Echinacea. We’re all pretty familiar with this one, and have probably taken a capsule or two when we were feeling under the weather with a cold. While echinacea is widely used to alleviate cold symptoms and boost immunity, it can also be used topically in skin care products to hydrate, soothe, and protect the skin.
What is Echinacea?
For those who aren’t familiar, this purple coneflower is a part of the daisy family and is commonly found in North America.
Despite there being 9 different species of echinacea, only the species of Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida are commonly used in herbal and cosmetic remedies.
The active ingredients of polysaccharides, alkylamides, and cichoric acid are mainly found in its petals, roots, and leaves, which are often ground up and used in herbal and cosmetic applications.
The skin benefits of echinacea purpurea
Does its immunity-boosting properties really translate to skin benefits and the improvement of skin health? We’re here to tell you it can. Read more to find out how echinacea benefits your skin and why we use it in our Botanical Beauty Elixir.
1. Echinacea has high-antioxidant activity
Antioxidants are chemical compounds that can inhibit the oxidation reaction promoted by free radicals. They can reduce skin damage by neutralizing the destructive action of free radicals and reactive oxygen species. (Manayi et al.,2015). Due to the cichoric acid content in its roots, echinacea displays high antioxidant properties that can help mitigate the effects of photo-aging (Manayi et al.,2015). Furthermore, echinacea contains alkylamides that help boost its antioxidant activity by assisting in the regeneration of cichoric acid and increasing its accessibility to molecules.
A 2010 study showed that participants who consistently applied creams and/or gels containing echinacea (E. purpurea) extract had higher skin hydration levels and a decreased depth in wrinkles. The study concluded that the long-term application of echinacea extract in a product may lead to the accumulation of antioxidant compounds in the skin, eventually helping in decreasing wrinkle formation (Yotsawimonwat et al., 2010).
2. Echinacea has anti-inflammatory properties.
While inflammation is often a normal defensive immune response, excess inflammation for prolonged periods can aggravate the body, skin, and lead to chronic stress and health issues. Echinacea has anti-inflammatory properties due to its high levels of bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides and alkylamides. These compounds assist with inflammation affecting the pathways that produce pro-inflammatory cytokines and enzymes in the body, effectively reducing their levels in the body.
Results from a 2016 study concluded that E. purpurea extract displayed clinically relevant anti-inflammatory effects, alleviated cutaneous symptoms and improved epidermal lipid barrier of Atopic Eczema patients (Olah et al., 2017). Due to echinacea’s anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties, it can be used to help alleviate the symptoms of multiple skin conditions, such as acne, eczema and dry skin.
3. Echinacea has antibacterial properties
One of the common causes of acne is the overproduction of certain bacteria on the skin, which leads to inflammation of the skin follicles. In a 2011 UBC study, scientists found that echinacea extract was successful in suppressing the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, a gram-positive bacteria responsible for causing acne. Furthermore, the echinacea extract was found to reduce the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in the skin cells, effectively reducing the inflammation that causes redness and swelling of the skin (Sharma et al., 2011).
4. Echinacea has hydrating properties
Not only is echinacea great at calming the skin, studies have shown that it has a positive effect of the moisture barrier of the skin.
In a 2017 clinical study, participants that topically applied an Echinacea purpurea extract twice daily showed increased levels of overall lipids, ceramides and cholesterol in the skin barrier on Day 15 (Olah et al., 2017). It is stated that the increased ceramide levels in the skin were responsible for alleviating the symptoms associated with Atopic Eczema in addition to restoring the skin lipid barrier.
A Shorter Shelf Life
Echinacea does appear to have a shorter shelf-life, making it difficult to incorporate to shelf-stable products. While it may not necessarily mean that the product will go bad quickly, it indicates that the product will lose its efficacy past its expiration date. To ensure that your products are working at full capacity, be sure to check expiration dates and replace expired products as soon as possible.
When to Avoid Echinacea
If you have allergies to certain flowers, a general best practice is to patch-test any products on a small area beforehand. If your allergy to flowers (especially to those in the daisy family) is severe, it would be best to avoid this product altogether.
If you have concerns about introducing echinacea into your diet or skincare routine, it is recommended that you first consult with your healthcare provider.
Manayi, A., Vazirian, M., & Saeidnia, S. (2015). Echinacea purpurea: Pharmacology, phytochemistry and analysis methods. Pharmacognosy reviews, 9(17), 63–72. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.156353
Oláh, A., Szabó-Papp, J., Soeberdt, M., Knie, U., Dähnhardt-Pfeiffer, S., Abels, C., & Bíró, T. (2017). Echinacea purpurea -derived alkylamides exhibit potent anti-inflammatory effects and alleviate clinical symptoms of atopic eczema. Journal of Dermatological Science, 88(1), 67–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdermsci.2017.05.015
Sharma, M., Schoop, R., Suter, A., & Hudson, J. B. (2011). The potential use of Echinacea in acne: control of Propionibacterium acnes growth and inflammation. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 25(4), 517–521. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.3288
Thygesen L, Thulin J, Mortensen A, Skibsted LH, Molgaard P. Antioxidant activity of cichoric acid and alkamides from Echinacea purpurea alone and in combination. Food Chem. 2007;101:74–81.
Yotsawimonwat, S., Rattanadechsakul, J., Rattanadechsakul, P., & Okonogi, S. (2010). Skin improvement and stability of Echinacea purpurea dermatological formulations. International journal of cosmetic science, 32(5), 340–346. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2494.2009.00559.x