With thousands of different ingredients on the market that are helmed to revitalise your skin, it's easy to be confused as to what your visage actually needs. The ingredient list of skincare products are often saturated with obscure chemicals and even rarer natural elements, of which their benefits can only be understood with the help of a medical textbook. For that reason, we've asked for guidance from skincare savant, Katie Service, who'll be breaking down common beauty ingredients in our new series, Dermatology Diaries.

Described by Sarah Jossel as "The new skincare beauty bible", her new book The Beauty Brief: An Insider’s Guide to Skincare shares Service's tips and tricks, including case studies of global best-sellers, in-depth analyses of different dermatological treatments and SOS skin repair. Currently the Editorial Beauty Director at Harrods, and having worked with world-famous makeup artists such as Charlotte Tilbury, she is one of the best in the business to be answering any beauty-sphere queries. 

This week, Katie breaks down Guaiazulene, explaining what their benefits are, how and when to use it and what are her favourites on the market. 

Guaiazulene is an ingredient that I first came across a few years ago in the guise of a bright blue skin balm from hyper natural brand, May Lindstrom. I had never seen anything like it, certainly not in a natural product. So often when we crack the lid on a vibrantly coloured skincare product, we would assume it was synthetic, but the cornflower blue hue in this case was coming from a natural extract of a flower called Blue Tansy, which contains this flamboyantly coloured compound called Guaiazulene.

Guaiazulene is a hydrocarbon that is found naturally in several species of plant including mushrooms, Chamomile, palo santo (or rather an essential oil that’s derived from it called Guiac) and the Blue Tansey flower – it is even found in some soft corals. It’s most common use to date in skincare has been as a natural colourant, but more recently, it's been cropping up in skincare formulations, hailed as an anti-inflammation and anti-acne hero.

So, is it as good as the hype suggests? Well first, let’s look into how it works. Inflammation is a natural immune response that the body calls upon when it encounters an invasion or stressor. It causes redness and swelling – especially around blocked pores and acne. That’s why one of the first things you can do to reduce the visibility of a spot is to try to stem the swelling and redness – without it, it won’t look half as bad.  Guaiazulene works to stem that flood of inflammation, reducing redness and evening skintone as it goes. This inflammation inhibition also makes Guaiazulene, in theory, a great everyday skin maintenance ingredient, since continuous inflammation contributes to premature skin ageing.

Guaiazulene is generally seen as a good guy ingredient –  my only warning is that the FDA doesn’t permit it to be used in lip products; presumably because it shouldn’t be ingested. It is an ingredient that is regularly recommended for both acne and eczema (to help reduce and calm, not necessarily to cure) but as always, I urge you check the rest of the ingredient list to make sure there aren’t other ingredients that could make your acne flare up or irritate your specific skin type further – moisturisers are rarely one type fits all!

Personally I like to get my Guaiazulene fix from Blue Tansy – on top of Guaiazulene it is a powerhouse of antioxidants with antihistamine, anti-viral and antimicrobial properties. And in the past it has helped my sensitive skin with rashes, spots and dryness.  My favourite products are May Lindsrom’s Blue Cocoon Balm (Caroline Hirons describes it as "couldn’t be purer if it was made by Vestal Virgins eating kale and reading GOOP") – it’s amazingly de-puffing and redness reducing, then I also recommend aromatherapist Annie de Mammiel’s Skin Recovery Blend and adding a few drops of Eco Auras Blue Tansy Essential Oil in the bath if you suffer from bacne or bumne!

Shop The Beauty Brief: An Insider’s Guide to Skincare by Katie Service, published by Thames & Hudson here.

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