Herbal and 100% natural skin treatment has very ancient origins. Some literature data showed that some formulas have been documented in 8000 – 4000 B.C. in the Asian region and 3000 – 2000 B.C. in the Mediterranean. Well, our ancestors did not know how formulas effectively worked, but they were simply experts in creating excellent herbal and 100% natural skin care products. Until about the beginning of the 20th century, there were no apparent differences and proper explanations between the so-called active and inactive ingredients in the cosmetic formulations and what and how those components did work.
Human skin is an external organ of the body, and it predominantly has a protective function for our muscles and organs. The surface is pretty big, it is about 2m2, and the weight is about 10 kilograms. It is a multilayered organ with three distinctive layers: the epidermis providing waterproofing and protection of infections; the dermis, a connective tissue hosting hair bulbs and glands; and the hypodermis, an adipose tissue covering muscles, bones and ligaments. The functions of the skin are numerous and astonishing. But how skin care products, cosmetics, and cosmeceuticals can pass all these barriers and maintain the normal physiology and homeostasis of the skin?
The skin ages as all our body organs. Unfortunately, it is a degenerative process affecting all skin layers. Skin aging is defined as a loss of elasticity, the reduction of local vascularization and the appearance of lines and wrinkles on the skin surface. The skin matrix deteriorates; additionally, there is the process of lower deposition and faster degradation of collagen, and loss of the elastic properties of elastin. Well, that is not all, as a slower renewal of cell layers in the epidermis also occurs, loss of underlying fat and oil, and skin naturally thinning and substantially drying. Usually, our skin ages and loses many crucial functions from its normal physiology and homeostasis (balance). Free radicals production rapidly increases and it causes a substantial imbalance between two vital roles: the oxidative cell processes and the antioxidant defense. Consequently, it leads to an excessive breakdown of collagen. This degenerative process is one of the important causes of wrinkle formation, permanent damage to the skin. Only so-called fine lines can be somehow restored by using skin care products, cosmetics, and cosmeceuticals. Deep wrinkles require more invasive and radical treatments. Many goods and procedures promise to reduce wrinkles. Some do very little or nothing, like the products that claim they reduce “the appearance of fine lines,” which means that they don’t cut the lines themselves. It is so complex but overall, the most important is for you to offer to your facial, hand and body skin a proper everyday care. Skin aging alters the normal physiology of the skin and its homeostasis, so skin care products have to do a lot to “fighting” and “tricking” with those barriers, natural or newly developed by aging process.
Today, each right and complete formula is a mixture that includes one or more vehicles and one or more active ingredients. Generally, the recipe will work efficiently and adequately if the active ingredients penetrate into the skin. The correct selection and use of the vehicle plays an important role in the design and formulation of the skin care product. Pharmaceutical (dermatological) preparations have one goal, and that is to cure skin alterations, skin diseases and to return the skin to the homeostasis and normal physiology. Cosmetic formulations are not curative; their purpose is to maintain skin homeostasis (balancing the normal physiological processes) and possibly to prevent degenerative processes in the skin (facial, hand/body skin and scalp). What are cosmeceuticals? Probably you hear that term almost every day. It is simply like a hybrid, and the purpose of this kind of formulas is enhancing the beauty of the skin. How? Some ingredients in a cosmeceutical formula have the ability to modify skin functionality and potentially it has health-related functions (“healing” properties) or benefits to your skin either facial or hand/body skin or scalp.
Who is the messenger in the skin care product, why they are so important?
Basically, the vehicle or vehicles should have the ability to penetrate the stratum corneum of the epidermis (our first layer of the skin) and to deliver the active ingredients to lower epidermal, dermal and subdermal places. It sounds like each skin care product should have some messenger; yes, a good messenger. According to the modern cosmetic science and results in the research of green principles in the formulation of natural skin care products botanical sources provide almost any kind of possible vehicles. That also includes surfactants, emulsifiers, oils and types of butter and waxes as well. All together it will provide your skin occlusive, smoothing, firming, moisturizing, soothing and even conditioning effects. Probably you heard about moisturization as one of the most important things what skin care product can offer to you. Yes, it is critical and essential for your skin. However, there are some important facts that we should take into consideration. Occlusives, such as some carrier oils derived from herbs and botanicals are making some shield on the external part of the stratum corneum under which water is solely trapped. Humectants, like glycerin, directly draw water from the surrounding area into the stratum corneum.
What about other ingredients and parts of the proper formulation. Emollients are ingredients added to the skin care formula to naturally soften and smooth your skin either facial or hand/body skin and scalp. Surfactants are also necessary, but apothecary masters know that this part of the formulation can be very tricky. That is not a problem in natural skin care products but in artificial skin care products certainly can be a huge problem because it can cause serious side effects. They have one crucial task, and that is to if added to the water phase of the formula to solubilize lipophilic active ingredients in the formula and as a result they promote lipid absorption in the stratum corneum.
Why penetration enhancers are so important in a good formulation of the natural skin care products?
Penetration enhancers are a paramount part of the right skin care formula. Why? They act on the level of stratum corneum, and they naturally reduce of the skin permeability barrier. It sounds like “the gate opener” or “the key”. They usually disrupt tightly packed lipid regions of your skin. Does it matter? Indeed yes; it will increase hydration and some additional beneficial effects on your skin and effectiveness of the skin care products, cosmetics, and cosmeceuticals. It is a great secret in every apothecary workshop which penetration enhancer agent or agents will be added in the formula. Just for your information, unfortunately, we do not have a huge panel of penetration enhancer actors in the formulation of 100% natural skin care products.
Can botanicals be effective preservatives in 100% natural and organic skin care products?
