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Skin Care Secrets Revealed: Skin Moisturising and Softening Ingredients
By Kolbjorn Borseth
It is very important to not only to use vegetable oils on the skin, but to also use moisturising products such as creams, lotions and hair shampoos and conditioners. We have several different ingredients you can add to for this purpose, roughly divided into five types of moisturising ingredients: ‘Emollients’; ‘Humectants’; ‘Naturally-occurring Humectants’ (Natural Moisturising Factors); ‘Substantives’; and ‘Occlusives’.
Emollients are substances that soften and soothe the skin. They are used to correct dryness and scaling of the skin. They are very close to occlusives in that they mostly lie on the surface of the skin, preventing water loss. They also help to fill in the surface cracks of dry, dehydrated skin. A typical example of an oil that is both an occlusive and emollient is jojoba oil.
The terms ‘moisturiser’ (something that adds moisture) and ‘emollient’ (something that softens) are sometimes used interchangeably, however, the term emollient is most often used to describe single ingredients, whereas "moisturiser" describes finished products.
Are substances or ingredients that have a molecular structure enables them to retain water and bind it in the skin. Humectants are also capable of to a degree, penetrating the skin.
Glycerine in products from normal High Street shops is usually derived from animal fats. As a vegetarian myself, I don’t want to use that on my skin. The vegetable-based glycerine products such as pure Glycerine or Botanical CO2 Extracts (which means, in addition to their moisturising effect, that your skin benefits from the properties the herb as well) that I personally use and stock work as well as animal-derived glycerine, but they cost more. Note: dosage levels are important. If you use up to 10-12% glycerine/glycerol extract in a product, moisture starts to be taken from the skin, making it feel very dry. Obviously this means that glycerine or glycerine extracts should not be used neat on the skin either. A good dosage guideline for glycerine or glycerine-based extracts is 3-6% in your products.
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Honey can also be used as a moisturiser but it is not very stable in products because it can easily create yeast. The industry has developed a special honey moisturiser which is stable, penetrates deeper and doesn’t create yeast. It is considered to be twice as effective as glycerine. We call it Honey Moisturiser.
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Propylene Glycol is a controversial moisturiser. We stock it even though it is a petroleum-based product, because it ‘cements’ the fizzy bath bomb powders together. It contains no water and that’s the only reason we stock it – all other humectants contain water and water would make the fizzy bath bomb ingredients start fizzing as soon as the humectants come into contact with the powders that make up the fizzy bath bomb. High street products contain propylene glycol for its moisturising properties but as a moisturising agent I consider it an inferior, cheap and primitive alternative.
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Other moisturisers that are safe to use are Sorbitol, an alcohol which occurs naturally in many types of fruit and berries (ours is chemically synthesised from starch and glucose), preferably used in cleansers and peeling products and Carbamide Moisturiser Crystals that are moisturising, antiseptic and skin softening, making them very effective in moisturising foot and hand creams.
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Another product (that Aromantic does not stock) that is used very much in toiletries is Silk Protein (INCI name: Silk Amino Acid), which is produced by silkworms. This protects and strengthens the hair/skin while helping it to retain its moisture. It can be used in shampoos, conditioners and hair packs. Silkworms that live on mulberry bushes produce silk. It is a secretion from a gland on the silk worm, which it spins into cocoons. Silk amino acid is produced from dead silk worms. It is therefore an animal-based substance and silk worms have to die for the silk to be extracted. (They are actually gassed to death!) Because of a language misinterpretation, I once went to a silkworm gas chamber in India and that was a horrific experience that made me rethink if I ever should buy any more silk shirts in Asia. Of course Aromantic don’t stock this product. Fortunately, Aromantic only stock and use silk protein in our products that is derived from marine algae, called Sea Silk, which offers the same benefits as the silkworm-produced silk protein.
Silk amino acid, or Sea Silk is used in creams, lotions, shampoos and conditioners, helping to protect and help to retain moisture in the skin and it also softens the skin. In hair it acts as a moisture retainer and also forms a film around the strands of hair to strengthen and protect them and gives the hair more shine, making it look healthy.
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Another useful humectant/emollient is D-Panthenol which is both a Vitamin (B5) but also works as a moisturiser for hair, nails and skin. D-Panthenol binds water in the outer layer of the skin. It penetrates into the skin and into the top layer of the nails. It also penetrates into the hair follicles and strands of hair, creating a protective film and making the hair soft and pliable.
Hyaluronic Acid (INCI: Aqua, Sodium Hyaluronate)
Hyaluronic Acid is what gives the skin its volume and fullness. It is one of the chief components of the extracellular skin matrix and it contributes significantly to cell proliferation. It is an excellent humectant that can absorb between 600-1000 times its own weight. Aging can result in the loss of hyaluronic acid, which in turn results in skin that has less volume and the formation of wrinkles and folds. Its hydrating properties result in increased skin smoothness, softening and decreased wrinkles. Its rejuvenating properties result in increased skin smoothness and softness. It also protects the cell structure and defending against external threats and bacterial infections. It also exhibits viscous flow, elastic and pseudoplastic properties. This property is unique to HA. So you can see why it is popularly called “The Fountain of Youth” and it is a common ingredient in skin care products.
