Archive for the ‘Cosmetic Ingredients’ Category


Vitamin E – The Antioxidant

Posted by Luca Willington

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant crucially important for our skin’s health. Is also has a proven anti-inflmmatory effect, independent of its antioxidant action.

Vitamin E is a generic name for eight chemical compounds – four tocopherols (alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-) and four tocotrienols (alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-). Of these, the form most often found on cosmetic labels is alpha-tocopherol. It is also the most common form of Vitamin E naturally found in the human body.

Vitamin E’s Antioxidant Function

Antioxidants can inhibit the oxidative damage in our bodies neutralising free radicals or preventing their formation. Free radicals are unstable atoms or molecules – they need an electron to become stable, and they will “steal” it from the nearest available molecule. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron, it can become a free radical itself. This can be the beginning of a free radical chain reaction. When out of control, free radical chain reactions cause cell damage or death.

The body has the ability to keep free radicals in check. To that end, it need antioxidants. Antioxidant molecules are able to donate an electron and yet remain stable, so they don’t become free radicals themselves. Since antioxidants are stable with or without the extra electron, they can act as free radical scavengers. Vitamin E is the primary defender against lipid peroxidation i.e. it prevents the oxidation of fats and oils in our bodies. (Research Info) Read the rest of this entry »


Vitamin C – An Essential Skin Nutrient

Posted by Luca Willington

It has been know for decades that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is essential to our health. Since its discovery in the 1930s, it has been know that its deficiency in humans leads to break down in skin and connective tissue – a condition known as scurvy, so serious that it could be lethal. Over the following decades, scientific research has shed more light on the many roles Vitamin C has in maintaining our skin’s integrity and function:

1. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis

Collagen is a generic name for a group of filament-shaped proteins found mostly in animals’ flesh and connective tissue. Its role is to provide a structural framework for the body’s various organs. Most collagen  is synthesised in a specialist cells called fibroblasts.

Collagen synthesis is a complex process by which aminoacids are assembled into peptides, which are then linked in the triple helix structure of collagen. This linking process requires two co-factors: vitamin C and iron. If vitamin C is deficient, the three strands of the collagen molecule are not properly linked together and the molecule is weak and easily destroyed. During collagen synthesis, vitamin C is oxidised and becomes useless, so the supply must be continuously renewed.

The role of Vitamin C in collagen production doesn’t stop here. Research has uncovered several other mechanisms through which vitamin C promotes collagen syntheses: Read the rest of this entry »

Beeswax has been used as a cosmetic ingredient for hundreds, in not thousands of years. Its emollient and protective properties make it a very useful ingredient in moisturisers and lip gloss. A study by German scientists compared four products – two barrier creams and two moisturisers and found the moisturiser containing beeswax to be the most effective in protecting the hands of dental technicians handling irritating substances in their lab work.

Beswax never goes off – the one found in ancient Egyptian tombs is still usable today! It is sustainably produced and harvested without causing harm to bees. It seems and ideal cosmetic ingredient. But not everyone agrees. Over the last decades a vegan trend has developed. According to vegans beeswax is an unacceptable ingredient because it is of course of animal origin.

This trend puts some pressure on cosmetic companies and some have replaced beeswax with waxes of vegetal origin like carnauba or candelilla wax, or with hydrogenated vegetal oils. Read the rest of this entry »


Titanium Dioxide in Foods and Cosmetics

Posted by Luca Willington

It’s everywhere, from candies to paints, to toothpaste, sunscreens and mineral foundation. Is it safe? And does titanium dioxide (TiO2) equates to nanoparticles?

For years I entertained the reassuring idea that most TiO2 applications involve fairly large particles of this substance. After all it’s only sunscreens that require invisible, nano-form TiO2. The food industry uses this mineral as a colouring agent – to make the milk look  whiter and the marshmallows shimmery. If it’s opacity and coverage you’re after, nano particles, being transparent, are useless. The same applies to most cosmetic applications – mineral make up, toothpaste and many other toiletries. So manufacturers don’t need TiO2 in nano form for anything except sunscreens. Right? Well, not quite. Although nano TiO2 is not useful as a colouring agent, recent research has nevertheless found that about 36% the particles in food grade TiO2 is nano size. Research info

In view of this find, the question about nano TiO2 becomes even more important.

TiO2 nanoparticles in food

There is conflicting research data on the effects of ingested TiO2 nanoparticles. A few experiments have shown that ingested titanium dioxide does not get absorbed from the guts into the bloodstream. These are the experiments which have informed the decisions of food industry regulators to approve TiO2 as a colouring agent. More info Read the rest of this entry »


Essential Oils and Skin Care

Posted by Luca Willington

They smell good, they are extracted from plants, so pretty much everyone would agree essential oils are natural. How good are they for your skin?

Despite their name, essential oils are not actually oils – they are not composed of lipids like the vegetal or mineral substances we class as oils. They are, in fact, aromatic volatile substances made of chemical compounds responsible for the distinctive fragrance of the plant they originate from.

Essential oils have been used for hundreds of years in aromatherapy. Their effects are largely due to their smell - relaxing, refreshing, uplifting etc, although some physiological effects have been observed. E.g. linalool, one of the main compounds of lavender essential oil has been shown to decrease systolic blood pressure and slightly lower skin temperature, but these effects were too slight to be noticed by the subjects in this research. More info about this research

The use of essential oils in skin care is a matter of heated debate, with essential oil manufacturers and aromatherapists strongly defending them, while a number of skin care experts argue against all fragrance ingredients in skin care products, essential oils included.

Here are a couple of objections raised against:

  1. Geraniol – one of the main aromatic compounds in rose and geranium essential oils. Geraniol is “a skin sensitizer in humans and mice” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More info about this report
  2. Linalool and limonene – the most common essential oil compounds, present in large proportions in Lavender and all citrus essential oils ( Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Manadarin and Orange). Both linalool and limonene oxidize on air exposure. The pure compounds do not cause any iritation, but “autoxidation of the fragrance terpenes linalool and R-limonene increases irritation” have concluded a group of Swedish researchers. The effects were similar in dermatitis patients and controls. More info about this research 

The irritating potential of these compounds will naturally decrease with concentration. Aromatherapists observe fairly strict limits with regards to the amounts of essential oils in their massage mixtures.  The Cosmetic Safety Regulations do not impose a maximum limit on essential oil compounds in skin care products. All they require is that the aromatic compounds are listed separately at the end of ingredient lists so that consumers are aware of their presence.

Essential oil critics argue that essential oils should be enjoyed for what they are i.e. fragrances, therefore – when it comes to cosmetics – their place is in perfumes and not in moisturisers.

What do you think about essential oil use in skin care products? Do you like cosmetics containing essential oils or do you prefer unscented products?


Sea-Buckthorn – a Wonder Skin Care Ingredient

Posted by Luca Willington

Ranking skin care ingredients would be a close to impossible task, but if I tried really hard to do it, I reckon sea-buckhorn extract would be within my top five favourites. Not only do I add it liberally to moisturisers, I also keep some pure extract at hand in my kitchen to dab on rough skin patches after those little cooking accidents. And its healing power has not gone unnoticed: “My burn has gone! What was that you put on it earlier on?” Read the rest of this entry »