We know, you know, the rage about Korean skincare and its claim to fame in delivering immaculate “glass-skin”. In fact, the Korean “glass skin” has become quite a universally understood exemplar for excellent skin. There must be a reason for the almost characteristically good complexion among Korean women (and men). What powers the efficacy of Korean skincare products? I personally love geeking out on skincare, so let’s decode two of the most popular ingredients in Korean skincare: Centella Asiatica and Heartleaf. What drives their potency and why should you not give them a miss? Here’s the low-down. 

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Centella Asiatica: The Power Swamp-Dwelling Herb

Its History 

You might know Centella Asiatica by its other common names, such as tiger grass and cica. Native to Asia and found largely in damp swampy areas, Centella has long been a staple in traditional medicine. This tiny, perennial herb has an impressive history of use as a remedy for mild to severe skin conditions, including leprosy. 

The Science

The skin benefits of Centella stem predominantly from its main active constituents, also known as saponins. The four main skin-loving saponins in Centella are: Asiaticoside, Asiatic Acid, Madecassoside and Madasiatic Acid. These saponins have very similar characteristics — they all contribute to Centella’s exceptional soothing, healing and antioxidant properties. 

It’s Benefits For Skin

While researchers have only just started picking up on the wonders of Centella, studies have provided promising evidence for its incredible skin benefits. Centella’s properties include: 

  • Soothing. This is what makes Centella particularly great for sensitive skin — its ability to calm inflammation, itching and irritation. 
  • Reparative. Adding to its compatibility with sensitive skin, Madecassoside in Centella has exceptional regenerative and healing properties; mostly due to its ability to stimulate collagen production and reduce inflammation. 
  • Anti-Acne. A result of its soothing and reparative properties, Centella is fantastic for alleviating breakouts. 
  • Anti-Aging. Along with its collagen-boosting properties, Centella also contains the same kind of antioxidants as green tea. This helps to combat signs of aging, especially those caused by environmental factors (e.g. premature aging caused by sun exposure). 

*Psst! Love getting into the science behind skincare too? Here’s a cool summary of all the published studies on Centella Asiatica. 

We Suggest: BY ECOM’s Pure Calming Line 

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BY ECOM’s Pure Calming line is a range of low pH skincare products that aim to comfort, soothe and moisturise sensitive skin. The line is characterised by light and fresh textures, as well as skin-safe formulas that are dermatologically-tested, fragrance-free and powered by natural ingredients. 

For a simple routine that will relieve and repair, begin with the Pure Calming Bubble Cleanser (S$36), a multi-tasking facial wash that calms, controls sebum and protects your skin’s natural pH balance. The low acidic cleanser gives you a thorough but comfortable cleanse, for skin that feels smooth, purified, but still moisturised. 

Next, follow with the Pure Calming Ampoule (S$43) for an instantly soothing and moisturising boost. The high-performing complex includes potent natural ingredients such as Centella Asiatica extract and chamomile extract to fortify weakened skin barriers, as well as alleviate visible redness and acne troubles. 

Finally, lock in the goodness with the Pure Calming Cica Cream (S$48), a gel moisturiser that contains suspended Azulene capsules which burst upon application, to replenish and retain moisture within your skin. 

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Heartleaf: The Super Leaf Vegetable 

Its History

Heartleaf, or Houttuynia Cordata, is a flowering plant indigenous to Southeast Asia. While you can actually consume Heartleaf  as a vegetable, the plant has also been an elixir in traditional medicine for years. Heartleaf has been used extensively in the treatment of various ailments, including high blood sugar, cholera and blood deficiencies. 

The Science

The main active constituents in Heartleaf are called flavonoids. In particular, polyphenolic flavonoids, of which the four main types found in Heartleaf are Quercetin, Quercitrin, Hyperoside and Rutin. These compounds all exhibit similar properties of being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial. 

Its Benefits For Skin 

Studies into the skin benefits of Heartleaf extract have returned convincing results, particularly for use on sensitive, oily-dehydrated and acne-prone skin. 

Research has found that Houttuynia Cordata extract contains polysaccharides, which when present in skincare, serve as fantastic humectants and skin hydrators i.e. they help to maintain the skin’s moisture levels. There is also good evidence for powerful anti-allergic properties in Houttuynia Cordata extract, which could make Heartleaf especially beneficial for dermatitis/eczema-prone skin. Other benefits of Heartleaf include: 

  • Anti-Inflammatory & Anti-Bacterial. Adding to its goodness for blemish/acne troubles, Heartleaf helps to calm and detoxify skin.  
  • Balancing & toning. The extract from Houttuynia Cordata leaves also has astringent properties that can effectively (but gently) deep cleanse pores, while regulating excess sebum production. 

We Suggest: BY ECOM’s Heartleaf Line 

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BY ECOM’s Heartleaf Line was formulated with oily but dehydrated and combination skin types in mind, with the goal of restoring an optimal oil-to-water ratio. For an essential routine that targets excess sebum and pore concerns, begin with the Heartleaf Poreless Water (S$45). Made up of 89% Houttuynia Cordata extracts, this toning water adequately moistures oily/combination skin, while helping to purify and smooth out pores. 

Then, boost your pore care routine with the Heartleaf Ampoule (S$43) that will help to soothe, clean and tighten pores. The mildly acidic formula also aids in rebalance the skin’s pH levels. 

To lock-in everything, complete your routine with the Heartleaf Poreless Cream (S$46) that contains 63% Houttuynia Cordata extracts. The nutrient and moisture-rich cream boasts a lightweight gel formula that absorbs seamlessly to leave skin adequately hydrated and refreshed, without any greasiness!    

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Korean skincare fan or not, I’d say these two hallmark ingredients are powerhouses in their own right. With more beauty brands beyond East Asia picking up on the Centella Asiatica and Heartleaf hype (particularly the former), you’ll probably be able to find a product that suits your skin’s preferences and needs. I am personally a huge fan of Centella Asiatica and have a whole skincare routine with Centella as the main (and only) active ingredient. In fact, I’ll credit this mighty herb for alleviating my fungal acne woes (more on that next time).

Are they worth a try? Absolutely!

This article is brought to you in partnership with Ksisters

Take care,




Melisa Goh

Melisa Goh

up up and away


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