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With an overwhelming list of natural skincare ingredients out there, how do you differentiate between the best natural skincare ingredients and natural skincare ingredients that should be avoided?
Firstly, it’s important to recognize the term “natural” can mean just about anything! There’s absolutely no regulation of the use of the term in the US or anywhere else in the world (as far as our research shows).
Also, there are some awfully poisonous and dangerous substances that occur naturally in nature. So, marketing a product or ingredient as “natural” is something that should be viewed with a healthy amount of suspicion in our opinion.
When it comes to food, everyone knows that organic produce is better for you, but it seems this logic hasn’t yet hit the same critical mass in the skincare industry.
Why truly natural skincare is important
The fact is we all use skincare products, whether it’s a soap bar, a moisturizer or mascara or all of the above.
It’s also a fact that our skin is porous and absorbs much of what is applied to it and that includes the myriad of synthetic and harmful chemicals contained in the majority of body care products sold today.
The FDA and cosmetic companies say no worries – it’s just small quantities, however, no one actually knows what the long-term effects of their application are and secondly, what the cumulative effects of being exposed to a cocktail of chemicals (however small) every day will do.
Europe, on the other hand, has banned well over a thousand of these harmful “natural skincare ingredients” that should never be used because they’re linked to cancer, birth defects, genetic mutation and/or reproductive harm.
How to find the best natural skincare ingredients
In a previous post we discussed the importance of organic and natural products. How we can properly identify those products by either:
- looking out for certification or logo
- by simply reading the ingredient list.
But how do you know which natural skincare ingredients are good for you or what the best natural skincare ingredients are? There are thousands and marketing does a great job at muddying the waters!
So, to answer this we looked at a cross-section of the best organic and natural skincare products on the market. This was based on our own personal experience and hundreds of other raving reviews.
Also, the brands had to tick every one of our sustainability criteria:
- include organic natural skincare ingredients – either certified or clearly natural and identifiable ingredients
- be vegan
- be cruelty-free
We’ll get more in detail about these criteria in just a second.
We then collated a list of the most common ingredients found across the range of products we surveyed.
It’s no accident that those products had the best reviews. Many of the ingredients found in them have solid scientific and research-backed evidence (which we’ve included links to below) that they’re good for you in one way or another.
Of course, it must be said that we’re all different. An ingredient might be perfect for one person’s skin and not so good for another. It’s a case of trial and error. But at least you’ll know that each of the ingredients listed below is a healthy addition to any skincare product that you buy.
By referring to, or becoming familiar with our list below you’ll be able to identify whether the product you’re looking to buy has a quality formulation or not.
Our approach to natural skincare ingredients
If this is your first time visiting, our approach to sustainable beauty and personal care is to look for brands and products that are:
- No Alcohol (Ethanol)
- No Pork or Animal Derived Ingredients
- No Intoxicant herb or substance
- palm oil-free
- Have ethical ingredient sourcing policies and
- Use thoughtful, (ideally) compostable packaging.
We’ve also used these same criteria to dig up some great natural skincare products (some that even qualify as zero waste skincare!).
We hope this is a useful resource for you! We’d also love to hear your thoughts and suggestions and if you have any additional ingredients you think should be added to the list!
Natural skincare ingredients glossary – buzz words in the skincare industry
There’s a LOT of jargon in the beauty industry.
So to help you navigate some of it, here’s a list of the most commonly used terms broken down to help you understand the ins and the outs.
Antioxidant: is a molecule that inhibits, or stops, the oxidation of other molecules. They occur naturally in plants, animals and plant-based foods like vegetables, tea, wine and chocolate. Our own bodies also naturally produce a complex system of antioxidants to combat oxidation or the chemical reactions that create free radicals.
Emollients: are waxy lubricating agents that contain a mixture of compounds used to soften, smooth and hydrate the skin. They also contain occlusive properties, meaning they provide a layer of protection which helps prevent water loss. There are a variety of emollient ingredients including plant oils, mineral oils, shea butter, cocoa butter, triglycerides, stearates and fatty acids like lanolin.
