Our skin faces the harshest of daily elements. It yields to the cold and the heat, is permeated by air pollutants and imbued — or not — by the nourishment we put into our bodies.
Protecting the skin’s moisture barrier helps to strengthen it against the stressors of life, wherever we live. But all too often cosmetic moisturisers are laced with parabens, pesticides and endocrine-disruptors. Whilst natural, organic, beauty brands have begun to answer the problem of chemical-based moisturisers, they command a higher price tag — which they should, because it is far more labour intensive to produce ‘properly’. There are, however, some miracle ingredients which are easy to come by and won’t cost the earth; in every sense.
The multifaceted olive has been favoured in the Mediterranean for centuries. Ancient Greeks were thought to have harnessed the oil as a moisturiser and it is fervently celebrated in the sunshine cuisine. Olive oil contains vitamins A, D, E and K and is easily absorbed by most skin types, making it an effective all-over body moisturiser. As one might expect, it’s important to choose certified organic and extra virgin varieties of oil. Otherwise, risk the presence of chemical fertilisers and the loss of nutrients.
The hallowed Aloe plant is something of a wonder, thanks to its unique soothing properties. The pure gel of the aloe leaf is antibacterial and brimming with amino acids, minerals, vitamins and choline — vital in the protection of cell structure. Little wonder, then, that this plant has been used as a cure for sunburn, eczema and other minor skin irritations for centuries. Though it may not be rich enough to use during the drying winter months, or for those with drier skin, its use in the heat of summer can bring welcomed light relief.
The seeds of the castor plant — indigenous to Africa and India — contain natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s an old-fashioned recommendation from our grandparents’ generation, which appears to be having its beauty renaissance. Ricinoleic acid in the oil has been linked with increased skin absorption and with bacterial growth inhibition, lending itself to use in the treatment of skin conditions including acne and psoriasis. Essential fatty acids are thought to promote smooth, supple, skin and support skin cell regeneration. It also has a low comedogenic value — meaning that it allows the pores to breathe and is less likely to aggravate sensitive skin.
Lactic acid is the miracle component of milk which makes it a valuable skin rejuvenator. It acts as a natural exfoliant, removing the dry surface-layer skin cells to reveal the plumper, more hydrated, cells beneath. Whilst it cannot tackle the job of sealing in moisture by itself, when used in combination with a natural oil, the rejuvenating action of the acid in the milk can make the moisturising element work that much more effectively. Simply soak a cotton ball and apply to the face, allowing the milk to absorb for five or ten minutes. Then rinse with clean water and moisturise.
Though we have mixed feelings about the sustainability of this most lauded breakfast food, its abundance of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin complex make it a powerful skin ally. Potassium and lecithin are easily absorbed by the skin’s uppermost layers, allowing the goodness of the nutrients to penetrate and renew the skin beneath. There is also some suggestion that the antibacterial properties of the avocado fruit may help to alleviate skin irritations and inflammation. We urge restraint with avocado consumption — for any purpose — though.