Are herbal skin care products better for your skin’s health and appearance?
If they contain only natural extracts and oils from plants or nutrients like protein and antioxidants, they are excellent choices for your daily skincare regimen. But, sadly, most of them are only called “herbal” because of the fragrance.
Generally speaking, fragrances are not good for your skin’s health or appearance. They are among the most common causes of allergic and adverse reactions. Any kind of added fragrance, whether it is naturally occurring or chemically derived can cause a bad reaction.
The natural fragrances that you will often see in herbal skin care products are called “essential oils”. The name, itself, is misleading. But, concentrated fragrances have been referred to by that phrase since the days of the apothecaries.
Essential oils are often confused with essential fatty acids, which are nutrients, a primary component of the skin’s sebum, its natural moisturizer. Essential fatty acids can help nourish and replenish the skin’s moisture content. Essential oils do not contain fatty acids. They really aren’t even oils.
All of the herbal skin care products that I have evaluated contain essential oils. Some of them are:
- Lavender oil (not really an oil)
- Lemon balm
- Orange blossom water
- Clary sage
- Oil of clove
They are usually created using steam distillation. Petals, leaves and other parts of the plants are mixed with water and sealed in the distiller. The resulting solution is water-based, but does not mix well with water. It is typically added to ethanol or actual oils for mixing purposes.
Any of those ingredients can cause allergic reactions when applied directly to the skin. Some of them are more irritating than others. For example, linalool is a common allergen.
The best herbal skin care products do not contain added concentrated fragrances. Instead, they have a slight pleasant scent due to the extracts that they contain.
One of the most beneficial extracts comes from wakame kelp, a kind of seaweed native to Asia. It was introduced to the West because of its high nutritional content and eventually found its way into a scientist’s laboratory.
Wakame had a reputation as a beauty preserver. Scientists wanted to understand if that was a “folk tale” or an actual benefit. They found that herbal skin care products containing wakame inhibit the breakdown of hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid acts to hold the skin’s outer cells together, making the surface smooth and tight. The skin’s level of hyaluronic acid normally declines with age. That decline is not the only cause of wrinkles and other signs of aging, but it is one of them.
Wakame works by inhibiting enzymatic activity that breaks down hyaluronic acid. So, gradually, the skin’s content begins to rise, again, eventually reaching that of a much younger person.
So, now you have a long list of ingredients to avoid when you are buying herbal skin care products and one to look for. But, there are many other beneficial extracts. You might want to learn about those, too.
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