Adaptogens in Skincare: True Benefits Beyond Buzz
Despite popular belief, skin care is not easy and requires multiple tools and products to protect our skin. Some parts of our skin are easier to treat than others, but it requires a carefully curated routine to manage properly. Fortunately, there are several tools we can use to make the process easier, though the bigger challenge is learning how to use them.
Different tools require different processes to use since they have different compositions, textures, and qualities. The shocking thing is that there are certain resources that the average person does not know about despite being some of the most effective for skin care and general health. Some of these compounds are inadvertently consumed because they are naturally found in readily available foods and plants.
One type of compound is adaptogens, which might be a foreign concept to certain people and groups due to their origins. Nevertheless, adaptogens are among our more popular skincare tools thanks to their benefits. Adaptogens are interesting because they are not used as topical products and are consumed by people needing skincare treatments.
There are several types of adaptogens, but they mostly provide the same benefits, albeit to differing degrees. While adaptogens are becoming more popular in the skincare industry, not everyone knows what these compounds offer and what makes them so beneficial to our health. The main question is: What are the real benefits offered by adaptogens?
What Are Adaptogens?
Despite the implication, adaptogens are not chemicals or medications, nor are they medications or supplements by themselves. Adaptogens refer to a type of plant with specific qualities other plants lack. As a result, only certain plants can be refined into adaptogenic supplements and skincare products, but most people do not know the details associated with this distinction.
That said, the herbs, roots, and plants that qualify as adaptogens are remarkably common and easy to acquire. You may already have one or two of them in your home, even if you did not realize it. The common nature of adaptogenic plants has drawn their validity into question since some are unsure of what distinguishes them from ordinary plants.
As mentioned, adaptogens have special traits that distinguish them from their counterparts. Specifically, a plant can only be considered an adaptogen if it is capable of the following 3 things:
- The plant must be non-toxic in normal doses.
- The plant must generate a chemical effect that regulates the body's ability to handle stress.
- The plant must restore homeostasis (balance within the body).
If the plant lacks even one of these qualities, it is not an adaptogen and cannot be marketed as one by holistic vendors. Many plants possess 1 or even 2 of the traits that distinguish an adaptogen, but lacking the 3rd disqualifies them from the role. Unfortunately, certain vendors might try to sell these plants as adaptogens because they tick off some boxes.
Nevertheless, you should always ensure the plant has all 3 qualities before using it as an adaptogenic supplement. Of course, this begs why you should use adaptogens in your skincare routine. After all, a plant supplement might be healthy, but there is an understandable disconnect between these plant consumption and skincare regimens. However, you might be surprised to learn that adaptogens are among the best tools for maintaining the health and quality of human skin.
What Are the Benefits of Adaptogens?
The answer to this question is a little more complicated than you might have guessed since it is not universal. The simplest explanation is that the benefits of adaptogens depend on the type of adaptogen you use. We mentioned that adaptogens are any plants that meet the 3 criteria outlined above, but there is one detail we did not discuss. The number of adaptogens that exist is much larger than the criteria suggest.
There are at least 70 recognized adaptogens, though not all have made the cut to be used as skincare or healthcare supplements. The sheer number of adaptogens further complicates the process of using one for your specific needs but does not make it impossible. That said, the adaptogen you choose does impact the benefits it offers and affects the efficacy of those benefits.
Some adaptogens are niche and ideal for specific issues, whereas others are broader and can be used for multiple concerns. The trick is identifying the best adaptogen for your particular concerns. Fortunately, most of them are well-rounded and can address some of the most common issues in skincare.
Option #1: Ashwagandha
There is an evergreen shrub called Withania somnifera native to India, Africa, and the Middle East. While W. somnifera is named for one of its primary benefits, most people know it by its common name of ashwagandha. You have likely heard of ashwagandha, though you might not have had a reason to use it before now.
Despite that, ashwagandha is one of the more prominent examples of an adaptogen and is among the most commonly used. Ashwagandha is available in most markets and can be purchased relatively easily, but you are probably more interested in how ashwagandha can improve your skin. The main benefit of ashwagandha in skincare is its anti-inflammatory effect that can reduce skin irritation, redness, and swelling.
Inflammation is a major problem for sensitive skin since it can cause dry skin, rash, and other unpleasant symptoms that affect your skin. Worse still is that inflammation can become a chronic issue that keeps your skin mired in these symptoms.
A study from 2021 divided subjects into test and control groups, with the former receiving an Ayurvedic supplement made from ashwagandha twice daily for a week. The control group received a placebo instead for the same timeframe. When the study concluded, subjects in the test group had reduced concentrations of inflammatory markers and significantly reduced their inflammation symptoms.
Regulating inflammation is crucial to protecting your skin from long-term damage, making it less likely to dry out and crack. While this benefit is one of the key details of ashwagandha, it has another major benefit that has a surprising effect on the skin.
