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Natural Skin Radiance



Written by Dr. Jewel Alfoure, ND

Skin Care is Much Deeper Than Skin!

When it comes to skincare, there is much more than what meets the eye. Skincare products can be challenging to navigate, mostly because skincare is a discipline that extends in between dermatology and cosmetic art. Any healthcare practitioner will attest to the skin’s ability to reveal our state of health, yet without addressing the digestive system, the immune system or even providing significant nutritional support, many skincare products promise noticeable change. To be fair, high-quality skincare products may deliver some of the results they promise, but not through holistic, lasting changes and at the expense of exposing the body to much more health-taxing agents. So the navigation of the skincare product terrain requires both a focus on finding the best topical agent for skincare as well as the best internal agents to enhance the skin holistically and get the best results possible.

A Natural Skin Care Guide: Where Less is Literally Much More!

When it comes to healthy skincare, it is always best to start with avoiding ingredients, prior to even considering adding ingredients. The reason for such a strategy is because there is no point in adding any therapeutic ingredients that come suspended in an inflammatory medium. Skin is not only a reflection of internal health, it is also a good reflection of its own state. Most organs are well hidden, however, the skin remains one of the first organs to be affected by endocrine function, gastrointestinal health and immune health. Any minimal amount of inflammation that the skin is exposed to, will show as texture changes, damage spots, wrinkles, redness or uneven tone.

Things to Avoid

Chemicals - Though healthy, healing constituents may be too big to cross through unbroken skin, small chemicals and nanoparticles are small enough to directly access the bloodstream through the skin (1). Unfortunately, depending on the chemical, once inside the body, those fragrances and product-texture stabilizers may have unsolicited effects on the body (2). Even naturally occurring pigments like mica-based pigments, when broken down to nano size, become much smaller than the size of a human red blood cell (3).

Long Ingredient Lists - If a product comes with a long ingredient list, the chance of allergy or intolerance to a single ingredient becomes very high. All it takes is one ingredient to not agree with the skin to render the product unsuitable for an individual. It is always safer to stick to a smaller ingredient list and keep in mind your experience with each and every single ingredient you experience

Fragrances - Even natural fragrances are a little hard to deal with because fragrances are an ingredient of no therapeutic value. Many of the fragrances we like must exhibit chemical characteristics that make them aromatic which adds to their potential of irritating the skin (4). moreover, both natural and synthetic fragrances usually require fixatives and agents that modify the smell to the liking of the user or make them last longer. Even if the fragrance itself is not irritating, the oxidation status of the fragrance enhancing/ stabilizing concoction may very well be irritating even if natural in origin (5). 

Preservatives - Hydrous formulations (those containing water) must have a preservative in them. Any hydrous formulation must contain a high-quality broad-spectrum preservative to make it safe enough to use. Preservatives, however, may be formaldehyde-releasing , or may even be linked to specific hormone disruptions (6,7). Some preservatives are linked to more serious mitotic conditions and while the verdict is not out on whether all those preservatives are unsafe enough to ban off of the market, why take the risk with your health and beauty?

Synthetics Vs. Natural Skin Care Anatomy 

In order to understand what makes a good skincare product, vs otherwise, it is always best to start by reading the ingredients and comparing them. The following is a chart that contains some skincare staples and how the staples of the natural world compared to those used in synthetic skincare:

Skin Support

Synthetic  Ingredients

Natural Ingredients

Comparison

Protective Barrier/texture enhancement

  • Glycerin
  • Dimethicone
  • Polymethylsil-sesquioxane
  • Isohexadecane
  • Sea buckthorn oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Hemp Oil
  • Gogi berry oil
  • Cranberry Seed oil
  • Black Seed oil

While it can be argued that regulating authorities see the synthetic ingredients as safe enough to permit their use in cosmetics. Even if safe, what those ingredients offer is only topical in nature. They simply can not compete with the hundreds of healing/ moisturizing constituents that are present in only a single plant oil.

Damage protection (UV)

  • Oxybenzone.
  • Octinoxate
  • Homosalate. ...
  • Octisalate. ...
  • Octocrylene. ...
  • Avobenzone. ...
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc oxide

Studies show that there is some UV protection potential to some plant oils. As none are approved to be used as a sun barrier, only natural barriers like zinc oxide can be considered a safe natural alternative. Note that, even though there are still some studies being conducted on natural plant oils, there is a lot of evidence that points to their effectiveness as post-sun exposure healing agents. Oils that have some sun-protective capability include Seabuckthorn oil and Raspberry Seed Oil(8,9).

