Anna Soref

April 24, 2008

7 Min Read
Say ‘See Ya Later, Alligator’

Retailers in Hawaii and Florida may not need to read this, but everyone else, listen up. Winter is almost here, and your customers are going to be roving the health and beauty aisles searching for something to relieve their dry, itchy alligator skin.

Natural products retailers have a lot more to offer consumers for dry skin than mass grocers do—and petroleum-free lotions, quick-penetrating oils, body balms and essential fatty acid supplements are just the tip of the iceberg. So arm your customers with products to moisturize skin from the inside out, as well as from the outside in.

There are two causes of dry skin: environmental and cellular, says John Sepp, Ph.D., chief executive officer of ShiKai in Santa Rosa, Calif. ?Environmental dry skin results from climate conditions where the air lacks moisture, such as summer in Arizona or winter in Minnesota,? he says. ?The second type is a skin cell?s inability to retain moisture; it?s like the skin cell is a balloon with pin holes in it?the water just leaks out regardless of environmental conditions.? The best way to deal with environmentally caused dry skin is to apply moisturizer, according to Sepp.

Cellular, or chronic, dry skin must be treated from within, he says. For clients with chronic dry skin, Lisa Frost, a licensed aesthetician at Pharmaca, based in Boulder, Colo., recommends omega-3 fatty acids. ?A lot of people are going to drink liters of water or apply lotion all day, but if you are oil depleted, that?s not going to address it,? she says. The key, according to Frost, is to take fish oil supplements every day and wait at least three months to see benefits. Retailers want to make sure they are checking labels for heavy metal toxicity before deciding to carry a certain fish oil, she says. For vegetarians, she suggests borage and evening primrose oils instead.

A tea or tincture of burdock root can also help dry skin, Frost says. And when the air is very dry, she recommends a moisture mist spray that contains hyaluronic acid and sodium PCA, which are both moisture magnets and can lock moisture in.

Another cause of chronic dry skin is deficiency of the essential fatty acid gamma linoleic acid, according to Sepp. ?If you don?t have enough GLA your skin loses water,? he says. ?It?s tricky to increase levels of GLA because you can?t get it in food.? To help the body obtain GLA, Sepp created a line of creams and lotions with borage oil. Borage is naturally high in GLA, so the lotion actually helps the skin build up a store of the fatty acid, he says. Chronic dry skin sufferers should use the lotion for two weeks, and if they don?t notice a change, they probably aren?t GLA depleted, he says. For hands, elbows and other potentially rough areas, Sepp recommends the thicker borage cream. ShiKai also recently introduced a borage foot cream. ?It came from demand from the diabetic community,? Sepp says. The borage line has experienced a lot of success in the medical community among people who suffer from chronic dry skin because of a medical condition, he says. The company also makes a pediatric formula of the borage lotion.

Petaluma, Calif.-based EO Products, offers a range of products, including its latest entry, a body balm. ?It contains pure, unrefined coconut oil,? says Victoria Palmisano, product development project manager. Ripe coconuts are picked from the wild in India, and the meat and the milk are put in a centrifuge that blends them without the use of heat so that the end product is rich in antioxidants, she says. ?Then we add beta glucan for rejuvenation and honey, which attracts moisture to the skin.? The company also makes a line of lotions and oils with cold-pressed jojoba, hazelnut and primrose oils as well as antioxidants.

For individuals suffering from acute dry skin, Palmisano suggest applying a body oil to damp skin, followed by lotion. ?It really locks in the moisture and leaves skin soft,? she says.

Dakshina Vanzetti, owner of Auromere in Lodi, Calif., credits Ayurvedic herbs and cold-pressed oils for the efficacy of the company?s body lotion. The 10-herb blend includes sweet flag, spreading hogweed, valerian, winter cherry, khus khus grass and cardamom. ?[They] work in conjunction with each other and with the Ayurvedic oils to soften and rejuvenate the skin tissues so that they will be more receptive and better able to retain the water in the lotion,? Vanzetti says.

The lotion contains the same oil blend used for the Auromere massage oil—sesame, almond, castor and sandalwood oils. ?We thought providing the oil in a lotion form would help deliver the therapeutic benefits without any oily residue,? Vanzetti says.

Vanzetti prefers cold-pressed oils because they don?t lose any of their original compounds, she says. ?Hot-pressed oils are much cheaper because the pressing yield increases along with the temperature. And during the heating process, a large number of unpleasant smelling and toxic compounds form that make the oils unfit for human consumption, unless a further processing step called raffination takes place, which removes the toxins along with beneficial fatty acids and the aroma compounds,? she says. ?This leaves a bland oil consisting purely of lipids, and the full benefit of the oil is lost.?

At Mad Gabs in Westbrook, Maine, owner (or maestra as she is commonly called) Gabrielle Melthionda worked with a massage therapist to create a body and massage oil. ?When you are putting on a lot of lotion it sometimes feels like it just sits on top of your skin; this oil blend really sinks in,? Melthionda says.

Melthionda wanted a nut-free blend so that everyone could use it. The base is a melange of apricot kernel, grape seed and jojoba oils with essential oils. ?It lasts forever. Lotions have so much water in them, but with this a little goes a long way.?

The company also makes little pots of hand and body balm designed for lips, elbows and cracked and chapped winter skin. The blend of olive and almond oils, beeswax, vitamin E and shea butter penetrates quickly, according to Melthionda. ?A lot of people don?t like body butters because they can be so greasy, but this sinks in right away.?

Macadamia oil is a superb lotion ingredient, says Karyn Trumbach, marketing manager for Tampa, Fla.-based Aubrey Organics. ?It?s high in EFAs and has a fatty acid profile similar to that of the skin?s natural sebum, and also promotes moisture retention,? she says. In addition to macadamia nut oil, the company uses white camellia oil in its lotions, which Trumbach says is high in oleic acid (a fatty acid) and antioxidants.

Another ingredient in Aubrey?s products for dry skin is rosa mosqueta. ?Rosa mosqueta oil is high in vitamin C and linoleic and linolenic acids; it?s very absorbing,? Trumbach says. The company also puts rosa mosqueta oil into some of its soaps to combat dry skin.

This winter, your customers? skin does not have to become irritated and dry. Help them find the lotion or oil or combinations that works best for them. And don?t forget to mention the key role that supplements and diet play in keeping skin moisturized.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 11/p. 40, 43-44

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