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  • The Lowdown On Lipids: Part 2 – Replenishing the Barrier with Exotic Plant Oils

    Chia Seeds and Camellia JaponicaThe use of plant oils in skin care has been around for decades, however, in the past few years our understanding of how these phytochemicals (AKA plant chemicals) affect our skin has been enhanced by numerous research studies. As a scientist with a PhD in plant biochemistry and a passion for the skin care industry, I am forever searching the globe for new exciting plant actives that can be used to treat the skin.

    Now that we know the causes that can lead to loss of lipids from The Lowdown On Lipids: Part 1 – Why Does the Skin Need Them, we can address many of these signs with scientific expertise provided by nature in the form of phytochemicals. As you might expect, I have a few new favorite oils that we have been studying at The International Dermal Institute that have the ability to replenish the skin’s natural barrier lipids for optimized skin health.

    Let’s take a closer look at these oils and how they may be used to treat the skin.

    Camellia Japonica Oil

    Camellia japonica is often called the “Rose of Winter” and is a member of the tea family. It is a small flowering tree native to Korea and Japan. It is one of the native plants grown on Jeju Island famous for its unpolluted, clean environment. Closer examination of this oil reveals it is a rich source of critical membrane lipids or fatty acids including oleic, linoleic and palmitic acids. In laboratory studies it provided twice as much antioxidant protection than Vitamin E, Grapeseed Oil, and/or Rosehip Oil. Studies using human fibroblast cells demonstrated an increase in collagen synthesis when treated with a low concentration of the oil (0.001); as the concentration of oil applied increased (up to 0.1%) so did the stimulation to collagen synthesis. Most importantly, studies on human subjects using a 2% Camellia Japonica Oil topically applied to the face showed a reduction in wrinkles as measured by laboratory instruments and observations by trained clinical technicians and patients.2

    Camellia Japonica Oil also inhibited pro-inflammatory mediators3 and was more soothing than Bisabolol in erythema induced tests. Likewise, it provided lipid barrier properties that showed an inhibition in TEWL, helping to maintain skin hydration levels.

    Overall, this esthetically pleasing, lightweight plant oil soothes irritated/sensitized skin, maintains hydration levels by reducing trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) and helps stimulate collagen production to fight aging skin.1,2

    Chia Seed Oil

    In addition to Camellia Japonica Oil, the seed oil derived from the plant Salvia hispanica, otherwise known as Chia, has proven to be a new addition to the arsenal of active plant oils available to the cosmetic formulator. Chia Seed Oil is rich in antioxidants that help quench free radicals and omega-3-fatty acids that have been shown to help reduce inflammation.

    Salvia hispanica is a member of the mint family that is often used as a food supplement for energy—and was once known as the Mayan running food. It is grown primarily for its seeds that contain from 25% to 40% oil that are rich in omega-3 linolenic acid and omega-6 linoleic acids. Both essential fatty acids are required by the human body for good health, and cannot be artificially synthesized.

    Researchers in Korea reported that a topical application of a cream containing Chia Seed Oil for 8 weeks led to significant improvements in skin moisture, skin thickening and crusty lumps in patients with pruritis caused by end-stage kidney disease and also in healthy patients with xerotic pruritis.4 Pruritis is an unpleasant skin sensation that produces a strong urge to scratch, and it is a characteristic symptom of some systemic diseases such as advanced kidney disease. Xerotic pruritis is a form of the condition that includes redness, dry scaling and cracks in the skin.

    Tamanu Oil

    Lastly we have Tamanu Oil, extracted from Calophyllum inophyllum seeds from the Ati tree of the South Pacific. Traditionally Tamanu Oil has been used to combat a range of skin problems and is highly beneficial as an antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. The oil contains unique calophylloids that reduce stinging in skin and helps to control the growth of the acne causing bacterium, P. acnes.

    French researchers working with leprosy patients were the first to study the skin regenerating properties of Tamanu Oil. It has been used to heal stubborn and severe wounds with very good success. More specifically, scientists have identified the xanthone compounds in Tamanu Oil that have been credited for its anti-inflammatory activity and ability to reduce swelling and irritation with topical application.