Emulsifier: are substances that stabilize or prevent emulsions from separating, like the combination of oil and water.
Free radicals are ions or molecules that have an unpaired electron which causes them to be highly chemically reactive towards other substances, including our skin cells. They attach and bind themselves to other molecules which change the chemical structure and results in damage or destruction of the original molecule.
Thankfully, we’ve evolved to create important defences (i.e. antioxidants) to protect our cells and especially our DNA from free radicals.
Humectant: is a substance that attracts water molecules (usually from the deeper layers, like the dermis), to the epidermis or upper layer of the skin. By doing so, it prevents dryness and maintains the skin’s suppleness.
One of the most well-known humectants is glycerin which naturally occurs in all lipids (i.e. fats), including our own skin. Note that a lot of humectants have emollient properties, while not all emollients have humectant properties. A combination of the two make for the best moisturizers.
Sebum: is a complex oily mixture of glycerides, fatty acids, wax, squalene and cholesterol that’s produced by the sebaceous glands. Except on our palms and soles, these glands are found all over our body with the highest concentration found on our back, forehead and chin (around 2,600 to 5,800 sebaceous glands per square inch).
Sebum is vital to the health of our skin. It provides a layer of protection from bacteria and fungi as well as reducing water loss from the inside but also providing a waterproof shield from the outside. We need just the right amount of sebum for optimal protection, however, too much can lead to clogged pores and eventually acne.
Polyphenols (also known as phenolics): are naturally occurring phytochemicals or micronutrients that are found abundantly in fruit, vegetables, red wine, tea, plant oils to name but a few. They influence and contribute to the bitterness, astringency, colour, flavour, odour and oxidative stability of the food or liquid.
Phytochemicals are important because they have potent antioxidant properties which help protect cells from free radicals.
They also have a range of other positive biological effects like inhibiting angiogenesis (growth of blood vessels that feed tumours), reducing inflammation and promoting normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
There are 4 major types of polyphenols to look out for:
- flavonoids (fruits, vegetables, legumes, red wine and green tea)
- stilbenes (red wine and peanuts)
- lignans (flax, legumes, cereals, grains, fruits and algae)
- phenolic acid (coffee, blueberries, kiwifruits, plums, apples, and cherries).
Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis Miller)
DESCRIPTION: You can find this little succulent in tropical climates all over the world. It’s a versatile plant that’s used in many consumer products from beverages to cosmetics to lotions
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A host of biologically active substances, including vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, choline, niacinamide, glycoprotein, enzymes, phenolic compounds, a variety of amino acids, phytochemicals and salicylic acids
USES: Besides the benefits of ingesting it (which is a whole other post), it’s most well-known for its anti-inflammation, healing and epidermal development properties for sunburn and wounds.
Thanks to its bioactive make-up it’s also been used as an antifungal, antiviral, anti-parasitic and regenerative treatment.
Like almond oil, it’s also effective in reducing progression and itching of striae (i.e. stretch marks from pregnancy).
From skin diseases to infections to insect bites, this is an all-purpose super ingredient to look out for in skin and body care products. Just bear in mind though that moderation is key for this one as it can be pretty potent (depending on the formulation and % of aloe in the product).
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR (Acetic Acid)
DESCRIPTION: This ingredient is basically fermented liquid distilled from apple cider. It’s cheap and has a variety of uses. You can consume it or apply it to your skin, either way there are handy benefits
WHAT IT CONTAINS: One of its main (and active) constituents is acetic acid
USES: For topical advantages, it’s really effective as a cleanser and for treating acne thanks to its natural exfoliating properties that assist in balancing sebum and removing hyperkeratosis (i.e. where the outer skin cells are replaced with keratin).
It also provides anti-fungal properties.
Bear in mind that because it is an acid it can be sensitizing.
