Natural skin care products
More and more people are becoming allergic to chemicals that are being used in mainstream skin care products. This is forcing cosmetic companies to find an alternative to satisfy those who cannot use chemically-enhanced products. As the number of people who are concerned about toxins in our environment grows, more and more skin care companies are jumping on the "natural" and "organic" anti-aging skin care product bandwagon. Natural skin care products are one of the fastest growing product segments in the world. Millions of people worldwide are making the switch from synthetic, man-made products to natural cosmetics, natural skin care, natural hair care, natural dental products and other natural personal care products. Natural cosmetics serve to beautify and care for the human body by means of ingredients from nature.
This is made possible with natural raw materials, friendly to both the skin and the environment. Natural cosmetics should stimulate and support our natural skin functions, rather than supplanting physiological processes. These products offer gentle, wholesome care and are thus an important aid to the health of the skin at any age. Natural cosmetics revitalize and harmonize body, soul and spirit. Elements from Mother Nature have been a part of beauty regimens for centuries, but you don’t have to concoct face creams or mud masks in your kitchen anymore. Prompted by the positive trend toward healthier lifestyles, manufacturers of skincare products are turning to nature for product inspiration for everything from cleansers to moisturizers.
In developing countries women may have to resort to local and 'natural' products. 'Natural' does not necessarily mean 'better', however, or even 'safe'. Natural skin care products made from vegetable or animal extracts may be inherently toxic, and if prepared locally the concentrations of active ingredients cannot be controlled. The cosmetic industry uses only ingredients that have established scientific profiles, and then only in legal and known concentrations. Many ingredients of skin care products have to be prepared synthetically, since their 'natural' counterparts are far more likely to be harmful.
Our skin is the largest eliminatory organ in the body. It is a two-way membrane. Toxins are eliminated through the skin via perspiration and absorbed through the skin into the body’s circulation system, through hair follicles and sebaceous glands, but not through the sweat glands. One square inch of skin contains approximately 65 hairs, 100 sebaceous glands and 650 sweat glands. Every square inch of your skin is like a thousand open mouths, absorbing into the body most of what is put on it.
Skin care manufacturers are not supposed to claim that their skin care products penetrate the skin. If they did, the products would then be labelled as “drugs” and would be governed by much stricter regulations. However, it is now recognised that the skin does absorb many ingredients in skin care preparations. This is both good and bad. Good, because it means our skin can be nourished from the outside with some wonderful ingredients. Bad, because some skin care manufacturers can use harmful chemical ingredients that would never be allowed to be taken orally, but are still absorbed into our system, through our skin.
Fortunately, there is a very simple way to differentiate between the hype and truth in skin care and that is to read the ingredient list on the label. It is a legal requirement that all skin care products must be labelled with the ingredients in descending order of their quantity in the product. A good rule of thumb is to divide the ingredient list into thirds: the top third usually contains 90-95% of the product, the middle third usually contains 5-8% and the bottom third, 1-3%.
All skin care products, both synthetic and natural, contain items from the following categories in some combination or other:
Emollients serve two functions; they prevent dryness and protect the skin, acting as a barrier and healing agent. Water is the best emollient, but because it evaporates quickly it is ineffective. It needs to be held on the skin by emollient oils in what is called an emulsion. Synthetic emollients are occlusive i.e. they coat the skin and do not allow it to respire (much like plastic wrap), which can cause skin irritation. Some synthetic emollients can accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes. They are also non-biodegradable, causing a negative environmental impact. Natural emollients actually nourish the skin and care for it. They are metabolised by the skin’s own enzymes and absorbed into it. They are readily biodegradable and are of edible quality.
The main purpose of any cream is to keep the skin moist. Many conventional creams form a suffocating film on the skin to prevent moisture loss. Even a natural humectant, glycerin, actually attracts water from the air and surrounding tissue. It keeps the skin moist as long as there is sufficient moisture in the air. In a dry climate it actually draws moisture from the skin. Collagen, elastin and keratin enjoy some popularity as humectants. Whilst they are compatible with the skin and deposit a protective film, they are usually sourced from animals and therefore cannot be termed “cruelty free”. Some skin care companies would like you to believe that your skin can use special animal proteins to rejuvenate and replace aging cells. This is nonsense! The size of the molecules, even when broken down (hydrolysed), are far too large to penetrate the skin. Even if they could get in, they would be immediately rejected as foreign matter and attacked by the immune system.
Natural phospholipids, from lecithin, are fantastic humectants. An important benefit of phospholipids is that they are hygroscopic (attract water from the surrounding air) and hold water where an increased level of hydration is needed. Therefore, phospholipids increase the hydration levels of the skin without being occlusive (forming a film to prevent water loss, and preventing normal cellular function). A recent study proved the value of topically applied phospholipids in skin care. It found that environmental factors (sun, wind, pollution) and the detergents and solvents, found in most skin cleansers, actually stripped the natural phospholipid content from the top layer of skin. This loss resulted in a rough feel and a pitted appearance under a microscope. Importantly, the phospholipids in the uppermost skin layers cannot be replaced by natural cell function, as the top layer of cells no longer metabolise; they serve only as a protective barrier.
Surface-active-agents are substances capable of dissolving oils and holding dirt in suspension so it can be rinsed away with water. They are used in skin cleansers and shampoos which are often claimed to contain "natural" ingredients. A serious problem with ethoxylated surfactants (those that utilise ethylene or propylene oxide in the chemical reaction) is that they are often contaminated with dioxane, a potent carcinogen. The exact same toxic carcinogen sprayed on the Vietnam jungle during Agent Orange which caused hundreds of thousands of birth defects and cancers in Vietnamese civilians and huge increases in the cancer rates for US and Australian army personnel.
The decaying process is natural and happens with or without preservatives. Skin care products do not (and should not) last for ever. Just like food, all natural skin care products will eventually deteriorate and go rancid. The effectiveness, not safety, of synthetic chemical preservatives has only been “proven” by cruel animal testing. Chemical preservatives are generally used because they are much cheaper than, and extend the shelf life of the product more than natural alternatives.
Utilizing essential oils in natural bath and skincare products turns them into a holistic blend of perfume, beauty support, and medicine. The products become powerful allies in promoting and protecting your natural beauty. Essential oils are the heart of these recipes. These fragrant gifts of nature have been used by many cultures since ancient times for their potent yet gentle effect on skin, hair, the sense of smell, and the psyche.
The most common natural ingredients used include plant and herb extracts, homeopathic ingredients, aromatherapies, fruit oils and organic produce. Plant and herb extracts used include tea tree oil, which acts as an antiseptic, aloe Vera, which is a natural moisturiser, hemp for severe dry skin, rose water which is a natural toner and cocoa butter a rich moisturiser. Aromatherapy ingredients include lavender, which aids sleep, coconut milk, which soothes dry skin, eucalyptus and pine oil which relax the muscles and ylang ylang which is a natural, non chemical based perfume. Fruit oils are often used in shower gels and soaps to nourish, invigorate and hydrate the skin and hair. Citrus fruits are popular natural ingredients as they promote skin development. Other examples of fruit oils include banana, pineapple, apple and melon. Organic produce is becoming an increasingly popular demand as chemicals used to treat ingredients have been proven to build up on and under the skin, resulting in allergic reactions and premature aging.