Would you like one simple answer? It would be, yes! According to the new literature data published in the cosmetic science and herbal principles of the formulation of cosmetics, skin care products, and cosmeceuticals, marigold/calendula has three times more potent antimicrobial effects compared with an artificial chemical such as parabens which you can find in commercial brand names as a preservative. I do not want to “talk” about parabens; they are not a part of 100% natural skin care products. Basil exhibited strong antibacterial effects as well as gingko and mango. Mostly, apothecary masters who formulate the natural skin care products stick with highly concentrated rosemary oil and high concentration of vitamin E as an antioxidant. But certainly there is more such as burdock carries a strong antiseptic as well as detoxifying effect. Some lichens give a strong disinfectant effect or even watercress what you can buy almost in every grocery store. Inflammation can be one additional problem, but some botanicals carry strong anti-inflammatory effects such as lemon balm, yeast and much more.
What to do about wrinkles?
People mostly think that one of the primary goals of using skin care products, cosmetics, and cosmeceuticals is to somehow get rid of wrinkles as soon as possible and at any cost. As a pathophysiologist, I am trying to explain to people and somehow to “console” the people but it does not go very well. The cosmetic and plastic surgery “industry” promises a lot, but results are not as amazing as we can expect, or the results are amazing and “wow” solely for a short period.
How about aging gracefully and wisely, trying to slow as much as we can the dramatic and rapid process of skin aging? By providing the skin with all necessary factors to keep close to normal skin physiology, and maintaining skin homeostasis as much as possible in some kind of acceptable balance.
Although wrinkles can signify wisdom (gray hair as well), or at least some level of maturity, there is no question that even newly born infants also have wrinkles and fine lines. The problem is more complex than it looks like! I would like having one human psychologist to help me here with her/his comments. Probably, the real concern that most of us have is that certain types of wrinkling are associated with aging. Aging in our current “pop and rock & roll” culture is not deemed as positive, not at all. Most customers are complaining about the cost of so-called “anti-wrinkle” creams, lotions and serum/elixirs. The name “anti-aging” would probably be more appropriate. Honestly, some botanicals, herbs, lichens, algae and mushrooms somehow can alleviate the visibility of fine lines, but I personally think they are mostly doing some other work too, and that is to try to recover the lost physiological processes in the damaged skin. No doubt, aloe vera increases collagen synthesis and the fact was scientifically approved; acerola is rich in vitamin C and improves remineralization, and green tea does it too. Hops flowers can be helpful in the treatment of aged skin too with significant improvement of the youthful appearance of the facial skin.
Some ingredients in the natural skin care products carry the strong (scientifically approved) properties of stimulating collagen synthesis, anti-aging properties, detoxifying and cleansing properties creating an effect of gentle exfoliation and balancing the normal physiology of skin homeostasis. The skin epidermis and its array of appendages undergo ongoing renewal by a process called homeostasis. Stem cells are in the epidermis and they have a crucial role in maintaining tissue homeostasis by providing new cells to replace those that are constantly lost during tissue turnover or following an injury. Different resident skin stem cell pools contribute to the maintenance and repair of the various epidermal tissues of the skin, including inter-follicular epidermis, hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Interestingly, the basic mechanisms and signaling pathways that orchestrate epithelial morphogenesis in the skin are reused during adult life to regulate skin homeostasis.
Simply, homeostasis in the skin is fueled by stem cells in epithelial tissues, which replace the keratinocytes that are lost either through normal differentiation and tissue turnover or through cell death owing to the damage incurred following injury. Recent studies in modern cosmetic and dermatology science have begun to explain some of the mysteries of these special “fountains of youth,” which reside in different compartments of the skin and underlie the remarkable resilience of the skin.
Thus, try to keep your “fountains of youth” functional as long as you can!
100% natural, 100% organic skin care products, cosmetics and cosmeceuticals – are they really 100% safe and absolutely without noxious side effects?
The simple answer would be, no! It is objectively and professionally. Firstly, if the natural and organic formula is not properly and safely formulated, it can cause many noxious side effects. What would be one wise advice for you? Find a good apothecary master, do not hesitate to ask questions, and share with your pharmacist your intention to use a 100% natural and organic skin care product, particularly if you use multiple medications every day. Some serious interactions can be induced in this kind of scenario. Be careful in a choice of the so called 100% natural/organic skin care product or products, ask for samples, and request consultation with the chosen apothecary master regarding the products. There is one more thing! Honestly, you cannot buy 100% natural and 100% organic skin care products in retail stores, grocery and pharmacy stores, not at all. Usually, those who are making 100% natural and organic skin care products have very small scale production, often by customer order, and the final formulation usually requires 2-3 days to process. Despite that the fact that all of us have always in stock all primary solutions, extracts, oils, and necessary ingredients, we do not have a high quantity of final products. Additionally, share with your apothecary master what your allergy status is, if you are allergic to some certain nuts, herbs, botanicals and what your skin condition is/are. Despite the fact that most of the traditional apothecary masters who are making 100% natural skin care products already have documented facts about the safety of their products, we always test finished products.
What are some important conclusions?
Botanical and natural sources can provide all kinds of elements for vehiculating active ingredients in the natural skin care formulas/products and for enhancing their permeation through the skin. Overall, natural skin care products made of natural ingredients such as herbs, botanicals, lichens, algae and even mushrooms ensure desirable features such as biocompatibility (it is a crucial fact compared with commercially available brands), low irritancy, and optimal partitioning of permeants in the skin.
Age gracefully and wisely and try to maintain your “fountains of youth” in your skin as long as you can, effectively and naturally by using natural skin care products, cosmetics, and cosmeceuticals!
Dr. Isidor Apothecary
“Traditional and Ancient Apothecary for Our Modern Times”
Phone: (504) 233-8702