Secondary damage protections (antioxidants)

Even synthetic skincare relies on natural ingredients for anti-oxidant potential

  • Vitamin C
  • Plant extracts
  • Plant oils

Being exposed to the sun significantly damages the skin. Upon exposure to ultraviolet light, or to the sun, it is best to boost the general healing ability of the skin. Natural anti-oxidants may also help take the first hit of oxidation, that is why topical agents with unoxidized Vitamin C may help add a layer of protection when it comes to skin radiation damage (10). To learn more about the role of Vitamin C in skincare and health in general Click Here (King of Orthomolecular Med).

Hydration/ conditioning agents

  • water
  • Oils
  • Propylene glycol
  • Plant oils
  • Plant butter
  • Plant waxes

While a topical application of an emulsified agent may absorb into the skin faster, it is always important to consider if the application is truly conditioning or if it only appears as so. A truly conditioning application does not only feel moisturizing on application, it should leave the skin protected from water loss for a significant amount of time. To test this, simply use a plant oil prior to bedtime. When you wake up, the oil should have disappeared. In the morning, if the oil was truly a good match for your skin, you should not need to re-apply. 

Emulsifying agents

  • Stearic acid
  • Emulsifying wax
  • cetyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Eco wax
  • Plant waxes
  • Beeswax

Emulsifiers are needed to mix water and oil and may significantly clog pores in both the natural as well as the synthetic form (11).

Healing/ therapeutic agents

  • PH balance
  • Alcohols
  • Skin conditioners 
  • Salicylic acid
  • Benzoic Acid
  • glycolic acid

Plant healing constituents:

- Allantoin in comphry

-Thymoquinone in black seed

Each plant oil has its own set of healing ingredients, for example, comfrey contains a chemical that is called allantoin that can significantly increase the rate of wound healing (12). Black Seed has a constituent known as thymoquinone, which is theorized to be the agent that stabilizes melanocytes and helps with the normalization of pigmentation in vitiligo (13).

Preservatives

  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben.
  • Anhydrous formulation
  • Grapefruit seed extract.
  • Rosemary extract.
  • Benzoin Gum

Any water-containing preparation must contain a high-quality preservative to prevent microbial growth. Natural plant oils do not require preservation as microbes do not grow in an oil medium as they do in a water medium (14). 

Skin Care That is Good Enough to Eat

Caring for the skin naturally seems almost unglamorous. After all, whenever an authority in natural skincare is consulted, the result is an endless array of food ingredients that end up getting whipped in a food processor and recommended to be slathered on the face as a skin mask. Though lacking in universal applicability, in honour of all the “DIYers” who seek to find the best skincare ingredients from food sources, the following is a list of food ingredients that “actually work” when applied to the face:

The World of Naturopathic Dermatology

Though the approach of using an edible ingredient for skin care is very safe and may be very beneficial, there is a much more elegant, concentrated way to use plants for skin health. Plant oils can significantly enhance the health of the skin and many of them have scientific research showing evidence for their efficacy as dermatological support or even treatment agents.

If Glowing Skin Is What You Seek, You Need Sunshine In a Bottle!

Sunshine and water make the plants grow and the more “seasoned” those plants, the better they are at synthesizing natural constituents that benefit our health. When speaking about resilience in the natural world, three oil-producing plants stand out as the most resilient and unique in constituents. Those are Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and Black seed (Nigella sativa). Seabuckthorn seed oil comes from a plant that is resilient to the harsh cold as well as harsh heat of Northern China. Cranberry, on the other hand, is a native of North America and thrives in sandy, harsh conditions that most other plants can not tolerate. Finally, Nigella is the dark beauty of the Mediterranean/ Middlen Eastern regions with tolerance to severe heat and droughts. Those stressful conditions give the plants a unique chemical profile that is evident from their taste profile (15-17).

Sea Buckthorn fruit - Light fishy flavour due to high Omega 3 content +unique Omega 7 content.

Cranberry - Pleasant sweet, buttery flavour, due to characteristic aromatic compounds. 

