I Replaced My Retinol With Tulip-Based Skin Care & Now I’m Hooked

Is it more than just a pretty flower?

Originally Published: 
What happened when I used only tulip-based skin care for two weeks.

Standing in a tulip farm is like being inside one of those scenic desktop wallpapers you know you’ll never see IRL. And yet there I was: at the Bloomeffects tulip farm in the Netherlands, among rows upon rows of different colored flowers for as far as the eyes could see. I traveled to Amsterdam to see how the skin care brand creates its “field-to-face” collection of beauty products, and, after spending a full day in the picturesque field with co-founders Kim and Hein van Haaster, I learned that the tulip is so much more than a pretty flower.

To coincide with the trip, I decided to test the ingredient by only using tulip-based skin care products on my face for two full weeks. Topically, it’s supposedly a hydrating, skin-smoothing extract that rivals other anti-aging ingredients in the beauty world (even rose). I’ll admit I was skeptical that a mere floral could give my beloved retinol a run for its money. Tulips are Instagram-worthy flowers that look great on my credenza and smell bright and fresh, sure — but all my favorite ingredients tend to come from less visually appealing sources or are lab-derived and have scents similar to hot dog water (lookin’ at you, fermented green tea extract, cholesterol, and algae).

After cleansing, serum-ing, moisturizing, and masking my complexion with the botanical for just a few days, my glow looked... unparalleled. I had plump, bouncy, petal-soft skin — the kind of skin you’d hope a regimen based on floral extracts would deliver.

My skin on tulips.

The van Haasters, of course, had the same discovery before they launched Bloomeffects in 2019. When Kim moved to the Netherlands to be with her husband Hein — whose family owns a 115-year-old tulip farm — she was initially struck by how beautiful the botanical is. With a background in the beauty industry, she began investigating how (and if) tulips can benefit the skin. As it turns out, they have serious complexion-boosting prowess — so much so that they make the omnipresent-in-beauty rose pale in comparison.

“Tulips are one of the only flowers to continue to grow and lengthen even after being cut,” van Haaster tells Bustle. Applied topically, this regenerative process translates to increased collagen production (e.g. it strengthens the building blocks of your skin). On top of that, it’s a superstar hydrator. “Tulips are a natural humectant and can hold their full weight in water, which results in moisturizing benefits in skin care,” says van Haaster. Besides that, the flower is rich in antioxidants, so it helps protect your complexion from free radical damage as it gently evens out the skin. Compared to roses in skin care, tulips are richer in fatty acids, contain more amino acids, have more flavonoids, and are more suitable for sensitive skin. Not a bad resume for a beauty ingredient to have.

Typically, I douse my skin in a cocktail of fruit enzymes, retinol, and strong chemical exfoliants — all potent actives with science-backed beauty benefits. But I noticed that my skin responded rather quickly when I put my medical-grade regimen on the backburner and used Bloomeffects’ tulip-spiked formulas instead. The redness that had been residing next to my nose and on my chin disappeared, and my face became irresistibly soft and perky. The brand’s new mineral-based sunscreen, the Tulip Dew Sunscreen Serum (yes, an SPF with tulip extract), worked wonders in protecting my complexion while providing the most subtle sheen. And, even though I was wary to try the Dutch Dirt Mask — since physical exfoliants are often too harsh for my skin — it left my complexion brighter without causing any irritation or feeling like I was peeling off the top five layers of my skin. My face also felt adequately hydrated all day long on my tulip-based skin care regimen, which is a welcome feat since I’m usually so prone to dryness. I was hooked.

I thought I was new to the church of the tulip, but I was wrong: The allure of the flower actually dates back to the 17th century. Seriously — between 1633 and 1637, “tulip mania” was a period in Dutch history in which people suddenly began to invest in tulip bulbs, leading to significant inflation. It was basically the Yeezy sneaker of the 1600s. Prices increased to 5,000 guilders (over $500,000 today) for just one bulb. “The black tulip in particular was the dream of every botanist in the 17th century,” says Ad Geerdink, Dutch history expert. “If you could grow this flower [back then], you’d be an instant millionaire.” Today, Bloomeffects has an entire Black Tulip Collection that utilizes the rare variety in its special anti-aging formulas. “In our research, we found that the deeper and darker the petal, the higher the flavonoid count, leading to greater antioxidant protection of the skin,” says van Haaster. Cue me slathering on a whole lot of the Bloomeffects Black Tulip Facial Treatment that night in the quest for even more radiant skin. (Hint: It did the job.) My theory? The Dutch were applying tulip extract to their skin in the 17th century and that’s why demand was so high.

Fast forward to weeks later when my tulip skin care experiment had ended. I had stopped using my floral beauty products and realized my skin wasn’t as soft or bouncy as it was when I doused it in tulip extract. (It was... wilting?) As I closely examined my newly lackluster complexion one morning, I decided to put my exfoliating serum aside and apply one with tulip magic inside the bottle instead. I had an a-ha moment: The tulip is like the Elle Woods of the skin care world. It’s pretty, works hard while being nice, and isn’t something to be doubted. Next time you see a tulip in a bouquet, show it some respect.

Studies referenced:

Hajem, N. (2021). Purple tulip extract improves signs of skin aging through dermal structural modulation as shown by genomic, protein expression and skin appearance of volunteers studied. J Cosmet Dermatol.

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