The skincare industry keeps on evolving and nowadays, consumers have an increasing interest in “natural” or “plant-based” products in their skincare. In general, the term “natural” refers to ingredients being sourced from flowers, fruits, stems, or leaves of plants. However, it is important to recognize that it can mean just about anything since there are no strict rules/regulations of the use of the term in the US or anywhere else in the world.
Some of these plant extracts have been used for centuries for beauty purposes and found to be beneficial, such as aloe vera, green tea, or even rice extracts. It has been used by women all over the world before readily-available cosmetic products exist. On the contrary, some naturally-occurring skin-damaging compounds can be found in nature, for the extreme example as Poison-ivy, which contains a phytochemical that can be super irritating for the skin or poisonous for the body. We just want to point out that natural doesn’t always mean better but some plant-based ingredients can do wonders for our skin.
Today we are going to talk about some of the trendiest, well-studied plant-based ingredients and how they benefit our skin.
How can plant extracts benefit our skin?
The bioactive extracts from botanical ingredients are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, essential oils, hydrocolloids, proteins, etc. Different botanical extracts have different compositions and can benefit in different ways. However, in general, they function as:
Oxidative stress that results in the form of free radicals from our day-to-day life, UV exposure, pollution, stress, etc is one of the major causes of skin aging and several skin disorders. Topical antioxidants are compounds that are able to control the formation of free radicals.
Phenolic compounds are bioactive substances that are widely available in plants. It includes several compounds such as flavonoids (anthocyanins, flavonols, flavones, etc) & non-flavanoid (phenolic acid, lignins, stilbenes).
The concentration of phenolic compounds in plant extracts are physiological differences, environmental, geographical, genetic, and evolution. The extraction method and the solvent used of the plant extracts.
Several flavonoids have been shown to have a pigment-reducing activity by scavenging the free radicals, reducing the tyrosinase activity, or deactivating another melanogenesis pathway. Some of the plant extracts with brightening benefits are Aloesin (from aloe vera), resveratrol (from red grapes), glabiridin (from licorice root), and soybean.
There have been more and more plant extracts that have been shown to have antimicrobial activities to replace any controversial preservatives in the cosmetic industry. Some of the phenolic compounds can act as natural ‘preservatives’ that prevent microbial growth in your skincare product.
Inflammation can play a big role in the aging process as well as several skin conditions like eczema or rosacea. There is a lot of ingredients that have been proven to be beneficial in reducing the inflammatory process. Some of the examples are Chamomile, tea (green, black and white tea).
Plant extracts and their benefit
Aloe vera extracts:
Aloe vera (aloe barbadensis extracts) is another extract that has been used for centuries for its healing properties. They are popular due to their anti-inflammatory properties can help soothe sunburn and provide hydration (protection) when we have a minor cut. It fastens the healing process and prevents scarring formation. We highly recommend using an OTC processed aloe vera and doesn’t use it straight from the plant by itself since it may contain some constituents that cause contact dermatitis.
Green tea extracts:
Packed with powerful antioxidants and nutrients. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is a type of catechins that are naturally found in high concentrations on green tea extracts. Research has shown that EGCG can reduce inflammation, provide antioxidant protection, and control acne. Application of 6% green tea extracts to the skin can increase hydration on the skin which is the main key to healthy skin.
Centella Asiatica extracts:
Centella Asiatica is a plant mainly found in Asia, South Africa, and Europe. The most common constituent is their terpenoids include: Asiaticoside, Asiatic Acid, Madecassoside, and Madecassic acid and flavonoids. They have been shown to promote wound healing (strengthen skin barrier), have antioxidant properties, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Avena sativa (oat) extracts:
Oat extracts have been used for centuries to relieve dry, itchy skin and reduce the appearance of redness. Colloidal oatmeal has been regulated by the FDA as a skin protectant since 2003. Their high concentration in starches and beta-glucan provide skin barrier protection and water-holding properties. It also contains different types of phenols that provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.
It is not only a fundamental food in Asia, the rice water has been used for centuries in the cosmetic industry. It is well known for its high antioxidant and brightening properties. Some of their components such as gamma-oryzanol, phytic acid, and ferulic acid have been widely used to treat several types of skin diseases. The rice bran is high in omega fatty acids and micronutrients as well as polysaccharides.
Licorice root extracts:
Or sometimes called Glycyrrhiza glabra contains numerous bioactive components that are potent and beneficial. Some of their constituents such as glycyrrhizin and glabridin in this extract have been shown to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Their benefit doesn’t stop there because they have been shown to has a depigmenting activity that helps fade hyperpigmentation.