ARGON OIL (Argania Spinose)
DESCRIPTION: From the fruit of the Moroccan Argon tree, this non-fragrant oil is used in both food (think of the oil used for dipping bread) and cosmetics. It’s packed with nutrients. Overall a real powerhouse ingredient for maintaining strong, supple and elastic skin
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A very high % of lipids and fatty acids (linoleic, oleic acid and palmitic acid), vitamins A and E (tocopherol) and other minor components (polyphenols, tocopherols, sterols, squalene, and triterpene alcohols)
USES: Its emollient nature assists with hydration. It has been shown to repair the skin’s barrier function as well as balance and regulate the production of sebum.
As with all plant oils, a diluted solution works best.
AVOCADO OIL (Persea Gratissima)
DESCRIPTION: This is a super fatty (but nourishing) ingredient. It’s one of the few plant oils that’s not derived from seeds but rather pressed from the pulp that surrounds the avocado pip
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A heap of essential nutrients and phytochemicals, such as vitamins A, B1, B2, B12, D, E, lipids, polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols and beta carotene
USES: A natural non-fragrant skin replenishing and emollient plant oil that also shown to be an effective ingredient in the long term treatment for psoriasis.
It’s also used as an anti-inflammatory for skins diseases like vulvar lichen sclerosus and as a protective agent against UV-induced skin damage
DESCRIPTION: Bentonite clay is an absorbent aluminum based clay and is found fairly abundantly in nature.
It’s named after Fort Benton, Wyoming where some of the largest deposits of the mineral are found.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Aluminum based, consisting mostly of montmorillonite which are a very soft group of minerals that form crystals, commonly known as clay
USES: Human kind has used a variety of clays (internally and externally) for maintaining health for many centuries. In terms of Bentonite’s efficacy for skin treatment, studies have shown it has been effective in the use against irritant and allergic dermatitis, as a moisturizing agent for hand dermatitis and diaper dermatitis for common skin disorders of infancy.
It’s also been shown to act efficiently in healing lesions and ulcers.
Some sun lotions containing specific proportions of Bentonite have reported a greater ability to absorb some of the highest levels of UV light.
CEDARWOOD OIL (Cedrus Atlantica)
DESCRIPTION: This essential oil is derived from the foliage, wood, roots and stumps of a variety of conifers (i.e. species of plants, from trees to shrubs). It’s claimed that, for therapeutic purposes, it’s best to look out for the cedar oil that’s been steam distilled from the evergreen coniferous found near the Atlantic and Morocco.
It’s best known as a natural fragrance but is also used in medicine, art and cosmetics
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Its principal constituents are terpenic hydrocarbons, sesquitepenes, and cadinene
USES: Besides its use as a woody like fragrance, it’s shown to have limited benefits as a treatment for acne, eczema and skin eruptions.
Do use carefully though as cedarwood oil; like many other natural fragrances, has been shown to aggravate the skin.
DESCRIPTION: At first, we thought this was just another harmful chemical (at least it sounds like it) but we assure you this is not the same as ethyl or the rubbing alcohol which is known to dry skin out. It can be derived naturally from, for example, coconut (we suggest keeping an eye out for this one), palm oil or animals or it can be made synthetically.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A mixture of fatty acids (mostly cetyl and stearyl alcohols)
USES: Cetearyl alcohol is actually a really handy and effective emollient and emulsifier. It’s also used as a texture enhancer, thickener and carrying agent for other ingredients which essentially helps the spreadability (e.g. foaming) of the product.
CHAMOMILE (Matricaria chamomilla / Anthemis chamomilla)
DESCRIPTION: There are two common varieties of chamomile, the German chamomile and the Roman Chamomile.
In Greek, chamomile means “earth apple” and this ingredient is a skin care chameleon
WHAT IT CONTAINS: The major bio-active ingredients are various flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin, patuletin, and quercetin), bisabolol oxides A and B and chamazulene, farnesene, lactones, glycosides, hydroxycoumarins, flavonoids, coumarins, terpenoids, and mucilage
USES: It’s most famous for its effective anti-inflammatory properties with its ability to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.
