Welcome to our series "Buzzy Beauty Ingredient of the Moment," the premise of which is pretty self-explanatory: In each installment, we'll explore an ingredient that's currently trending in the industry, springing up in a variety of different products lining the beauty aisle. We'll consult experts to find out about the science behind it — and why it's having a major moment right now.
Dragon's blood might sound like something the "Game of Thrones" props department spends too much money on, but in the beauty world it's really just... tree sap. It's an ingredient that's been around for years and is present in everything from incense to ink. But as a skin-care ingredient, it's been getting more attention lately, showing up on product packaging and being lauded as a healing and calming miracle salve. But is it really that fantastical? I asked a couple dermatologists to find out.
According to Dr. Sejal Shah, a dermatologist based in New York City, dragon's blood is a sappy resin from the Croton Lechleri tree. "It's been used in South America for its medicinal properties for generations and is believed to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. It also forms a protective barrier when applied topically."
Dr. Shah went on to explain that dragon's blood can potentially address concerns including signs of aging and irritated or inflamed skin — but not everyone agrees. I also spoke with Dr. Nava Greenfield of the Schweiger Dermatology Group (also based in New York City) who said that while she has heard similar claims about the ingredients, the studies she's read haven't been convincing. "I don't think I would [recommend the ingredient to my patients]," she said in an interview. "The only studies I've seen have to do with wound healing and the evidence is not great."
Since dragon's blood is an active ingredient that can be stabilized in a variety of forms like masks, creams, mists and serums, it pops up in a lot of different products. "A few years ago you would only find this ingredient in typical lotions and creams; now it's widely used in everything from plumping lip serums to anti-aging eye masks where it helps to provide antioxidant protection," says Dr. Shah. It also plays well with other ingredients. "Because of its antioxidant and soothing properties, other ingredients with similar benefits can boost its effects," she says. "Because it forms a protective, second-skin barrier, it can boost the effects of hydrating ingredients and help lock moisture in."
But why the sudden trendiness? Dr. Shah attributes it to a desire to get back to basics. "I think one reason for its popularity is that, in general, we're seeing a big push in skin care to incorporate more natural ingredients and really investigating ones that are rooted in traditional medicine as many cultures have seen benefits of these ingredients for centuries." Dr. Greenfield, on the other hand, attributes it to the skin-care fad industrial complex: "I think that there are a lot of fads recently in skin care. People are looking for magical solutions to aging, blemishes, acne."
Even with differing opinions, dragon's blood's staying power and recent industry takeover means that, especially since it's a natural ingredient, it's probably not harmful unless you have a chronic medical condition. Dr. Shah advises that it's generally suitable for all skin types, but if you might want to approach with caution if you have a latex allergy since latex and dragon's blood come from similar trees. (Reminder! You should always ask your own doctor if you're concerned about adding a product into your skin-care routine.)
If you're interested, you can get your Daenerys on and shop 11 of our favorite dragon's blood-infused picks below.
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