It has been a while since I have sat down and spoken in depth about skincare ingredients. I am so sorry for those who really enjoy reading these sorts of posts as I know I have completely neglected this particular area on my blog. The simple reason being is that these posts actually take so much time to research and the past few months have been crazy with family, Christmas, New Years, Lunar New Year and organising the wedding! I just haven't been able to dedicate a good chunk of time to look further into some of the things that we often find in our skincare. I do hope to be able to focus more on these sorts of posts this year (most likely after the wedding in February) so don't worry - we will be back on track! For today though, I thought I would look into a little detail into some interesting skincare ingredients that I have come across in products that I have come across and/or purchase and discuss a little in terms of how they work and what they can do for the skin.
Matcha Green Tea
Matcha Green tea is essentially green tea that comes from the camellia sinensis plant. However, the processes that are undergone with Matcha green tea is somewhat a little more laborious. Matcha is essentially pulverised green tea that is made from the leaves and therefore comes in a powdered form. Due to this process, matcha green tea is much more concentrated than the standard green tea. Green tea in general is known to be quite high in catechins which is a micronutrient (or polyphenol) which has a high antioxidant activity. Since studies show that catechins are incredibly powerful in terms of trapping free radicals and making them inactive in the skin, the benefits of matcha is quite promising.
A study conducted in in 2003 looked at the difference between matcha and general green tea and the results from this scientific study show that a particular catechin is found 137 times more in matcha green tea than in a particular brand of Chinese Green Tea. Keep in mind that in this study, matcha green tea and normal green tea leaves were ingested, but the findings from this study do show some promising results that could be perhaps applied to the skin as well.
The reason why I find Matcha green tea in particular such an interesting ingredient really comes down to the fact that I generally love anything Matcha - whether it be drinking the actual tea or consuming some very (unhealthy) delicious desserts which have the flavouring. In Japan, I really enjoyed drinking the Japanese Matcha and I was just so fascinated by its rituals. Green tea itself has so many benefits - whether it be ingesting the tea itself or using it in skincare and the fact that Matcha is green tea but more concentrated makes it a highly appealing ingredient to fight off free radicals and to protect and maintain skin health.
Ceramides are not a new ingredient in the world of skincare, however they are an ingredient that I wish to look more into in 2017. Ceramides are a type of lipid that is found in the cell membrane and work to help prevent the loss of water in the skin (which leads to dryness). They work together with fatty acids and cholesterol in the outermost layer of the skin to prevent the loss of moisture and also to keep the skin soft and supple. Ceramides also act as a protective barrier, offering protection from bacteria and pollution. As we age, the levels of ceramides in the skin will start to decline, thus skin becoming drier as we age. Several factors can also effect the ceramide levels in the skin - these can be diet, use of harsh detergents on the skin and medication. These factors can alter the levels of essential fatty acids needed to maintain the skin.
My interest in ceramides starts with the fact that I do have bouts of eczema from time to time and studies have shown that having the right balance of ceramides in a product can help to alleviate the symptoms of eczema. In a study conducted in 2008, scientists looked at the inclusion of ceramides in skincare products such as cleansers and moisturisers. The study found that in addition with the patient's usual corticosteroid treatment, the use of a cleanser and moisturiser with ceramides reduced the duration, clearance and symptoms of eczema. This was compared with a treatment of just the corticosteroid treatment and a bar cleanser in which the eczema did take longer to heal and improve. The study shows promising results in the way of including ceramides in skincare in terms of healing the skin from disorders such as eczema - whereby the skin's natural barrier loss against moisture has been broken. In another study conducted in 2008, scientists looked at how ceramides could help with the skin's natural barrier function. The study concluded that the ceramides used played an essential role in maintaining the skin's barrier function and also showed positive results in reducing the amount of water lost in the skin.
Overall, I think moisturisers that contain ceramides or at least a balance of ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol will be of particular interest for me this year, especially in Australia's colder months. I think the inclusion of ceramides show promising results in not only helping with an eczema flare up but also with dry skin in the colder months. For those ladies who have drier, more mature skin - ceramides may also be an ingredient to look into as well as it does look like this particular ingredient may improve skin suppleness and give a little boost of hydration.
I have started to notice that more and more skincare brands are using marine plant life as an ingredient source - some of these brands use marine plants like algae. Algae is diverse name for a plant group that can range from smaller microscopic organisms such as microalgae to larger seaweed or kelp (macroalgae). Algae is known to be quite nutrient rich as they are an integral part of the ecosystem as they provide the foundation for the food chain in aquatic life. Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea have long used algaes such as seaweed as a food source as well as traditional remedies for centuries due to it richness in vitamins and minerals.
More recently, the use of algae in skincare products have become more and more popular due to its many beneficial qualities for the skin and our general thirst as consumers to find products that more natural, safe and high performing. In a scientific review that discusses the use of algae in cosmeceuticals, it highlights that due to advancements in marine biotechnolgy, algae shows promising benefits to the skin such as looking healthier and younger for longer as this marine plant shows promising results in keeping the skin looking firm, preventing free radicals and helping with inflammation.