It’s also effective for treating moderate cases of eczema (in one study chamomile was 60% more active than 0.25% hydrocortisone cream – used for swelling and inflammation), skin irritations, sunburns, rashes and sores.
It’s shown to increase and strengthen wound healing and is used in the treatment of hemorrhoids.
DESCRIPTION: Charcoal or activated charcoal (when oxygen is added to charcoal) is just a simple form of carbon that’s typically used in the medical community for treating poison and nausea
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Carbon
USES: Charcoal has really low volume pores which significantly increase its surface area (a gram of charcoal can cover 3000m2) and in turn its absorption properties. In fact, it can adsorb between 100 and 200 times its weight in impurities.
Thanks to these unique qualities, anecdotal evidence shows that it’s effective as a topical treatment in drawing excess oil, dirt, bacteria, poisons and chemicals from the skin. Its also widely used by doctors in eliminating pungent odors from chronic wounds.
COCOA (Theobroma Cacao)
DESCRIPTION: The use of cocoa in food and medicine goes back some 3000 years to the times of the Mayans and Aztecs. Apart from consuming the most popular ingredient in the world, cocoa (as an extract or butter) also has some great benefits when applied to the skin.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A rich source of bio-active phytocompounds, phenolic antioxidants (flavonoids, but the most notable and active ones are catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins), essential minerals, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids and theobromine
USES: This super-effective natural skin emollient protects the skin by neutralizing oxidative stress. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties enhance the skin’s photoprotection against the sun’s UV rays which is crucial to skin health.
It has also been shown to inhibit the production of collagenase and elastase (i.e. enzymes that degrade skin cells) which slows the skin’s aging process and reduces the risk of wrinkles. It’s an effective nourishing moisturizer.
If you’re prone to acne, be cautious when applying cocoa butter as it can clog up your pores.
COCONUT (Cocos Nucifera)
DESCRIPTION: This is one of the most versatile ingredients (for skin and food) around. Originally from the palm family, coconut trees are now found in tropical areas the world over
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Depending on the part of the coconut, heaps of beneficial and bio-active compounds, including triglycerides (medium chain fatty acids – mostly lauric acid, alpha tocopheral myristoleic acid and palmitoleic acid), phenols, tannins, flavonoids, steroids, alkaloids and triterpenes.
It also contains vitamin E and it’s one of the few oils that’s hypoallergenic.
USES:Treatment of chronic skin diseases like eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and cuts and wounds thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal properties.
It’s also perfect for dry skin as its emollient nature and high concentration of lipids improves barrier function which provides (and maintains) the skin’s hydration and moisture.
Be aware though that some information on the interwebs claims that coconut oil is good for acne and sun protection.
DESCRIPTION: Ethyl macadamiate is a non-volatile, non-greasy, clear, colorless liquid. It spreads very easily and comes from the process known as saponification (conversion of fat or oil into soap and alcohol by using heat and an alkali).
WHAT IT CONTAINS: It’s the ester of ethyl alcohol and the fatty acids derived from the macadamia seed oil. The primary constituents of it are ethyl oleate and ethyl palmitoleate.
USES: It’s used as a moisturizer. The antioxidant properties neutralize free radicals and scavenge reactive oxygen species.
While not many studies have been conducted specifically in relation to macadamia nuts (or nuts in general), it’s been suggested that the phenolic compounds of nuts have a higher antioxidant capacity than nutrient antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium.
FRANKINCENSE (Boswellia Carterii)
DESCRIPTION: Interestingly, “Frankincense” is derived from old French which means high quality incense. As an ingredient, it’s an aromatic resin that’s obtained from the Boswellia tree. It’s best known for its balsamic / lemony / conifer fragrance.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Mostly the organic compounds known as terpenes (such as monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenoles, sesquiterpenols and ketones)
USES: Besides its property as a fragrance, this ingredient has shown to have effective antimicrobial and anti-fungal activity against all micro-organisms, which makes it ideal as a topical treatment for eradicating skin and nail infections like acne and eczema.
Note, like most natural fragrances, frankincense can be sensitizing to the skin.
