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Marshmallow root extract is gaining popularity in the world of beauty as of late. To be clear, this is not the delicious, sugar-laden confection we use to make s'mores, but rather the ingredient chock-full of benefits for your skin. In fact, the marshmallows we think of today aren't even made from the marshmallow plant anymore; the ingredient has since been replaced with gelatin. So why is the plant suddenly back in the public eye? As far as we can tell, it's actually because of renewed interest in the ingredient for skincare—although its properties have been known by herbalists for centuries. We consulted experts including Dr. Aimee Paik, medical director of virtual dermatology firm Apostrophe; Dr. Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology in New York City; and cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, of BeautyStat Cosmetics, on the benefits of marshmallow extract for skin.
Type of ingredient: Anti-inflammatory.
Main benefits: Soothes redness, relieves inflammation, and helps retain moisture.
Who should use it: In general, people with sensitive and easily irritated skin.
How often you can use it: Twice a day.
Works well with: Products that may otherwise cause irritation.
Don't use with: If you're diabetic, don't take it as a supplement because it can lower blood sugar.
What is Marshmallow Root Extract?
Marshmallow root extract (we'll call it "MRE" for short) comes from the Althaea plant native to Northern Africa, Europe, and Western Asia. According to Howe, "The roots of the marshmallow plant contain a thick, gummy substance called mucilage. The mucilage is extracted from the root and used for medicinal purposes. In addition to mucilage, the root extract contains a number of other ingredients that promote skin health, such as polysaccharides and flavonoids." He explains that MRE has been used in folk medicine for a long time to "relieve irritation or inflammation of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract, or to soothe the skin."
Benefits of Marshmallow Root Extract for Skin
"Marshmallow root extract may provide anti-inflammatory benefits as it helps to soothe irritation as it hydrates skin," notes Robinson. But when it comes to skincare benefits, the standout ingredient has evolved. "Traditionally, MRE has been used to treat skin burns and insect bites. But as scientific studies have determined that MRE possesses antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects, the clinical uses of MRE have expanded," says Howe. It sure has, because many beloved skincare brands today have a slew of products that showcase MRE as the all-star ingredient. "We use this ingredient in over 70 Jurlique products for its amazing skincare benefits. It's hand-tended and harvested on the Jurlique organic farm in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia," says Jurlique educational manager Sara LaBree.
If you're wondering how often you can use it, however, we'd say stick to two times a day. "Unfortunately, there haven't been any extensive studies on marshmallow root extract so the upper limit of use has not been determined," Paik clarifies.
Mandy Vance, director of education and esthetics at Dr. Hauschka, points out that the brand's best-selling eye cream is infused with marshmallow leaf extract. "The unique qualities of marshmallow leaves and roots lend themselves to many of our products—and for the eye area, they are particularly appropriate as their soothing qualities allow the product to be high-performance yet non-irritating," she says.
Side Effects of Marshmallow Root Extract
According to Robinson, "no negative side effects have been seen" with continued use of products containing marshmallow root extract. Paik concurs, adding that, when taken orally, "marshmallow root extract appears to be safe, although it may lower blood sugar levels and should be taken cautiously in diabetics."
How to Use It
"The anti-inflammatory properties of the extract make it a great choice for people with problem skin, such as sufferers from eczema or rosacea," notes Howe. If there's one place you should be using it though, it's beneath your eyes. "The eye area is so delicate and prone to sensitivity, and wrinkles are caused by lack of moisture," says Vance. "This makes marshmallow extract a fantastic ingredient to address visible concerns while preventing future ones."
There's no need, however, to ditch your favorite skincare routine just to incorporate this star ingredient. In fact, it works great when used in conjunction with the other excellent ingredients we all know and love.
The Best Products With Marshmallow Root Extract
This best-selling eye cream boasts supporting ingredients like calendula, mango seed butter, avocado, macadamia nut, jojoba, sweet almond, apricot, and sea buckthorn oils, for an extra dose of nourishment on the thin skin around the eyes. It's lightweight, making it an ideal choice to wear under makeup.
This cult favorite cleanser works to refine the look of uneven texture and redness. Marshmallow extract hydrates, softens, and balances the skin while a host of other good-for-you ingredients—glycolic acid, chamomile—work their own magic. It's not, however, meant to be used everyday. Instead, the company's aestheticians recommend using the glycolic cleanser up to three times per week (less if your skin is particularly sensitive).
Facial exfoliants, particularly physical ones, have the capacity to be incredibly irritating to any and every skin type. Naturals brand Meow Meow Tweet circumvented this issue by making sure the grains in their all-in-one treatment mask are small; they won't tear at your skin like many exfoliants do. In addition to aloe and matcha green tea (to soothe skin) and green clay (to soak up impurities), the mask is also packed with marshmallow root, to help combat irritation.
Skincare with efficacious botanical ingredients doesn't only come from brands with high price points or strictly natural formulations. Fourth Ray Beauty is ColourPop's sister skincare company, so it's no surprise they brought their "high quality for low prices" ethos over. This face milk uses strawberry seed, lotus, and almond oil along with strawberry in order to pack heavy nourishing effects into a very light product. Just a few drops help to soothe and condition skin.
A product so good it frequently sells out is hard to find in beauty, unless you're talking about Peter Thomas Roth's under-eye patches. Those sell out all the time. Infused with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and, of course, marshmallow root, these are perfect for mornings when you're dry and dehydrated—no water bottle necessary (although you should still always drink water). As a bonus, these contain caffeine, so they de-puff tired eyes.
Whatever you're expecting this face wash to feel like, it doesn't. But that's probably a good thing. Instead of being thin and milky, it's actually surprisingly velvety due to the inclusion of various plant extracts and oils. Non-stripping but also not greasy, it's a cleanser that those with even the most sensitive of skin can (and should) use.
A starkly different cleanser from Susanne Kaufmann's, Marie Veronique's cleanser uses Adzuki bean powder in order to slough off dead skin. It also uses black willow bark extract and lactic acid to dissolve and remove any impurities the powder doesn't catch.