Ingredient To Know: Echinacea

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Constantly having a head cold is my winter look. It's never just a fleeting state of sickness. It goes like this every time: chilly weather hits and so does my telltale sore throat. The following months are spent nursing lingering symptoms of that initial cold while squelching subsequent ones that no doubt crop up. Yes, it is somehow possible to get a cold on top of a cold. And after colds on colds on colds, I have sprayed, gargled and chugged every preventative measure.

Prevention means heading to Juice Press, Duane Reade, Whole Foods or the Chinese Herbal Apothecary to pick up the usual suspects: vitamin C, zinc, elderberry, ginger, garlic and…echinacea, perhaps the most intriguing of the cold-fighting ingredients, if not the trickiest to spell. As with all supplements, there’s conflicting evidence as to the effectiveness of each. When in doubt, chalk it up to that elusive placebo effect. Nevertheless, I consume any number of them in various combinations until the sore throat either a) shrinks back to wherever it came from, or b) morphs into a full-blown cold.

To play it safe, I've also begun to pay closer attention to the hero ingredients in beauty products—perhaps loading vitamin C, et al., straight into my skin would lessen my sick chances. Luckily echinacea, one of my immunity mains, is the new ingredient that's all of a sudden in everything. Here are the standouts:

The Fresh Crème Ancienne Ultimate Nourishing Honey Mask—far more luxurious than your echinacea supplement, but the same principles are at work here. Echinacea’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities are what’s said to nip a cold in the bud or reduce its duration. On skin, the mask coaxes a dewy glow from even the most sleep-deprived of faces, while also soothing any cold-induced redness. After blowing my nose on repeat, the mask is a much-needed recovery treat. Not to mention echinacea’s co-star, sweet, sticky, antibacterial honey—great for those Puffs-Plus-With-Lotion-induced breakouts. The Fresh Crème Ancienne line is inspired by monks and their diligent use of natural remedies, and the mask strikes a perfect balance between luxe and medicinal.

The Davines Well-Being line had me as skeptical as WebMD on homeopathic cold remedies. However, it’s my favorite discovery of the bunch. The products, which contain echinacea and vitamin C, have cured my unhealthy hair. Shampoo and conditioner-wise, you don’t need much—they smell lovely and subtle, and leave locks silky and not weighed-down, which, with fine hair, is the curse of overly rich conditioners. The Well-Being Shampoo somehow cleans roots without drying hair. The real champion, though, is the De Stress Lotion that I originally wrote off. Not a shine spray or a curl-enhancer, I wondered what, exactly, this product proposed to do. Well, what can’t it do? I have found the perfect supplement for my hair’s overall well-being. When applied wet, the lotion (more of a spray) feels like it’s locking in the effects of the Well-Being Conditioner. I don’t need any additional products, despite sickly-looking split ends. It also encourages my curls—and not in a crunchy, salt spray kind of way. Later in the week I learn it’s also the perfect supplement to dry shampoo—sort of helping to disperse the product and freshen up hair in terms of scent and texture without resorting to hair perfume, which seems drastic. If dry shampoo is like pressed powder, then Davines De Stress Lotion is like facial mist. It’s the perfect remedy whether your hair is sick or just in need of an immunity boost. If only I remembered to swallow echinacea in pill form as often as I now mist my hair (and body, according to the bottle) with it.

Honorable mentions include Jurlique Rose Hand Cream (the rose smells divine, even through a stuffy nose), the entire Farmacy line (shoutout to the Soothing Coconut Gel Mask, which features kale you don’t have to eat) and Chantecaille Nano Gold Energizing Cream (echinacea is perhaps overshadowed by, you know, real gold, the luxury of which has brightened my seasonally-affected morale, along with my complexion).

So while it remains to be seen whether echinacea has had a hand in preventing any potential colds this winter, I can say, with confidence, that it’s done wonders for my skin and hair, which even prompts me to believe it’s been the secret hero of my awful-smelling Source Naturals Wellness Formula pill—though I think I’ll continue to down Ginger Fireballs and Emergen-C’s just in case.

—Michaela Waites

Michaela is a Glossier Editorial Intern. Photographed by Tom Newton.

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