How pollution affects skin

According to the World Health Organisation the urban population in 2016 accounts for almost 58% of the total global population, up from 34% in 1960.  Little wonder that pollution seems to be the word that appears in every beauty chat across the globe. Despite the hype, it is not a new marketing strategy; pollution, unfortunately, affects the skin.

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palm oil big issue
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PALM OIL’S BIG ISSUE

Palm oil continues to be one of the most popular ingredients used in the beauty industry. It has formed the basis of soaps for years, with the first brands to use it being Lever Brothers (now known as Unilever), Sunlight Soap and Palmolive.

It appears on the label as Elaeis guineensis Oil and it is obtained from the pulp of the fruit of the palm.

Its material state at room temperature is a red solid mass due to natural occurring carotenoids (pro Vitamin A) and in this form it is sometimes used as a natural colourant. With great emollient properties, it can be found in surfactants and emulsifiers used in general skincare and make up, especially lipsticks.

Given its natural origins has generally been considered a safe and non-irritating ingredient and can be used at all concentrations.

Palm Oil and Health
Palm oil is a very important source of calories and is a basic food in some communities where is produced (Indonesia, Malaysia, West Africa, Thailand and Colombia).
Palm oil is not be confused with the “palm kernel oil”, derived from the seed of the fruit itself, or with the “Coconut oil”, obtained from the seed of some palm trees of which the best known is the Cocos nucifera. The differences between the two oils are:

• colour: the palm kernel oil is not red, but pale yellow
• the content of saturated fats: palm oil contains 41%, while the palm kernel oil and coconut oil contain 81% and 86% respectively.

Wide scale use of palm oil by big industry has meant the expansion of crops often at the expense of areas of Indonesian forests. Unsurprisingly, this concerns many environmental groups.

In 1992, in response to questions on deforestation, the Malaysian government pledged to limit the expansion of palm oil plantations in order to keep at least half of the national territory in woodland form. Later in 2004, an industry group known as the “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil” (RSPO) was founded which collaborates with the palm oil production companies for a more sustainable production process.

However, there has been significant reduction in the natural habitat of the orangutan, of which two species are in real danger not to mention the impact on natural flora and fauna. Between 2000 and 2012, in Indonesia 6.02 million hectares of tropical forest (an area the size of Ireland) has been eaten up for land dedicated to palm oil production.

While there are currently several campaigns worldwide promoting sustainable palm oil as a formulator it is my responsibility to replace it with other natural alternatives and curb its use altogether.

Here is a list of some ingredients that contain or derived from palm oil

Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Palm Olein, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis Oil, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides, Ethyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol

THE ALCOHOL DEBATE

Alcohol, is a commonly used ingredient in the cosmetic industry.

 

It’s mainly used in fragrances for its ability to blend and disperse the scent and evaporates quickly once it contacts the skin.

 

Alcohol also has preserving qualities and is used in particular in natural and organic skincare formulations, where you might expect to find a higher concentration up to 10%. It can be derived synthetically or naturally, through the fermentation of sugar- whereby it is obtained by chemical reaction of starch in the presence of yeast, at the temperature below 37 ° C. Alcohol is commonly found in men’s grooming products where the evaporation from the skin’s surface creates a pleasant sensation of freshness and relief.

 

No matter the origin of it and its dosage, alcohol can be an irritant and can dry the skin. How do we spot it in the ingredient list? Usually it appears as “Alcohol” but we might see it as “Alcohol denat”, “ethanol” and “ethyl alcohol”.

 

Notably there are other natural ingredients that contain the word “alcohol” but despite their name are a completely different substance with distinct set of properties.

