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How Does Red Willow Bark Benefit the Skin?

By Kaleigh Fasanella, she/her 

Red willow bark has long been used to treat a wide range of health maladies, from fevers and flu symptoms, to migraines and menstrual cramps. On top of that, the powerful herb — which is sacred in Native American culture—has a host of skincare benefits, too. Hence why we added it to our brand-spanking-new Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask. 

“[Red] willow bark can be thought of as an alternative to salicylic acid as it contains salicin, which helps to unclog pores and reduce breakouts and blemishes,” says Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. She explains that, unlike salicylic acid, salicin from red willow bark is often considered a gentler alternative, making it more ideal for folks with sensitive or reactive skin types. “It also has anti-inflammatory properties that aid in reducing inflammation,” she adds. 

Youth To The People’s Regional Sales + Education Executive Dee Leung elaborates on the herb’s potential healing qualities:  

In addition to salicin, willow bark is rich in polyphenols, tannins, and flavonoids,” she says. “Polyphenols provide anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that soothe skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis.” Additionally, tannins help tighten pores, while flavonoids fight off free radicals that result in cellular damage to the skin—and in turn, premature aging in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of firmness. “Willow bark really does it all,” she says.

There was even a small study done by the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology that demonstrated the possible benefits of topical salicin for reducing skin aging, notes Garshick. That being said, the primary role red willow bark plays in skincare is treating clogged pores and acne, which is why it’s featured in Youth To The People’s new Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask, developed specifically for oily, combination, and acne-prone skin.

The red willow bark in this innovative formula works alongside other powerhouse ingredients, including texture-smoothing niacinamide, prebiotic-rich kombucha, and several types of clay (see here: mineral-packed white; plus volcanic and French green for their detoxifying abilities). When combined together, dirt and bacteria simply don’t stand a chance—and as a result, pores are clearer and pimples are minimized.  

All this to say: Definitely consider adding red willow bark to your skincare repertoire if you want to ward off breakouts (and potentially premature signs of aging). 

Written by Kaleigh Fasanella for Youth To The People