You probably have a personal protocol you follow when you’re feeling stressed: Maybe you take a few deep breaths, or go for a jog, or fill a bubble bath before bed. But what do you do when your skin is stressed? Holy basil’s beauty benefits may be the answer. The powerful adaptogen — that’s a fancy way of saying “a substance that helps the body adapt to stressful conditions” — has long been used to ease tension from the inside out. But thanks to a new crop of clean skincare products, holy basil can help you tackle stress from the outside in, too.
“Tulsi, also called ‘holy basil,’ is an ancient Indian Ayurvedic botanical compound that has powerful antibacterial effects, as well as the adaptogenic effect of reducing metabolic stress,” Dr. Tanuj Nakra, the co-founder of AVYA Skincare, tells The Zoe Report. When incorporated into topical skincare, holy basil can reduce inflammation, clear acne, and brighten hyperpigmentation — all classic signs that the skin is under stress (whether from internal sources, like raised cortisol levels, or external sources, like UV light or environmental aggressors).
Holy basil is an herb that Shadoh Punnapuzha, the founder of Taila Skincare, knows well. “Growing up in an Indian household, this sacred plant is a staple,” she tells TZR. “At the start of a cold you drink a tea infused with it to boost your immune system; at an infection or an insect bite, you lightly pat the area with the leaves; for skin irritations such as eczema, the oil is used to soothe and heal. There was no way I could have escaped an encounter with the divine tulsi.” As she puts it, she couldn’t not incorporate it into her skincare line; most notably, in the Taila VAYU Illuminating Toning Mist.
“Tulsi’s unique combination of antiseptic and antibacterial properties make it a gentle anti-inflammatory for irritated skin,” Punnapuzha says, with Dr. Nakra adding that these qualities make it a great choice for treating blemishes as well. (The Aster + Bay Tulsi Spot Remedy can attest to this.) “Holy basil is a mild astringent, a good cleanser and tonic for the skin,” Valerie Grandury, the founder of Odacité, tells The Zoe Report — which is precisely why she’s included it in the brand’s just-released Blue Aura Cleansing Water.
Acne-fighting and pore-cleansing properties aside, holy basil’s biggest claim to fame is its status as an adaptogen with a high antioxidant content — two benefits that make the herb a skincare stress-reliever. “The adaptogenic effects can reduce stress and aging-related skin changes, such as pigment and complexion irregularity,” Dr. Nakra says. In addition to reducing current signs of skin stress, holy basil prevents future problems. “As an adaptogen, it helps combat free radical damage that we encounter from environmental pollutants,” Punnapuzha says. That means fewer fine lines and wrinkles, more moisture, less inflammation (like redness and pimples), and a brighter, more even-toned complexion.
The best part? The risks are relatively low… so there’s really no reason not to treat your face to a little stress-reducing self-care. “Tulsi is generally a very well-tolerated botanical, and topical use minimizes risks,” Dr. Nakra says. “But oral consumption should be avoided in consumers who are pregnant or on blood thinners.” Punnapuzha adds that doing a patch test before applying any new products to your face is always recommended, no matter how mild the ingredient is.
Ahead, eight holy basil skincare products — and one internal supplement — to keep your skin stress-free.