• 29 Jul - 04 Aug, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Beauty

Those of us with oily skin are a special kind of breed – no matter what the weather brings us, chances are we already look like glazed doughnuts by afternoon. And for those who have the combination of oily and acne-prone skin, finding products that address both issues is even trickier. Well, that was before we discovered a new, trendy antioxidant on the block. Meet Silymarin, oily skin's new best friend.

While you might never have heard of silymarin before, this ingredient is a derivative of the milk thistle plant, a popular additive in skin and body care products. Milk thistle is mainly used in traditional Chinese medicine for its holistic benefits like liver detoxification, but research shows that silymarin also has numerous skincare benefits. It is very protective for ultraviolet radiation and factors from the environment like pollution. It also helps to reduce sebum production, and it's really good for oily skin, where typically a lot of topical antioxidants were not ideal for use.


Silymarin comes with a copious amount of skincare benefits, we break them down below:

1. It’s an antioxidant

First and foremost, silymarin has been shown to have powerful antioxidant abilities – some think even more powerful than vitamin E. Silymarin’s high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help it reduce solar UV radiation-induced inflammation and oxidative stress, which contribute to signs of photoaging and certain skin cancers, including melanoma.

2. It’s anti-inflammatory

As mentioned, silymarin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can be great for calming breakouts. The anti-inflammatory properties also make it an ideal ingredient in post-procedure products to help heal the skin.

3. It’s great for oily or acne-prone skin

Silymarin is best known for its ability to regulate oil production. Studies using silymarin in skincare show a reduction in oiliness, refined skin texture, and an improvement in skin clarity, fine lines and overall appearance.

4. It can improve hyperpigmentation and size of melasma

If you suffer from hyperpigmentation or melasma, silymarin may be the ingredient you’ve been missing. A 2018 study found that silymarin helped prevent melanin production without affecting skin cells, unlike hydroquinone. This means your skin gets the same benefits without the negative side effects.

Incorporating silymarin into your routine

Before you get to slathering silymarin all over your face, it's important to note that it does have a fickle relationship with other active ingredients in your skincare routine. The only thing that we would say is to cut down on nightly AHAs or BHAs. They don't have to be fully eliminated, but just divided as far as morning versus night. We would say to use silymarin in the morning and then use your acids on nights you're not using your retinol. We also wouldn't combine it with other antioxidants.

Now for some good news: Silymarin plays very well with hyaluronic acid, retinol, and sunscreen.

If we think about layering, we typically put antioxidants on clean skin first, then our moisturiser. Most people who are going to be using this product are probably going to go for a hyaluronic-acid-based moisturiser with a cleaner, not-so-greasy formula since they are acne-prone and innately oilier. And if you are prone to breakouts and want some kind of vitamin A derivative, it's totally fine to use silymarin in the morning and your retinol at night.

Although silymarin does have protective properties against ultraviolet radiation that in no way means that it can replace your sunscreen. Instead, we recommend using them in tandem with one another to boost their benefits – and therefore, brighten and even out your complexion.

Who should use silymarin?

Overall, silymarin is a great skin-care ingredient for a variety of skin types thanks to its non-comedogenic properties, but people on the drier or more mature side of the skin spectrum should opt out of using it. But that doesn't mean you should do away with antioxidants altogether – there are other options that will be more suitable for you, where you'll get the other benefits that silymarin provides, but not potentially the drying effect. Vitamin C is still the industry's gold standard for protecting against free-radical damage as well as lightening hyperpigmentation.