. Skip this one.
Disclosure: Product paid for by me. Affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy here.