The scientific review goes on to discuss the different research and findings of different algae species. For example, some algae such as red algae have been found to boost collagen in the skin and help with keeping the skin looking firm due to better cell cohesion. Marine phytoplankton has more than 65 amino acids, essential fats, vitamins, key minerals, trace elements, antioxidants, electrolytes, nucleic acids, and enzymes which is basically all the raw materials necessary for complete cellular regeneration. Due to the fact that this algae is able to deeply penetrate skin, it also works to increase circulation therefore working oxygenate tissues to help to repair, rebuild and replenish healthy skin. The article also discusses that the essential oils found in some algae extract show antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities and have been used in skin protection and conditioning products.
From reading these scientific reviews on algae in its use in cosmeceuticals, it is obvious that algae has many benefits to the skin due to the fact that these marine plants are so rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Processing and manufacturing algae is also said to be much more environmentally sustainable making it a very promising area of skincare research for both skin improvement but being environmentally friendly as well. It is a really new and exciting branch of science and I can only imagine that technology and research can only improve from here.
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil has been another really interesting skincare ingredient that has just recently come up on my radar for the claim it is one of natures most perfectly balanced oil. To make things clear, hemp seed oil is legal, safe and will not cause any 'psychedelic' side effects when used. Hemp seed oil quite simply comes from the seed of the cannabis plant and it is usually cold pressed. The oil comes out as a green colour due to the abundant amounts of chlorophyll found in the actual plant. What makes hemp seed oil quite special is the fact that the oil's fatty acid profile is almost perfectly balanced. What that means is that the ratio of Omega 6 (linoleic acid) to Omega 3 (alpha-linoleic acid) is at the ideal ratio of 3:1, providing an optimum for healthy skin. This perfect 3:1 ratio is a rarity among seed oils and the benefits of hemp seed oil also do not stop there. Whilst being perfectly balanced in essential fatty acids, hemp seed oil is also rich in antioxidants, minerals and nutrients.
I haven't been able to find a lot of solid articles on hemp seed oil and its effects on the skin, this may be due to the fact that it's use in skincare is relatively new. In saying that there have been some extremely positive claims in hemp seed oil in the way of it being quite a suitable ingredient for blemish/acne prone skin and also those who have eczema. In a study conducted in 2005, a twenty week study was conducted, looking at the results of applying hemp seed oil on patients who had atopic dermatitis. Patients reported an improvement in their skin with less itchiness and dryness and this was attributed to the balanced and abundant supply of fatty acids found in hempseed oil. Scientists came to this claim as the levels of fatty acids increased when hemp seed oil was used by the patients in conjunction with improved skin health.
It has also been discussed that hemp seed oil is a great oil for those who have blemish prone skin. I haven't personally found any studies that state this directly, however in my reading up on oils in previous blog posts, I have come across many websites suggestinhg that hemp seed oil may be a great option for those who do have acne prone skin. The reason being is that there is much research showing that those who do suffer from acne are more likely to be deficient in linoleic acid in their sebum and that the increase of linoleic acid in their treatment has shown to improve acne symptoms. Those with acne also tend to have higher levels of oleic acid in their sebum, thus finding an oil with the right balance of the two essential fatty acids can be quite difficult. Hemp seed oil has an unusually high amount of linoleic acid and a relatively low level of oleic acid thus helping the skin to balance out its essential fatty needs and potentially help to treat or prevent acne.
The Kakadu Plum is a fruit that has been used by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years as a food source as well as a natural remedy. This particular fruit is native to the Northern parts of Australia and it has been said by various sources to contain the highest amount of Vitamin C in the world, thus extremely high levels of antioxidant qualities. In one study, the Kakadu Plum was shown to have an antioxidant capacity of 236% of a blueberry and in another study, its antioxidant capacity went up to 1333% of a blueberry. Whilst the difference in the numbers are still quite large and further research needs to be conducted, there is no doubt that the Kakadu Plum boasts a higher than normal level of antioxidants.
Whilst further studies do need to be done on the benefits of the Kakadu Plum in skincare - what does interest me the most is the high levels of Vitamin C that this fruit does contain and how it could be another fantastic (and natural) source of protection of free radicals for the skin. In a study conducted in 2011, it was concluded that the Kakadu Plum displays both strong antioxidant and protective properties and consistently displaying potent results. The information from this study conducted by the Australian CSIRO was mainly used to understand the nature of the Kakadu Plum as a food source but the findings do show overall positive results for the Kakadu Plum to also be applied in skincare. We all know the benefits of Vitamin C for the skin - whether it be anti-ageing, protection from free radicals or brightening the skin - to find another source of this Vitamin is very exciting, even though studies are limited at this point in time.
What are some interesting skincare ingredients that you have come across? How did you come across it? Have you tried it and did it work for you? Leave a comment in the section below!