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Why Adaptogens Are the Next Big Craze Among Wellness Junkies, from Goop to Amanda Chantal Bacon

What, exactly, are “Adaptogens” and why is everyone, from goop to Amanda Chantal Bacon obsessed with them? Here, a helpful guide to the next wellness fad.


It’s not enough that we are throwing back kale smoothies at breakfast, meditating after lunch and spending our evenings sitting in moon circles.

Now, we must take adaptogens, too.

“Adaptogen” is the latest buzzword in the luxury holistic market—the one where wellness-inclined are shelling out hundreds of dollars to look and feel good, naturally. Adaptogens allude to a wide variety of plants and herbs, such as ashwagandha, holy basil, ginseng, astragalus root, licorice root, rhodiola and cordyceps. They can be taken either alone or in combination with others. Their promises? Endless. Glowing skin, boundless energy and radiant joy, supposedly, even in the face of a terrible boss or tantrum-prone toddler.

But before you load up your online shopping cart, well, what are adaptogens exactly.

“They are a unique group of herbal ingredients used to improve the health of your adrenal system, the system that’s in charge of managing your body’s hormonal response to stress,” said Dr. Frank Lipman, an expert in functional and integrative medicine whose cleanses, shakes and supplements are favorites of Donna Karan, Kyra Sedgwick and Maggie Gyllenhaal. “They also help enhance the body’s ability to cope with anxiety and fight fatigue.”

According to Lipman, adaptogens literally adapt to the body to restore balance. So if you’re tired, adaptogens will help with energy. If you’re anxious, they’ll help you calm down. They optimize the body’s adrenal functions, thus enabling it to better cope with everyday life. While there’s little scientific research behind adaptogens, devotees allege that they do all they say they will—namely improve energy levels, elevate mood and even reinvigorate hair and skin without yucky side effects or addictive qualities.

10 Products That Will Transform Your Hair, Skin and Nails While You Sleep

The inspiration: Cara Delevingne, just rolled out of bead. Photo: “Cara Delevingne: Style Rebel” photographed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, styled by Edward Enninful; W Magazine September 2013.

Ren Wake Wonderful Night-Time Facial, $48, sephora.com

WHO: This night-time facial is best for someone looking for more glow. WHAT: It’s a serum with a blend of lactic and glycolic acids that works as an overnight treatment to brighten, plump and clarify the skin. WHERE: Use it on your face, neck, and décolleté. WHEN: Apply to a clean face at night, before your series of serums. Wash it off in the morning. WHY: If you can’t find the time or money to squeeze in a facial, this is for you.

StriVectin All Smooth Overnight Anti-Frizz Serum, $35, ulta.com

WHO: Anyone who suffers from frizzy or dry hair and knows that frizz is hair reaching out for moisture. WHAT: An overnight hair serum by a skincare-first brand, meant to tackle the cause of frizz—a lack of moisture—by repairing the cuticle. WHERE: Apply it to your scalp and hair. WHEN: Use on either damp or dry hair before bed, but do not rinse in the morning. WHY: Hair only holds moisture for up to 48 hours after washing. If you don’t lather up every two days, you need to be putting something in your hair to hydrate it.

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, $20, laneige.com

WHO: This lip mask is perfect for someone with dry, dull lips. WHAT: A softening pink balm packed with Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid that works as an exfoliant and a humectant to prevent moisture loss while you sleep. WHERE: Your lips—feel free to overdraw them a bit with a generous dose of this formula. WHEN: Apply this mask before you go to sleep or in the morning. It’s that good. WHY: Most of us don’t exfoliate our lips often enough. This will do the work for you.

Nails Inc. Overnight Detox Nail Mask, $15, sephora.com

WHO: You have brittle nails and/or are prefer a gel manicure. WHAT: A smoothie-like mask for the nails that contains green tea, spirulina, and acai. WHERE: Paint this onto your nail beds. WHEN: Use inbetween manicures on bare nails. WHY: If your nails need hydration and a little bit of help, this blend will do the trick.

Dermarche Labs BioRewind PM Pro-Grade Retinoid Repairing Serum, $125, sephora.com

WHO: This serum is best for someone who uses retinoids to quell acne and/or wrinkles, but hate the side effects. WHAT: A hybrid retinoid serum that offers maximum results without the downers like dryness and redness. WHERE: Your face and neck, of course. WHEN: At night, as the second-to-last or last skincare step. WHY: Demarche Labs packed benefits of your prescription topical Vitamin A, and an antioxidant packed serum that combined will even skin tone, keep pores clear and wrinkles under control.

