Plants’ benefits in cosmetics
Plants have been used in cosmetics for thousands of years. Creams, masks, ointments, perfumes, shampoos were made according to recipes handed down from generation to generation. Interest in these natural ingredients has never waned. Today, this trend is rising further in response to a growing mistrust from consumers towards certain chemical ingredients used in cosmetics.
Since antiquity, humans have found ingredients in nature intended to make them more beautiful and attractive. The first clay-based make-up, preparations to whiten the complexion, perfumes, coloured ointments to tint the lips, pastes to bleach the hair all appeared very early in civilisation’s history.
Today, science can help us avoid some mistakes of the past (popular recipes used to be composed of harmful ingredients, such as ceruse, which was intended to whiten the complexion and contained highly toxic lead salts). Science has also confirmed the beneficial effects of plants, and shown the way to better leverage their amazing power!
Nature in service of beauty
Plants are widely used as raw materials in cosmetics, most often to obtain bases and textures.
They are found in the form of oil (palm, coconut, corn, jojoba), butter (shea, apricot), gelling agent (guar flour, carob kernel flour…), surfactants (which enable water and oil to be mixed to obtain a homogeneous texture, and have a washing and foaming effect) such as laurylsulphate and disodium-laureth-sulphate from coconut or palm oil, or in the form of alcohol and fatty acids. However, mineral oils are also widely used, even if they are the subject of controversy targeting both their origin and effectiveness.
Why prefer vegetable oils to mineral oils?
Mineral oils possess significant advantages. As a product of the petrochemical industry, they are undeniably cheap, and their stability means they can easily be incorporated into various formulas. For these reasons, they are used by industrial companies in mass distribution, in pharmaceuticals and even in selective networks. However, their moisturising power only acts superficially. They are inert and have no effect on our epidermis and do not provide the skin with any nutritive element. Finally, they aren’t very degradable and have a disastrous ecological impact.
Vegetable oils and their benefits
Vegetable oils are attracting more and more consumers. And it’s easy to understand why. Unlike mineral oils and petroleum-based silicones, they are absorbed into the hydrolipidic layer of the skin where they can be assimilated. They adapt perfectly to our epidermis, to which they provide essential elements in the form of active ingredients. They are rich in vitamins and unsaturated fatty acids, and efficiently protect, soften, tone and regenerate the epidermis, protecting it from premature ageing.
Many vegetable oils are natural care bases, to be used alone or in combination with essential oils. Each oil is different, but the chemical composition of most is similar to that of the lipids contained in human skin.
Among the best known is sweet almond oil, which is very suitable for dry and sensitive skin (especially that of babies). Argan oil helps combat dry skin and hair, and can prevent stretch marks. It also helps the skin fight against pollution. Pomegranate oil has antioxidant properties and is typically used to combat skin aging. Rose seed oil is full of essential fatty acids to help with skin regeneration. It can also be used on fragile skin with allergic tendencies. Evening primrose oil stimulates and protects the skin.
Vegetable oils are also used as carriers to dilute the essential oils present in cosmetics, and can effectively complement their action. For instance, lavender essential oil, known for its relaxing and soothing properties, is a must, but there are dozens of others out there!
And there’s also…
Finally, plants are also present in the form of floral waters (witch hazel, rose, orange tree, cornflower) or flower infusions. Witch hazel, for instance, helps reduce redness in sensitive skin. Arnica, oats, calendula and chamomile are absolute classics in cosmetics.