Ingredient Tigers roll all over it. Elephants eat it. TCM and Ayurveda use it. Nature’s most adept healer is now at a cosmetics counter near you.
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Cica can be one of two things: the abbreviated name of the herb, centella asiatica (first letter of the first word and last three letters of the second), or of the French word “cicatrisation” which means “to heal”.
Mainly found in South-east Asia, India and China, it also grows in tropical wetlands around the world. According to a study on the use of centella asiatica in cosmetology by the Department of Pharmacognosy in Poznan University of Medical Science, Poland, cica has been used topically as a powder or ointment on small wounds, scratches, burns, eczema and ulcers. When its leaves are powdered, mixed with water and consumed as a drink, or added to salads and rice, it reportedly improves problems like memory loss and lack of concentration. A 2010 study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that it is also used to treat conditions like eczema, diarrhoea and fever.
Animals are said to know that cica is good for them too: Tigers in India “treat” their wounds or infections by rolling over the plant (hence cica’s other name, tiger grass); and it is believed that elephants in Sri Lanka have a better memory because they frequently snack on cica.
What’s used in traditional medicine and in the wild is now used cosmetically – not to treat wounds but skin redness, dryness and itching.
1 Etude House’s Soon Jung 5-panthensoside Cica Balm ($16-$33.90) gives immediate comfort to dry, stinging, red or eczema-prone skin.
2 Dr. Belmeur, a gentle derma range from The Face Shop, relaunches its Advanced line with four cica-based products – Recovery Serum ($44); Recovery Cream ($44); Hyaluronic Sheet Mask ($4.90 a piece); and Recovery Hand Cream ($16). They are designed to soothe sensitive skin prone to eczema and itching.
3 Innisfree’s Bija Cica Balm ($35) goes one step further by improving acne-prone skin or post-laser sensitised skin.
4 L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Centella Micro-essence Water ($29.90) is a serumlike fluid that boasts 92 per cent cica. The brand markets it as an anti-ageing/skin clarifying product. We prefer it as a skin soother: It’s extremely effective in calming skin that itches and reddens in Singapore’s yo-yo temperatures (hot outside, cold inside). - DC