It’s been a major bucket list item: Visiting Japan during cherry blossom season. Or sakura, as the flowers are known in local parlance.
It’s not like you can’t see cherry blossoms elsewhere in the world – I have had some fabulous views in Geneva, and even closer home in Washington DC, where the Tidal Basin is drenched in these blush and bubblegum pink blooms during the start of spring.
But floating under the frothy, candy floss clouds on the Lake Biwa Canal, or walking the famous Nakaragi no Michi path, is an experience like no other. Come nighttime, the moon illuminates the flowers and transforms the world into a fairytale.
And if you are lucky enough to be sitting under a cherry blossom tree on a windy day, you get to experience a rain of cherry blossom petals, which just feels surreal.
One of the most surprising discoveries for me was cherry blossom tea (or sakura-yu) – a pale pink cup of gorgeousness that has a faint resonance of rose petals, with delicate plum and almond undertones. And it is salty.
Why salty? Cherry blossoms are so fragile and have such a short bloom that those in the know pickle the petals in salt and ume plum vinegar to be used throughout the year. The flowers are edible and go into everything from tea and jellies to meringues and macarons.
And they also go into skincare products.
A fact that I was reminded of recently, while going through the label for Milk Makeup’s Hydro Grip Primer, where cherry blossom extract is one of the main ingredients.
Which led me to wondering: Is cherry blossom a skincare treasure as well as being one of the prettiest flowers known to humankind?
Cherry blossom’s skincare benefits
Turns out that yes, cherry blossom is not the national flower of the world’s most skincare-conscious country for nothing. The pretty blooms, which appear in everything from Estée Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion Fresh with Sakura Ferment to Shu Uemura Sakura Refreshing Cleansing Oil, are skincare saviours par extraordinaire (scroll right down for the best skincare products with this rare ingredient).
How? Let me count the ways.
1. Cherry blossoms are extremely high in antioxidants that help mop up skin-damaging free radicals. Left to do their job, these free radicals are one of the prime causes of premature ageing.
2. These pretty petals are a storehouse of essential fatty acids that help repair the skin’s natural barriers and promote a smooth, supple complexion.
3. Cherry blossom extract counters the effects of glycation. Glycation is a process wherein excess sugars bind to the body’s proteins and destroy collagen and elastin (skin’s building blocks), thereby leading to wrinkles and sagging.
4. Cherry blossom extract can lighten hyperpigmentation and clarify uneven skin by inhibiting the production of melanin.
6. Finally, cherry blossoms boost collagen synthesis to increase skin elasticity, improve smoothness and inhibit increase in pore size.
Come to think of it, I should not have been so surprised to learn about cherry blossom’s skincare properties, considering it is part of the rose family – and we know that roses are some of the most powerful botanicals in the world!
So, here I am: Sipping on a cup of pale pink, slightly salty cherry blossom tea, which is basically spring in a cup. Join me?
Beauty products based on cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms (often listed bib their scientific moniker: prunus serrulata) are notoriously difficult to source because of the short seasons and the extraction process can be tricky as well. That’s why they don’t show up in too many beauty products.
And when they do, there is a good chance that they may just be listed to talk up the product and don’t actually have much of the actual ingredient themselves. So, be careful about what you are buying.
For example, cherry blossoms don’t have much of a fragrance. So, don’t be swayed by all those “cherry blossom scented” beauty products out there. They won’t do your skin any good!
Instead, try one of these, which actually contain cherry blossom extracts in enough volumes to actually make a difference to your skin.
Estée Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion Fresh with Sakura Ferment: This limited edition version of Estée Lauder’s Micro Essence is infused with double-flowered cherry blossom ferment to leave skin feeling smooth and supple.
Red Flower Wild Cherry Blossom Rice Puff: These pillowy sachets are based on the Japanese tradition of kome nuka, where bathers use small cloth bags with rice bran to buff away dead cells and restore the flow of vital energies in the body. Red Flower adds cherry blossom oil to the rice bran to hydrate and tone the skin for a supple finish. It’s seriously one of the best body scrubs I have ever used!
Snow Fox Skincare Japanese Cherry Blossom and White Tea Smooth 5-Piece Mask: With cherry blossom extract listed as one of the top ingredients, this mask promises (and delivers) the “glass skin” effect that’s so highly prized in Asia.
Shu Uemura POREfinist2 Sakura Refreshing Cleansing Oil: This lightweight cleansing oil from Shu Uemura contains cherry blossom extracts from petals harvested by hand in Iwate Prefecture, along with sakura sake extract for a double whammy of skincare goodness. Perfect for oilier skin types with a tendency to clogged pores.
Aveda Cherry Almond Body Lotion: This body lotion calls upon cherry blossom’s essential fatty acids for keeping skin smooth, moisturised and protected.