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It's Official: Calendula Is the Hero Ingredient You Didn't Know Your Skin Needed

Photo of Nataliya Kushnir/Getty Images

You probably love flowers planted in your garden, housed in a cool vintage vase, or even braided into your hair—but did you know that certain flowers can be just as delightful for your skin? These pretty plants have a ton of beneficial properties that can soothe, hydrate, tighten, or protect your skin. Our latest fave? Calendula, also known as pot marigold. So how does this vibrant flower get your skin healthy, glowing, and bright? Continue reading to find out, plus discover a few of our tried-and-true calendula-infused skincare products.

About the Expert:

Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City.

First, what exactly is calendula?

Officially called calendula officinalis, it’s a member of the daisy family called asteraceae. Calendula has been used as a medicinal plant for centuries, and thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, it’s also effective when used topically on skin (more on that in a minute). Pronounced kuh-len-juh-luh, calendula gets its name from the Latin word kalendae, which means new moon or the first day of every month. That’s because the bright yellow and orange perennial is believed to only bloom on the first of the month. Calendula extract, which comes from the leaves, petals, and seeds of the flower, is traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine, but is also used in Western medicine to internally treat ulcers, prevent muscle spasms, reduce fevers, and more. 

So, what are the skin benefits of calendula?

In skincare, calendula is used to treat everything from inflammation to dryness—and it’s incredible for sensitive skin. Let’s break down its many benefits.

1. It’s anti-inflammatory. 

Inflammation can cause so many frustrating skin issues. You can blame inflammation for your breakouts, rosacea, eczema, sensitivity, even a breakdown of collagen. All these inflammatory skin conditions can benefit from calendula’s soothing effects.The anti-inflammatory properties are thanks to calendula flower’s potent dose of flavonoid, saponins, and triterpenoids. These give calendula the ability to prevent your body’s release of histamines which can cause redness, pain, allergies, and inflammation. And when it comes to treating breakouts, calendula’s gentle nature means it won’t dry your skin out and it’s safe to use with other acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. 

2. It’s really moisturizing. 

You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of a diet rich in essential fatty acids. Well, those same essential fatty acids, like the linoleic acid in calendula oil or extract, can also nourish your skin. They give your skin cells the ability to absorb nutrients and hold onto water longer—great news for those with perpetually dry skin. In other words: products with calendula can lead to smoother, more supple, and more nourished skin. 

3. It can protect your skin from external aggressors. 

The same flavonoids that give calendula the ability to soothe skin also make it a top-notch protector. Flavonoids function as a powerful antioxidant, which helps protect your skin against free radical damage. If you need a refresher, “Free radicals are highly destructive molecules that can wreak havoc on your skin,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, an NYC-based dermatologist. “They are unstable and in search of a missing electron. When free radicals steal an electron from other molecules, it leaves them unstable in return.” Antioxidants, like the flavonoids in calendula extract, pair with those free radicals, essentially neutralizing them before they can do damage that leads to premature aging (such as increased fine lines and wrinkles), hyperpigmentation, and dullness. 

4. It keeps your skin healthy.

For hundreds of years, calendula has been a go-to ingredient for wound healing. In fact, one study even found that calendula significantly decreased the healing time for C-section scars. The women treated with calendula ointment reported their incisions were less swollen and red than those receiving standard hospital treatment. The healing properties come from calendula’s ability to increase blood flow and oxygen to the skin. This increased blood flow to your skin means more nutrition, which helps your skin function healthier, and therefore look its best. 

5. It can firm your skin. 

In the short term, the nourishing benefits of calendula help to plump the surface of your skin to give you tighter, more supple skin. In the long term, both the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help to protect your skin’s collagen and elastin supply.

So, how do you use calendula?

You can get all the calendula benefits above by using a calendula essential oil or tincture. Just remember, if you’re using an essential oil, make sure to mix it with a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba. This will protect your skin from any irritation that can accompany an essential oil. You can also add a calendula cream or other skincare product to your daily routine—shop some of our picks below.

Are there any side effects?

If you are allergic to ragweed, daisies, marigold, or flowers in the asteraceae family, it’s probably best to skip as it could lead to an allergic reaction. Also important to note: Doctors recommend opting out if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Ingesting calendula may impact your hormone levels or even induce menstruation. If you’re unsure about any of the above, check with your healthcare provider before incorporating calendula into your regular routine.

Ready to add calendula to your routine? Here are 4 of the best calendula skincare products:

1. KIEHL’S Calendula Herbal-Extract Alcohol-Free Toner

KIEHL’S Calendula Herbal-Extract Alcohol-Free Toner
Courtesy of KIEHL’S

Need additional proof of calendula’s efficacy? KIEHL’S has an entire line featuring the ingredient. Their toner is a particular hit thanks to the alcohol-free, non-acnegenic formula that helps balance oil for all skin types without irritation. 

2. WELEDA Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream

WELEDA Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream
Courtesy of WELEDA

There’s a good chance you’ve at least heard of—if not already tried—this beloved body lotion, but did you know it has calendula in it? The super-rich formulation also features chamomile, so it’s great to massage into skin to help unwind before bed.

3. PACIFICA Vegan Ceramide Hydration Fill Undereye & Smile Line Jelly Patches

PACIFICA Vegan Ceramide Hydration Fill Undereye & Smile Line Jelly Patches

These jelly patches can be used on both puffy eyes or to plump up smile lines. They’re extra soothing on tired eyes thanks to calendula, and you can store them in the fridge for even more cooling and calming vibes.

4. NATUROPATHICA Calendula Essential Hydrating Cream

NATUROPATHICA Calendula Essential Hydrating Cream

Think of this face moisturizer as a balm for dry, sensitive skin. Calendula helps reduce irritation, while borage seed oil and trehalose (a natural saccharide) deeply moisturize skin. Oh, and the formula is vegan!

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About the author
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Maddie Aberman
Maddie is the senior manager of editorial at IPSY. She’s been covering beauty and wellness for more than nine years. Her work has appeared in Allure, Cosmopolitan, Popsugar, Women's Health, Good Housekeeping, and Seventeen, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated October 8, 2021 12:00 AM