One of my favorite memories growing up was attending the family reunion at my aunt’s house. She had a humongous weeping willow in her back yard under which all the relatives would gather to eat good food, talk, laugh, and tell old stories.
Turns out that willows give us a lot more than good memories. The bark of these trees, particularly, has been used for centuries.
Recent studies have shown us something even more remarkable—willow bark can actually help the skin look smoother, firmer, and younger.
What is Willow Bark?
Though there are a number of varieties of willow, the type used in skin care is usually derived from white willow trees (Salix alba). They typically grow from 30 to 100 feet tall, and have pale-colored, hairy leaves. They are fast growing, but fragile, and often vulnerable to diseases, insects, and fungi. Their broad, round-topped crown makes them attractive yard trees, but they’re also effective as farmstead windbreaks and wildlife shelters.
The bark of the willow trees used to be used for artificial limbs, because it is lightweight and doesn’t splinter easily. It is still used to make boxes and crates, table tops, wooden novelties, and pulp. It’s been most prized, however, because it is a natural source of salicylic acid.
The Discovery of Salicin
It was in the early 1800s that Italian pharmacists first isolated and identified salicin from white willow bark. Hippocrates, ancient Egyptians, and Native Americans were all known to have chewed on the bark and leaves, brewed willow bark tea, and used it in warm baths to help ease aches.
How White Willow Bark Benefits the Skin
How can this herb benefit the skin? You may be surprised!
- Anti-aging: A 2010 study reported that salicin can help reduce the appearance of skin aging. Researchers applied a serum product containing 0.5 percent salicin on the faces of women aged 35 to 70, every day for 12 weeks. Results showed improvements in the appearance of wrinkles, pore size, radiance, and overall appearance after only one week.
This is a preliminary study and we need more research to learn more about how salicin may effect the skin, but signs are extremely positive so far. In the meantime, we already know that willow bark extract provides a number of other skin benefits:
- Helps cleanse oily skin: Willow bark extract naturally exfoliates skin and clears pores to give skin a clearer, healthier appearance.
- Smooths the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles: The same exfoliating action that reduces clogged pores also helps smooth the look of fine line and wrinkles. Willow bark is a source of natural hydroxy acids that gently exfoliate. The result is smoother, softer skin.
- Antioxidants: Like most plant extracts, willow bark contains flavonoids and tannins—powerful antioxidants that help protect skin from environmental stressors.
Find It In Our Products!
You can find willow bark extract in our Herbal Facial Oil for Oily Skin. Makes sense, right? Try it and let us know if you notice less clogged pores and smoother, younger-looking skin.
J. A. Pitcher and JU.S. McKnight, “Black Willow,” Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/salix/nigra.htm.
Gopaul R., et al., “An evaluation of the effect of a topical product containing salicin on the visible signs of human skin aging,” J Cosmet Dermatol., September 2010; 9(3):196-210, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20883292.
R. Gopaul, et al., “Salicin regulates the expression of functional ‘youth gene clusters’ to reflect a more youthful gene expression profile,” International Journal of Cosmetic Science, October 2011; 33(5):416-420, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2494.2011.00645.x/abstract.