The use of chamomile for skincare purposes goes back centuries. All the way back to ancient Egyptians and Greeks in fact. These ancient people would crush chamomile flowers and use them to treat dry skin and erythema. These days, chamomile is included in a pletora of skincare products, as well as being widely used for medicinal purposes.
Although there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the soothing and antiaging properties of chamomile, it’s only in recent years that scientists have started studying this plant. Do their findings confirm the traditional beliefs associated with chamomile or is this just another hyped-up ingredient?
What is chamomile?
Chamomile, which is derived from the Greek words “khamai” (on the ground) and “melon” (apple), is the name of several plants in the daisy family. The species most used in cosmetics are Chamomilla recutita, Anthemis Nobilis (Roman Chamomile), Matricaria Recutita (German Chamomile or Blue Chamomile) and Ormenis Multicaulis (Moroccan Chamomile). The main components of chamomile are flavonoids, quercetin (antioxidants) α-bisabolol and chamazulene (they both have anti-inflammatory properties). However, these compounds are found in different amounts in each different specie.
Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties
In 1981, a group of scientists studied the anti-inflammatory effects of four plants, including chamomile. Albino rats were injected with caraginan and prostaglandin E1 to induce inflammation, and were then treated with chamomile, which successfully suppressed the inflammatory effect. The anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile are due to several compounds, including matricine, a-bisabobol, levomenol and chamazulene.
The latter has been found, in a 1994 study, to “exert anti-inflammatory activity in vivo” (a test done on a living organism such as animals or humans). When used with levomenol, chamazulene is said to be effective at soothing allergies, erythema and sunburns. According to the Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines, a-bisabol, in addition to reduce inflammation, can also help with wound healing.
Chamomile has antioxidant properties
A 2002 study has confirmed that chamomile has antioxidant properties, thanks to its flavonoid compounds. However, the same study also suggests that its antioxidant properties are not as strong as those of thyme, basil and rosemary. Because of this, chamomile works best when used with other antioxidants.
Chamomile to dye hair?
Chamomile is sometimes used in haircare products to enhance the colour of blonde hair. However, it takes a lot of chamomile extract to stain hair and, because this ingredient is quite expensive, brands often don’t include enough of it to make it as effective as synthetic dyes. But, provided that’s at the top of the ingredient list, it may help somewhat. In shampoos instead this ingredient is used in a minuscule amount so don’t worry if yours contains it. It won’t affect your hair colour.
Although chamomile is generally considered safe, it is not for everyone. If you’re allergic to chamomile or other plants in the daisy family, you should avoid using it or, instead than soothing your skin, it may actually give you a rash. In addition, it is not certain whether chamomile can be used by pregnant women. A 2000 study has pointed out that, although drinking chamomile is often used as a natural treatment for morning sickness, “there was no consensus in the popular literature about whether or not each of these herbs was safe for use in pregnancy. Seven sources (6%) cited chamomile and peppermint as unsafe”.
One of these sources is a study published in Current Drug Safety in 2010, which suggests that some of the components of chamomile could be harmful to pregnant and breastfeeding women and should thus be taken with caution. However, we don’t know whether they are harmful for certain, and if so, in what concentration, or even if this risk translates to topical application, but until we know more, pregnant or breastfeeding women may want to limit or avoid the oral and topical consumption of chamomile.
The Bottom Line
Research on chamomile is still limited, but promising. So far, studies support the traditional soothing, antiaging and wound-healing properties associated with chamomile. However, further studies need to be done, especially to figure out if some of its components can be injurious to pregnant women.
Do you use skincare products with chamomile?