Why are herbal cosmetics in vogue today?

The world is going back to the basics. We prefer natural organically grown food, natural remedies and therapies for different ailments and natural beauty products! Why? The answer is simple. Natural products not only are effective remedies, they also enhance the appearance by simply creating a natural and physiological balance within the body, are quite safe, without any severe side effects reported so far and cost effective as well.

herbal cosmetics

The winds of change
There was an excessive use of synthetic products and surgical and minimally invasive techniques to resolve the skin problems and to enhance the appearance of younger, mature or aging skin. These chemicals, chemical dyes, derived chemical products have exposed us to various health hazards, a plethora of side effects disrupting the physiological balance and stealing away the natural look and have also produced a grave threat to the environment and eco system. The realization of these problems is leading us towards the use of herbal drugs and herbal cosmetics. The present day is seeing and becoming more responsive to people’s awareness and raising need for health and better quality life, more herbal drugs, herbal cosmetics, neutraceuticals and natural dyes.

Skin problems, are they limited to younger generation?
No, not at all, even though it is well documented that acne or blemishes are problems which are commonly found in teenagers but they are present in adult, mature and aging skin as well. Unhealthy diet, hectic work schedules, sedentary habits, climate, and lack of maintenance all take their toll on the skin and lead to various skin problems. Excessive exposure to heat dehydrates the skin increasing its melanin content causing freckles, wrinkles, blemishes, sunburns, pigmentation and even pain. Colder extremes of temperatures on the other hand result in cuts, cracks, drying of the skin, maceration and infection.

In fact skin problems are common ailments of all age groups due to various factors which can be enumerated as infectious microbes, harmful chemicals and toxins present in the atmosphere, physical factors like malnutrition and environmental pollution. The problems are not only restricted to skin but premature greying of hair and hair fall are also contributing to the hair problems in general.

Herbal cosmetics: Do they only make you look good?
All these call for the use of various plants and herbal extracts in the form of cosmetics to take care of your skin and hair and nurture them with health, nourishment and healthy radiance. Cosmetics are not only used to enhance appearance but they have psychological, social and clinical benefits as well. Cosmetic application has a significant psychological importance since it increases confidence and improves the mental status by helping the wearer in minimizing or masking the facial or skin defects. Clinical benefits of cosmetics exist in the form of providing a check against skin cracking. Wrinkling, pre mature aging. Wind burn, sun burn, and microbial infections.

What are herbal cosmetics?
Herbal cosmetics are made from utilizing various plant extracts and bioactive constituents from different herbs, spices, flowers, fruits, roots and seeds. Herbal cosmetics serve the dual purpose of providing preventive and therapeutic care to the skin and nourishing it with nutrients for healthy skin including Vitamins C & E, antioxidants, essential oils, tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, proteins, carbohydrates and other bioactive molecules.

Offered in the form of powders, creams, lotions and moisturizers, the herbal cosmetics come packed with the power of hundreds of botanicals all of which have a unique mode of action in improving the natural physiology of the skin without any reported side effects. Some of the commonly used herbs in these cosmetics range from Curcuma longa to Aloe vera and from papaya to Calendula.

Some herbs used in cosmetics
There are many phytochemicals obtained from plant sources which have been used in a wide range of herbal cosmetics. Some of them are described here. Please note that the list is not exhaustive or limiting in nature.
For the treatment of dry skin, coconut oil, sunflower oil and Aloe vera have been used as an effective therapy and cosmetic ingredient. Coconut oil is safe and effective to be used as a moisturizer. Sunflower oil used in cosmetics, imparts smoothing properties to the cosmetic. Aloe has been widely used as cosmetic ingredient for its effects of healing, moisturizing, and softening of skin.

Golden root or Roseroot has been used in cosmetics for its antioxidant properties. Carrot and Gingko are two other natural ingredients of cosmetics intended to act against aging. Carrot is a rich source of Vitamin A and other essential vitamins and is a natural toner and rejuvenator of skin. Gingko improves the blood circulation and strengthens the capillaries supplying the blood and is also an effective antioxidant.

Green tea, Calendula and turmeric are effective remedies against the protection of skin. Green tea provides protection against sun damage. Calendula as part of cosmetics is effectively used for various skin conditions such as acne, swelling and soothing the skin. Turmeric as a part of cosmetics provides natural golden glow to the skin. Vitamin C and Vitamin E are important constituents of a number of herbal cosmetics for virtue of their antioxidant properties. The plant sources providing these vitamins are carrots, peaches, sweet potatoes, oranges, broccolis, nuts, almonds, vegetable oils and whole cereal grains.

Some other botanicals which are extensively used in skin care products are;

  • Garlic oil which is a source of Sulphur and useful to control sores, acne and pimples and is present in skin lotions and creams.
  • As part of moisturizers, lotions, creams; the juice of the leaves or pulp or extract of the leaves smoothens the skin, heals the sun damaged skin, controls sun burn, and injuries.
  • The bark, seeds, fruits and leaves contains chemicals known as azadirachtin which are useful in blemishes, rashes and dark spots on the skin.
  • The kernel powder of Buchanania lanzan (Chiraunji) makes an integral part of skin ointments to cure blemishes, rashes and spots.
  • The milky juice of unripe fruit constitutes an important ingredient of facial and faces creams. The fruit pulp of the ripe fruits makes skin soft and removes blemishes.
  • Lemon is an important source of Vitamin C. Lemon oil is used in cosmetic preparations for skin nourishment. The pulp left after the extraction of juice is useful ingredient in facial cosmetics.
  • Water extract of fruits and seeds of cucumber are effective in providing protection against sun burn and sun damage.
  • Jasmine flowers are a significant ingredient in formulating cosmetics. The essential oil from flowers is a part of skin creams and lotions and is an effective remedy against sun tanning.
  • Lavender oil forms an important component of herbal anti acne creams.
  • The plant extract of mango, bitter gourd and phyllanthus fruits are used for their antioxidant property.
  • The leaf extract of Ocimum sanctum (tulsi) is used in cosmetics for skin rejuvenation.
  • The kernel extract of almonds is used in herbal sun creams and other formulations with the aim of enhancing complexion and appearance of the skin.
  • The essential oil extracted from the rose flower is used in skin creams, lotions and ointments for enhancing the appearance of skin, smoothening it and protecting the skin from sun burns.
  • Paste of hardwood of sandalwood is used in face packs. The essential oil from sandalwood makes a part of formulating creams and lotions to act as antioxidant and protect from sun damage.
  • The seed extracts of sesame seeds are used in providing skin protection and skin rejuvenation.
  • Next time you are standing next to the cosmetics section, try looking for the herbal formulations for their safety, benefits and efficacy.

References

  1. Gediya, S. K., Mistry, R. B., Patel, U. K., Blessy, M., & Jain, H. N. (2011). Herbal plants: used as cosmetics. Journal od natural products and plant resiurces, 1(1), 24-32.
  2. Kapoor, V. (2005, July-August). Herbal cosmetics for skin and hair care. Natural product radiance, 4(4), 306-314.

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