Black Seed - Pungent, spicy flavour due to the aromatic anti-oxidants and anti-microbial agents. 

Beauty From Within 

One important opportunity that topical skincare agents miss, is the opportunity to generate beauty from within. Generating beauty as a side-benefit of health is important as it makes for lasting results. Topical agents may enhance the appearance of the skin, but their topical effect is likely to fade, sometime after the renewal of application is not made. additionally, as previously discussed, skin health is a combination of both topical health, dermal base layer health and overall organ health. Our gastrointestinal system, immune system, and circulatory/ lymphatic system play a huge role in maintaining the appearance of our skin. Any food intolerances, for example, can show up directly on the skin. One such case is dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) which is a skin manifestation of Celiac Disease (CD) (18). Other skin conditions that respond very well to dietary changes are psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (19). It is important to note that the conditions mentioned also have a huge immune component to them. Additionally, cardiovascular health plays a role in nourishing the skin, as the skin is the most peripheral organ and requires healthy blood flow for adequate nutrition. Skin appearance-altering conditions that are completely circulatory in origin include varicose veins (20). 

Applying Your Skin Care to Your Organs 

When choosing to focus on skin health, it is always better to choose the holistic approach of healing all the epithelia as well as the endothelia of the body. The endothelia are a single cell layer that has a “skin-like” function that lines the inside of the heart and the blood vessels. While the epithelia include the lining of the gastrointestinal tracts as well as the lining of the reproductive, urinary and respiratory tract. Those layers usually respond to similar supportive ingredients. One such ingredient is fish oil (21). Fish oil is known to help with dry eyes, vascular lubrication, vaginal lubrication and general anti-inflammation. The world of epithelial support does not stop at fish oil. most of the healthy plant oils that work to provide healing benefits on the outside are highly enhanced when used both externally as well as internally. Be sure to only apply this principle to natural oils that are certified food grade. 

For example, oral supplementation of Seabuckthorn oil, alongside the topical application of seabuckthorn seed oil for female subjects aged 50-70 years old, twice per day, for three months, resulted in better skin hydration and elasticity. Oral supplementation resulted in a decrease in skin roughness and fewer wrinkles. The topical application resulted in an increase in both the thickness of the skin and the reduction in overall signs of ageing. The researcher concluded that the results point towards the ability of seabuckthorn seed oil to improve skin collagen levels upon topical use (22). 

Sea Buckthorn Oil

Containing more than 190 active minerals and nutrients, seabuckthorn oil is supported by many studies conducted in China, Russia and Scandinavia as a topical as well as internal skincare oil. Studies show that of the many constituents it contains, there are antioxidants, omega fatty acids, vitamins such as A, C & E, carotenoids, free amino acids, flavonol, and many more skin rejuvenating compounds (23). The whole fruit oil also contains the rare Omega 7 fatty acid which is known to be an internal moisturizer of the epithelia helping with conditions like dry eye, gastrointestinal disease and vaginal dryness. Different ethnic applications of the oil include sunburn treatment, asthma and respiratory conditions, stomach ulcers, congestion, eye health, arthritis, gout, post-radiation exposure, cuts, blood pressure, vascular disease, cholesterol, skin rashes, dermatitis, and many more conditions (24). Studies show that there is evidence for seabuckthorn significantly promoting skin regeneration, supporting wound healing, acting as a UV exposure protective agent and lowering the inflammatory load on the skin in many dermatological conditions (23).

Cranberry Oil 

The oil of the cranberry seed is high in antioxidants and is a source of the sweet-smelling oil that features the balanced hydration ratio of Omega 3, 6 & 9 at an exact 1:1:1 ratio comes jampacked with antioxidants and healing vitamins (16). Vitamins A, C, E and K are known to enhance skin appearance, promote faster cell turnover and enhance collagen synthesis (28). As the oil is another natural UV exposure protector, it may help reduce signs of ageing including sunspots, and hyperpigmentation with its high proanthocyanidin content (25). Due to the balance in the ratio of omegas, Cranberry seed oil is actually a very light, highly absorbable oil that can fight irritation with compounds like benzoic acid. Studies also show that the oil also contains phytosterols which are amazing topically for ageing skin as they may boost collagen synthesis and make for thicker, more resilient skin (16, 26).

