Cinnamon is a popular spice made from the bark of cinnamon (Cinnamomum) trees. It’s used in dishes throughout the world as a flavor enhancer and natural source of antioxidants.
Cinnamon essential oil is sometimes added to cosmetic products like perfumes, creams, lip balms, and scrubs. For example, some people add it to homemade skin care remedies in an attempt to lighten skin, improve acne, and reduce signs of aging.
Despite its wide use, cinnamon is a controversial skin care ingredient because it’s considered a skin irritant. Skeptics believe that it should never be used as a skin care ingredient, while proponents believe it leaves their skin healthier.
This article tells you whether cinnamon can benefit your skin — or if it’s better left on the spice rack.
Cinnamon is rich in plant compounds known as polyphenols, such as cinnamic acid, cinnamaldehyde, and various flavonoids. These boast anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help fight cell-damaging free radicals.
The type of cinnamon commonly found on grocery store shelves and in food products is known as cassia cinnamon, derived from the Cinnamomum cassia tree. This type contains significantly fewer polyphenols than a type called Ceylon.
Ceylon is obtained from the Cinnamomum verum tree. However, even though it contains higher amounts of health-promoting antioxidants, it’s less common, more difficult to obtain, and often more expensive.
Summary: The type of cinnamon called Ceylon provides more health-promoting antioxidants than the type called cassia. However, cassia is the most common type found in foods and on grocery store shelves.
Does it affect skin health?
Cinnamon is an antioxidant-rich spice. Many believe it can contribute to healthy-looking skin, either by eating it or applying it topically.
Consuming cinnamon, particularly the antioxidant-rich Ceylon variety, has been linked to many health benefits. For example, it may act as a natural anti-inflammatory, reduce the risk of heart disease, and lower blood sugar levels.
However, there is little research on its effect on skin health.
Theoretically, a diet high in antioxidants — including antioxidants from cinnamon — may support skin health by fighting free radicals. Free radicals can otherwise damage skin cells and accelerate signs of aging like wrinkles and decreased skin elasticity.
Beyond this, no scientific evidence confirms that consuming cinnamon benefits your skin, and more research is needed. That said, if you enjoy the taste, there’s nothing wrong with adding the spice to your dishes.
Applying cinnamon to your skin may provide some benefits.
In a 2012 test-tube study, Ceylon cinnamon extract was shown to support collagen synthesis. Collagen is the main structural protein in your skin that deteriorates with aging, leading to increased skin sagging and wrinkles.
Similarly, a 2008 study found that a cream with extracts of Ceylon cinnamon, aloe vera, pomegranate, licorice, turmeric, and other antioxidant-rich herbs improved skin elasticity, firmness, and hydration. However, these benefits could not be linked to cinnamon alone.
Researchers have suggested that cinnamon’s high cinnamaldehyde content may be responsible for its collagen-promoting effects, while its antioxidant properties may protect the skin from collagen-degrading free radicals.
What’s more, some test-tube and animal studies have shown that cinnamon extract may promote skin wound healing thanks to its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
Cinnamon may also inhibit tyrosinase activity, which is what leads to brown spots in food products. Some people believe that this effect may also apply to brown pigments in the skin and use cinnamon to treat hyperpigmentation, though no research backs this use.
Beyond these studies, no human clinical trials back up the idea of cinnamon as an effective skin care ingredient for treating signs of aging, acne, skin discoloration, and hyperpigmentation or to lighten the skin.
Moreover, available studies typically use cinnamon extract, which contains higher concentrations of antioxidants compared with cinnamon powder. So, using regular cinnamon powder in skin care treatments is unlikely to have any benefits.
Summary: While cinnamon can be part of a healthy diet, there’s little research to support its use for anti-aging, skin lightening, acne, discoloration, or other skin issues.
Preparation and forms
In addition to being a popular culinary spice, cinnamon is added to some skin care and cosmetic products because of its scent or purported health benefits. That said, its use in commercial products is limited due to its possible irritating effects on the skin.
Instead, cinnamon is mostly used in homemade skin care remedies, such as face masks and body scrubs. In particular, honey and cinnamon face masks have grown in popularity as a potential treatment for acne, though no research backs this claim.
Some people use cinnamon alone as a face scrub. However, this may irritate the skin and isn’t recommended.
Summary: Cinnamon is rarely found in commercial skin care products because it’s a common irritant. Even though it’s popular in homemade skin care products, its use isn’t recommended.
Cinnamon is a controversial skin care ingredient due to its known side effects. In fact, cinnamon hypersensitivity can occur both with ingestion and topical application.
Allergic reactions from consuming cinnamon include mouth tingling, itching, stomach pain, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
Common reactions to applying cinnamon topically include skin rashes, redness, discoloration, irritation, and burning. If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue use and speak with a healthcare professional.
What’s more, directly applying cinnamon essential oil to the skin can lead to skin irritation. There have even been rare reports of second-degree burns from this use.
If you want to try using commercial skin care products with cinnamon, it’s important to do a small patch test first. Simply place a small amount of the product on your inner forearm and wait 24 hours to see if your skin has a negative reaction.
And when it comes to homemade skin care solutions with cinnamon, it may be best to avoid them.
Summary: Cinnamon hypersensitivity is relatively common and can lead to unwanted side effects like skin irritation, discoloration, and burning. In rare cases, applying cinnamon essential oil to the skin may lead to severe skin burns.