Just as an ancient proverb has it that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, the skin is apt to provide a vital commentary on the state of the body, a unique chronicle of the human condition and the ravages of time. Shakespeare likens the human face to a parchment inscribed by time’s “deformèd hand.” Critically versatile, the skin is our largest organ, a barrier that prevents microbial invasion, protects us from environmental hazards, regulates body temperature, and maintains hydration. The outermost layer of the skin is called the stratum corneum (SC). In its structure, it can be likened to a brick wall, in which corneocytes or “bricks” are mortared together by lipids and natural moisturizing factors (NMF). The principal lipids in the SC matrix are approximately 20% free fatty acids (FFAs), 20% cholesterol, and 60% ceramides. Their proper concentration and proportion are key to preventing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). To maintain the skin’s protective function, flexibility, and requisite pH balance, as well as resistance to oxidative and inflammatory stress, it is in fact vital to have adequate moisture homeostasis and the right makeup of lipids. It is thought, for example, that acne is caused by deficiency of linoleic acid. Overall, moreover, a defective skin barrier leaves us vulnerable to allergens, microbes, and other irritants, as well as an exaggerated immune response. Also, aging, with its decreased levels of SC lipids, NMFs, and water content, is associated with a decline in the functioning of the skin as a barrier.
Natural Plant Oils: A Superb Resource for Skin-Barrier Repair
Happily, there are natural ways of repairing and maintaining the skin barrier. Our St. Francis Herb Farm plant-based topical skin care oils have superb therapeutic properties in this regard, inasmuch as they possess critical antioxidant and moisturizing qualities. Here are a few of them:
Argan Oil is comprised of mono-unsaturated (80%) and saturated (20%) fatty acids. In clinical studies conducted with postmenopausal women, daily topical application of this oil has been demonstrated to significantly enhance skin elasticity and skin hydration.
Jojoba Oil has a high oxidative stability and an elevated content of wax esters (i.e. organic compounds that characterize many naturally occurring fats and essential oils), which function as repair mechanisms for various sorts of dermatitis. A review of the literature on this oil suggests that it has an anti-inflammatory effect that makes it useful for a variety of skin conditions, including skin infections, skin aging, and wound healing.
For its part, Pomegranate Oil is a good source of FFAs, phenolic compounds, phytosterols, and lipid-soluble fractions. It contains, moreover, 63% UFA (i.e. unesterified free fatty acid), including linoleic acid (29%) and oleic acid (10%). In a clinical trial, a cream consisting of pomegranate seed oil and dragon’s blood (Croton Lechleri) resin extract has been found to prevent and improve stretch marks. Also, in an interesting new line of research, a study conducted on mice highlights the potential of pomegranate seed oil as a chemopreventive agent against skin cancer.
Rose Hip Oil
Because Rose Hip Oil has a high concentration of UFAs and antioxidants, it provides a substantial degree of protection against inflammation and oxidative stress. An earlier study that tested the effectiveness of topical rose hip seed oil together with oral fat-soluble vitamins on different inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema concluded that the topical use of this oil held therapeutic promise.
Oats are widely recognized as a treatment for eczema. Oat oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, being comprised of 36-46% linoleic acid and 28-40% oleic acid, with the high linoleic acid component being considered chiefly responsible for aiding skin-barrier function. Also, oats contain polyphenols called avenanthramides, which have been shown in vitro to be powerfully anti-inflammatory, even in small concentrations. Our Night Oil contains oat oil.
It’s with good reason that researchers have described these oils as “ancient compounds, now backed by modern science.”
Rose Hip Oil
Certified Organic Olive Oil
Rich in phytonutrient compounds, olive oil is the centrepiece of a healthful Mediterranean diet, which has been conclusively correlated with a lower incidence of a remarkably broad range of diseases.