Though the world of internal use of cranberry seed oil is yet to be explored fully, preliminary studies show promising results in the support of vascular health and the enhancement of lipid profile. There are also some very promising studies that explore the potential of the oil as an antimitotic agent (16).

Black Seed Oil 

Nigella sativa has one of the most scientifically studied oils. its benefits as a topical use agent extent from support for pigmentation-related conditions like vitiligo, to help with newborn skin infections. The oil has also been studied for many other autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis, allergies, and eczema (13,17). Black seed oil is not only an effective topical anti-microbial but it is also made for a wonderful suspension medium for any other oil as it supports blood flow and may help with the penetration of ingredients to the bloodstream. Black seed oil is also a highly functional internal support of immunity, gastrointestinal health, hormonal regulation and general inflammation. The use of such versatile botanical adds to the benefits of any skincare regimen with true, medical-grade support (13). To learn more about the vast array of skin conditions that the black beauty may help with Click Here.

Skin Health Tips and Tricks 

  • No matter what you may choose to use on your skin, always make sure that you apply it evenly to the face, to the neck, to the chest and to the hands. Those are the areas that are exposed to the elements and they give away the age of the individual very easily.

  • If your skincare product is safe enough and healthy enough, it is always best to apply it after skin manipulation with shaving, waxing, dry brushing or exfoliation. Encourage the product to penetrate deep into the skin and make sure that you are applying it when the skin suffers trauma.

  • Take an internal skin health agent and do not rely completely on topical agents as all topical agents are limited by the size of their molecules. As discussed, smaller molecules can propose their own dangers.

Quick Guide of Medicinal Plant Oils to Ask Your Doctor About 

Condition

Topical

Internal

Rashes

Castor Oil + Seabuckthorn oil

Autoimmune/ Allergic- Black SeedFood Allergic- Digestive Enzymes + Black seedToxic- Serrapeptase

Insect Bites

Black Seed Oil

Serrapeptase

Stubborn cuts

Comfry oil

Bamboo Extract + Vitamin C

Acne

Blackseed Oil

Cystic- Vitamin AHormonal- Vitamin DScars- Vitamin C + E

Long-standing cysts- Serrapeptase

Itchy Spots

St. John's Wort Oil

Vitamin B5

Pigmentation Issues

Black Seed OilProtect with Seabacktorn + Raspberry seed Oil

Black Seed Oil

Sun Sensitivity

Raspberry Seed Oil + Seabuchron Seed Oil

High Dose Vitamin C

Dark Spots

Tamanu Oil + Cranberry Oil

Blackseed Oil, Vitamin C + Vitamin A

Ageing Skin

Sea Buckthorn oil +Argan Oil + Black Seed Oil + Cranberry Oil

Blackseed Oil + Seabuckthorn Seed Oil

Stretch Marks

Cocoa Butter + Cranberry seed oil + Castor Oil

Serrapeptase

Psoriasis

Black Seed + Argan Oil

Black Seed Oil + Vitamin A

Eczema

Seabuckthorn + Black seed

Black Seed Oil + Vitamin D

Bruises

Arnica Oil + Cranberry Oil

Vitamin C, Bioflavonoids, Cranberry oil

 

References 

  1. Fadeel B. Clear and present danger? Engineered nanoparticles and the immune system. Swiss medical weekly. 2012 Jun 18;142(2526).

  2. Christensson JB, Forsström P, Wennberg AM, Karlberg AT, Matura M. Air oxidation increases skin irritation from fragrance terpenes. Contact Dermatitis. 2009 Jan;60(1):32-40.

  3. Müller RH, Keck CM. Nanotoxicological Classification System (NCS)–a rational approach to assess the safety & risk of nanoparticles.

  4. Nagtegaal MJ, Pentinga SE, Kuik J, Kezic S, Rustemeyer T. The role of the skin irritation response in polysensitization to fragrances. Contact dermatitis. 2012 Jul;67(1):28-35.

  5. Sköld M, Karlberg AT, Matura M, Börje A. The fragrance chemical β-caryophyllene—air oxidation and skin sensitization. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2006 Apr 1;44(4):538-45.

