Many people do not realize that our skin is our most vital organ, and the largest living organ of our body. Its thickest points are the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands and the back. At its thinnest point, the eyelids, the skin measures only 1/25 inch. The main functions of the skin are to regulate our body temperature and, more importantly, to protect our internal organs against the offenses of the outside environment. The elasticity of the skin is a protectant against shock and damage to the body. skin is divided into three layers: the epidermis, dermis and subcutus; each with its own unique functions.
Our skin is one of our most visible and delicate assets, and is subject to more than its share of abuse. If we do not pay attention, it can cry for help in the form of a rash, infection or just plain aggravated neglect, as in the form of severe dry skin in the wintertime. There are an infinite number of products touting daily regimens designed to maintain healthy skin. However, we need only remember five basic ways to care for our skin: cleansing and exfoliating, toning, moisturizing, sun protecting and nourishing.
Cleansing and Exfoliating
Extra mild, light cleansers today are benefiting from the addition of plant extracts that offer cleansing of their own, as well as foaming compatibility. Botanicals and infused fragrance oils are compatible for all of these products and have added benefit to the consumer. Exfoliators, used to slough off the dead uppermost layer of the skin and leave the skin with a smooth, glowing complexion, are commonly formulated with ammonium glycolate and other salts of Alpha Hydroxy Acids.
Today's toners/astringents are being reformulated with botanicals and blends marketed for those unable or unwilling to tolerate alcoholic solution. Natural astringents, such as ginseng, elder and angelica flowers, horse chestnuts and sage leaves, to name a few, ten to be more gentle and soothing in nature, while providing astringency. Peppermint and spearmint oils can also be added for their cooling and moisturizing effects, and as fragrant components. Menthol and comphor are frequently and commonly used as well.
Today's consumer is not so easily enticed. More people are reading labels and scrutinizing ingredients, looking for plant-derived ingredients. Moisturizing products with natural ingredients and therapeutic claims are bringing renewed interest in skin care.
Humectants are ingredients that attract water as it passes through the epidermis and are contained in most moisturizers together with occlusive ingredients, which lock in the moisture already contained in the skin. Fats, polyunsaturated oils, such as apricot kernel, olive and avocado oils are common occlusive ingredients used in moisturizers.
Aloe vera, chamomile, elder flower, rosemary, sage and yarrow all offer moisturizing benefits to the skin and are compatible with formulas containing humectants and occlusive ingredients. In addition, these extracts offer soothing, softening, calmative and anti-inflammatory advantages.
Skin Aging and the Effects of the Sun
Photo aging, or solar-induced aging, is the other contributing factor in the aging of the skin, and results from sun damage. With the advances of research focused toward sun products, it is widely believed the changes associated with sun damage may be more profound than those attributed to the natural aging process. There is no longer any doubt that the sun's harmful rays cause irreversible damage and accelerate the effects of chronological aging.
The sun delivers several types of radiation, including ultraviolet light A, ultraviolet light B, and infrared radiation, all of which emit through the atmosphere and contribute to sun tanning and burning. In today's market, sun products are becoming more specialized with sun protection factors and the demand for natural products.
Sun screens absorb some ultraviolet radiation, rather than reflect it off the skin like a sun block. If used appropriately, sun screens can reduce harmful burning and partially eliminate or control sun tanning. A major trend in the industry is the inclusion of sun screening ingredients and SPF numbers in other categories of the personal care market, including moisturizer, hair products and color cosmetics. Botanicals are also incorporated into the same products because of their contributing sun screening effects.
Self-tanning products are continuing to emerge from upscale cosmetic manufacturers, and are trickling down to the mass market. Many are formulated with extracts such as chamomile, aloe vera, linden and passion flowers. natural lip balms formulated with aloe vera, calendula and vitamins soothe the lips with added sun screen protection.
After-sun products continue to grow in number and, because of the demand for natural ingredients, botanicals are widely used for the soothing and moisturizing effects. Aloe vera, known as the burn plant, has soothing and healing properties and is believed to stimulate skin in new cell growth. Comfrey is established as a skin healant because of its natural allantoin content, and is therefore recommended for after-sun products. Also used to relieve sunburn or heat rash, and used in sunscreens and after-sun products for its moisturizing abilities is sage, both for its antibacterial properties and fragrant nature.