Why Adaptogens Will Give Your Skin What It REALLY Needs

Ingredient Spotlight

adaptogens in skincare

You might have heard the buzzword, “adaptogens,” floating around on websites, Instagram, and your fave beauty aisles over the last year or so. What started out as a niche sector in the market for boutique wellness has since exploded into a full-blown beauty category, and lots of notable brands are getting in on the game. With some expert insight, we’re breakout down what adaptogens are, how they work, and who benefits from them most of all (spoiler: all of us). We’re also hitting you with some fun products that are worth your bread.

WTH is an Adaptogen?

In short, an adaptogen is an ingredient that helps your body adapt – hence the name – to the whirlwind of stressors you’re subjected to on the daily. They’re not going to solve your BF woes or get your boss to bug off already, but they can help you in other ways. (And maybe even indirectly regarding the aforementioned.) You can take them both as supplements to help with things like stress (Ashwagandha has been used for centuries for this purpose), sleep or you can find them in skincare products that help to balance and soothe your skin.

“An adaptogen is essentially a botanical that adapts to your body’s needs by reducing the effects of stress on the body – like fatigue, jitters, and inflammation. These adaptogenic ingredients have been used for centuries in eastern modalities like Chinese Traditional Medicine and Ayurveda. Today’s wellness trend has made people much more aware of the wisdom of these ancient practices,” says Kerry Benjamin, a licensed esthetician based in Los Angeles and the founder of StackedSkincare.

In a way, you might even consider adaptogens to be skincare ‘mind readers’ since they have the ability to “read” your body and then help you adjust accordingly.

The Most Common Adaptogen Ingredients

Adaptogens come in two primary forms: ingestible supplements and skincare topicals. Benjamin says, “When taken internally adaptogens help bring your body back to balance. For topical adaptogens, the benefits really depend on the ingredient.”

For instance, some adaptogens – such as ashwagandha and ginseng – are rich in antioxidants that prevent free radical damage and therefore help ward off dark spots and other signs of sun damage. Other ingredients, including holy basil, have antibacterial properties that are ideal for people who struggle with acne, notes Benjamin. She adds that reishi mushroom is also a popular topical, and that it’s “an anti-inflammatory that contains polysaccharides to help quench dry skin.” 

“In general, almost every skin type can benefit from ingredients that combat skin stress, which is a major cause of aging and breakouts,” says Benjamin. “If in doubt, look at the adaptogen-infused product you’re considering and see if it aligns with your skin type. If not, find one that is specifically designed to address your concerns.”

4 Adaptogen Products We’re Obsessed With

Curious to try for out adaptogens for yourself? Start with these suggestions.

1. Herbivore Emerald CBD + Adaptogens Deep Moisture Glow Oil, $58

Adaptogen Skincare Products

Leave it to Herbivore to make a hella pretty skincare product that combines two of the industry’s most hyped trends: CBD and adaptogens. Emerald is formulated with a combination of meadowfoam seed, CBD, hemp, coconut, and sunflower oils, which are highly nourishing and moisturizing for the skin. The hero adaptogen is ashwagandha, which specifically helps your skin deal with pollution, UV rays, daily stress, and even a deficiency in ZZZs.

2. Youth to the People Adaptogen Soothe + Hydrate Activated Mist, $42

Adaptogen Skincare Products

This mist is great for on-the-go, or you can even keep it at your desk for an afternoon pick-me-up. Its primary goal is to calm your skin down and give you a hydrating boost. You’ll notice a decrease in redness and inflammation thanks to reishi, reduced stress thanks to ashwagandha, and plumped skin via hyaluronic acid.

3. Moon Juice Power Dust, $38

Adaptogen Skincare Products

If you’re game for an adaptogenic supplement, you’ve got a lot of options via Moon Juice. All their products are formulated to help rebalance specific areas of your life, but the Power Dust just might be our fave (close second: Sex Dust). It contains a potent blend of cordyceps, ginseng, eleuthero, astragalus, ashwagandha, ahodiola, and schisandra that tackles stress, amps stamina, and helps keeps your immune system in good shape.

4. Four Sigmatic Mushroom Matcha Drink Mix with Lion’s Mane & Ginger, $33

Adaptogen Skincare Products

A mushroom-based beverage may sound real gross but trust us when we say that this ingestible adaptogenic drink by Four Sigmatic is surprisingly yummy. It’s also loaded with adaptogens, including astragalus to help you deal with daily stress, ginger to help your digestive tract along, and matcha, a form of green tea that’ll give you a slight, non-jittery caffeine boost.

One more thing about adaptogens. As Benjamin pointed out, these ingredients have ancient roots, and they’ve long been used in modern-day skincare, too. Now that consumers are more familiar with them, though, these adaptogenic ingredients are getting the top-billing they deserve. In that sense, it’s not like this is a new, shiny category of skincare. Adaptogens have been around forevs; it’s just that we’ve all finally opened our eyes to them!