When it comes to skin care, botanicals are a term that you will hear thrown around quite a bit…
But what exactly does this mean?
From the way in which they work to the benefits that they bring to your skin, here is the lowdown on botanical extracts.
What are botanical extracts?
Botanicals are plant-based extracts, and are derived from flowers, seeds, roots, berries, nuts and herbs.
How exactly are they made?
There are a few different ways, but, generally, the required part of the plant is dissolved in a special solvent, which releases its potent properties. Next, the insoluble parts of the plant are removed, and then, depending on the final use of the product, the extract may be further processed in order to turn it into a powder.
When done correctly, the result is a pure plant extract that contains the same naturally beneficial properties of the whole plant itself, but in a far more concentrated form.
Why have botanicals become such a buzzword lately in skin care?
Well, botanicals are actually nothing new, and were amongst the very first ingredients to be used for cosmetic purposes. In ancient times, everything from plant juices to fragrant oils were used on the skin, and this was the case for so many cultures around the world.
Now that there has been such a surge in popularity for natural, chemical-free ingredients, botanicals are making a comeback in a big way.
How do botanical extracts benefit the skin?
Botanical extracts can benefit the skin in so many different ways, with each one having its own set of powerful, skin-boosting properties.
There are so many botanicals out there, but here are a few of the most popular ones used in the skin care industry:
From the Egyptians to the Romans, chamomile has been used in skin care throughout history, as the flowers contain powerful antioxidants and essential oils. Here are just a few of the benefits that this botanical extract can bring to your skin:
- An anti-fungal, thanks to its bisabolol content, which can treat infections
- An anti-inflammatory, due to its chamazulene content, which will calm redness and irritation
- Antioxidants to fight freeradicals
- A natural remedy for eczema and dryskin
- Contains apigenin, which can reduce DNA oxidative damage
Since chamomile has been used so widely, for so long, it is one of the few botanical extracts to have undergone numerous clinical trials. These studies have proven the effectiveness of chamomile extract, which is why this is now such a popular ingredient in modern skin care products.
A popular herb that is so easy to grow yourself at home, mint extracts actually bring with them a number of different skin benefits.
To begin with…
Mint has a high salicylic acid content, which is one of the most popular acne-fighting ingredients out there. Effective at reducing inflammation and redness, salicylic acid also gently exfoliates the skin, removing the top layer of dead skin cells.
In addition to its salicylic acid exfoliating the skin, mint is also a natural beta hydroxy acid, which is another mild exfoliant.
Why is exfoliation so important?
Well, everyone’s skin has its own natural cell turnover rate, which is the speed at which it sheds its dead skin cells in order to reveal the fresh, young skin cells beneath. However, this slows down with age, which is why it is always helpful to give it a boost with ingredients such as mint.
Without exfoliating, your skin will soon take on a rough and dull appearance, and, because of all of the dead skin cells settled on its surface, any skin care products that you apply will not be able to properly penetrate the layers of your skin.
Finally, mint is packed with menthol, which is not only antiseptic, but also cooling and soothing to the skin. Menthol is quite powerful when it comes to reducing bacteria, making this a great botanical to use if you often experience blemishes on your skin.
Aloe vera can be found in so many skin care products, from eye creams to after-sun gels, and is such a gentle but effective botanical.
So, what exactly does it do?
To begin with, aloe vera is a naturalmoisturizer, and works to maintain the skin’s hydration levels, making it perfect for those who have dry skin.
However, if you are on the other end of the spectrum, and have oily, rather than dry, skin, aloe vera would still work for you. Its natural oil content is quite low, meaning that you will be able to enjoy its benefits without adding to the oil on your skin.
Aloe vera is also a fantastic ingredient to use if you are looking for anti-aging benefits, as it is packed with antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C. All of these components work together to fight freeradicals, which is one of the primary causes of skin aging.
If you have a skin condition that requires healing, such as acne marks or scars, then this is a botanical that you should definitely be adding to your skin care arsenal.
If you are an avid gardener, then you are likely already aware of all the benefits that the comfrey plant can have on its surroundings. However, this plant is also great for your skin, with each part of the plant having its own unique advantages:
- Comfrey Leaves – these contain anti-inflammatory properties, and are so soothing and healing, making them great for psoriasis, eczema and acne
- Comfrey Roots – if you are able to find an extract made from comfrey roots, you can use this directly on your skin to treat acne
- Comfrey Flowers – just like the leaves, comfrey flowers contain anti-inflammatory properties, and are fantastic when formulated into a toner or a cream
When consumed internally, green tea can really boost your overall health, but it is also a great botanical for applying topically to your skin.
