What’s Heartleaf? It's the Newest & Buzziest K-Beauty Ingredient

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Innovation in K-Beauty never ceases to amaze us. In addition to developing ingenious regimens and easy hacks, Korean beauty brands have introduced us to some game-changing skincare ingredients including snail mucin, propolis, and bamboo.

The newest buzz-worthy ingredient on top of the K-Beauty 2021 trend forecast? Heartleaf (scientifically known as houttuynia cordata), a flavonoid and flowering plant native to Southeast Asia, according to board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Michele Koo, MD.

“In Southeast Asia, houttuynia cordata is eaten as a leafy vegetable that contains antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. Koo explains. “Its potential for skincare is promoted because of its anti-inflammatory (think blemishes, rashes, eczema) and hydrating properties.”

But that’s only the beginning. So, we tapped Dr. Koo (plus a few other skincare pros) to share all the ins-and-outs of the ingredient, as well as some easy ways to introduce it into your routine.

What Are the Additional Benefits Of Heartleaf?

According to a 2014 study published in Pharmacognosy Review, heartleaf is traditionally used for medicinal purposes in North-East India and China. Raw leaves and extract from the plant are consumed to purify the blood and to relieve inflammatory conditions in the body.

However, it’s worth noting that heartleaf can also be used topically. A 2010 study published in the Chonnam Medical Journal suggests that the plant can treat snake bites, as well as skin disorders such as acne and atopic dermatitis.

“The plant has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Dr. Koo. “However, whether that translates to smoothing rough, angry, and fickle skin (or removing blemishes) is still not known,” she notes, citing the need for additional research. In other words, don’t think of this as a cure-all ingredient just yet.

Which Skin Types Benefit Most From Using Heartleaf?

Sensitive and dry skin types are best suited for products containing heartleaf because the ingredient is a humectant, meaning it moisturizes, and has soothing, anti-inflammatory properties, explains Dr. Koo.

New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, warns that some people with extremely sensitive skin could have adverse reactions when using products that contain heartleaf. Which is why she recommends doing a patch test on your arm first to see how your skin reacts. “Some people get tingling from this ingredient,” Dr. Jaliman explains. “If you have very red skin, rosacea, or bad eczema, you may want to avoid it."

Additionally, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lavanya Krishnan, MD, advises against using heartleaf products if you have allergies to sulfonamides, which are medicines used to treat bacterial infections.

What Kind of Skincare Products Contain Heartleaf?

Because of its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, heartleaf is often incorporated into skincare products like facial masks, toners, and creams, says Dr. Koo. And thanks to its antibacterial properties, it’s can be a helpful ingredient in acne products for sensitive skin, adds Dr. Krishnan.

But before adding some heartleaf-infused products to your shopping cart, Dr. Koo advises remembering that the extraction process of the plant can vary by brand, which might impact the quality of the product you’re using.

“It is extremely important to select products from brands that are very transparent about their production processes, and hold themselves to a higher standard,” she says. “Sometimes the extraction methodology contains residual toxic ingredients and can actually be harmful. Make sure you trust the product line to deliver clean, pure healthy ingredients.”

Heartleaf Products To Shop

houttuynia cordata i dew care1

1. I Dew Care Chill Kitten 24-hour Moisturizing Cactus-oil Free Cream

Boost your skin’s moisture content with this oil-free cream. It combines heartleaf extract with calming aloe vera, and barrier-protecting prickly pear extract.

houttuynia cordata goodal
Soko Glam

2. Goodal Houttuynia Cordata Calming Moisture Mask

Upgrade your sheet mask stash with this calming bamboo jelly moisture mask, which utilizes heartleaf as a main ingredient in order to bring balance, and a blast of moisture to dry skin.

houttuynia cordata abib

3. Abib Heartleaf Spot Pad

Send dullness, blemishes and redness packing with these heartleaf extract-infused spot treatment pads. Reviewers say they’re great for sensitive skin, too.

houttuynia cordata ecom

4. By Ecom Heartleaf Blackhead Cleaner

By gently clearing blackheads and removing excess oil from the skin, this cleanser is great for acne-prone skin. And it won’t leave your face inflamed or dry after use.

houttuynia cordata anua

5. Anua Heartleaf Soothing Toner

Wash away makeup, grime and oil with this soothing toner. It’ll leave your skin soothed and refreshed.

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Freelance PureWow Editor