Rainforest exotics are changing the face of cosmetics and personal-care products. Jeanette Jacknin, MD, reveals the next generation of cutting-edge ingredients that add marketing cache to new natural product launches
With the greening of America, natural foods and ingredients have been 'in' for several years. But recently there's been an exciting new trend of adding these natural foods and oils to beauty and skincare products. The same wonderful qualities that make these superfruits and plants so important for your whole body's health also boost the skin's health and beauty. More and more companies are searching for exotic plants and fruits that have been used for centuries in their native environments to help heal and beautify the skin.
Let's look at some of the newly rediscovered exotic botanicals — acerola, buriti oil, cupuacu, murumuru butter, and urucum oil — and see what effect these naturals have on making the skin look more youthful.
Acerola fruit has a remarkably high vitamin C content, as well as antioxidants carotenoids and bioflavonoids.1 In two studies comparing 14 tropical fruits from Brazil (açai was not on the list), acerola came out tops in antioxidant activity, ascorbic acid and total phenols.2,3 More functionally, a 2008 study found acerola extract significantly lightened the UVB-irradiated skin pigmentation of brown guinea pigs.4 From this research, personal-care companies, from The Face Shop to Sophyto, are marketing topical acerola extracts to lighten human skin, or at least reduce the appearance of dullness, improve complexion and clarify the skin.
Buriti oil is extracted from the fruit of the moriche palm or buriti tree that grows in the swamps of the Brazilian Amazon. The oil is red-orange in colour. It has rich emollient properties, making it excellent for body butters, shampoos and cleansers. Compositionally, it is a rich source of beta-carotene,5 is an excellent source of oleic and essential fatty acids,6 and is high in antioxidant tocopherols. A 2009 study found it possesses a naturally occurring SPF that filters and absorbs UV rays, helping to prevent UV-induced skin cancer.7 It can be applied topically for burns, and is said to promote scar tissue formation and foster collagen production. The Body Shop uses it in its Buriti Baby line of body butter to moisturize baby's delicate skin.
Cupuacu is called a "pharmacy in a fruit" as it is often used for pain, especially abdominal, among indigenous Brazilian peoples. It is rich in antioxidant-rich polyphenols, espec-ially theograndin I and II, as well as nine known flavonoid antioxidants including quercetin.8 Cupuacu butter is softer and creamier than cocoa butter, which is what makes skin feel so smooth with its application. Its phytosterol content gives it a high water-absorption capacity and water-loss reduction — it retains 240 per cent more moisture than lanolin, making it useful as a carrier for other ingredients.9 This helps stabilise emulsions and is said to improve the appearance of prematurely ageing skin. Recent in vivo studies have been have demonstrated its excellent anti-inflammatory activity. This anti-inflammatory action — together with the high level of essential fatty acids and phytosterols — make it an exceptional natural treatment for dermatitis and eczema. It offers good opportunities in developing skincare lines. Finished products include J Sabatelli's Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream with Cupuacu and Anita Grant's Amaretto di Cupuacu Moisturizer.
Murumuru butter is a fatty solid, off-white to yellowish in colour and used as an intense natural moisturizer. Rich in oleic and linoleic oils with a high content of vitamin A, it creates a protective film that makes it an effective skin-barrier repair agent. Used in nutricosmetic products, it is touted as being able to work beneath the surface of the skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and loss of elasticity. It is good for dry skin and hair conditioners. Garden State Naturals and Dr Mercola incorporate it into products.
Urucum oil is also known as annatto oil. Its natural reddish colour is indicative of a high carotenoid content, especially the pigments norbixin and bixin, which protect against UV rays and have antioxidant properties.10 Rainforest tribes used the entire plant as medicine for centuries. A tea is made with shoots and is used as an astringent to treat skin problems. In Brazil, a leaf decoction is used topically to treat burns. It's also used in Peruvian herbal medicine as a wash for skin infections and wounds. Underutilised until now, it is being used increasingly in body-care products and cosmetics because it adds a rich, sunny colour to creams, lotions, soaps and shampoos.
Board-certified and licensed dermatologist Jeanette Jacknin, MD, is a holistic cosmetic dermatologist, author of Smart Medicine for Your Skin (Penguin Putnam, 2001), speaker, consultant and founder of JJMD Botanical Dermatology Skin Care. www.JJMDskin care.com This feature was adapted from her seminar at the Supply Side West trade show in Las Vegas in October 2009.
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