This is one of the best anti-aging botanicals out there, as it directly targets inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which directly contribute to the skin’s aging process.
Studies have shown that green tea is also able to work as a sunscreen, and while the extract alone will not be enough to protect your skin from UV rays, it can be combined with a traditional sunscreen for extra protection. When applied to the skin after sun exposure, green tea will be able to reduce the number of sunburnt cells in the skin, as well as any DNA damage that has been caused.
The benefits that green tea extract can have are now quite widely known, which is why many skin care companies have jumped on to this bandwagon, creating products that contain this botanical.
Unfortunately, they are not all created equally…
To ensure that the product that you are choosing has enough green tea in it to actually make a difference, look for one that contains at least 5% green tea extract.
Roses are not just gorgeous to look at, but can also really boost the health of your skin…
A gentle antiseptic and astringent, roses are great for cleansing and toning the skin. This is why rose water, while it may be simple, is often enough when used on its own to tone the skin after it has been cleansed with a traditional cleanser.
Why do you need a toner?
Well, traditional cleansers, as necessary as they may be, do disrupt the skin’s pH levels. Applying a toner to your skin after cleansing will not only ensure that any remnants of the cleanser are removed, but will also balance your pH levels back out.
In addition to cleansing and toning, here are a few of the other benefits that you can expect from rose extracts:
- Emollient properties, meaning that it can moisturize dry skin
- Can treat acne
- Anti-inflammatory properties can calm redness and inflammation
- Refines skin texture
- Controls certain skin diseases, such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis
In addition to rose extracts, you can also keep an eye out for extracts made from rosehips.
Rosehips are the small fruit that sit behind the flower of the rose, and are absolutely packed with vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which are amongst the most effective anti-aging ingredients out there.
Here are a few other skin issues that can be treated with the use of botanical extracts:
- Acne and Oily Skin – Tea tree oil and willow bark extract
- Dry Skin – Shea butter and wheat germ oil
- Hyperpigmentation – Kojic acid and liquorice extract
- Aging – Rosehip and soy extract
After reading all of this, you may be thinking…
Wow! Botanical extracts sound great! But how do I go about deciding which products to buy in order to gain the most benefit from these botanicals?
Well, in order for botanicals to really work their magic, they need to be sitting on your skin for a lengthy period of time, so that are able to fully penetrate your skin’s layers. This means that you should definitely look for botanicals in:
- Facial Masks
- Eye Creams
Basically, having botanicals in almost every skin care product you use would benefit you.
However, there is one big exception…
When it comes to cleansers, many brands really push the botanical content in their formulas, but this is really more of a marketing tactic. Since cleansers do not stay on your skin for long, the majority of botanicals would not have the chance to have an effect on your skin, making their raised price tag a waste of money.
While it can sometimes be easier to purchase a product that already contains botanical extracts, there is no reason as to why you cannot purchase the pure extract yourself.
Not quite sure what you would do with it?
Well, you can then either mix this is in with your skin care products before each application, or even use it directly on your skin, although you would need to check that the specific extract you have chosen is safe for this.
The advantage to doing this is that you would be able to have full control over the botanicals that you use, as well as how much of them you use.
But, don’t forget…
Just like with any other extract, a botanical extract is extremely concentrated, meaning that you will only need to use a very small amount in order to experience maximum benefits. However, make sure that the extract you are purchasing has not already been diluted beforehand.
Liquid Extracts vs Powdered Extracts
While botanical extracts do come in a few different forms, the two most common are as a liquid or as a powder.
So, which one do you go for?
Liquid extracts are always going to be superior, for a couple of reasons:
- Powders end up losing a significant amount of their activeingredients during the grinding process
- Liquid extracts tend to be fresher
Whether or not you “go organic” when it comes to the rest of your life, you definitely want your botanical extracts to have been grown organically. This means that they have been grown with fewer pesticides and synthetic fertilizers – chemicals that would have otherwise seeped into the plant, and then into your extract.
Even better are botanicals that have been produced using biodynamic farming methods, as this is a way of farming that promotes an overall healthier relationship between the plants, the soil and the wildlife around it.
Whether you have skin care products that contain botanicals, or pure botanical extracts, you need to know how to store them in order to prolong their shelf life:
- Keep them away from windows and sunlight
- Keep them away from high temperatures
- Keep lids and caps tightly closed
There is so much information out there on botanical extracts, which is hardly surprising considering that these ingredients have been used in skin care for centuries. If you have been experiencing a specific skin problem that you are finding hard to treat, it may be worth looking deeper into whether or not botanicals could be the answer.