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Naturally-occurring Humectants: ‘Natural Moisturising Factors’
Naturally-occurring humectants are the humectants, lipids or hydrating agents found within the intercellular cement in the skin. They attract air and water from the surrounding air and as a result naturally hydrate your skin.
There are especially formulated moisturisering complexes that help to restore this naturally-decreasing levels of naturally-occurring skin humectants. These moisturising complexes contain extracts such as asparagus and soya bean extracts, carbamide, lactic acid, sodium PCA, etc. These penetrate deeply into the epidermis. Aromantic’s product is called NFF Complex. NFF is the Swedish abbreviation of the English equivalent of Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF). A lack of these natural chemicals found in NFF create wrinkly skin. NFF contains natural constituents that help to hydrate the skin by preserving water within the epidermis, keeping the skin barrier functioning and intact, resulting in keeping the skin soft and supple. Dehydration will most often cause skin wrinkling. As we age, cell renewal slows down and therefore we produce fewer natural mositurising factors, so it’s important to always add our NFF Complex to all creams and lotions intended for those over the age of 30.
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‘Substantives’ moisturise and protect the skin in a different way to humecatnts. Substantives are substances or ingredients that attach themselves very well to the surface of the skin, then spread across the skin to protect and to hydrate it.
Good substantives are algae products, such as our Seaweed Body Wrap, Seaweed Face Mask, Seaweed Peeling Face Mask & Body Wrap, Active Heating Mud and Carrageen.
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The ‘bad’ substantive used a lot in high street products is Collagen (INCI: Collagen) is used partly as a moisturiser in many cosmetics. Collagen is a protein and the main ingredient in the fibres which make up our connective tissue and works well as a substantive moisturiser. Our outer skin consists of firm connective tissues which contain both collagen and elastin fibres. Elastin is the main protein in the elastin fibres. The elastin and collagen fibres, together with normal levels of moisture, give the skin its pliability and tone. It is the elastin fibres which degenerate with age so the skin becomes wrinkled. Cosmetics containing collagen and elastin are being promoted as a cure for wrinkles and as revitalisers and rejuvenators of the skin. They are used in creams, lotions and shampoos. Because collagen has large molecules it is probably not even absorbed by the outer layer of the skin. So it attaches to the surface of the skin is removed with washing. As a so-called ‘substantive’ it has a certain moisture-retaining and protective effect. Collagen is made from the connective tissue of young animals - piglets and calves. In France and other countries foetuses are also used in the production of collagen. Collagen-like substances are also made from fish. Maybe you will think twice before using creams made with collagen! Aromantic obviously don’t stock animal-derived collage. We stock a very good Pseudo Collagen, which is derived from brewers yeast, not sourced from animals or GM crops. Just as the name implies, Pseudo Collagen mimics the action of soluble collagen and imparts greater elasticity, more resilience and a youthful look to skin through its moisture-binding and film-forming properties. This gives the skin a supple, healthy appearance. It also provides extra body and shine to hair. You can use it in creams, lotions, and hair products.
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There are also more naturally occurring substabntives and emollients, which are moisturisers but we don’t think about as such…these are polysaccharides and include gums, cellulose, pectin, starches etc, which, when combined with water, form viscous compounds producing a variety of runny to more solid gels. They can be used externally as help-moisturisers or to help with infections and inflammations in the mouth, throat, stomach and digestive tract where they coat the skin or mucous membranes with a protective film or barrier against mechanical or chemical damage. These are also ‘substantives’, which are substances or ingredients that attach themselves very well to the surface of the skin, then spread across the skin to protect an to hydrate it, as well as being ‘emollients’, soothing and softening the skin. These polysaccharide-rich botanicals also relieve pain and are cooling. They are easily dissolved in water. Some are used as help-emulsifiers and thickening agents, such as coltsfoot, lime blossom, linseed, agar-agar, carrageen, gum tragacanth, gum arabic, guar gum, etc.
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Lastly, Vegetable Oilscan have a special moisturising effect because they stop transdermal water loss (TWL) due to the amount of waxes they contain. Jojoba Oil is a classic vegetable oil which contains a lot of wax. Indeed it is a liquid wax but is called an oil the sake of ease and because it’s liquid. Jojoba creates a layer of invisible wax on the skin, which prevents it from losing moisture. We call this an ‘occlusive’ but jojoba oil is also partly an emollient.. The same effect is produced by paraffin oils/waxes and Vaseline®, but jojoba oil allows your skin to breath, unlike the petroleum-based products.
So, as you can see, moisturisers have a combination of uses for our skin and for our bodies, helping to volumise and plump up, as well as protect and hydrate our skin, keeping it soft, supple and elastic.
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How to make face and body creams the Aromantic way!
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