    From a study conducted in 2002, participants applied a product containing Tamanu Oil to aged scars twice daily for nine weeks and saw improvement, so even older scars can benefit from Tamanu Oil regenerative properties.5

    Tamanu Oil is also excellent for individuals with acneic skin, as the mild antibacterial properties of the oil work consistently and without irritation to minimize growth of acne causing bacteria on the skin. The moderate antimicrobial activity of Tamanu Oil has been compared to antibiotics like amoxicillin. The actives, canophyllol and canophyllic acid, have been identified as the specific agents in the oil that provide the antibacterial activity.

    And finally, the xanthones and coumarins found in Tamanu Oil are potent antioxidants that inhibit the breakdown of cell membranes from free radicals. Consequently, this oil can help to counteract aging caused by UV-induced free radicals.

    Harnessing the power of phytoactive ingredients is one of the best ways to restore a compromised skin barrier to replace intercellular lipids that have been depleted from aging, environment, and the many other factors. And with the overwhelming amount of research on these oils and their phytochemical components they are prime candidates for incorporation into your favorite skin care products.

    Reference:

    1. Akihisa T, et al. Chem. And Pharm. Bull. Tokyo 45:1023-2016.

    2. E. Jung et al. Effect of Camellia japonica oil on human type I collagen production and skin barrier function. J. Ethnopharmacology 112 (2007) 127-131.

    3. S. Kim et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of Camellia japonica Oil. BMB Reports 2012: 177-182)

    4. Se Kyoo Jeong, et al. Effectiveness of Topical Chia Seed Oil on Pruritus of End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Patients and Healthy Volunteers. Ann Dermatol. 2010 May; 22(2): 143–148.

    5. A. C. Dweck and T. Meadows. Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) – the African, Asian, Polynesian and Pacific Panacea. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Volume 24, Issue 6, pages 341–348, December 2002

  • The Lowdown On Lipids: Part 1 – Why Does the Skin Need Them?

    Phyto Replenish Oil Puddle

    Lipids, or natural protective oils, are essential for maintaining the integrity of all living matter due to their ability to form a barrier between the living cell and the outside world. In human skin, lipids are used as building blocks for membranes and fulfill specific functions such as preventing desiccation (a state of extreme dryness) by forming a barrier and preventing evaporation of water.

    More specifically, the outermost layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum (SC), constitutes the main barrier to the movement of substances into and out of the skin; it consists of corneocytes (SC cells) and several different types of lipids, such as ceramides, sterols and free fatty acids. These lipids that make up the barrier lipid layer of the stratum corneum are expelled from cells during the process of keratinization in the epidermis. When the barrier lipid layer is disturbed, this can lead to pathological diseases such as ichthyosis, psoriasis or atopic dermatitis.

    Aging also has an effect on the composition of SC lipids. Studies have shown a decline in ceramide and sterol components with an increase in fatty acid composition in aged skin.1

    Seasonal changes have also been shown to impact SC barrier lipids which leads to dryness, roughness and increased trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) while a reduction in ceramides generally leads to an increase in skin sensitivity and irritability2. Likewise, diet and the products we apply to our skin can impact the barrier lipids. Alcohol, acetone, harsh surfactants, AHAs, BHAs and retinoids can strip lipids giving that taut skin feeling which is often associated with increased dehydration, wrinkles, sensitivity and premature aging.

    Unfortunately, nothing good results from having a compromised lipid barrier layer. Therefore, the challenge to the cosmetic formulator is to create an esthetically appealing formula that helps replenish those critical lipids to the epidermis. The most important property of lipids in skin care is their ability to restore the barrier lipid, promote moisturization, smooth skin texture as well as, a visual reduction of the signs of dryness. Restoring the barrier lipids not only inhibits TEWL, it helps keep the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) inside the cells where it is needed to keep cells hydrated and enzymes functioning normally.

