Willow Bark for Skin: A Beginner’s Guide

willow bark for skin

Willow Bark for Skin

There are some universally fantastic skin care ingredients that do wonders for all types of skin issues, and willow bark is at the top of the list.

We love everything about it, and it’s the kind of ingredient that can make a main stream skin care user make the move to natural only products.

Read on to realize the beauty of willow bark for skin and how it can help you (pretty much everyone), and medical studies to support those claims, all below.

Our Multi Corrective Eye Cream includes willow bark and a long luxurious list of plant derived ingredients for healthier skin.

History of Willow Bark

Willow bark, the bark of several varieties of willow tree, has been used for centuries as a pain reliever. The active ingredient in the medicine made from willow bark is called salicin.

Willow bark extract is derived from various willow bark trees, including white, black, and purple. The ingredient is a natural salicin source, which is where the powerful acne-fighting ingredient that you're likely more familiar with, salicylic acid, comes from. Because of the salicin, willow bark extract has potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Some people use willow bark as an alternative to aspirin, particularly those that experience chronic headaches or back pain. Willow bark is also used in some products to aid weight loss.

It comes from the branches of 2- to 3-year-old willow trees. Willow trees and shrubs grow all over the world, except for Australia and Antarctica. The white willow and black willow are two of the most common willows that are used medicinally. They are both equally beneficial, and we use both interchangeably.

Hippocrates’ use of willow bark in treatments has been well documented, from chewing on willow bark to help relieve fever to making a brew from willow bark to ease labor pains. Although willow bark had been used since ancient civilizations, the active ingredient responsible for its pain-relieving effects was not identified until 1828, when Joseph Buchner, a German pharmacologist, extracted bitter crystalline structures from the plant. He named the new compound salicin, from which salicylic and acetylsalicylic acid were later derived and buffered against. After multiple experiments, Felix Hoffmann, a German chemist working for the pharmaceutical company Bayer, successfully synthesized acetylsalicylic acid in a pure and stable form, which was registered as aspirin in 1899 and patented in the US a year later.

Our Multi Corrective Eye Cream includes willow bark and a long luxurious list of plant derived ingredients for healthier skin.

What are the Willow Bark Benefits for Skin?

It Clears Pores

Willow bark can help exfoliate dead, dry skin cells from the surface layer of skin; ridding skin of that build-up — which could potentially clog pores, leading to blackheads and breakouts — therefore keeps skin clear.

That gives it unique status among formulas that promise to address pores. Most products blur or mattify and are not true pore-shrinkers. Willow bark can do that. Few things are better for blackhead removal (though it may come with requisite, though temporary, skin purging).

It Addresses Acne

In addition to decongesting skin, salicin and salicylic acid have similar anti-inflammatory activity and may be used for conditions such as acne, but salicin is a gentler version. “Gentler” is the operative word here, as that’s what makes willow bark such an appealing alternative to synthetic forms of salicylic acid.

People may need gentler versions of salicylic acid because it can be irritating. Even in a low concentrations, salicylic acid can be accompanied by redness, dryness, and flaking. In fact, evidence shows that conventional acne treatments like salicylic acid may actually make breakouts worse, not better.

It Minimizes Lines and Wrinkles

Last but certainly not least, willow bark can simultaneously address signs of aging. A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that regular topical use of salicin led to improvements across a number of measures, including wrinkles, pore size, skin texture, and radiance. That’s especially compelling with adult acne on the rise — which necessitates ingredients that can address aging and acne in equal measure.

While it sounds too good to be true — there should be some drawback, right? — that’s just not the case with black willow bark. If you’ve been searching for clear, radiant skin, it’s a good place to start.

Medical Studies that Support the Benefits of Willow Bark for Skin

A study done by Global Research and Development in 2010 offers some promising results.

This single-center study enrolled 30 female subjects, showing mild to moderate signs of aging, between the ages of 35 and 70 having a variety of skin types. Subjects used the study serum product containing willow bark on their face twice daily for 12 weeks. Ordinal grading on a nine-point scale (0 = none, 1-3 = mild, 4-6 = moderate, 7-9 = severe) of facial fine lines, molted pigmentation, uneven skin tone, tactile roughness, global firmness appearance, jaw-line contour, radiance, and overall appearance was performed by investigator at baseline, week 1, week 4, week 8, and week 12. Digital photography, ultrasound, cutometry, and corneometry measurements were also performed at each time point.

Results: Twenty-nine of 30 subjects successfully completed the study. No tolerability issues were reported. The clinical investigator found statistically significant improvements in wrinkles, tactile roughness, pore size, radiance, and overall appearance at week 1 time point (P ≤ 0.05) against baseline and statistically significant improvements in mottled pigmentation, global firmness, and jaw-line contour at week 4 time point (P ≤ 0.05) against baseline. Cutometry, corneometry, and ultrasound measurements showed significant improvements at week 12 time point (P ≤ 0.05) against baseline.

Conclusion: Based on the findings from this study, it can be concluded that willow bark has the ability to reduce the visible signs of skin aging when applied topically.

Our Multi Corrective Eye Cream includes willow bark and a long luxurious list of plant derived ingredients for healthier skin.


As noted above in the medical study, willow bark has the ability to fight the signs of aging but also to clear pores and reduce acne. It’s an all around great ingredient choice.

Jeanette @ Claribelskincare.com

I'm a formulator and skin care expert, wife, parent, and fur baby mom. I specialize in active ingredient research and studies, and share that information with you via our blog and products. Please reach out anytime you have questions!

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