There's a science to the holistic approach

By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL AP Fashion Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) Many of us make repeated vows to simplify our lives, and one place to start is with beauty routines. Instead of dozens of creams and lotions with names too difficult to pronounce, how about using the calm, peaceful-sounding chamomile and tea tree oils?

Yet, while going the natural route sounds easy enough, one spin down the beauty aisle of a department or drugstore and youll see the choices are bountiful.

Just like their cosmeceutical cousins, specific natural ingredients spur different results. According to herbalist Barbara Closes book Pure Skin: Organic Beauty Basics (Chronicle), dandelion root is a skin clarifier, vitamin C is an antioxidant, rose oil has a calming effect on skin and tea tree oil is for blemishes.

Origins entire product line is based on botanical essential oils. Last year, the company partnered with Dr. Andrew Weil, who specializes in integrative medicine, on a collection of beauty products that make the most of mushrooms.

I have always recommended natural beauty products. Im concerned about the artificial ingredients in many beauty products. I thought about more novel approaches and I looked at ancient species of mushrooms for their anti-inflammatory powers, Weil says.

While anti-aging is the buzzword, Weil believes that containing inflammation will improve both the health and appearance of skin. Chronic low-level inflammation in skin is correlated with aging and damaged tissue, he explains.

The mushrooms reduce redness and calm the skin, and those things slow and even help prevent common deteriorative changes, according to Weil.

Weil links beauty with health because, he says, appearance absolutely reflects ones well being. Hes pleased that Origins added ingestible supplements to the typical topical offerings. Its a great idea to get people thinking about the skin internally and externally.

Plants use their essential oils as protective agents, so it makes sense to use them to protect skin, too, says Daria Myers, president of Origins, especially since essential oils have proven to have an affinity with human skin. They have the ability to change your mood, the way you feel and they are considered a strong therapeutic resource in many countries. In France, the science of essential oils is covered under national health plan and in England, hospitals use them.

She adds, Were actually substantiating the effects of the oils, not relying on folkloric claims. Were using industrywide accepted tests for efficacy. For example, cites Myers, a rice starch rub is comparable to a clinical derm abrasion.

Its all about studying nature. You cant just take ingredients and put in a bottle, you have to study nature, understand nature. This is an alternative for people who prefer not to use chemicals. I think theyre informed people, people who read labels, people who are greener, Myers says, noting that so many prescription drugs and high-tech treatments have roots in the plant world.

Close, also an aromatherapist and founder of the holistic spa Naturopathica in East Hampton, N.Y., says that the acne treatment Retin-A is based on vitamin A, and fruit enzymes and glycolic acid, a derivative of sugar cane or fruits, break protein bonds that adhere to skin so they both exfoliate and encourage new skin growth. Theyre natural ingredients with very active ingredients, she says.

Another one of Closes favorite ingredients is shea butter for its wonderful nutritive value and moisturizing. For the face, she recommends evening primrose oil, which has a lot of essential fatty oils, something the body produces on its own so its recognized by the skin and is easily absorbed.

Close agrees that natural products dont always have the smoothest delivery or a uniform appearance. Her clients dont rank those things as priorities, though, she reports.

People always assume what is manmade is better than what nature can provide. But if you look what happened in the 60s with the food industry then everything was processed. Now were realizing the benefits of organic vegetables and fruit. Theres a reversal underway and it will happen in skin care, too, Close says.

Expectant mothers seem to be particularly interested in avoiding chemical-infused products.

When youre pregnant, youre aware of skin-absorption issues, but with natural products you dont have to worry about what you can use, what you cant, says Tanya Kazeminy Mackay, a founder of Mama Mio, a British-based maker of maternity beauty products. So many beauty products say, Do not use if pregnant.

Anyway, she adds, it doesnt feel right to be using petrochemical products when there is a baby inside. Mama Mio products active ingredients include almond oil, wheat germ, rosehip seed oil, avocado oil and carrotseed oil.

The whole natural message is about feeling safe. Mother-to-mother, this felt like the right way to go about it, Mackay says.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.