Ashwagandha was named after its ability to help people fall asleep, which turned it into an insomnia treatment. The thing is, ashwagandha is not a drowsing agent (meaning it does not make you sleepy or put you to sleep). Rather, ashwagandha can reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep since you are less worried about other things. While the correlation between stress and insomnia is well-known, you might be surprised to learn that it also affects your skin.
Specifically, stress can contribute to inflammation and reduce your body's ability to heal wounds (which causes scarring). In some cases, extra stress can jumpstart our sebum production (skin oil), which increases the risk of acne breakouts by clogging pores and trapping bacteria.
Ashwagandha's ability to reduce stress can prevent it from damaging your complexion. As an adaptogen, ashwagandha shares its stress relief abilities with the rest of the plants in its class. The difference is that ashwagandha's stress relief effects are due to an interaction with the HPA axis, a system in the human body that regulates stress response.
Ashwagandha reduces activity in the HPA axis, making it less likely to generate stress signals for the rest of the body. This effect was proven in a study where 60 subjects were divided into test and control groups (like the previous one). In this study, the test group was given 240 milligrams of ashwagandha extract daily for 60 days. Conversely, the control group was given a placebo. The test group showed significantly reduced stress levels when the study ended, whereas the control group showed no change.
Thanks to its adaptogenic qualities, ashwagandha's effects make it an extremely effective skincare product. That said, it is far from the only option people have when looking for an adaptogen.
Option #2: Reishi
People think of adaptogens mostly as plants and herbs with leaves or stems, but another class of adaptogens gets overlooked. Several adaptogenic fungi can be consumed and used for skincare, though most people forget that mushrooms have benefits beyond cuisine. Several exotic mushrooms have unique characteristics and compositions, including adaptogenic mushrooms that might not be common.
One of the more interesting examples of adaptogenic mushrooms is Ganoderma lingzhi, better known as reishi mushrooms. Chinese society has used reishi in folk medicine for years, but modern research has uncovered reishi mushrooms' effects on improving health and skin quality. Of course, the biggest advantage of consuming reishi mushrooms is that they share ashwagandha's ability to alleviate stress.
While ashwagandha interacts with the HPA axis, reishi supports the adrenal glands responsible for secreting cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone secreted in response to stressful situations and generates stress responses. Without cortisol, our bodies would not generate appropriate stress responses, but the problem is that too much cortisol can harm our health.
Insofar as skin is concerned, excess cortisol makes it easier for us to develop stress-related blemishes and inflammation. Reishi does not increase cortisol synthesis but helps the adrenal glands regulate secretions so there is no unnecessary stress. The benefits of reishi mushrooms are not anecdotal since a study proves they can help prevent stress-related damage.
That said, not many studies focus on reishi's use as a skincare tool, so most focus on how it protects against stress-related damage to the internal body. One of the more prominent studies focused on male athletes overtraining from cycling.
Overtraining causes stress damage to the body, and the study tested the effects of reishi, combined with another mushroom known as Cordyceps, to try and reduce the damage. The study showed that the mushrooms protected the cyclists from further damage and reduced their stress levels.
An additional study was conducted on rats to determine whether they could protect them from stress-induced anxiety. The results were extremely promising, but more research is needed to confirm the effect. Insofar as skincare is concerned, a slightly more important result is that reishi mushroom improves skin hydration. Keeping our skin hydrated is essential to preventing wrinkles, dry skin, and other issues that might damage our skin's health and appearance.
Like most mushrooms, reishi has natural moisture that can be transferred to our bodies when applied properly. However, consuming mushrooms also provides moderate hydration that our bodies can redistribute as necessary.
Reishi is one of several adaptogenic mushrooms, but it is one of the most accessible and effective options on the market. The problem is that finding adaptogenic supplements can be difficult in today's society, especially given the prevalence of artificial or pharmaceutical-grade ingredients. Fortunately, finding an effective supplement for your skin is not impossible.
Finding the Right Blend
Adaptogens are extremely beneficial plants that can help regulate stress and return our bodies to their natural state. While skincare is not their primary function, their effects on our body can indirectly heal our skin and maintain its appearance. Considering how difficult skincare is, finding compounds and resources that effectively restore our skin is essential.
Adaptogens can bolster your skincare routine and make it easier to restore your complexion while fortifying the skin barrier. Unfortunately, quality adaptogens can be difficult since most skincare tools are primarily synthetic to create more powerful results. Nevertheless, adaptogens are a natural alternative that can be acquired from certain vendors if you know where to look.
We at Teami have always believed that natural compounds are best for enhancing skin health and quality. Our bodies are designed to synergize with natural compounds, whereas pharmaceuticals are harsher, albeit necessary in certain cases.
We have several natural skincare products that can help you rejuvenate and protect your skin from damage. And, as you might have guessed, adaptogens are among the products we offer. Our main adaptogen product is our Reds Superfruit Powder (which uses reishi mushrooms as the main adaptogen). We also have our Hormone Hero Vitamin (which contains ashwagandha root). Either product can give you the benefits of adaptogenic plants, but the choice of which one you use is yours. We encourage you to visit our website and try our products for yourself.
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