GLYCERIN / GLYCEROL
DESCRIPTION: Glycerin, a non-toxic, odorless and colorless liquid, may sound like a synthetic but this ingredient is in fact naturally occurring in all lipids (i.e. fats), including skin.
It’s usually derived from animals and plants but it can also be synthetically manufactured – look out for propylene glycol and PEG silicone. While these are considered humectants, and may make your skin feel smooth and supple they contain no nutrients, can cause skin irritation, rashes and increase risk of dermatitis.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: It’s a simple polyol compound, which is an alcohol made of various chemical (e.g. oxygen, hydrogen) bonds
USES: Because of its humectant nature, this ingredient is a body care staple as it attracts (mostly from the deeper layers, like the dermis), binds and holds moisture to the epidermis or upper layer of the skin. By doing so, it prevents dryness and maintains the skin’s suppleness.
However, the lower layers of skin if not replenished properly will be sapped of their own moisture. That’s why glycerin is usually combined with oils or other occlusive emollients to provide a layer of protection on the skin to reduce moisture loss.
GREEN TEA (Camellia Sinensis)
DESCRIPTION: Originating from China, green tea has been around since the early twelfth century and quickly spread to many other countries in Asia. Now, it’s a favorite beverage the world over.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Heaps of antioxidants known as flavonoid phytochemicals or polyphenols (mainly epigallocatechin-3-gallate)
USES: Its strong antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties are likely to slow down the process of aging, repair or improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin, and reduce topical oxidative stress.
It’s also been known to inhibit matrix metalloproteinases (i.e. enzymes that contribute to skin degradation).
HEMP SEED OIL (Cannabis Sativa)
DESCRIPTION: Not to be confused with hash oil which comes from the cannabis flower, hemp seed oil is obtained by pressing hemp seeds. It has a nutty aroma and is dark to light green in color
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Vitamins A, B, B1, C and E, iron, proteins, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, calcium, iodine, beta carotene, phlorotannins and essential amino acids
USES: Thanks to its trace elements and minerals it helps to maintain the skin’s natural functions. Algae also has antioxidant and anti-photoaging properties which have shown to effectively inhibit skin oxidation stress and matrix metalloproteinases (i.e. enzymes that contribute to skin degradation).
It’s a natural humectant preserving the upper layer of the skin’s moisture.
HIMALAYAN SALT / SEA SALT (Sodium Chloride)
DESCRIPTION: Himalayan salt is found in the Punjab region of Pakistan whereas sea salt is, obviously, found in the sea!
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Trace minerals and nutrients, including iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium and selenium
USES: As a topical scrub to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells. Bear in mind this can be sensitizing if left on the skin for too long.
JOJOBA OIL (Simmondsia Chinensis)
DESCRIPTION: Jojoba has a variety of names like goat nut, deer nut, quinine nut and coffee berry. The non-fragrant oil is produced from the seed of the jojoba shrub which is native to the west coast of the USA and northwestern Mexico.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A variety of different fatty acids (mostly eicosenoic, erucic and oleic acid) and alcohols
USES: Its chemical structure closely resembles human sebum (i.e. the oil or lubrication that our skin produces) so it’s easily absorbed into the skin and is effective as a moisturizing and balancing agent for the skin’s natural oils, without clogging pores. It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
It’s not only a great moisturizer for dry and chapped skin but it’s also great for healing burns, sores, scars, dermatitis, acne, psoriasis and sunburn. Definitely keep an eye out for this one if you want to rejuvenate and enhance your skins natural suppleness.
LIQUORICE ROOT EXTRACT (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
DESCRIPTION: The benefits of Liquorice root have been well known since the days of ancient China
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Its main constituents are the bio-active compounds known as glycyrrhizin / glycyrrhizic acid and licochalcone. It also contains the phytoestorogen known as glabridin.
USES: It increases the production and migration of skin cells. It’s also been shown to have antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and skin soothing effects and is used in the treatment for several skin disorders like rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
It has a natural skin lightening agent for the treatment of hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, melasma and other pigmentation disorders of the skin.
