While there are plenty of great “anti-aging” products on the market, most dermatologists will tell you that the only sure way to make wrinkles disappear is with Botox. The injectable neurotoxin works by freezing certain muscle groups in your face to prevent movement, which is what causes the lines in the first place, ultimately leaving you with smoother-looking skin. But if you’re not looking to go under the needle yet (or… ever), there’s one buzzing ingredient that might be the next best thing: Hibiscus, which is widely known as “Nature’s Botox.”
Let’s make one thing clear up front: Regardless of what its nickname may imply, Hawaiian flower will not give you the same results as an injectable. “There’s a reason everything new is compared to Botox: There really is no substitute for the neurotoxin as of yet,” says Corey L. Hartman, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Skin Wellness Dermatology in Alabama. However, it has many skin-transforming properties that come as close as you can get to a topical ingredient.
Below, the pros break down the hibiscus skincare benefits so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth adding to your routine to avoid injectables.
Hibiscus Skin Care Benefits
1. Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Instead of freezing facial muscles like Botox does, hibiscus works to diminish fine lines and wrinkles by significantly decreasing elastase activity in the skin. Elastase is an enzyme in your body that is responsible for breaking down elastin, which leads to signs of aging. “Elastin is an essential protein produced naturally in the body that helps the skin retain its shape. When elastin breaks down, you see sagging, sagging skin,” says Dr. Hartman. By reducing the amount of elastase in your body, hibiscus helps your skin maintain its natural levels of elastin, keeping it firmer over time.
Additionally, hibiscus has been shown to suppress collagenase activity (the enzyme that breaks down collagen as we age) which helps prevent and smooth the appearance of wrinkles.
Because it’s easier for light to bounce off a smooth surface than a textured one, Botox’s wrinkle-reduction capabilities tend to have the added bonus of making skin look dewy and radiant. Thanks to its exfoliating properties, hibiscus offers similar effects by making your complexion so smooth it practically glows. According to Dr. Hartman, the ingredient contains “AHA [alpha-hydroxy acids]alias [alpha-keto acids]and BHA [beta-hydroxy acids that] exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin cells and reveal newer, brighter skin.” Casey Georgeson, founder of Saint Jane Beauty, adds that this high concentration of chemical exfoliants “can retexturize skin and diminish discoloration like age spots as well.”
3. Calms inflammation
Most skin rejuvenation products marketed as “same as Botox” tend to be harsh on the skin (think: tretinoin, chemical peels, and laser treatments), but hibiscus stands out from the rest. According to Macrene Alexiades, MD, PhD, PLLC, a double-board certified dermatologist in New York City and founder of Macrene Actives, the ingredient offers medicinal benefits that really help Calm down inflammation instead of causing it. It has protocatechial acid (or PCA for short) and quercetin, two antioxidants that soothe inflamed skin and defend it against the free radical damage that causes it in the first place.
4. Protects against environmental stressors
Every practitioner we spoke with cited hibiscus as a great source of ascorbic acid, the most potent form of antioxidant-rich vitamin C, which offers skin-brightening and toning benefits at night. It also has myricetin, an antioxidant that supports elastin production while suppressing UVB-induced wrinkles, plus a host of B vitamins. All of these antioxidants work together to defend against environmental stressors that induce oxidative stress and that lead to signs of skin aging (think: pollution and UV damage), keeping your complexion plump, plump, and radiant.
There’s a solid reason Georgeson says “the benefits of hibiscus are numerous and incredible.” In addition to maintaining elastin, exfoliating dead skin cells, and protecting skin against oxidation, hibiscus also “hydrates through mucilage, the super-effective moisturizing substance found in hibiscus flowers,” says Athena Hewett, Esthetician holistic and founder of Monastery Skincare.
Who Should (and Shouldn’t) Use Hibiscus in Their Skincare Routine
“For most people, there is little or no risk to incorporating hibiscus into your skincare routine,” says Dr. Hartman. The only caveat? “You should always wear sunscreen when using a product with AHAs, BHAs, or AKAs. They make the skin more susceptible to UV rays, so protecting it on a daily basis is very important,” he says. He goes on to explain that people with severe acne who take oral or topical antibiotics or prescription medications should check with their dermatologist before adding hibiscus to their routine.
Hewett also mentions that pregnant people might want to be careful around hibiscus. “This [technically] fine to be used topically but not internally during pregnancy,” she says. “With great caution, perhaps it should be avoided during pregnancy.
Shop Hibiscus Skincare
BYROE Hibiscus Tea Glow Mist — $63.00
This formula offers hydrating, soothing and cooling benefits seconds after it’s sprayed onto the skin. As one reviewer puts it, “This mist makes my face feel super glowy and looks amazing with or without makeup, but it doesn’t leave my skin oily or greasy. It just leaves it fresh and plump.”
Saint Jane’s Petals Moisturizer — Hyaluronic + Vitamin C Daily Moisturizer — $68.00
The texture of this cream is described as “silky floral”, which makes sense given that it harnesses the moisturizing properties of the hibiscus flower along with hyaluronic acid. And the benefits of the active ingredient don’t end there: it also has vitamin C to brighten, even skin tone and protect, plus CBD to soothe inflammation and redness.
Kat Burki Double Exfoliating Clay — $98.00
This formula has a great exfoliating effect. It has hibiscus petals, blueberry fibers, and jojoba fibers for gentle skin shedding, plus glycolic acid to kick things up a notch. The addition of kaolin clay, a known detoxifier, will further help keep skin clean and free of breakouts.
Honua Hawaiian Skincare Hibiscus Hyaluronic Acid Beauty Booster Serum — $54.00
This “beauty boost” formula doubles as your daily hydrating and protective serum. It has hyaluronic acid, which is famous for holding 1,000 times its weight in water; Astaxanthin, a Hawaiian marine ingredient that is said to be an even more powerful antioxidant than vitamin C; and of course, hibiscus.
Besoma Glow Goddess Original Serum — $49.00
This serum takes the skin-smoothing properties of hibiscus to the next level by combining it with willow bark extract, a pore-cleansing BHA to renew skin’s surface with a mirror-like finish.
Herbivore Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Mist — $34.00
“Flower power” is the name of the game with this botanical serum, which combines hibiscus extract with rose water to hydrate and smooth skin while reducing redness. Mist on throughout the day for a quick refresh, or use between skincare steps to keep complexion dewy and better suited for serums to penetrate.
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