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Botanical Ingredients for Beauty

By: Katherine Tomasso
Posted: February 12, 2014, from the March 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Boswellia serratta. To counter the devastating effects off MMPs, look to boswellia serratta, a resin from a tree that only grows in India. Rich in bosewellic acids, this extract controls the effects of elastase and MMPs, helping prevent the enzymatic degradation of the skin’s essential proteins and hyaluronic acid.

Pycnogenol extract. This is from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. It contains phenolic compounds, including ferulic, caffeic and coumaric acids. This herbal extract produces an anti-inflammatory effect that comes from the presence of long-chain starches known as polysaccharides. Pycnogenol also produces an antioxidant effect by recycling ascorbic acid and tochopherol. It helps reduce UVB photosensitivity and sunburn, stimulate wound-healing and balance the tissue-thinning effects of MMPs.

Lupine. This white bean is from the legume family and can now be found in skin care preparations intended to preserve skin thickness. The peptide-rich extract protects the skin’s structural fibers, particularly collagen fibers, by suppressing the damaging effects of collagenase.

Because of their ability to conserve skin structures, boswellia serrarta-, pycnogenol- and lupine bean extract-rich products are all excellent ingredients to incorporate into anti-aging protocols.

Ultra-hydrating Botanical Ingredients

When the skin is well-hydrated, it’s visibly smoother and less blemished. Dehydrated skin causes cells to shrink and lose their volume. This affects a large majority of the population, making dehydration an insidious precursor to the overall aging process.

Aloe vera. From the genus aloe, this is a succulent, stemless plant with plump, fleshy leaves. The leave’s rosettes are processed to produce a hydrating gel that is rich in amino acids that gently stimulate the cell-renewal process. It contains more than 70 nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, and has exceptional properties by virtue of its genetic structure. Aloe is very high in B vitamins, which help to renew the skin’s resistance and strength, and sustain it during times of stress.

In addition to the antibacterial and antifungal properties of the gel, glycoproteins and salicylates found in aloe vera gel have powerful anti-inflammatory abilities to aid with the skin’s healing process. The gel also supports the formation of collagen, which provides strength and structure to skin.

Imperata cylindrica. An intense and long-lasting hydrating action is achievable using products containing Imperata cylindrica, a subtropical plant that originates from Asia or Australia. Imperata cylindrica is a type of grass called Saccharum cylindrcum, which belongs to the common saccharum family (sugar cane). The root of the plant contains starches and sugars rich in potassium and dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), and operates as a water sensor.

In skin care, Imperata cylindrica is best known for its unique hygroscopic feature, making it capable of trapping water in the cells and slowly releasing it over time. The results of an independent lab test performed in vivo on a product containing Imperata cylindrica resulted in more than 96% hydration eight hours after application.

The action of this extract is enhanced when it’s paired with hyaluronic acid, a super humectant that product developers are now using in both heavy and light molecular weights. The tissue-friendly characteristic of the hyaluronic acid light improves hydration levels at the deepest layers, helping skin maintain its balance and resistance. The heavier molecular weight controls transepidermal water loss (TEWL), so there are multiple benefits when the two weights work in tandem.

A Journey of Rediscovery

As the research and momentum for therapeutic plant species grows, science and the beauty industry are now turning full circle in a journey of rediscovery for botanical skin care products.

General References

  • J Bensouilah and P Buck, Aromadermatology: Aromatherapy in the Treatment and Care of Common Skin Conditions, Radcliffe Publishing, Milton Keynes, UK, (2006)
  • ZD Draelos, Cosmetic Dermatology Products & Procedures, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Hoboken, NJ (2010)
  • PT Pugliese, Advanced Professional Skin Care, Medical Edition, The Topical Agent, LLC (2005)
  • (Accessed Feb 12, 2014)

Katherine Tomasso has spent more than 20 years in the skin care and wellness industry, and is the national director of education for Yon-Ka Paris, where she develops and implements the company’s national educational programs. She is also a frequent writer, collaborator and lecturer within the skin care and spa industry, and can be reached at 800-533-6276 or