(Back To Basics)

So, What Exactly Is Dragon's Blood & Why Is It In Skin Care Products?

Demystifying the elusive ingredient.

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dragon's blood for skin
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With new products, brands, and categories popping up every day, beauty can be a bit overwhelming. Back to Basics is our rudimentary beauty series that serves as your crash course on the science behind some of the best formulations in the game. This week, we’re taking a look at dragon’s blood for skin.

For skin care enthusiasts who stay up-to-date with the ever-dynamic industry, it can sometimes feel as if you’ve been primed to seek out the newest formulas on the block. And how could you not? Brands have presented their fair share of unique ingredients — breast milk, snail mucin, and bee venom, to name a few — all promising to tackle a specific issue, be it dehydration, dullness, or signs of aging. While the novelty of these products may be intriguing and spark curiosity, there’s something to be said about the ingredients that fall on the other end of the spectrum. Dragon’s blood is one example that continues to be enticing by way of its name and its rich history.

The plant-based extract gets its name from the blood-red sap that oozes from a northwest Amazonian tree. The ingredient may have only recently entered the scene as far as skin care is concerned, but it’s actually been used for centuries in medicinal healing and ancient rituals. “Dragon's blood oil is highly regarded in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine as a good skin healer due to it being rich in natural plant polyphenols and tannins,” says board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Julius Few, M.D., who helped co-develop the dragon’s blood-laced Goop Youth-Boost Peptide Serum. Ahead, TZR spoke with experts to learn all there is to know about dragon’s blood for skin, including how to use it in your routine.

What Is Dragon’s Blood?

Dragon’s blood is an extract derived from the croton lechleri tree, also known as the Dragon Tree, which is native to South American countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. “When sliced, croton lechleri bleeds a red sap, hence the name dragon’s blood,” says New York City-based Dr. Jodi LoGerfo, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC. “Amazonians use dragon’s blood, either fresh or as a dry powder, in remedies for sore throat, hives, vaginal antiseptic, insect bites, hemostasis, wound healing, and digestive health.”

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What Are The Skin Care Benefits Of Dragon’s Blood?

Dragon’s blood’s striking resemblance to the actual stuff isn’t the only reasoning as to why it got its name. In skin care, the ingredient is known for its vasoconstrictive properties, or the constricting of blood vessels, which may suggest a possible topical treatment of rosacea and other vascular skin conditions, says Dr. LoGerfo. The ingredient is also rich in proanthocyanidins and polyphenols, both of which boast anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics, says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jessie Cheung, M.D. of Cheung Aesthetics & Wellness.

Through these anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, dragon’s blood is said to encourage wound healing. “Studies have shown that the dragon’s blood plant can promote wound healing by affecting the inflammatory phase of skin and tissues when a wound is recovering,” Dr. LoGerfo tells TZR. While more research is needed, dragon’s blood helps to “stimulate the creation and migration of fibroblasts, a type of cell that contributes to the formation of connective tissue, and the production of collagen, resulting in skin regeneration and wound healing,” Dr. LoGerfo adds.

The ingredient can also improve skin’s moisture levels. “Due to the high concentration of essential lipids and fatty acids, fermented dragon’s blood extract works amazingly well to enhance barrier function that is compromised in dry skin,” says Dr. Few. The result is a more hydrated, plump complexion.

What Are The Side Effects & Who Should Use It?

Dragon’s blood comes with an impressive resume of skin care benefits, and because it’s a relatively gentle ingredient (unlike retinol or harsh acids), it comes with little known side effects. That said, in higher concentrations, the ingredient may temporarily stain your skin red, says Dr. Cheung, who also notes that because the sap is similar to latex, you should avoid dragon's blood if you have a latex allergy. If you’re concerned with getting an allergic reaction or you have sensitive skin, you should always conduct a patch test.

The ingredient can work for virtually all skin types, but it’s best for those with inflammatory conditions like rosacea and psoriasis as well as those with a compromised moisture barrier. Also, the ingredient is especially useful if you're prone to breakouts, “as the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties should help decrease your acne flares and help with acne scars,” says Dr. Cheung. That said, Dr. LoGerfo does note that most of the ingredient’s benefits are anecdotal and that more research is needed to scientifically back up its claims.

How To Use Dragon’s Blood In Your Skin Care Routine

Dragon’s blood can be found in a variety of product types and is easy to integrate into your routine. To fully reap its healing properties, Dr. Cheung recommends seeking out the ingredient in a leave-on product (like a serum or moisturizer) versus something like a cleanser, which is washed off. It’s also gentle enough to be applied once or twice daily, and it is safe to combine with other actives, says Dr. Cheung.

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