Natural wonders

Figuring out what kind of products work and which don’t is important, writes Suzanne Harrison


Many of us use products that say they are 'natural' or 'organic' without realising that they too can make our skin react badly - or do nothing for it at all.

So how can we maintain a commitment to natural products and still enjoy clear, radiant and younger-looking skin?

It all comes down to understanding the ingredients - how they work and whether those listed as natural and organic are proven effective, according to beauty insiders.

'While it's important to have a good understanding of proven ingredients that can deliver results, it's also important to be aware of those that are ineffective or harmful to the skin,' says Samantha Arnold, Aromatherapy Associates' regional vice-president for Asia, who also advises using the INCI, or International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients list, to decipher labels.

As consumers become more aware of what goes into their favourite creams and serums, skincare companies are at pains to deliver the latest, naturally derived concepts that work.

Here are some of the most trusted, proven and newest ones available.

Considered an unrivalled hydrator that occurs naturally in the skin, hyaluronic acid - also known as hyaluronan or hyaluronate - is mentioned time and again as the go-to ingredient if you want a younger-looking complexion.

'As we age, the hyaluronic acid and collagen content of the skin reduces,' explains Margo Marrone, naturopathy therapist and founder of The Organic Pharmacy. 'Collagen degrades more quickly, resulting in sagging and skin more prone to wrinkles while hyaluronic acid also [is depleted]. It is responsible for [healthy] joints and making the skin plump and firm.'

The Organic Pharmacy's new Rose Plus range includes molecular hyaluronic acid made from fermented algae to boost the skin's natural production of the acid under the skin.

'Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 50 times its weight in water, so it swells, causing the skin to plump out,' Marrone says.

Arnold explains that hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring component of the skin that helps to provide hydration to the dermal tissue.

Applied topically, it supplements the body's own production of hyaluronic acid for an intense hydrating action.

'It has an instant plumping effect on the cells,' she says. 'The humectant [moisture-retaining] property makes this one of the most popular and fastest-growing anti-ageing beauty secrets.'

Aromatherapy Associates' Overnight Repair Mask and Rich Repair Eye Cream feature this active ingredient and are designed to restore moisture while encouraging natural collagen production.

Vitamin C may have been touted as an anti-ager for some time, but the fact is, it works on many levels. Furthermore, improved delivery of this antioxidant promises results - particularly when combined with other antioxidants.

That's because water-soluble vitamin C - or ascorbic acid - in topical form is able to penetrate some layers of the skin, working to reduce pigmentation and free radicals.

Free radicals are by-products that can be triggered by pollutants, sun exposure, stress, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, ageing the skin.

'Antioxidants [such as vitamin C] neutralise damaging free radicals to protect skin from the inside and stimulate the synthesis of essential proteins and fibres to correct existing photo-damage on the outside,' says Michele Snyder, global marketing vice-president of SkinCeuticals.

Used in an anti-ageing product, it allows the skin to beef up its protective and restorative mechanisms, naturally.

Without such vitamins, there will be 'lack of radiance, wrinkles, loss of firmness and brown spots', Snyder says.

SkinCeuticals' new Phloretin CF Gel - a potent anti-ageing serum - is an antioxidant combination that uses 10 per cent L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), and 2 per cent phloretin and 0.5 per cent ferulic acid (both antioxidants).

You like it in ice cream and your teacup, but green tea is also a powerhouse on the skin, beauty companies say.

Green tea itself is an antioxidant that contains polyphenols, compounds that help eliminate inflammation-producing free radicals. It is often used as an extract in skincare items.

Clinicians in the department of dermatology at Stanford University's School of Medicine conducted a study with Tegreen 97, a proprietary green tea-derived antioxidant developed by skincare group Nu Skin's sister company, Pharmanex.

Results revealed that histologically (in microscopic studies), there was a significant improvement in the skin's elastic tissue content.

Some doctors, such as celebrity dermatologist Fredric Brandt, have been championing the ingredient for decades. Brandt says he was 'the first to introduce the green tea concept into skincare' after undertaking anti-cancer research early in his career.

Now, major companies such as Est?e Lauder have also introduced it. Its Re-Nutriv Ultimate Lift Age-Correcting Lotion uses Japanese green tea extract to reduce blotchiness and increase the skin's own collagen and elastin levels. It also relies on grape and mulberry extracts to help erase dark spots and dry lines.

The 'human-shaped' ginseng plant has been used as a heal-all in China for more than 5,000 years, hailed as a natural panacea for everything from colds and coughs to headaches and birthing pains.

In skincare, it is Korean brand Sulwhasoo that has pioneered research into its benefits for the past 10 years.

Now, it is on to ginseng berry.

According to Sulwhasoo, ginseng berry is a precious fruit that only bears on four-year or older, matured ginseng.

The company says it has the capacity to revitalise cell activities and maximise skin regeneration.

That's because ginseng berry contains twice as many saponins (natural detergents found in plants said to be anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating) than ginseng root and enhances the skin-regenerative strength of ginseng.

According to Korean herbal medicine, the female body undergoes internal changes every seven years.

The fifth term of this seven-year cycle begins at the age of 35 when yangmyeong energy (controlling digestion and absorption) weakens and skin begins to dry.

At 42, samyang energy (controlling metabolism) weakens and clear signs of ageing, such as dullness of skin and greying of hair, become noticeable.

It's believed that skin also undergoes a transition whereby ageing spreads from the surface of skin to deep inside.

Sulwhasoo's new Concentrated Ginseng Cream adds ginseng berry to the existing ginseng root extracts to regenerate women's skin lacking energy and vitality.



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