A genuine elixir of youth. This is how shell ginger -- also known as Alpinia zerumbet -- is usually presented, a plant straight from Japan that is said to increase life expectancy. The ingredient, which is used in many traditional dishes and drinks, is now being used in the cosmetics industry, particularly for its anti-aging properties.
In their ongoing quest for new anti-aging actives, cosmetic brands may have uncovered a miracle ingredient, albeit one used for centuries by the Japanese. The Alpinia zerumbet plant, which has a multitude of nicknames ("shell ginger," "shell flower," and in Japanese gettō), is said to have anti-aging virtues not only when eaten, but also when applied to the skin.
So what is it?
Shell ginger is a plant with large green leaves, white flowers and red berries, which can be found on the island of Okinawa, in southwestern Japan, famed for its inhabitants' long life expectancy and its large number of centenarians. This is due to a healthy diet, genetic factors, as well as the consumption of... getto.
There has been such interest in shell ginger that Shinkichi Tawada, a professor of agronomy at the University of the Ryūkyūs in Nishihara, Okinawa, has been studying this plant from the ginger family for no less than 20 years. Alongside other researchers, he gave shell ginger to one group of demotodes, a species of worm whose life expectancy is estimated to be about a month, while a second group consumed none. As a result, the scientists observed a 22.6% increase in the life span of the first group compared to the second.
What can it do for the skin?
On the island of Okinawa, shell ginger is consumed in the form of herbal tea, but it is also found in some traditional dishes, as well as in waters and beauty oils that, according to the women of the archipelago, help combat wrinkles. It is therefore not surprising to learn that brands are now offering getto-based cosmetics to fight against the signs of aging.
From the leaves to the roots, everything can be used in the shell ginger plant. And the plant is known to be full of resveratrol, which is also found in grapes and is full of antioxidants that help slow down skin aging. Cosmetics formulated with shell ginger are largely promoted as rejuvenating treatments.
The Bijin brand has made getto one of its signature ingredients, which can be found in several of its products such as the "Rejuvenating Getto Body Balm" and the "Youthful Face Concentrate." But the plant is also used by Cinq Mondes which offers a specific range with "Géto Suprême Le Contour Yeux et Lèvres" and "Géto Suprême La Crème." These two products are used for some of the treatments offered in Cinq Mondes spas, including the "Ko Bi Do" ritual, a kind of natural ancestral facelift that also comes straight from Japan. Brands like Kanebo and Shiseido have also been known to use the plant in certain formulations.