It’s true. Choosing an authentic, natural approach to skincare doesn’t mean having to compromise and accept ineffective products or inferior results.
Consumers get this and are confidently making the switch, driving unprecedented growth in this sector. To meet the growing demand, a number of savvy formulators are looking to Africa as a source of new natural actives that really work.
It’s not surprising. Southern Africa is home to around a quarter of the world’s biodiversity, with extraordinary variety and richness. Amongst these are many plants that have had to adapt to extremely harsh natural environments, producing novel coping mechanisms (think UV and dehydration protection, for example) and some of the most potent protective ingredients known. Wild-harvesting, done sustainably and responsibly, maximises that potency. That’s really good for the range and intensity of actives that can be extracted.
You’ve probably heard of some of these plants, while others are not well known at all or are relatively recent discoveries. The exciting thing is that scientists believe there are so many more we don’t yet know about!
Let’s consider just a few, and some of the reasons they work so well.
Baobab (Adansonia Digitata) is probably fairly well-known and has truly amazing properties ! The fruit from trees which may have stood for thousands of years give us a natural fruit powder and oil from the seeds.
Baobab fruit is packed with antioxidants and minerals containing iron, potassium and magnesium, and is also a great source of vitamin C. Used in skincare, the fruit powder is a potent anti-oxidant and an excellent prebiotic*.
The seed oil is non-sensitizing, non-irritating and very rich in omega fatty acids. It acts as a great emollient, used for moisturising and protecting even very dry and stressed skin. It also contains beta-sitosterol, a strong anti-oxidant which helps reduce DNA damage in cells. Vitamins include A and E. Vitamin A, in conjunction with the essential fatty acids, aids in the rejuvenation and renewal of cell membranes.
The Kalahari Melon (Citrillus Lanatus) is highly adapted to surviving drought and the harsh light of the desert environment, and represents an important traditional source of water and nourishment for the nomadic San people of the Kalahari Desert.
The seed oil has great stability and resistance to oxidation due to the high tocopherol (vitamin E) content and the range of phenolic acids which are present (and believed to have developed as a natural defence to the harsh environment in which this plant grows). This oil also contains high levels of phytosterols and Omega-6 fatty acids, providing good barrier function and strong moisturising, restructuring and anti-ageing properties on skin.
Archaeological evidence confirms that the Marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) has been part of the Southern African way of life for thousands of years, and Marula’s healing oil has long been used as a traditional cosmetic.
The oil is sourced from the fruit of the Marula tree. It is easily absorbed and contains high proportions of oleic acid and linoleic acid, making it ideal for topical application. It is very high in potent natural antioxidants and is one of the most stable oils available, being ten times more resistant to oxidation than olive oil.
It is an excellent tissue oil and naturally softens, nourishes, smoothes and revitalises the skin and helps reduce redness. By the way, it’s also great for hair!
Mongongo trees (Schinziophyton rautanenii) grow particularly well in the deep sands of the Kalahari Desert and are extraordinarily hardy, able to survive droughts that span years. It has long been used as a traditional source of nourishment and skin care by some Kalahari bushmen tribes.
The oil pressed from the seeds has a unique composition, including very high levels of vitamin E, linoleic and eleostearic acids, making it great for skin protection (and for hair!). The eleostearic acid reacts with UV light, undergoing polymerisation and providing a protective layer. With excellent stability, the oil is effective for hydrating normal and dry skin, helps reduce inflammation and redness and helps restructure and regenerate the epidermis.
And what about…Rooibos, Kigelia, Devil’s Claw and Mafane ? And the list goes on, and will keep growing as more discoveries are made*.
That’s really good news for all of us !
* For more on the role and use of prebiotics in skincare and more on other African natural plant actives, read the blogs at sontuli.com.au