We’ve been talking for years about the potential danger that exists in synthetic skin care ingredients.
On our “Ingredients to Avoid,” page, we’ve listed some of the most concerning ingredients that appear in many of today’s cleansers, moisturizers, serums, shampoos, conditioners, shave creams, and more, to encourage you to read labels carefully, and choose products from companies that are more careful about which ingredients they use.
Meanwhile, we’ve witnessed a rise in the use of more natural, plant-based ingredients. These are extracts, oils, and other compounds that are made from real plants that have unique benefits for the skin. We’re seeing more of these ingredients mainly because consumers are demanding them.
You want your products to be good for your skin, and you understand that some of what you apply to your skin can sink into your bloodstream, and you’re tired of taking risks with things that are just unsafe.
But you may wonder sometimes: Do these plant ingredients really work?
Let’s look at the 7 ways plant ingredients can help improve the condition of your skin.
1. Provide antioxidant protection.
Oxidative damage is one of the main reasons we experience aging in our skin. Some of it comes from inside us-oxidation is a natural by-product of our metabolism. But much of it comes from outside us, too-both pollution and sun exposure create oxidation on the skin.
“Oxidation” is a process of destruction caused by “free radicals,” which are highly reactive atoms that cause damage wherever they go. Antioxidants are the antithesis of free radicals-they neutralize them and render them harmless.
We get antioxidants in our diet from plant-based ingredients like fruits and vegetables, and these antioxidants help protect us from disease. In much the same way, plant ingredients in our skin care protect the skin from free radical damage, which can help slow the appearance of aging.
Most all plant- or fruit-based ingredients provide antioxidant protection, but some of the most powerful ones include grape seed, lycopene (from tomatoes), vitamin C (from a number of plant-based ingredients), vitamin E (available in some plant-based oils), and green tea (from tea plants). But the best option is to have numerous antioxidants that work together and replenish each other.
2. Calm inflammation.
Inflammation in the skin can cause redness, acne, rosacea and psoriasis flare-ups, rashes, dermatitis, flushing, and premature aging. Some dermatologists call inflammation “skin enemy number one” because of all the damage it can create.
Inflammation, like oxidation, can come from the inside or the outside. Stress, poor diet, illness, lack of sleep, and other issues can encourage internal inflammation. Pollution, sun exposure, secondhand smoke, and other factors can contribute to external inflammation.
We need to calm this inflammation to help the skin look and feel it’s best, and many plant-based ingredients do just that. Some of the best include aloe vera, chamomile, calendula, oat, comfrey root, St. John’s wort, and a number of natural oils. Chamomile, for example, has a reputation for helping to eliminate redness and calm the skin.
3. Moisturize in two ways.
Synthetic moisturizers often coat the skin, but don’t provide any meaningful moisture that the skin can use long-term. They help prevent loss of moisture that the skin already has, but fail to add anything more to the picture.
Plant-based ingredients, on the other hand, often do both. Natural oils provide essential fatty acids (EFAs) that the skin needs for moisture, and also help prevent water evaporation. Some of the most effective include shea butter (and other natural butters, like cocoa butter), natural oils (like olive and coconut), castor oil, honey, sea buckthorn oil, rosehip oil, and jojoba oil.
4. Keep microbes away.
We tend to be cautious about synthetic preservatives in our skin care products. Some are actually toxic, linked to dryness, dermatitis, and even cancer.
Plant-based ingredients help us avoid these potentially dangerous ingredients, because many of them have natural antimicrobial properties. That means they naturally kill bacteria, fungus, and viruses, keeping your skin care product free of germs and other bugs. These ingredients can also help kill bacteria on your face, which can help reduce the risk of acne breakouts.
Some effective antimicrobial ingredients include most oils-particularly tea tree, lemon, and aloe vera-honey, clove oil, sweet orange oil, bee propolis, lavender oil, rosemary extract, and vitamin E.
5. Protect from the sun.
Though some dermatologists call inflammation skin enemy number one, more will give that honor to the sun and it’s harmful rays. These rays may feel good, but over time, they damage skin fibers, leading to hyperpigmentation, age spots, wrinkles, sagging, and all the other signs of aging that we don’t like.
Sunscreen is a must, but there are also several natural ingredients that can help protect us from these damaging rays. Scientists have found when applied to the skin, the help reduce UV-related damage, and in some cases, even potentially protect from skin cancer.
Some of the most protective natural ingredients include honey, green tea, propolis, walnut oil, carrot seed oil, red raspberry seed oil, and cottonseed oil.
6. Help lighten hyperpigmentation.
It used to be that about the only option we had for lightening blotches, age spots, and old scars was hydroquinone, but this ingredient has been found to actually damage skin over time. Fortunately, we now know of several natural plant-based ingredients that can help fade hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone.
Some of those with studies showing them to be effective include kojic acid, licorice extract, bearberry extract, Indian gooseberry, white mulberry extract, and lemon and orange peels.
7. Clean out clogged pores.
Those who struggle with acne often turn to harsh acne products for help, but these products are notoriously drying for skin. Natural plant-based ingredients help clear pores without being harsh, and when combined with ingredients that kill bacteria and reduce inflammation, they can work together to keep your skin clean and clear.
Some plant-based ingredients that are specifically helpful in clearing out pores include neem oil, rosemary, grape seed oil, lemon, honey, tea tree, lavender, parsley seed oil, and geranium oil.
Plant Ingredients Work Well in Skin Care Formulas
We’ve just scratched the surface here, but you get the idea. Plant-based ingredients are very effective in skin care, and because they’re natural, they work easily with skin, protecting, nurturing, moisturizing, and more without causing damage along the way.
You can also look for natural plant ingredients to provide important vitamins and minerals, help boost collagen production, and help fade the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. We make it easy for you to find them, as our Calming Moisture and our Restorative Skin Balm-in fact, all of our products!-are full of these effective plant ingredients.
What do you think about plant-based ingredients?