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Facial Redness Reduction Cosmetics

Dermatology TimesDermatology Times, June 2024 (Vol. 45. No. 06)
Volume 45
Issue 06

In this month's Cosmetic Conundrums column, Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, examines the most popular active ingredients in redness-reducing formulations.

Patient with facial redness | Image Credit: © julia_diak

Image Credit: © julia_diak

The cosmetics market has discovered rosacea as a niche with opportunities for cosmetic product development. Most redness-reducing moisturizers incorporate some type of antioxidant anti-inflammatory of botanical origin. It can be difficult, however, to separate the effect of the moisturizing vehicle from the active botanical. It may be that both the vehicle and active equally contribute to the ability of the moisturizer to improve facial redness. This column examines the most popular active ingredients in redness-reducing formulations.


α-Bisabolol is the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance in chamomile that comes from a yellow flower used to make calming chamomile tea. It is a colorless viscous oil usually found in its synthetic form in cosmetics. Results from mice studies demonstrate that α-bisabolol inhibits proinflammatory cytokines, which is its basis for inclusion in redness-reducing formulations.


One of the newest ingredients for redness reduction in the cosmetic market is lapachol (2-hydroxy-3-(3-methyl-2-butenyl)-1,4-naphthoquinone), also known as pau d’arco. It was identified in 1882 and is derived from the inner bark of the Tabebuia tree that is native to Central and South America. It is used topically and orally in folk medicine as an anti-inflammatory but also exhibits antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities. The bark extract is thought to produce anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects by inhibiting the release of histamine. For this reason, lapachol is used to decrease the facial itching and redness associated with rosacea.


Allantoin is found in plants, such as comfrey, horse chestnut, and bearberry, but it is usually synthesized for cosmetic formulations from urea and glyoxylic acid. It forms the basis for many sensitive skin formulations but is insufficient for noticeable redness reduction. It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, reducing redness through this mechanism of action.

Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is used in both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) rosacea treatments. Azelaic acid is derived from the commensal skin fungus Malassezia furfur; however, it is industrially produced by the ozonolysis of oleic acid. It is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, accounting for its use in treating rosacea. Because it is a natural product, it can be used in OTC rosacea formulations.

Cosmetic chemists have a wide range of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory ingredients to choose from for facial redness–reduction formulations. No one ingredient usually reduces redness by itself, so a cocktail of botanicals is constructed. The variety in botanical combinations leads to the many redness-reducing moisturizers on the market today.

Centella asiatica extract

Centella asiatica, also known as tiger grass, is native to Africa and Asia and contains a variety of pentacyclic triterpenoids and trisaccharides. The main active ingredients for redness reduction include asiaticoside, asiatic acid, madecassic acid, and madecassoside. These also function as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients.


Feverfew is a herbaceous perennial that grows as a small bush with daisy-like flowers. The plant, whose scientific name is Tanacetum parthenium, is found in facial redness–reducing formulations. Feverfew also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, just like most ingredients in cosmetic products for redness; however, the active ingredient is parthenolide. Parthenolide is thought to bind and inhibit IKKβ, which is important in cytokine-mediated signaling. In skin equivalents, it was shown to decrease UV-induced reactive oxygen species, thus functioning as an antioxidant.

Licochalconelicorice extract

Licochalcone A is a chalconoid, a type of botanical phenol derived from the Chinese licorice plant Glycyrrhiza inflata. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can decrease oxidative stress from UV radiation and blue light. It can be used alone or with other botanicals to reduce redness.

Green tea

Green tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is rich in polyphenols including epigallocatechin gallate, epicatechin gallate, epicatechins, and flavanols. These antioxidant, anti-inflammatory polyphenols are used for redness reduction, usually in combination with some of the other ingredients discussed here.

Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, is a consulting professor of dermatology at Duke University School of Medicine in High Point, North Carolina, and Dermatology Times’ editor in chief emeritus.

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