Studies on chamomile are limited, and many are in animals.
However, dermatologists say there’s good reason to think this common flower has benefits for the skin — from wound healing to anti-aging.
“Chamomile’s wonderful soothing, healing, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular ingredient in skin care,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, a board certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in New York City.
Chamomile may provide benefits for:
- wound healing
- free radical damage
Essential oils extracted from chamomile reportedly have antimicrobial properties to protect against certain types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
A 2018 study in rats found that ointment with Roman chamomile extract significantly improved the healing and antibacterial activity in an infected wound compared with tetracycline ointment and placebo.
In fact, the German Commission E, a group of scientists, doctors, pharmacologists, and toxicologists who determine if drugs are safe for use in Germany, approved the use of chamomile for bacterial skin diseases.
Chamomile is often used to help tame skin inflammation from sunburn and rashes. The German Commission E also approved chamomile for treating skin inflammation.
“Chamomile contains the anti-oxidant apigenin, which aids in lowering inflammation by inhibiting the release of inflammation-causing chemicals,” Engelman explains.
The ancient Greeks were on to something when they applied crushed chamomile to red, irritated skin. That’s because chamomile seems to curb inflammation, an underlying cause for skin redness.
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“Chamomile deeply but gently penetrates the skin to alleviate inflammation,” Engelman explains.
Soothing sensitive skin
Chamomile’s anti-inflammatory and healing properties appear to be especially soothing for sensitive skin types.
“Bisoprolol, chamazulene, and apigenin are three compounds found in chamomile that give it soothing and healing benefits that are [great] for sensitive skin,” says Engelman.
Some research in animals suggests that skin creams containing chamomile may even be beneficial for those with skin conditions, like eczema. A 2010 study found that applying German chamomile oil to the skin of mice effectively lowered allergy markers.
Hyperpigmentation and skin lightening
Hyperpigmentation is when areas of skin are darker than surrounding skin due to overproduction of the hormone melanin. It’s usually caused by injury or inflammation to the skin, and it’s commonly linked to sun damage, acne, or hormonal changes during pregnancy.
Skin-lightening products with chamomile that treat hyperpigmentation may help.
“Chamomile has astringent and brightening properties that, in addition to tightening pores and softening the skin, can fade acne scars and hyperpigmentation when used regularly,” Engelman says.
The same anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-oxidant properties that make chamomile an effective treatment for redness and inflammation may also address acne.
“It can be used as a mild astringent, which causes body tissue to contract,” Engelman notes. “It gently kills bacteria, helps fade hyperpigmentation or red spots, and speeds up cell regeneration, which helps clear the skin.”
Anti-oxidants fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which are the natural result of everyday metabolic processes and inflammation. Oxidative stress is linked to fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and other signs of aging.
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Chamomile contains powerful anti-oxidants including polyphenols and phytochemicals. When applied to the skin, it may help reduce signs of aging by protecting the skin from free radical damage.
“It accelerates cell and tissue renewal, reducing the appearance of fine lines and giving skin a youthful glow,” Engelman says.