If that’s not enough it’s also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, making it useful in the treatment of acne.
L-ASCORBIC ACID (Vitamin C)
DESCRIPTION: It’s probably the most famous (and popular) vitamin for consumption but, as it turns out, it’s also really good for your skin too.
There’s a variety of vitamin C derivatives and it’s naturally found in a heap of ingredients already mentioned in this list (rosehip, sea buckthorn and aloe vera) but L-ascorbic acid is the most well studied.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: This essential nutrient is a weak acid that’s structurally related to glucose.
USES: It’s a strong antioxidant that’s shown to be effective as an anti-aging supplement when formulated properly (i.e. a pH level of 3.5 or less is required for the skin to absorb it).
It assists in the repair of sun-damaged skin, stimulates collagen production and has also been shown to inhibit the production of melanin and skin cancer. When L-ascorbic is applied to the skin regularly it’s also been shown to even out skin tone and improve hydration.
Note that like all anti-oxidants, L-ascorbic acid can break down fairly easily when exposed to air and light, so best to make sure the product you buy is contained in an air tight bottle, tube or pump, clear jars are susceptible to light so avoid these.
LAVENDER OIL (Lavandula)
DESCRIPTION: There are about 47 species of the lavender plant and they’re found in many parts of the world, including the Canary Islands, Europe and north and east Africa. Distilled from the flower spikes of the Lavender plant, this essential oil is colorless and insoluble in water
WHAT IT CONTAINS: The exact composition of Lavender oil can differ from species to species but its primary constituents are a complex of phytochemicals, including linalool and linalyl acetate.
USES: Besides its delightful fragrance, under in-vitro studies this ingredient has shown to promote collagen synthesis and differentiation in the skin’s fibroblasts (i.e. the most common connective tissue in our skin).
It’s also shown to be an effective therapeutic agent in repairing skin injuries and wounds, and has been used to sooth sunburn and insect bites and relieve eczema and psoriasis. Studies have also shown that it may also have anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce irritation and pain.
A word of caution though, as lavender is a fragrance it can naturally aggravate the skin.
MARIGOLD (Calendula Officinalis)
DESCRIPTION: Historically, Marigold has been around for quite a while. It’s was once upon a time a favorite of the ancient Romans, Greeks, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures for its medicinal qualities. Today, it has a variety of uses as an ingredient from pharmacology and cosmetics to those pretty (and edible) flowers that are used to add a bit of color to salads
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Triterpenoid esters (lipids or fatty oils), antioxidants, carotenoids, saponins, flavonoids and essential oils
USES: Its bio-active and antioxidant properties have been shown to promote collagen synthesis and cell tissue regeneration in the innermost part of our skin. It’s effective against UV-induced oxidative stress and is used for treating a host of issues including: inflammation / swelling, dry / sensitive skin, eczema, bruises, insect stings / bites, and fungal disorders like athletes foot.
This is a really useful ingredient and definitely one to look out for in skin and body care products.
OLIVE OIL (Olea Europaea)
DESCRIPTION: Olive oil is essentially the liquid fat obtained from olives. According to archaeological evidence it’s been cultivated between 6000-4500 BC in Palestine and (not surprisingly) it’s been used as a skincare remedy since the time of the Egyptians and ancient Greeks.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Essential fatty acid content together with the emollient squalene (i.e. one of the most common fats produced by human skin cells), phenolic compounds, and specifically polyphenols
USES: Very effective as a moisturizer yet super sensitive (appropriate in the right formulations with newborns). In virto tests have shown the bio-active derivatives of olive oil support the production of adult fibroblasts which not only aid in the repair of the skin’s connective tissue but also in the appearance of aged skin.
It’s also been used to treat minor skin problems like acne and is also effective in healing wounds and burns.
There is a very low potential for this ingredient to be sensitizing or harmful, however, it’s usually combined with other beneficial ingredients.