Fresh Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask, $92, sephora.com

WHO: You are exhausted and your face looks as tired as you feel. WHAT: An overnight mask that defines facial contours and hydrates leaves skin looking refreshed. WHERE: Your face, neck, and décolleté. WHEN: In the evening, as the last step in your skincare routine. WHY: Fermented black tea and peptides do number on aging skin by working with the nighttime repair cycle to bolster firmness.

Caudalie Vine[Activ] Overnight Detox Night Oil, $50, sephora.com

WHO: You are worried about pollution-induced damage. WHAT: A plant-based oil that works to detoxify the skin as you sleep. WHERE: Your face, neck, and décolleté. WHEN: Layer it between your serum and sleeping mask at night. WHY: If you don’t have time to mask every day, this should be your go to. The oil flushes the skin of impurities that your two-step cleansing system left behind. Your skin will be happier and brighter.

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, $185, violetgrey.com

WHO: You’re into natural active ingredients that deliver real results. WHAT: A 22-ingredient serum that is simply too precious to use during the day. WHERE: Press into your neck, décolleté and face—seriously, don’t forget the neck! WHEN: In the evening, after thoroughly exfoliating and cleansing the skin. WHY: If you’re an ingredient label junkie, this stellar serum will check off all of the skincare must have and avoid boxes. Given that it fights inflammation and mitigates dark spots, wrinkles and redness, it might as well be called just that.

Coola Sunless Tan Anti-Aging Face Serum, $54, ulta.com

WHO: You want sun-kissed skin, but know that there is no such thing as a safe tan. WHAT: It’s a colorless self-tanning serum that is 70 percent organic made by a beloved suncare brand. WHERE: Use it on your face, neck and décolleté—demarcation lines are not chic. WHEN: In the spring, when you need some color, apply it before you go to sleep preferably the night after using the Ren Facial. WHY: The beet sugar-derived DHA doesn’t smell and the colorless serum won’t show up on sheets. Plus, the packaging is crazy chic.

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Night Cap Overnight Perfector, $28, sephora.com

WHO: You want a week’s worth of shiny hair. WHAT: A silicone-fete treatment that seals the cuticle overnight. WHERE: Use on your full head of hair, but add an extra pump to your ends. WHEN: Comb through before bed. WHY: The formula mimics the oils in your hair, resulting in manageable and glossy that lasts longer than your blowout. You won’t need to reapply until four or five shampoos later, and it will reduce color loss during each wash.

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It was a special combination of adaptogens that Medea Juhasz claims saved her life. A longtime drug and alcohol addict, Juhasz was plagued with issues like liver damage, ulcers, recurring sinus infections and uncontrollable cravings. After succeeding in her recovery, she addressed her health by researching natural medicine and herbalism. “I started experimenting and obsessively combining herbs, amino acids and superfoods on my kitchen table,” Juhasz said. “It took months to perfect the exact ratio, but when I finally did, my health issues started to disappear.”

Juhasz was so taken with her sudden reversal that she left her job in fashion, where she worked as a sales director for brands like Thomas Wylde and Whiting & Davis, to become a holistic health coach. She bottled and branded her formula, Catalyst Gold that features a wealth of adaptogenic ingredients like astralagus, eleuthero root, camu camu, dandelion, chlorella and more. “Adaptogens don’t treat a specific condition; they’re for anyone looking to boost overall well-being,” Juhasz said. “They work slowly and gently, without crashes and they are completely safe for long-term use. There is something magical about a unique ability to “adapt” the function of these herbs according to your body’s specific needs.”

Catalyst Gold is one of the adaptogen-rich supplements available at Knockout Beauty, where owner Cayli Cavaco Reck curates a selection of vitality inducing, non-toxic beauty products in a chic, boudoir style setting. She also sells the popular Moon Juice adaptogenic powders, which she uses daily. “When I think about adaptogens, they fall into my overall beauty philosophy, which is not coming from a place of ‘problem and solution’ but of ‘goal and map,’” Reck said. “So how do you reach your goal? Well, whether you’re seeking more energy or less stress, adaptogens are your map. They will help you get there.”

10 Natural Products That Will Make You a Knockout Beauty

“A silver rich, illuminating, facial mist with hyaluronic acid with scientifically proven skin protecting copper peptides. The fragrance is BEYOND! I almost wish it were a perfume.”

Amly Silver Rich Face Mist, $52, amlybotanicals.com

“I have breast cancer in my family so I have been on a natural deodorant quest since I was a teenager, to date this is my favorite. I like that there are two formulas, one with lavender and one without.”

Agent Nateur N3 Deodorant, $21, agentnateur.com

“Odacité is a remarkable brand that has become very very dear to me. I have seen it transform skin including mine. I personally have almost the entire rainbow of boosters, but even just adding one to your regime that targets your skin goal will yield impressive results.”

