Cica, cica everywhere! If you’ve been wondering why skin care products with the name “cica” are suddenly popular, wonder no more!
What is Cica?
The word “cica” is French for “scar,” and originates from the Latin word cicatrix, meaning “scar,” “bruise” or “incision.” Before Korean-branded cica products became popular, many Western cosmeceutical brands carried similar ointments and creams that promote wound healing and scar treatment.
Centella asiatica, a medicinal herb also known as Indian pennywort, is the ingredient in cica-labelled products that makes it effective at soothing and healing irritated or damaged skin. According to this 2010 study archived by the US National Library of Medicine, centella has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. In Sri Lanka , it is known as gotu kola, while in China, it’s called Jī Xuě Cǎo (“herb that accumulates snow,” or積雪草 in Traditional Chinese) and was reputed to be a “miracle elixir of life” over 2,000 years ago.
Photo: The Hong Kong Herbarium
Centella asiatica contains active compounds called saponins or triterpenoids. These primarily help heal wounds by promoting collagen production at the wound site. According to this Lab Muffin blog post on cica by science educator Michelle Wong, four triterpenoids of centella have been studied for their skin care benefits. These are asiatic acid, madecassic acid, asiaticoside and madecassoside.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Wong, LabMuffin.com
What Does Centella Do?
In her blog post, Michelle Wong mentions that so far, there has been one “decent clinical trial” using centella skin care on humans. That trial resulted in the improvement of crow’s feet using a cream that included asiaticoside, versus a cream without the compound. Most studies on centella, including the 2010 study, have focused on healing wounds in rats, and reported the following results:
- Centella asiatica extracts applied on open wounds in rats resulted in increased cellular production and collagen synthesis.
- Wounds treated with Centella extracts showed a higher rate of contraction, or shrinkage of the wounded area, compared to untreated control wounds.
- Asiaticoside, a compound in Centella asiatica, is said to help heal wounds by increasing the formation of collagen and new blood vessels (angiogenesis).
Some additional information from Michelle’s cica post:
- Madecassoside could prevent hypertrophic scars and keloid formation, according to an in vitro study, while asiaticoside alleviated hypertrophic scars in a rabbit ear model..
- Madecassoside prevented UV-induced hyperpigmentation (tanning) in excised human skin in vitro..
Why is Cica So Popular These Days?
A report released by market research firm Mintel in March 2018 attributes the increased popularity of cica creams to a growing concern about sensitive skin, and the effects of pollution, stress and chemicals on skin. Among all skin care products launched in Korea, those labeled “for sensitive skin” have jumped from 11% in 2014 to 23% in the first three quarters of 2017, according to the report.
The majority of Korean cica products claim to not only soothe and relieve dry and irritated skin, but also to help strengthen the skin barrier, and reduce redness and swelling. In addition to centella and its compounds, these products use hydrating ingredients like panthenol, shea butter, niacinamide and fermented ingredients for extra skin benefits.
Cica products are no longer limited to just creams. Nowadays, they also include gels, serums, lotions, toners, masks and even cushions, so one can easily create an entire cica-based skin regimen to maximize its soothing and hydrating effects. Take a look below for some of the most popular cica products at YesStyle!