Natural ingredients continue to grow in skincare and for good reason. At every meeting I attend, I am always excited to hear about the great new research on these new natural ingredients. To treat treat hyperpigmentation, my favorite ingredient is licorice. Licorice extract works not only on pigmentation but also on inflammation so products that contain licorice extract are great for many types of discoloration.
For example dark spots from acne, melasma, and sun damage are some of the most common pigmentary conditions that licorice works on. Products that contain high concentrations of licorice tend to be yellow-brown in color because the extract from the licorice plant is yellow-brown. For example, Specific Beauty Skin Brightening Serum is yellow because it has very high concentrations of licorice, making it extremely effective. The research on licorice in pigmentation is extensive. In combination with other natural ingredients, the effectiveness of licorice has even been proven to be equal to prescription treatments such as hydroquinone.
Green tea is another one of my favorites. It is an excellent antioxidant and can help prevent free radical damage from the sun. Like licorice, skincare creams with very high concentrations of green tea should be light brown in color because green tea extract is brown. Antioxidants like green tea should be applied in the morning to improve sun protection from sunscreen. Ideally, your daily sunscreen should contain antioxidants but if it doesn’t consider adding a topical antioxidant to your morning routine for better sun protection. When seeking natural ingredients in your skincare regimen, look out for licorice and green tea. These “brown beauties” are great additions to any skincare routine.
Today I spoke at the University of Miami – Well Being/Being Well Conference. I spoke about sun protection, skin care, and natural therapies. The participants were so excited to hear about all of the newer natural therapies in skin care and I promise to keep you updated on this information in my upcoming blogs.
After my session, I attended the luncheon and the speaker was Dr. Andrew Weil. He is a pioneer in integrative medicine which incorporates diet, exercise, alternative medicine, and an overall holistic approach into the practice of medicine. His talk focused mainly on the negative impact of processed foods on our overall health.
I started to think about how processed food could also impact our skin. Well there are a few studies looking at diet and wrinkles. The largest was an international study that examined the diets of over 400 adults(over 70 years old) in Australia, Greece, and Sweden. The investigators found that diet did play a significant role in wrinkling in sun-exposed skin. People that ate foods such as green leafy vegetables, fish and whole grains had less wrinkles. In addition, diets rich in good fats such as olive oil were also associated with younger looking skin.
Not surprisingly, diets filled with red meat and less healthy carbohydrates were associated with more wrinkling. I truly believe that we need to eliminate or at least minimize the amount of processed food in our diet for a myriad of health reasons. This study suggests that a healthy diet rich in whole grains, vegetables and healthy fats may also prevent wrinkles too!
Lauric acid is currently being researched as an interesting new treatment for acne. Lauric acid is found in high concentrations in breast milk, and works by killing the bacteria that are involved in acne. A researcher at the Univeristy of California in San Diego has developed a novel way to deliver lauric acid deep into the pores where the acne-causing bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, lives. The lauric acid is attached to small gold nanoparticles, which allow it to enter the pores. Once in the pores, the nanoparticles fall off and the lauric acid is released to kill bacteria. This research was recently published in the March issue of the American Chemical Society Journal. The benefit of this acne fighting therapy is that it does not cause dryness or irritation, a common side effect with acne therapies. Interestingly, lauric acid is not only found in breast milk. It is also seen in high concentrations in coconut oil. Check out my post on natural therapies for acne to learn more about natural ingredients that have been used for acne.
There are many pharmaceutical treatments for acne but we rarely hear about natural ingredients that can be used for acne. I recently gave a lecture on this topic and learned about some interesting natural ingredients that have been used for acne. Tea tree oil, also known as malaleuca oil, has been studied in acne and was found to be effective in reducing pimples. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and green tea have also been studied and have been shown to be more effective than placebo in the treatment of acne. I personally did a study comparing 5% vitamin C lotion to placebo and found that patients improved with the vitamin C lotion.
Other ingredients used to treat acne include zinc and niacinamide. Zinc is a trace element that is involved in many cellular processes and is anti-inflammatory. Both topical and oral preparations of zinc have been shown to help acne. Niacinamide is a B vitamin and also has been shown to effectively treat acne in oral and topical applications. Overall, I think that natural ingredients can play a role in treating acne. So far I have not found studies that demonstrate improvement comparable to conventional therapy for severe acne patients but natural therapies could work in combination with other common pharmaceutical products. In addition, based on these studies, for patients with very mild acne, natural acne treatments may be quite effective in controlling pimples.