Odacité CaR Wild Carrot Vital Glow Serum Concentrate, $55, nordstrom.com

Lumity Vitamins, $105, lumitylife.com

“The day complex contributes to collagen and elastin formation and repairs oxidative damage. The night complex naturally stimulates the release of Human Growth Hormone which is essential for building muscle, bone density and healthy tissue. In the morning it puts your cells in action and at night in state of repair.”

“Nature’s Botox… Need I say more?”

La Crème Beauté Venom, $198, lacremebeaute.com

“Before I opened the store I was in a meeting and the most beautiful fragrance was in the air. I had to stop the meeting because I could not concentrate and need

ELLIS BROOKLYN Fable Eau de Parfum, $100, sephora.com

“I apply these in a heart shape on my cheeks for the perfect flush of color. There is something that is so joyous about putting little hearts on your face every morning. You truly can’t help but smile.”

Vapour Aaur Multi Use Stain, $36, vapourbeauty.com

“I admired the founder April Gargiulo before I feel in love with the product. The integrity with which the brand is created is truly worth all of the hype. Once I tried it I knew it was special. I had a glow and vitality that hooked me, but then I woke up with smooth, soft, clear skin, which is when I made a permanent place on my shelf for it.”

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, $185, net-a-porter.com

“Pearl is the primary ingredient in Moon Juice’s runaway hit Beauty Dust. It is an excellent source of biocompatible minerals and amino acids. It has been know to inhibit the production of melanin, which is key for me because I am prone to melasma. Constant use can also eliminate blemishes and the glow is really sublime. Pearl also supports cardiovascular function as well as skeletal tissue and bones.”

Moon Juice Pearl Dust, $40, moonjuiceshop.com

“Skin likes to be happy and it is a natural mimic, essentially exosomes are the love notes that skin cells pass to each other making them fell good and respond in kind. Exosomes are not new, they are a part of our existing biology. What is new is the advancement in how to culture and use them. Exo pioneered the method for duplicating the exosomes that deliver the messaged that promote skin perfection.”

Exo Bio.Digital Perfection Moisturizer, $118, exoskinsimple.com

A view of Cayli Cavaco Reck’s new shop, Knockout Beauty in New York City.

Photo by Matt Licari.
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Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon offers a pantry-full of supplement powders like cordyceps, ashwagandha and schisandra berry. Bacon, whose original Moon Juice shop in Venice is adored by Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Alicia Keys, says she would spike her food and drinks with adaptogens all day long. She’d add a teaspoon of ashwagandha into her tea for its calming effects, or throw some cordyceps into her shake for an energy boost. In keeping with that proclivity, her new Melrose Place location offers Moon Dust lattes full of her special powders. “My pantry is stocked with adaptogenic herbs so I can easily blend them into hot or cold nut milk as a major pick-me-up or even a meal,” Bacon said. “Depending on what my body is specifically needing, I will sprinkle them into batches of raw chocolate or puddings to bring the medicine cabinet into the kitchen in a delightful way.”

One could argue, however, that the vast availability of adaptogens is slightly disconcerting, if not totally confusing. Without the guidance of a holistic doctor or coach, how could one possibly know which adaptogen to take, or by which brand? A simple Amazon search yields hundreds of results in all shapes and varieties. There are powders to mix into drinks, as well as pills, tablets and capsules, each offering a path to feeling our absolute best.

“Like everything in medicine, it is a bit of trial and error,” said Dr. Alejandro Junger, a cardiologist and Eastern medical expert who collaborated with Goop Wellness on its new line of supplements. “After working with adaptogens for a while, people are able to distinguish if they’re working because of their characteristics or symptoms. But it’s the same thing with high blood pressure medication or chemotherapy. It’s the same with every medication. It’s trial and error.”

Dr. Junger encourages the general public to speak with holistic professionals in deciding which adaptogen to take and by which brand. The primary danger lies in buying adaptogens that have contaminants. Others simply won’t work as they lack the right active ingredients, or the plants weren’t harvested correctly.

Most importantly, he warned, adaptogens should not be used in place of Western medicine, particularly for treating an acute issue. “Don’t take plants thinking they’re a solution when you should be taking medications or having surgery,” he said. “If you’re relying on adaptogens for everything, you might be missing something.”

