It’s no surprise why discerning women all over the world select plant-based skincare products. Not only are botanical extracts unsurpassed in their ability to protect, repair and rejuvenate the skin, they are trusted, gentle and safe – giving consumers precious peace of mind and confidence.Unlike artificial manmade ingredients, humanity has a long history and enduring relationship with the plant kingdom – and thanks to the many wise women, herbalists and healers who have used them over the centuries, their effects are well known and documented.
Although these reasons more than justify choosing to use natural skincare, you may be interested to know that there are some other important benefits that make botanicals simply brilliant.
Firstly, the plant kingdom has an innate beauty that appeals strongly to our senses because they’ve been designed this way to perpetuate life. Colour, scent and texture all play an integral role, which is why we instinctively gravitate towards brightly coloured vegetables, ripe berries, and fragrant produce at its peak (when most delicious and full of goodness).
This positive effect encourages us to eat wholesomely, but the same sensory dynamic operates in other helpful ways too.
Whether it’s the invigorating lushness of greenery, the bountiful bloom of flowers, or the warm and alluring scent of vanilla, the body responds accordingly, activating a state of blissfulness which reduces stress, calms our nervous system and strengthens immunity.
We’re hardwired to connect to Nature in this way because our wellbeing is dependent upon it, and without regular exposure our health declines. (Doctors call it Nature Deficit Disorder.)
As the name suggests, botanicals come from living plants, which just like us have a vital force. This makes them distinct, and gives botanicals a remarkable advantage over artificial substances synthesised in a laboratory. (Manmade ingredients don’t exist naturally as they are produced from chemicals. They are foreign to the body, tend to linger in the environment, and disrupt health.) Where as the human body has the biochemical pathways needed to absorb and utilise the constituents within plants.
According to ancient healing traditions, as well as anthroposophical* principles, the life force of plants explains in part, their ability to heal, protect and nourish. (Our body resonates with other natural substances on a physical and energetic level.) Put simply, botanical extracts speak a language the body recognises. In fact, their nourishing, life-enhancing properties signal and stimulate skin cells to literally hum with vitality – and thanks to science, their effectiveness can now be measured. (See efficacy testing below).
Botanicals are also unique due to the wealth of phytoactives they contain, their complex chemistry, and the synergistic way in which all of these elements work together. Every single constituent no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, is present in the ideal amount. Identifying a few active elements to then isolate and synthesise them, is missing the whole wonderful point. Nature combines them just so, for reasons that we may not fully understand and appreciate.
We do know that the natural world does not work in isolation, but thrives with incredible intricacy and diversity. In fact, the more we study plants, the more we discover about their valuable properties and the precision in their design. (For instance, pure rose essential oil contains over 300 known constituents with some still unidentified, and is as yet, impossible to replicate.)
Most importantly, there’s not just one special key ingredient in a plant, independent from all others that is solely responsible for its therapeutic qualities, but countless components that work together in harmony. This synergy is one of the reasons botanical extracts are so effective as they work in a multitude of complementary ways.
For instance, rose essential oil demonstrates an impressive array of actions, but it’s the regenerative and vitalising qualities, that makes rose a potent ingredient in quality skincare products. And when botanical ingredients are combined, a very interesting thing happens. Their effects are further increased and boosted.
Nourish your complexion and your relationship with Nature
Applying skincare products made with plant extracts is one of the most helpful ways to care for your complexion. You’ll also be supporting your immunity (no nasty synthetics to burden your body and hinder health), as well as establishing a stronger relationship with Nature, all of which improve wellbeing.
In the today’s busy and demanding modern world, small acts can make a big difference to how you feel physically and emotionally – and the simple ritual of mindfully looking after your skin for a few minutes in the morning and before bed, with delicately scented plant-based ingredients, can do much to lighten your heart, put a spring in your step, and put a rosy glow in your cheeks.
Taking care inside and out
Just as your body requires wholefood for optimal nutrition – not junkfood, your skin benefits most from botanical ingredients – not synthetics. Even though your skin is a physical barrier to the external environment, it’s still an absorbent organ, which is why nicotine and hormone patches are effective delivery devices as the drugs they contain are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. Considering this, it makes sense to use products that are proven to be benign.
Not all botanicals are equal
For these reasons it’s vital to take that extra step and choose skincare that has been certified organic by a respected independent certifying agency. (New Zealand’s two main certifiers are BioGro and AssureQuality.) This guarantees not just the purity and safety of ingredients, but that the biological benefits have been preserved. Organic systems ensure that extracts are carefully derived using minimal processing (and no harmful solvents), in order to maintain their integrity. This involves protecting the active constituents so the vitality of the original material is captured, harnessed and released in the finished product.
The effectiveness of skincare products can now be scientifically validated by a process called efficacy testing. The most recognised efficacy test measures the increase in production of fibroblasts in the skin; the cells responsible for producing elastin, collagen and hyaluronic acid, all of which help keep the skin radiant, vital and youthful looking.
*Anthroposophy is a philosophy based on the work of Dr Rudolf Steiner who founded the biodynamic system of organic agriculture. Several skincare companies have grown out of anthroposophical medicine, namely Dr. Hauschka, Plantae, Wala and Weleda.
By Kyra Xavia
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