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"Adaptogens" Is Skin Care's Buzziest New Word, Here's Why

Everything you need to know about adaptogens and how to incorporate them into your routine
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You've been seeing the word bandied around by your favorite beauty brands, but what exactly is an adaptogen? To start, it's an umbrella term encompassing non-toxic plant extracts that help reduce stress and restore balance to the body. Up until recently, the term has largely been used in the context of herbal supplements — but now it's quickly gaining traction in the beauty world.

The jump from herbal supplements to skin care might seem like a big one, but think of it this way: like the rest of your body, your skin could definitely use some de-stressing. And as Dr. Craig Kraffert, board-certified dermatologist and president of Amarte Skin Care, explains, employing adaptogens to reduce these stressors "will benefit skin by promoting a calm and normalized appearance and by delaying the changes that occur in skin appearance and function with time."

Though the term "adaptogen" may be on the newer side, the methods are not. "Many protective, brightening and rejuvenative aspects of skin care are the result of adaptogens," says Kraffert, who estimates that the actual amount of adaptogens out there is "likely in the hundreds to thousands." In fact, you've probably been using adaptogens in your skin care routine since day one — after all, he counts popular ingredients like witch hazel and sulfur as members of the club (though not a plant extract, Kraffert counts sulfur as "fully adaptogenic," for the record).

It's time to get better acquainted with all the adaptogenic products and ingredients currently making their way through the beauty sphere — read on for some of our favorites.

Image via Imaxtree

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The adaptogen: Ashwagandha
What it does: Traditionally used as an Ayurvedic remedy, ashwagandha is best known for its stress-relieving and healing properties.

Interested? Try: Youth to the People Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream, $58

This new moisturizer from Youth to the People is actually made with a whole bunch of adaptogens, including the aforementioned ashwagandha, as well as rhodiola, reishi mushroom and holy basil (more on those in a second). You'll find the texture of this cream to be lightweight yet hydrating and thanks to all those adaptogens, it's oh-so-comforting to stressed-out skin.

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The adaptogen: Prickly pear cactus extract
What it does: According to Kraffert, prickly pear cactus extract (aka opuntia ficus-indica extract) is "a natural humectant rich in antioxidants including flavonoids and vitamins C, A and E." He also notes that it has anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-cancer effects. Suffice it to say, there's a reason why cactus-based products have been all the rage lately.

Interested? Try: Huxley Secret of Sahara Light and More Oil, $58

Korean skin care brand Huxley actually has a whole line based around prickly pear cacti — and this serum is absolutely packed with the beneficial adaptogenic ingredient.

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The adaptogen: Turmeric
What it does: Turmeric has certainly made the rounds as a popular dietary supplement and skin care ingredient (just ask Priyanka Chopra!) and it's easy to see why. Like ashwagandha, it's long been used in Ayurvedic medicine and boasts natural anti-inflammatory properties.

Interested? Try: Kora Organics Turmeric Brightening & Exfoliating Mask, $48

This mask utilizes turmeric to help brighten skin tone while calming redness and providing antioxidant protection. The mask also contains skin-clearing ingredients like aspen bark and papaya enzymes to gently exfoliate the skin, revealing a glowier complexion.

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The adaptogen: White ginseng
What it does: White ginseng is thought to have invigorating effects and has traditionally been used to strengthen the immune system, while also helping to ward off stress.

Interested? Try: Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Serum, $200

Though pricey, this serum is pure joy to use. It has a lightweight gel texture that hydrates like a treat, while the white ginseng in the formula helps boost radiance.

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