POMEGRANATE EXTRACT (Punica Granatum)
DESCRIPTION: Pomegranates, the tennis ball-sized fruit, are technically considered a berry. Originating from the middle east, they were soon cultivated throughout the Mediterranean and northern India.
There’s a few good reasons why this has made the super-fruit league.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Most of the pomegranate, including its roots, bark, peel, oil, seeds, juice and the vibrant red flesh that surrounds each of the pomegranate seeds contain nutrients and beneficial compounds. Polyphenols, punicalagins and punicic acid are examples of some of the powerful antioxidants that it contains.
USES: So many things! It’s been shown to:
- reduce inflammation
- strengthen the dermal membrane which protects against oxidative stress (thanks to its polyphenols)
- assist in the repair of our DNA
- inhibit the effects of UV-induced damage and matrix metalloproteinase (i.e. enzymes that contribute to skin degradation)
- stimulate growth of fibroblasts (the cells responsible for collagen production) which reduces wrinkle activity
- promote regeneration and thickening of the epidermis
PRIMROSE OIL (Oenothera Biennis)
DESCRIPTION: Primrose is also known as evening primrose, evening star, sun drop German rampion, King’s cure-all and fever plant. Native to central and eastern North America where it was used for its medicinal qualities by the indigenous tribes (Cherokee, Iroquois, Ojibwe and Potawatomi), it was only in the 17th century that it was introduced to Europe as an ornamental plant.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Rich in fatty acids and gamma linolenic acid
USES: It’s known to have skin soothing properties and its emollient nature helps smooth and hydrate dry and rough skin.
It’s also proved to be an effective ingredient in the treatment of eczema and dermatitis and assists with the absorption of other ingredients into the skin.
ROSE HIP OIL (Rosa Canina)
DESCRIPTION: An exotic ingredient native to Africa, Europe and West Asia
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Its phytochemical composition includes ascorbic acid, phenolic compounds, a high concentration of essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6), bio-flavonoid molecules. It also contains a heap of vitamins from A to E, with lots of C in between.
USES: Thanks to its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties this ingredient is widely used for treating and strengthening dry, irritated and weathered skin, burns, scars and reducing the signs of aging.
Note that this ingredient is different to Rose Oil which is distilled from the Damask rose, which is a more volatile oil and has been known to aggravate skin.
ROSEMARY EXTRACT (Rosmarinus Officinalis)
DESCRIPTION: This woody herb is another one of those ingredients that’s best known for its fragrance. However, there’s a lot more to this one than just the scent.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A number of bio-active phytochemicals but most importantly rosmarinic and caffeic acid
USES: It’s been used as a photo-therapeutic agent for healing wounds. It’s been shown to inhibit the harmful effects of UV skin induced damage and prevent DNA damage in certain cells.
It also has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties so can be used as a natural preservative to prevent other ingredients in cosmetic and skincare products from oxidizing and also in the treatment of infections caused by bacteria.
Note that while Rosemary oil has many of the same properties because of its high concentration of its fragrance compounds, it’s been known to aggravate the skin.
SEA BUCKTHORN OIL (Hippophae Rhamnoides)
DESCRIPTION: The oil is extracted from the shrub’s fruit and seeds. Despite this shrub-like plant’s name, you won’t find sea buckthorn by the sea. It’s found across Europe and Asia and has been used in Chinese medicine for millennia and there’s a few very good reasons for that.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A large number of bio-active compounds, from fatty acids (notably palmitooleic and gamma-linolenic acid i.e. omega 6 and 7) an array of vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, D, E, K and P), minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus), carotenoids, flavonoids, amino acids, phenols and folic acid
USES: It’s effective in the treatment of dry, flaky and rapidly aging skin. It’s unique fatty acid composition gives this ingredient it’s repairing and regeneration properties, the omega 7 is also easily absorbed into the skin and is converted to prostaglandins which protects against infections and allergies and inhibits the aging process.
It’s also been used for a variety of other problems from sunburn to, healing wounds like bedsores and cuts.
