With a subject line like “Nature’s Botox,” of course I had to click — I’m a natural beauty devotee with an aversion to needles, so that combination of words sounds pretty much perfect. What magical, just-discovered ingredient was this? Would it be rare? Expensive? Otherwise unattainable? As it turns out, none of the above. The email from natural beauty brand Native Nectar Botanicals loaded to reveal that garden-variety hibiscus benefits for skin are comparable to Botox — and that’s not an empty marketing claim, either. Derms are fully on board with the descriptor for three main reasons: elastin, antioxidants, and AHAs.
“Hibiscus has great anti-aging benefits because it maintains elastin in the skin by decreasing the activity of elastase, an enzyme that breaks down our skin’s natural elastin,” Dr. Devika Icecreamwala, a dermatologist with Icecreamwala Dermatology in San Francisco, tells The Zoe Report. Elastin basically works in tandem with the more well-known protein collagen to keep skin looking youthful. Where collagen plumps, elastin is responsible for the skin’s ability to “snap back” — so when elastin levels naturally decline with age, skin sags. “Elastin is what keeps our skin looking firm, youthful, and less wrinkled,” Dr. Icecreamwala says.
“Hibiscus is also loaded with vitamin C, which is vital for collagen production,” Jess Taylor, the founder of Native Nectar Botanicals, tells TZR. In this way, the tropical flower gives aging skin the one-two punch — albeit, in a totally different way than Botox (which is an injectable neurotoxin that paralyzes wrinkle-causing muscles), and not instantaneously, either. Hibiscus exerts its flower power over time.
It does bring some other beauty benefits to the table, though. “Hibiscus is rich in specific antioxidants called anthocyanins, which fight off free radicals, prevent premature skin aging, and decrease inflammation,” Dr. Icecreamwala says, noting that the ingredient also contains natural alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs, that help exfoliate. “This leads to more youthful looking skin and helps control breakouts,” Jana Blankenship, the founder of natural beauty brand Captain Blankenship, tells TZR. AHAs are also known for brightening skin tone and reducing signs of hyperpigmentation, like acne scars.
“Hibiscus works as a great natural moisturizer because it contains a lot of mucilage,” the dermatologist adds. While mucilage may not sound glamorous — it’s a viscous fluid found in plant matter — it actually helps skin look and feel hydrated. To quote Blankenship: “Really, what doesn't hibiscus do?”
Best of all, the ingredient does it all in a super-soothing way. “Due to the gentle nature of hibiscus, the exfoliating benefits may be utilized in areas traditionally unsuitable for other forms of exfoliation, such as the orbital area,” LeeAnne Leslie, the Professional Education and Training Manager of the Alpha-H skincare brand, tells The Zoe Report. “There aren’t really any risks associated with the ingredient. In fact, hibiscus extract rarely causes allergic reactions and is suited to all skin types.” I mean, I’d call that better than Botox, but that’s just me.
A lot of these properties carry over to hair care, too. “Hibiscus flower extract contains amino acids, which are smaller components of protein that are found in the hair,” Nicole Erickson, the Director of Product Development at John Masters Organics, tells TZR. “The amino acids bond to the hair to add strength and elasticity.” When applied to the scalp, hibiscus’ AHA content works to slough away dead skin cells and buildup, effectively balancing its pH and leading to healthier hair follicles and ideal sebum production.
Obviously, those kinds of benefits apply to anyone of any hair type, but the power of hibiscus is often employed in hair care products specifically aimed at dry, damaged, or natural hair — like John Masters Organics Hair Reconstructing range and SheaMoisture’s Coconut + Hibiscus line — thanks to its soothing and repairing nature.
Ahead, 17 ways to add a shot of hibiscus to your beauty routine — no needles required.
Shop Hibiscus Skincare
“Our Native Nectar Brighten Toning Mist is newly formulated to give skin an extra boost,” Taylor says. “Hibiscus is blended with potent botanical extracts and vitamins to correct the signs of damaged and aging skin including uneven skin tone, redness, and dull, dry complexions.”
Simultaneously hydrate and exfoliate with this serum from Odacité, which calls on watermelon seed oil to moisturize sans greasiness and hibiscus to gently brighten with natural AHAs.
“We use organic hibiscus powder in our Petal Gentle Facial Mask,” Blankenship tells TZR. The blend also contains rose petal, chamomile, and lavender powders (all organic) alongside french pink clay. “It will leave skin smooth and dewy, is gentle enough to use several times per week, and smells like a field of flowers,” she says.
“Hibiscus extract is perfectly suited to the super delicate skin and tissue around the eye,” Leslie says. “Its gentle exfoliation properties brighten and smooth the eye area, reducing the signs of premature aging.”
Herbivore Organics’ hibiscus- and rose-infused mist is basically younger-looking skin in a spray bottle.
“Our Hibiscus and Blood Orange Scrub is blended to scrub away scars, pigment issues and cellulite,” Taylor tells TZR. “It helps smooth and tone skin in a way other ingredients really cannot.”
DIY your own face mask with S.W. Basics’ three-ingredient powder. The mixture of hibiscus, green clay, and lavender helps clear away bacteria, keep elastin stores intact, and soothe signs of sensitivity.
In addition to brightening, tightening hibiscus, Alpha-H’s Absolute Eye Complex features a cooling metal applicator to soothe under-eye bags on contact.
Hibiscus doesn’t have to break the bank. This night cream gets the job done for less than $12.
“This soak also contains minerals from Hawaiian red clay while neroli (from white orange blossoms) and bergamot oils calm the body and mind,” the brand’s founder shares.
Shop Hibiscus Hair Care
“The repairing shampoo for damaged hair with honey and hibiscus helps preps the hair to deliver moisture,” Erickson says. “The organic hibiscus flower water and hibiscus flower extract contain natural acids which gently help slough off dead skin and dirt while still balancing its natural oil production.”
“The amino acids in hibiscus bond to the hair to add strength and elasticity, while honey helps seal in moisture,” Erickson tells TZR. “The result? Damaged hair is restored.”
This finishing mist from Christophe Robin uses hibiscus vinegar to correct the pH balance of the scalp while adding shine to strands.
Feeling dry? This tropical combo of hibiscus, passion flower, and watermelon quenches hair's thirst like *that.*
Beautycounter’s Volume & Shape Conditioner relies on hibiscus-derived proteins to pump up flat hair.
Those with natural hair will love SheaMoisture’s blend of hibiscus flower and coconut water, designed to keep curls and coils smooth, shiny, and frizz-free.