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  5. Why Willow Bark Extract Is Great For Skin + How To Use

Willow bark extract is one among the many gifts that nature has to offer for your skin-care. Though there are various types of willow trees out there, the extract from the white willow (Salix alba) is the one that is traditionally used to treat various skin ailments.

If you are curious to know about all the benefits of this versatile ingredient and how it can help you achieve flawless skin, read this article till the end.

What Is Willow Bark Extract & Why Is It So Good For Your Skin?

Although the white willow is the most popular choice when it comes to skin care, the other varieties such as the black or purple willow are also used to prepare willow bark extract.The bark of the mature willow tree is harvested usually in the spring and cut into strips. The inner part of the bark is then processed to obtain the aqueous extract which has several medicinal and cosmetic properties.

The willow bark extract is packed with several skin-friendly ingredients which renders its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.[1] Here is a list of some of the important ingredients in the willow bark extract:

1. Salicin

Salicin derives its name from Salix, the scientific name of the willow tree. It is the natural source of salicylic acid, a skin-care ingredient with multiple benefits. Salicin reduces irritation and inflammation in severe acne conditions. This natural exfoliant not only rejuvenates your skin, it also helps to fight the signs of aging.[2]

2. Tannins

Tannins are astringents that tighten your skin and help to reduce the size of your skin pores. They also control excess oil production which reduces the blackheads and whiteheads on your skin. They also help in controlling excessive sweat secretion.

3. Polyphenols

These phytochemicals (derived from plants) are potent antioxidants which scavenge the free radicals present in the skin, preventing DNA damage, which may lead to skin cancer.[3] Polyphenols also kill germs and fight inflammation, thus helping to alleviate many skin disorders.

4. Flavonoids

These are a special group of polyphenols present in the willow bark extract. Flavonoids protect your skin from photodamage caused due to prolonged exposure to the UV rays of the sun. UV rays increase the oxidative stress in the skin resulting in premature signs of aging such as wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.[4]

Did You Know?

Willow bark extract is also known as ‘nature’s aspirin’ for its analgesic or pain relieving properties. It was used as a medicine in the ancient civilizations of Europe and Asia to treat conditions like cold, fever, haemorrhages, etc.

Benefits Of Willow Bark Extract In Skin-Care

  • Willow bark extract is a gentle exfoliant which removes the dead skin cells and excess oil from the skin surface. It also promotes cell turnover, that is the production of new skin cells. This makes your skin surface smooth and gives you an even-toned complexion.
  • This extract also works as a toner which helps to tighten your skin, shrink skin pores and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. This makes your skin look young and firm.
  • Willow bark extract also hydrates your skin and improves its barrier function, thus protecting your skin from the external environment.
  • The potent antioxidants in this extract fights the free radicals which cause damage to your skin. Thus it protects your skin from degenerative conditions.
  • This antibacterial and anti-inflammatory extract clears up your clogged pores and reduces red and itchy acne flare-ups. It also helps to treat other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.

How To Use Willow Bark In Skin Care?

You can use willow bark extract directly on your skin just like you use a salicylic acid serum. Salicylic acid is a lipid soluble BHA that can penetrate the lipid-rich outer layers of your skin giving a superior exfoliating experience.

Due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, this extract is also used as an ingredient in many skin care products such as face wash, face packs, moisturizers, toners, etc.

Preparation of herbal tincture from willow bark

Most skin care products in the market use a concentration of 2.5 to 5 percent of willow bark extract in their formulations. Salicylic acid can also be processed from salicin and other salicylates present in this herbal extract.

A maximum of 2% salicylic acid can be used in a face wash or face pack which will be washed off in a short time, a percentage of 1.5 is most commonly used. Whereas for a leave-on product such as moisturizer or serum, usually 1% salicylic acid is used.

Who Should Use Willow Bark Extract?

Willow bark extract comes with a plethora of skin-care benefits and can be effectively used by most people. You can benefit from the usage of this ingredient if you have the following:

  • Sensitive skin
  • Oily or combined skin
  • Acne
  • Premature signs of aging
  • Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea.

What Combinations Does/Doesn’t Willow Bark Work Well With?

Willow bark extract has excellent keratolytic properties that is, it can dissolve the dead skin cells and oil on the surface of your skin. Thus it can be used in combination with AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) such as lactic acid, glycolic acid etc. to boost their exfoliating properties.

This combination not only removes the damaged top layer of the skin but also stimulates fresh cells to come up at the surface. It also boosts production of skin firming proteins such as elastin, collagen, etc.

There is a mixed view among experts about which ingredients should or should not be used along with willow bark extract. However, in general, ingredients that do not go well with salicylic acid should be avoided with this extract as well. It is best to avoid retinol and vitamin C along with willow bark extract.

Precautions While Using Willow Bark

You should keep the following cautions in mind while using willow bark extract:

  • You should not use any formulation with this ingredient if you are allergic to salicylates [5]. Also people with a known hypersensitivity to aspirin should avoid using this extract. Consult your doctor immediately if you suspect a hypersensitivity reaction.
  • Do ensure that it suits your skin type. Willow bark extract can dry your skin if you are using it as a leave-on product. This is especially relevant if you already have dry skin. Experts recommend the usage of a moisturizer followed by the application of willow bark extract.
  • It is better to avoid using this ingredient if you are pregnant or a lactating mother.

Willow Bark Extract Vs. Salicylic Acid

Willow bark extract has salicin which is the herbal source of salicylic acid. But the process of producing salicylic acid from salicin can be tedious and commercially non-viable. Thus most commercially available salicylic acid has been derived chemically.

While salicylic acid may be more potent as an ingredient when compared to the willow bark extract, it has some downsides as well. Salicin present in the extract is non-irritating even at 100% concentration, while a concentration of 1 to 2% salicylic acid can cause adverse effects like drying, redness or irritation.

Since salicin is much gentler on the skin, it can even be used by people with sensitive skin. It may be less stronger than salicylic acid, but willow bark extract is still effective in exfoliating skin and reducing acne.

Wrapping Up

Willow bark extract is a potent herbal remedy for many skin problems. It can exfoliate your skin, reduce excess oil, clear up your pores as well as help to keep your skin hydrated. This gentle but potent extract can heal acne and prevent future flare-ups. It can also be used to treat eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. But make sure to check for allergies before you include this ingredient in your skincare routine to avoid any adverse side effects.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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