Sea buckthorn oil can be used to reduce the negative results of, and maybe even prevent, acne, dermatitis, dry skin, eczema, skin ulcers and stretch marks, and ease rosacea, psoriasis.
SHEA BUTTER (Butyrospermum Parkii)
DESCRIPTION: Shea butter comes from the nut of the African shea tree. Since the days of Cleopatra’s Egypt, this ingredient has been used as a cosmetic and traded as a precious commodity.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A heap of beneficial components like fatty acids (mainly oleic, stearic and linoleic acid) and antioxidants (quercetin, epicatechin gallate, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin, allantoin)
USES: It has valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and emollient properties and is used to treat all types of skin disorders from rashes to sunburn, chapping, ulcers, blemishes, eczema, and dermatitis. It’s overall quite effective for moisturizing dry skin and protecting against the environment.
Some of its bio-active compounds have also shown to inhibit growth of certain types of radical and cancer cells.
SUNFLOWER SEED OIL (Helianthus Annus)
DESCRIPTION: Sunflower oil is a mild plant oil with no fragrance. It’s a massively popular ingredient, so much so that in 2014 alone 15.8 million tonnes of it was produced (mainly for food consumption).
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A high concentration of fatty acids (oleic, linoleic, stearic and palmitic acid), lots of vitamin E, sterols and squalene
USES: It has skin barrier enhancing properties which have shown to help preserve the outermost layer of the skin as well as improve hydration (even on preterm infants).
In vitro studies have shown that some of its constituents increase lipid synthesis, reduce inflammation and activate proliferative-activated receptor-alpha (which basically stimulates keratinocyte differentiation, improves barrier function, and enhances lipid metabolism in the skin).
TEA TREE OIL (Melaleuca Alternifolia)
DESCRIPTION: Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, was first extracted from the narrow-leaved paperbark or narrow-leaved tea-tree, which is native to north eastern Australia. This camphor-like smelling essential oil has been used as a skin care remedy by the Aborigines for hundreds of years.
WHAT IT CONTAINS:A lot of different compounds but its main constituents are terpinen-4-ol, terpinene, and α-pinene
USES: Tea tree oil has excellent anti-bacterial, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties and is the reason this ingredient has been used to treat acne, lice, fungal infection, scabies, athletes foot, cuts, burns, toothache and insect bites.
Note that, as with all fragrant plant oils, tea tree oil can be sensitizing (especially if it is an old product), so do use it in the appropriate volumes and store away from light and air to avoid oxidation.
TURMERIC (Curcuma Longa)
DESCRIPTION: Native to Southeast Asia, the Turmeric plant is a herbaceous species that comes from the ginger family. While it’s most well known as a yellowy / orange spice in Asian cuisine it’s also used in traditional medicines, ceremonies, clothing, as a dye and as an indicator for acidity.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: Main constituents are bright yellowy chemical compounds called curcuminoids
USES: Not only is turmeric a potent antioxidant it’s been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-neoplastic (i.e. inhibits tumor growth in melanoma) properties.
It’s also been used to treat a variety of skin problems like acne, wounds, burns, eczema and psoriasis and treat sun damage and skin photoaging (i.e. loss of the skin’s youthful appearance)SOURCES
UBIQUINONE (Coenzyme Q10)
DESCRIPTION: Ubiquinone or CoQ10 is a non-protein chemical compound that’s naturally produced in all animals. It plays a very important role in cell function and development is necessary for a protein’s biological activity to continue.
A lot of beauty brands use CoQ10 in their products and marketing and for good reason.
WHAT IT CONTAINS: A fat soluble-like substance that resembles a vitamin
USES: The naturally produced CoQ10 in our skin, like most things, reduces over time. So, it makes sense to simply replace what’s lost which is why the topical application and replenishment of CoQ10 has shown to augment cellular energy metabolism, reduce free radicals, increase antioxidant effects and beneficially affect mitochondrial function.
This, of course, has some really positive flow on effects like strengthening the epidermal layer of the skin, reducing the breakdown of collagen, protecting against environmental stress and photoaging, which may also slow or reverse the signs of aging.