By mid February, most of us in northern climates are beginning to feel a little jaded. While the start of a new year might have seen us raring to go, resetting our focus on health and wellness, the endless dark days are probably taking their toll on us; and on our skin and skincare routines.
Even if we’re covered up still in this last month of winter, we are noticing that the days are finally getting longer and shedding light on our skin. If you are like me, you spend winter downing cups of caffeine to keep warm, rather than healthier, long glasses of water. I also crave to stodgier, warming foods and don’t look at salads even if there are some tasty winter versions I could make.
A cursory glance in the mirror in the stark late winter daylight can highlight just how neglected our skin has been the past months left to the ravages of biting winds, overheated houses and less than ideal diets. It’s high time then to start revamping our skincare routines and giving our skin a boost to kick off its own winter blues. But which natural skincare ingredients are ideal in reversing winter’s detrimental effect on our skin?
At Formula Botanica, the award-winning, UK-accredited organic cosmetic formulation school, we stress the need for our students to research natural ingredient properties thoroughly and consider carefully how they address the issues of their potential customers.
This is because skincare is far more sophisticated these days than perhaps that used by our grandmothers. Back then, saving your face in winter months would probably have meant using a cream to provide a simple occlusive barrier aimed at reducing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL); dehydration in other words, which our skin is prone to in winter thanks to those overheated homes and wicking winds.
We tell our students that in today’s crowded natural skincare market however, it’s not enough for a brand to offer the usual; it will need to offer carefully-selected, high-performance, active ingredients that have specific roles to play in our skincare products.
Innovative natural ingredients which we’ve seen trending include a plethora of natural plants oils such as sea buckthorn and prickly pear. These two natural plant oils in particular have intense moisturising properties as well as active ingredients that work on improving the texture and appearance of mature and dehydrated skin. But even these two oils are now quite commonplace.
So, in this post, we’re introducing you to some lesser known but interesting natural plant oils that Soap Kitchen now stocks and which are well worth indie beauty fans and aspiring organic skincare brands taking a close look at. All of them contain properties ideal to give sluggish winter skin a much needed boost to revive it ready for spring.
The blueberry fruit season is very short and I try to make the most of this antioxidant-rich food when I can, liberally sprinkling it on cereals. What is interesting is that blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) seed oil harnesses many of the self-same benefits we associated with the edible berry.
The oil is light and non greasy, which is ideal as we head to warmer days of spring, and it is as useful for oily skin as mature as it both works on reducing pore size and has anti-ageing, restorative properties. These are on account of its high levels of vitamin E (tocopherols), carotenoids and antioxidants. In addition, its naturally occurring vitamin A makes it very regenerative for damaged or blemished skin.
Blueberry seed oil is an excellent winter-into-spring ingredient choice in emulsions and serums to give a real boost to sluggish, dull skin as well adding regenerative properties thanks to its high Omega-3 content that helps make skin glow.
Coffee has featured in skincare a great deal in recent years; coffee grouts are used as exfoliant particles in body scrubs, where they are said to act on cellulite indirectly by dilating the blood vessels and thereby minimising the appearance of the ‘orange peel’ look. But it is the oil of green coffee beans that we’re focusing on as a super ingredient to use in post-winter-blues skincare.
The Coffea arabica seed oil is cold pressed from unroasted beans and comes as a deep rich green oil which means it provides nutrients in a pure form leaving the benefits of vital vitamins and fatty acids more intact.
As the green colour hints, the oil has plenty of phytosterols and it also has a high fatty acid profile which aid moisture retention in the skin. It is a fast-penetrating oil and so less greasy. It is of particular benefit in mature skincare as it boosts the skin’s own natural production of collagen and elastin with its power surge of fatty acids, sterols, vitamin E and antioxidants. Green coffee bean oil is definitely one to watch out for in cosmetic formulations this year.
Coffee bean collage- green to roasted
This is not a familiar shrub in Europe as it is a native of northern America, but it was introduced in the 20th century to Russia, Scandinavia and parts of eastern Europe. The berries remind me of elderberries but the chokeberry is a small shrub rather than an ungainly shrubby tree. Its oil is worth noting particularly if you wish to formulate haircare.
The Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa is a polyunsaturated oil which is versatile and good for all-round moisturising. It has natural and exceptionally strong antioxidant capabilities and absorbs and neutralises free radicals at the same time strengthening capillaries and blood vessels in your body.
Within scalp and haircare applications, chokeberry seed oil helps to condition and restore vitality to the scalp for normal, dry and damaged hair.
Perilla seed oil comes from the tiny seeds of a type of mint, Perilla frutescent, that arrived in the USA with migrants from south-east Asia in the 1800s. It is a dry oil to the touch but is none the less effective at moisturising and is beneficial in formulations aimed at mature skin. It is high in polyphenols which give it its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, and anti-allergic qualities.
Perilla seed and its oil
It is of general benefit for nearly all skin types and in products ranging from those acting on the appearance of wrinkles to sun-damage. Perilla also contains a high level of Omega-3 fatty acids which make it useful in calming sensitive skin.
As a dry oil, it is ideal to use in oil-based cleansers and to act on reducing the visibility of large, open pores. Cleansing is an important part of our skincare routines as we move from richer winter-beating emulsions to an altogether lighter, more refreshing spring skincare routine. If you’re keen on formulating anhydrous cleansing oils or balms, perilla oil is well worth including.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of lesser-known, but powerful oils that Soap Kitchen now stocks. At Formula Botanica, we are very excited to see suppliers discovering newer oils and bringing them to the market and these four have much to offer the natural skincare and haircare formulator. We’d love to hear how you got on formulating with them, so do leave us a comment below to share your experiences.
About Formula Botanica
Formula Botanica is a UK-accredited, distance-learning organic cosmetic science school offering courses in organic skincare and haircare formulation. It has a global community of over 6,200 distance-learning students based in some 143 countries. Find out more about our popular Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation along with our other accredited courses and get a flavour of how we teach by trying our sample class.
Author Liz Grech is an experienced journalist, blogger and web developer, as well being an aficionado of organic skincare. She helps the Formula Botanica team develop blog and press content. She lives in Malta, with her husband and teenage son.