 

Here are some of the the different guises you will see alcohol appear:

 

  • Benzyl alcohol: can be a solvent, preservative or fragrance ingredient. It is found in different essential oils.
  • Cetearyl alcohol: gives consistency to emulsions and is derived from palm kernel and/or coconut oil
  • Behenyl alcohol: gives consistency to emulsions and comes from rapeseed oil.
  • Myristyl alcohol: gives consistency to emulsions and comes from palm kernel and/or coconut oil
  • Cetostearyl alcohol: a synthetic emulsifier. You might read it in traditional barrier creams under the name: cetomacrogol 1000
  • Cetylstearyl alcohol: is a synthetic emulsifier. You might read it in traditional barrier creams under the name: cetomacrogol emulsifying wax
  • Cetyl alcohol: gives consistency to emulsions and comes from palm kernel and/or coconut oil
  • Stearyl alcohol: gives consistency to emulsions (thickener)and comes from palm kernel and/or coconut oil

 

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CREAMS VS OILS: HOW TO HYDRATE YOUR SKIN

SKINCARE EXPERT PEDRO CATALÁ OPENS UP THE DEBATE ON CREAMS AND OILS AND EXAMINES HOW WE CAN HYDRATE OUR SKIN IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY

So much has been said on what to use to moisturise the skin, that even the scientific community seems to be divided between those who swear by using paraffin or barrier products only, and those who have more moderate views claiming that a combination of water and oil is essential to act on every layer of the skin. So which is better – creams or oils?

First, let’s look at the four ways in which we can moisturise the skin:

MAKE A FILM

Decreasing the amount of water that evaporates from our skin (this is what is called T.E.W.L. – Trans Epidermal Water Loss). If we add substances that create a “film” on the skin, it reduces the amount of water our skin loses mainly due to atmospheric conditions. We can use paraffin, which is a very common ingredient, or take a more natural approach with jojoba oil or squalane (naturally derived from olive oil).

TOUCH THE SURFACE

By moisturising only the surface using traditional ingredients like urea, allantoin, floral and plant extracts like mallow, aloe and calendula. Other solutions include seaweed, amino acids and even big molecules like hyaluronic acid and collagen.

FILL THE GAPS

By repairing the oils that fill the spaces between our skin cells. Natural ingredients that help achieve this include shea butter, cupuaçú butter, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, wheat germ oil and sunflower oil.

ADD A HEALTH BOOST

Deep hydration by helping the skin to repair sun damage and ageing skin, stimulating the production of collagen and elastin (the so-called proteins of youth). We can achieve this by adding vitamins and oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids – commonly called omega -3, -6 and -9 – such as corn oil, soy bean oil and sesame oil, to our skincare regime.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CREAMS AND OILS

Creams are a mixture of oils and water, while oils, as the word suggests, are oils on their own or a mixture of oils without any water.

It is clear that oils play an important role in preserving the structure of the skin. However, new data reveals that oils alone will not restore the elasticity and flexibility of our epidermis. Furthermore it has been demonstrated that occlusive oils, like petroleum jelly, increase rapid hydration but it is only a ‘quick fix’ as within three hours the skin’s composition appears unbalanced.

Therefore, considering our skin barrier composition, we need both oils and water in order to hydrate the skin efficiently. Bear in mind, too, that most of the moisturising agents can only be added to the aqueous phase of the cream.

WATER AND PH

Water is an indispensable element for the skin. The skin has to be thoroughly hydrated in order to function properly and to look healthier and more glowing; this is why staying safe in the sun is so vital, as sun damage can modify the skin’s fragile structure, leading to bigger water losses from its layers.

The skin’s water reservoir is beneath the superficial layers, and although the journey from the deep layers to the skin’s barrier is not clear, scientific studies show the pH of the skin is about 5.5; slightly acidic. Despite the skin’s ability to regulate its pH very efficiently, it is always recommended to use products that contain a similar pH.

OILS

While oils are essential in providing instant comfort and nutrients, they can also be used as an alternative to serums for more mature skin (though used in isolation, they are not enough). For younger skin you can switch your night cream to an oil but when the morning comes, don’t forget to reach for your day cream and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.

YOUR SKINCARE REGIME

When it comes to skincare I prefer to keep it simple by finding products that suit our skin according to the season or our needs. Here is a small guide and my top picks to boost hydration to the right level.

Avoid foamy cleansers no matter what your skin type. They can be too harsh on the skin and strip off our protective layer. Instead, swap to creamy formulas. Try Purifying Cleansing Beauty Cream by TWELVE BEAUTY, £18. It contains a high dose of squalene (a key ingredient of the skin’s protective barrier). It helps to renew and repair the skin and removes impurities simultaneously. Alternatively, use oils and natural butters. My favourite plants are jojoba and coconut. Both versions of their oils and butters work wonders for removing makeup and dirt.

