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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 thin 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.
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 Extract?
Marshmallow extract comes from the Althaea plant native to Northern Africa, Europe, and Western Asia. According to Dr. Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology in New York City, "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 Extract for Skin
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," he says. 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," Dr. Aimee Paik of Apostrophe clarified for us.
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 Extract
"Marshmallow root extract appears to be safe, although it may lower blood sugar levels and should be taken cautiously in diabetics," Dr. Paik disclosed.
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 Dr. Howe. If there's one place you should be using it though, it's your eyes. "The eye area is so delicate and prone to sensitivity, and wrinkles 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 with other excellent ingredients we all know and love. "The soothing effects of marshmallow root play nicely with other ingredients," explains Barron. "It can be a beneficial additive in products that while beneficial, can also cause some initial irritation by virtue of how they work. Examples would be AHA exfoliants and retinol products. Adding a soothing plant extract like marshmallow root to such skincare formulas can reduce, possibly even eliminate, any risk of irritation. I like Aveda Deep Cleansing Herbal Clay Masque ($24), which is front-loaded with marshmallow extract."
The Best Products With Marshmallow 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 to the thin skin around the eyes.
"Marshmallow root is a natural skincare wonder. It contains a high percentage of mucilage, which has intensive hydrating, softening, and balancing properties," says LaBree. "As one of the key ingredients in the Herbal Recovery Advanced Serum, it hydrates your skin while improving its ability to retain moisture." In turn, regular use of this particular serum with MRE will help increase skin's overall radiance, reduce fine lines, and help achieve a more even-toned complexion.
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 are small; it won't tear at your skin like many exfoliants do. The exfoliant is also packed with marshmallow root to soothe anything that might be aggravated regardless.
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.
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. These ones, infused with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and of course marshmallow root are perfect for mornings you're dry and dehydrated—no water bottle necessary (although you should still always drink water).
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.