Lemongrass is a fresh exotic herb that has long been used in folk for its unique aroma and mind-clearing benefits. It helps calm anxiety, irritability and insomnia. The perennial grass that is native to India — and has a strong, lemony scent — can be found in tea (made from dried or fresh lemongrass, as well as the bark and seeds), soups, sauces, marinades and even natural deodorant, as its antibacterial properties kill bacteria that causes odor.
But skin can also largely benefit from the tall striped leaves with sharp, jagged edges. When it comes to skincare, it is known for its skin healing properties, especially for acne. And surprisingly, it is even commonly used as a mosquito repellent.
Also known by its scientific name, Cymbopogon citratus, lemongrass has long been touted to have amazing antimicrobial and antifungal properties. “What it does is decolonize some of the bad bacteria in the skin,” says Reena Jogi, M.D., a dermatologist at Village Dermatology in Houston. “In studies, it looks like it has activity against staph bacteria and even E.coli, and those can cause … problems [such as skin infections of the likes of boils and impetigo] in the skin.” These studies helped show that lemongrass may inhibit bacteria that have shown resistance to many different antibiotics, even at small concentrations.
When it comes to skin, this means that using products with lemongrass on their ingredient list will likely help ward off skin infections and help skin issues caused by bacteria. The most common is acne — of course — folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles) and even cellulitis, a serious bacterial skin infection.
“Additionally, it seems to have astringent properties that kind of help combat some of the oil,” says Jogi. These astringent properties help to shrink and constrict tissue — decreasing large pores and puffy skin — and because these are common for those experiencing acne, Jogi thinks it is best used in products such as toners and oils. Overall, it minimizes pores, limits the secretion of oil and temporary firms the skin.
However, it is important to note that you can definitely overdo it. “Anything that has astringent properties can strip the natural oil from the skin,” Jogi says. “If you’re using something with astringent properties, you’re going to want to pair it with a moisturizer to minimize the dryness and the irritation.”
Something you should always be certain of is choosing products with pure lemongrass, as it has been known to have additives to help preserve and enhance its taste or odor that could cause different reactions. Additionally, because it is a strong herb, it is not best for sensitive skin, and a little goes a long way.