Skin Absorption Pt. 3: Natural skincare if often thought as “safer, but not as powerful”. Are natural creams absorbed enough to be effective? The answer depends entirely on the ingredients.
While today, many people are under the impression that natural products are not as effective, we need only look to history to see how potent natural products can be. Lead used to be a component of the makeup women wore to give them the light, aristocratic appearance they associated with the upper class. And in the Victorian Age, women wore dresses colored with arsenic. Both lead and arsenic are natural substances, and both resulted in illness and death when the women who wore products made with them absorbed them into their skin.
Clearly, no one advocates for putting lead and arsenic in our skin products today, but it does illustrate the fact that natural substances can be absorbed by the skin and that they are not necessarily less potent than ingredients found in products that are not made with natural ingredients. Whether or not a particular ingredient can penetrate your skin depends entirely on its chemical and molecular makeup and how it interacts with the skin itself.
What Is Natural?
Consumers need to do a bit of research when deciding on a natural product. There is little worldwide regulation when it comes to the use of the term “natural.” That means companies can claim their products are natural while using synthetic ingredients, some of which may be concerning to consumers.
A reputable company, however, should be transparent about the ingredients they use. At Au Natural Skinfood, for example, we list all our ingredients, make an ingredient dictionary available to consumers, and provide links to the science that backs our products up. Remember to look deeper than the natural label to find out exactly what ingredients a company uses and why. If that information is not readily available, you may want to look for a different company.
While there is little legal regulation as to what can be claimed as a natural product, companies that are passionate about natural skin care often seek to avoid potentially harmful substances like phthalates, pesticides, and triclosan in their products. They often use locally sourced ingredients found in nature and supported by science. These products are also generally more environmentally friendly when made by a reputable company.
So How Effective Are Natural Skin Creams?
There is no simple answer to this question because different companies use different ingredients to make their products. As we have previously discussed, some companies may label their products as natural even if they are not. And some companies may make creams from natural ingredients, but if they haven’t ensured that they are using scientifically-proven ingredients, their skin creams may be ineffective.
A better approach is to look at some individual ingredients. There are thousands of ingredients approved for use in cosmetics, and each product may contain 15-50 ingredients. As such, every ingredient cannot possibly be covered here. Instead, let’s look at a few natural ingredients that are known to be effective.
Manuka honey is so effective in skincare that it is now used clinically by doctors and hospitals. It is antimicrobial and helps heal wounds. Interestingly, scientists have recently found that honey is able to modulate the skin immune response. That’s important because many skin conditions, like psoriasis, are triggered by the body’s immune system. Additionally, scientists have found evidence that honey is able to inhibit skin cancer. In Au Natural Skinfood’s products we use Active 16+ medical grade unpasteurised Manuka honey and Manuka Oil high in methylglyoxal.
Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract is another natural ingredient that is recognized for its medicinal effects. It is both an antioxidant and antimicrobial, and research has shown that it is able to release endothelial growth factor, which helps to repair the skin.
Doctors have an interest in their patients’ wounds healing quickly because the longer a wound takes to heal, the more risk there is that it will become infected. One study compared a topical cream containing 2% grape seed extract with placebo and found that surgical wounds treated with grape seed extract completely healed in eight days, while those treated with a placebo took 14 days to heal. You can rest assured that grape seed extract is a safe and effective ingredient in your skin cream. At Au Natural Skinfood we use New Zealand grape seed extract this has other unintended benefits, with our wine industry growing we have an abundance of grape seeds, these take a long time to break down in our landfill, so using them in cosmetics, is also great for our environment.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil contains large amounts of omega-6 acids, which are anti-inflammatory. It may help with acne without the harmful drying that occurs with many other products. Research has found that evening primrose oil helps skin retain moisture and improves the elasticity, smoothness, and firmness of the skin. At Au Natural Skinfood we LOVE this ingredient it literally feeds the skin and calms at the same time.
As a food most of us are familiar with, you’d probably feel comfortable putting an ingredient derived from avocado on your skin. But is avocado oil effective? Yes! There has been a lot of scientific interest in avocado oil for good reason. Numerous studies have found beneficial effects.
Compounds in avocado oil, like beta carotene, fatty acids, and vitamins increase collagen and metabolism while also protecting your skin from UV rays and increasing moisture retention. Antimicrobial effects have been found for avocado oil, and some studies have shown that avocado oil helps wounds heal faster. Additionally, avocado oil was found to improve psoriasis for a longer time than vitamin D therapy. At Au Natural Skinfood avocado oil is a hero ingredient for us and is seen in many of our products, it’s benefits are well researched and studied. We love it that we use the kernel as well as the flesh for our oil, using all the avocado means nothing goes to waste.
You’ve probably seen oatmeal in some skin creams. Maybe your grandmother even advocated for the use of oatmeal baths. As it turns out, oatmeal contains avenanthramides, compounds that work to ease irritation of the skin. Colloidal oatmeal is oatmeal that has been ground to a smaller size and is thus more readily able to bind with water. Products containing colloidal oatmeal may help with skin irritation and even eczema.
These are just a few of the ingredients you may see in natural skin creams that have been proven to be safe and effective. The more you understand about the ingredients in your skin care products, the better you’ll be able to make decisions about what you want to put on your skin and which ingredients work best for you. Next time you’re shopping for a new natural skin cream, look up the purpose of the ingredients it contains or check out our ingredient dictionary. At Au Natural Skinfood we love the healing benefits of oatmeal, also check out our YouTube videos (Need Link) on how to make at home – pantry ready masks using oatmeal.
Remember to be informed and know what your cosmetics contain and what the ingredients are used for, in the same way that you would for the food that you eat. When you understand what your skin absorbs and how it affects your body, you can make knowledge-based decisions about which products you want to purchase and apply to your skin.
Au Natural is committed to helping you to create new healthy skin habits. No nasties, no nutrient-depleted fillers, just Au Natural Skinfood.
Tracy – Founder
- Skin Absorption and Natural Skincare Products: With regards to molecule size and depth of absorption
- The chemistry of cosmetics by Dr. Oliver Jones, & Prof. Ben Selinger, AM,
- Milady Skin care and the cosmetic ingredients dictionary 4th edn (2014), by M. Varinia Michalun & Joseph C. Dinardo.