After cleansing, use a toner without alcohol, no matter what its origin as even a low percentage dries the skin. A good alternative to toners are floral waters, which are slightly acidic and help to regulate the pH of the skin which tends to increase after we use cleansing products. My top product: MV Organic Skincare, Rose Hydrating Mist, £28.

If you are still thinking a moisturising cream is just enough, think again. A serum added to your beauty regime will make a difference. Packed with antioxidants, serums boost the efficacy of our morning and evening treatment. Seek out active ingredients like hyaluronic acid, mallow and althea flower. A favourite with natural and organic makeup artists is the Ideal Moisture Level Serum by TWELVE BEAUTY, £45, or Hyaluron Serum by Susanne Kaufmann, £105. As I mentioned previously, more mature skin can benefit at this stage from an oil as an alternative to serum. A very complete product is Lina Hanson Global Face Serum, £75.

Your moisturiser must have the right balance of oils and water soluble ingredients. Ideally you want it to act at every layer of the skin, so look for formulas that contain a good mixture of oils and natural butters as well as floral and leaf extracts. My recommendations are: Absolution, La Creme Riche, £59, Orange Blossom Honey Moisturiser by Therapi, £30, and Amala Rejuvenating Advanced Firming Complex, £228.

NATURAL SPF: THE TOP 10 INGREDIENTS TO BOOST SUN PROTECTION

WITH TEMPERATURES SOARING AND UV LEVELS AT AN ALL TIME HIGH, PEDRO CATALÁ OF TWELVE BEAUTY COUNTS DOWN THE 10 NATURAL INGREDIENTS WITH SPF BENEFITS YOU NEED TO STOCK UP ON

For those who have a greener approach to beauty it can be very daunting to choose the right suncare product. The choice is limited, with only two sunscreens considered to be ‘natural’; titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These two minerals can provide the right protection, however they might leave an unpleasant white residue on our skin (though new formulations are improving).

Are there any other choices? Luckily, we can find in nature several plant extracts that are not classified as sunscreens but which can boost the protection of our favourite product and keep our skin even safer while exposed to the sun. Lab tests have shown an SPF range from 4 to 28 for these extracts. While they are no substitutes for natural or synthetic UV filters, they can certainly boost the SPF; in fact, some manufacturers use these boosters to reduce the quantity of the traditional UV filters, in order to achieve the desired SPF.

Don’t forget, too, that SPF products, no matter how synthetic or natural are not very stable over time. This is why I advise to give all your sun care products to the people next to you on the beach when the holiday is over, as we shouldn’t use them the following year.

Here are my top 10 natural sunscreens boosters to look out for in your skincare:

PROPOLIS

This resinous mixture, which bees collect from plants and use to seal and protect the hive is rich in antioxidants that offer protection against UVB and UVA.

RASPBERRY

Packed with vitamins and minerals, it is a great natural remedy to keep our body hydrated during the summer months. There are several studies that confirm raspberry oil protects us from the sun, stimulating the production of melanin, so this is the ingredient to choose to achieve a natural long lasting tan.

MORE GLOSS: 8 everyday suncreams reviewed

STRAWBERRY

Some European universities have created a device to test the resistance of a strawberry extract to the sun, comparing it with 90 minutes exposure to the sun during the hottest day on the French Riviera. Who said skincare research wasn’t glamorous?

SHEA BUTTER

Not only provides elasticity and hydration to dry skin, but also improves efficacy of UVB filters.

ALOE VERA

Studies recommend applying the gel 24 hours before sun exposure as it can improve the skin’s immune system.

ALDER BUCKTHORN

Traditionally used as a natural laxative, it is now “hot property” in skincare due to its ability to reduce UV harm.

MORE GLOSS: The ultimate guide to sun creams for sensitive skin

WALNUT

Protects the skin against UVB and helps the skin to produce more melanin, resulting in better protection. An ideal ingredient for those with fair skin.

CAFFEINE

Normally associated with bodycare or even haircare, it has a starring role in the suncare category mainly because it helps our skin to eliminate sun damaged cells.