  6. Lv C, Hou J, Xie W, Cheng H. Investigation on formaldehyde release from preservatives in cosmetics. International journal of cosmetic science. 2015 Oct;37(5):474-8.

  7. Garner N, Siol A, Eilks I. Parabens as preservatives in personal care products. Chemistry in Action. 2014;103:36-43.

  8. Ahmady A, Amini MH, Zhakfar AM, Babak G, Sediqi MN. Sun Protective Potential and Physical Stability of Herbal Sunscreen Developed from Afghan Medicinal Plants. Turkish Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2020 Jun;17(3):285.

  9. AHMAD MA, YAZID NH, YAHYA NN. Effectiveness Of Raspberry Seed Oil In Natural Sunscreen Formulation Using Different Percentage Of Zinc Oxide. Multidisciplinary Applied Research and Innovation. 2021 May 24;2(2).

  10. Pinnell SR, Madey DL. Topical vitamin C in skin care. Aesthetic surgery journal. 1998 Nov 1;18(6):468-70.

  11. Draelos ZD. Acne Cosmetica. InPathogenesis and Treatment of Acne and Rosacea 2014 (pp. 265-270). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

  12. Staiger C. Comfrey: a clinical overview. Phytotherapy Research. 2012 Oct;26(10):1441-8.

  13. Ghorbanibirgani A, Khalili A, Rokhafrooz D. Comparing Nigella sativa oil and fish oil in treatment of vitiligo. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. 2014 Jun;16(6).

  14. Eisman PC, Jaconia D, Mayer RL. The preservation of parenteral vegetable oils by chemical agents. Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association (Scientific ed.). 1953 Nov 1;42(11):659-62.

  15. Singh IP, Ahmad F, Gore DD, Tikoo K, Bansal A, Jachak SM, Jena G. Therapeutic potential of seabuckthorn: a patent review (2000-2018). Expert opinion on therapeutic patents. 2019 Sep 2;29(9):733-44.

  16. Ahmad N, Anwar F, Abbas A. Cranberry Seed Oil. InFruit Oils: Chemistry and Functionality 2019 (pp. 663-674). Springer, Cham.

  17. Tavakkoli A, Mahdian V, Razavi BM, Hosseinzadeh H. Review on clinical trials of black seed (Nigella sativa) and its active constituent, thymoquinone. Journal of pharmacopuncture. 2017 Sep;20(3):179.

  18. Osman MT. Immunotherapeutic Application of Nigella sativa Oil in Management of Dermatitis Herpetiformis Associated with Re...

  19. Ahmed JH, Kadhim SN, Al-Hamdi KI. The effectiveness of Nigella sativa, methotrexate and their combination in the treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis. J Clin Exp Invest www. jceionline. org Vol. 2014 Dec 1;5(4).

  20. Kwa MC, Silverberg JI. Association between inflammatory skin disease and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular co-morbidities in US adults: analysis of nationwide inpatient sample data. American journal of clinical dermatology. 2017 Dec;18(6):813-23.

  21. Kawakita T, Kawabata F, Tsuji T, Kawashima M, Shimmura S, Tsubota K. Effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil on dry eye syndrome subjects: randomized controlled trial. Biomedical Research. 2013;34(5):215-20.

  22. Yang B, Bonfigli A, Pagani V, Isohanni T, von-Knorring A, Jutila A, Judin VP. Effects of oral supplementation and topical application of supercritical CO2 extracted sea buckthorn oil on skin ageing of female subjects. Journal of Applied Cosmetology. 2009 Jan;27(1):13.

  23. Popescu CA, Popescu CA, Popescu BO, Daas D, Morgovan CL, Olah NK. Antimicrobial efficacy of the organic greasy oils combination-sea buckthorn oil and maize germs oil. Farmacia. 2014 Jul 1;62(4):743-52.

  24. Zeb A. Important therapeutic uses of sea buckthorn (Hippophae): a review. Journal of Biological Sciences. 2004;4(5):687-93.

  25. Eno M. The effect of the supplementation of cranberry seed oil on the lipid profiles of human subjects.

  26. Shivananda Nayak B, Dan Ramdath D, Marshall JR, Isitor G, Xue S, Shi J. Wound‐healing properties of the oils of Vitis vinifera and Vaccinium macrocarpon. Phytotherapy Research. 2011 Aug;25(8):1201-8.