Au Naturale: 15 Editor-Approved Natural Beauty Products To Buy Now

“I know this does not sound particularly glamorous, but I love Aēsop’s Herbal Deodorant (which I first encountered in the bathroom at Karen Lord Pilates). More than once, a random stranger has stopped me to ask, “What fragrance are you wearing?”. – Alix Browne, Features Director

Aēsop Herbal Deodorant, $35, aesop.com

“I could never find a mascara that gives my lashes some tint and hold without looking done, until I tried KJ. The fact that the ingredients are super safe for my eyes makes it that much better.” – Mia Adorante, Beauty and Health Editor

Kjaer Weis Mascara, $38, kjaerweis.com

“A couple years ago, my hair stylist clued me in to Loma’s hair serum. It keeps my hair healthy and shiny, protecting it from heat damage — especially on humid days where I flat-iron it into submission. And it smells great” – Katherine Cusumano, Assistant Editor

Loma Nourishing Oil Treatment, $20, lomaforhair.com

“I keep a jar of coconut oil from Whole Foods in my fridge and use it in everything from my hair to my legs. Not only does it add shine and moisture, but it also smells really good. I can’t tell you how many times people have noticed over my expensive perfume.” – Emilia Petrarca, Digital Associate Features Editor

365 Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, $5, 365bywholefoods.com

“I am loyal to Bite Beauty lipsticks and lip liners because the colors are rich and the lipsticks smell nice. I use Bite’s neutral colors as eye shadow and blush. I think I stock half the colors Bite makes.” – Elizabeth Gall, Research Manager

Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick, $26, sephora.com

“My favorite natural based product has to be the Oat Cleansing Facial Polish from Naturopathica. I was recommended by my angel-aesthetician from Heyday to incorporate this cleanser into my daily routine and it has made such a difference. The 3-in-1 polish acts as a cleanser, scrub and mask which leaves my skin glowing and feeling amazing. Plus nothing beats the healthy conscious the brand gives me.” – Courtney Costello, Fashion Market Assistant

Naturopathica Oat Cleansing Facial Polish, $52, naturopathica.com

“This Australian brand’s products are both sulfate- and paraben-free, and almost entirely organic. I have been addicted to the shampoos and conditioners (all of them) since they launched on Net-a-Porter.” – Sarah Leon, Digital Editorial Director

Original & Mineral Shampoo and Conditioner, $28, net-a-porter.com

“I swear by using Rahda Beauty’s Vitamin C serum, it regenerates skin cells and has noticeably changed the complexion of my skin!” – Grace Fuller, Jewelry Editor

“I always love having my nails painted and after a friend introduced me to Côte nail polish, I have been hooked. Not only do my nails feel like they can breathe under the polish, but they have an great assortments of colors!” – Christy Key, Fashion Assistant

Côte Nail Polish, $18, coteshop.co

“I cannot rave enough about Violets Are Blue facial serum! I reach for this soothing oil with evening primrose and rosehip anytime my skin is feeling like it needs some extra TLC. I have all my friends addicted to it as well.” – Kristin Auble, Research Director

Violets Are Blue Facial Serum, $48, violetsareblueskincare.com

“I don’t know why it took me so long to make the switch to all-natural deodorant. Now the thought of using harmful ingredients like aluminum and parabens to keep from sweating seems insane. Admittedly, the natural options don’t work as well—I still perspire a bit with them—but this one works the best, smells great, and is chemical-free!” – Karen Nelson, Senior Features Editor

Lavanila Sport Luxe deodorant, $16, sephora.com

“Your undereye skin is your thinnest layer of skin, so I’m always careful as to what products I use. After going through much trial and error, I finally found Whamisa’s eye essence cream. It uses a natural fermentation process and aloe vera to hydrate and reduce fine lines – it is a miracle worker and you see results in a week!” – Gillian Sagansky, Contributing Editor

Whamisa Organic Flowers Eye Essence, $40, glowrecipe.com

“This product is my favorite thing in my makeup bag! It makes my skin feel so soft the next day, but I love the refreshing feeling it gives my face while I use it.” – Alexandra Pastore, Fashion Assistant

Herbivore Moon Fruit Superfruit Night Treatment, $58, sephora.com

“It’s literally amazing. It contains salicylic acid which helps tighten pores and gets rid of blemishes, but also contains lactic acid which helps counter balance the salicylic so you don’t dry out. It’s all natural and non abrasive so you can mix it with water or a use as a gentle cleanser and it gives immediate results.” – Paige Viti, Video Assistant

Èminence Strawberry Rhubarb Dermafoliant, $48, eminenceorganics.com

“Ever since I have started double cleansing at night, finding the right oil cleanser has been key. Not only is One Love’s cleanser gentle on my skin, but it leaves my skin feeling insanely soft and super clean.” – Beauty Assistant, Nada Abouarrage

One Love Organics Vitamin B Cleansing Oil & Makeup Remover, $42, shopfollain.com

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