    Fortunately, when we are young our skin can restore its natural barrier lipids after an insult such as exposure to alcohol, soap or chemical peels. The time required for barrier lipid recovery varies according to age; in young individuals 50-60% of the barrier lipids are restored within 12 hours with full recovery taking about three days. However, in older adults complete recovery can take over a week. Depending on the condition of the skin this can lead to dehydration and additional sensitization.

    The most obvious possibility for recovering the skin barrier function is by replacing the intercellular lipids in between our keratinocyte cells. Studies measuring TEWL as an indicator of barrier integrity have demonstrated that the barrier function can be restored with the application of skin type lipids.

    Understanding the science and the physiological processes behind the barrier lipids of the SC as well as how we can optimize their functionality is something we have studied extensively at The International Dermal Institute; we have looked at the effects of adding various plant or phytolipid complexes to the skin in order to optimize hydration, reduce sensitivity and enhance the health of the skin.

    Read Part 2 of this blog series to learn about the latest plant oil ingredients, also called phytochemicals, that help to restore the natural barrier function of the skin.

    References:

    1. Lipids in Skin Care Formulations p 279 in Cosmetic Lipids and the Skin Barrier. ed T. Forster, Marcel Dekker. 2002

    2. DiNardo et al. Contact Derm. 1996; 35:86-91

  • You Are What you Eat

    Basket fruit and veggies

    This age-old adage may have been dismissed over the generations as somewhat of an old wives’ tale, but in fact it is deeply rooted in a real biological connection between our bodies and the food we eat. With technological advances, we are better able to understand how micro- and macro-nutrients really affect our health on a cellular level. This notion has even spurred the formation of a Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics (CENG) at the University of California, Davis. Nutritional genomics takes advantage of our knowledge of the human genome to better understand the diet-health relationship. In essence, nutritional genomics is the study of how foods affect our genes and how our genes affect our response to nutrients in our diet – an offshoot of the emerging epigenetics field (which is the study of how our overall environment can change our genes).

    So then, if we really are what we eat…what should we be eating for healthy skin? Macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and lipids) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) work together to ensure a properly functioning epidermal barrier against environmental assaults. The skin’s typical ailments range from dehydration, dryness, photodamage, inflammation and aging. Many scientific studies support the role nutrition plays in these key areas.

    Dryness
    A lack of either lipid content or water content means rough, flaky and vulnerable skin. A diet rich in essential fatty acids can help skin retain its organized brick-and-mortar model. Dietary fats are processed by the liver for delivery to skin and other tissues. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for skin function and can even modulate the skin’s inflammatory response. Chronically dry skin, as in Eczema, will benefit from a diet rich in EFAs from oils and whole foods. In particular, Omega-3 fatty acids can help protect skin from photodamage and photoaging, while Omega-6 can alleviate symptoms associated with skin sensitivity and inflammatory skin disorders.

    Stock your grocery basket with:
    • Wild-caught salmon
    • Flaxseeds
    • Walnuts
    • Evening Primrose Oil
    • Borage Oil

    Photodamage
    As we know, the sun is a powerful star. UV rays penetrate through clouds, windows and our own skin layers. UV rays deplete antioxidant levels in the skin, including ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). A diet rich in these antioxidant vitamins can be part of a well-rounded approach to limiting photodamage. An added bonus to vitamin C? It is also a necessary component of building collagen in the skin, which decreases with age and even more so with sun damage. Like many nutrients, some are even better when combined. Supplementing the diet with Vitamin C and E combined can increase the photoprotective effect of our skin better than with either of these alone.

    Stock your grocery basket with:
    • Bell peppers
    • Broccoli
    • Strawberries
    • Wheat germ
    • Avocados

    Our skin is a unique organ in that we can actually rub nutrients on top of it! So even though the upper epidermal layers of the skin do not contain blood vessels that supply the cells with nutrients, we can ‘feed’ the skin from the outside, with topical antioxidants and vitamins. Combining topical nutrients with a more conscious effort to eat whole, healthy foods will keep our skin shining for all the years to come!