BURITI OIL

Direct from Brazil, it has made a big impact on the industry. Rich in pigments like carotene and other antioxidants, it can offer efficient sun protection.

ACHIOTE (BIXA ORELLANA)

Commonly called the “lipstick tree” due to its high content of red pigments, it has been used for centuries as a dye and sun protector by indigenous tribes in Central and South America.

INGREDIENT SPOTLIGHT: ALOE VERA FOR HEALTHY SKIN

“As a formulator, I always get excited when I find out about new and exotic ingredients. However, I always keep in mind how great and beneficial some of the more traditional ingredients are. Today, we will focus on Aloe Vera, known as the prodigy of nature”.

The Origins

Originally from Africa, the Aloe Vera plant is also found widely throughout Central America and Southern Europe. It doesn’t like much water nor temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius which is why it grows most prevalently within these warmer climates.

The Extraction

Both the juice and gel can be extracted from any part of the plant. It is hard to resist walking past one on a hot summers day and breaking open a leaf to make the most of the cooling aloe gel.

The Green Chemistry

Aloe Vera juice is mainly based on multi-tasking sugars, especially D-glucose and D-mannose. The other substances it contains in smaller quantities that together form its skin-restoring properties include phytosterols (campesterol and 3-sitosterol), vitamins, enzymes, oligoelements and essential amino acids.

The History

Aloe Vera has been used for thousands of years by ancient civilizations. Cleopatra, the first documented natural beauty lover in history, couldn’t get enough of Aloe Vera in her milk baths. Also other Egyptians believed that Aloe Vera located near the pharaohs tomb would help preserve the mummies. Romans used the gel as a scar healing balm for the wounds that soldiers suffered after combat whilst the Mayans used it to remedy headaches. Even in the Kama Sutra there is a mention of its aphrodisiac properties.

The Therapeutics

Aloe Vera has many therapeutic properties for skin:

  • Soothes and calms irritated and sensitive skin
  • Moisturising
  • Anti-redness
  • Scar reducing
  • Stimulates production of collagen and elastin (youthful proteins)
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TOP TEN VITAL NATURAL SKINCARE INGREDIENTS TO LOOK FOR THIS SUMMER

Our skin changes season to season and so too should our skincare. Long winters, fluctuating temperatures in the Spring and overexposure to Sun in the Summer can play havoc on our skin if we don’t take the right measures to ensure it remains as healthy as possible.

Whilst the sun has lots of benefits for our health and wellbeing and is necessary to ensure adequate vitamin D production, it can also be dangerous to the health of our skin always ensure the skin is protected from the sun between the hours where it is at its most potent; from 11am and 4pm, especially when living in urban areas as the pollution makes the suns effects more dangerous.

Here is my list of the top ten vital skincare ingredients to soothe, comfort and protect your complexion for an endless summer!

Rhubarb: Rich in polyphenols (antioxidants) speeds up the production of melanin helping  to achieve the perfect tan.

Karanja oil: one of my favourite exotic oils, rich in fatty acids and vitamin E, this oil helps regenerate the skin.

Shea butter: the seeds contain around 50% of essential fatty acids rich in vitamins A, B, E and F so is the perfect remedy to repair sun burnt skin.

Zinc oxide: Natural mineral all round skin protector, also known to block UVA and UVB rays.

Honey: Helps to keep the right level of hydration, keeping the skin smooth, elastic and super fresh. You will find it on the ingredients list written as “mel”.

Buddleja: protects skin cells from UV damage and avoids collagen and elastin breakage.

Carrot oil: rich in pectins, natural sugars and essential fatty acids that helps to maintain your tan.

Propolis: a natural sunscreen booster. Hyaluronic acid (high molecular weight): Forms a thin transparent viscoelastic film helping to preserve the characteristics of youthful and healthy skin, suppleness, elasticity and tone.

Cupuaçu butter: an Amazonian fruit with a multitude of benefits. A great moisturiser and very refreshing that encourages skin elasticity and regenerates the skin barrier due to its high content of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and C. Excellent as an after sun without that undesirable greasy feeling. To top it off, it also detoxes the skin  – so handy after all those long summer days!