eBotaniq Blog

Articles for eBotaniq.com.au users

Exfoliants for the skin, what are the alternatives?

There are many methods of achieving skin renewal (exfoliation) in order to get back that youthful glow to the skin’s surface. Some skincare products use chemicals, some are physical and some are enzymatic (proteolitic enzymes that consume dead skin) exfoliants.

Physical


The simplest exfoliant is physical. The physical method uses abrasives. They can be quite aggressive and may leave some scarring from using these abrasive materials (such as crushed outer nut shells walnut/almond / coconut) to scrub off the dead outer layer. Admittedly this is a relatively cheap and effective way of bringing back a shinier skin but in some cases there are repercussions from using abrasives, namely soreness and redness of the skin (acne skin should never use this method). These may take several days to settle down and heal before the full effects can be seen.


Chemical

The chemical method is a much more aggressive type of exfoliation. Chemical exfoliants which are used in the cosmetic and skincare field are known as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA). These chemicals are organic acids compared to mineral acids and are used in a relative high concentration direct on the skin. Examples include products such as such as Glycolic acid, Kojic acid, Retinoic acid (vitamin A), Lactic acid,  Malic and Citric acid.

alphahydroxyacids
These chemicals act like any acid does; except that they are potentially more destructive than mineral acids (sulphuric, or hydrochloric acids) which can cause severe burns, but can be neutralised before any great damage is done.

The AHAs have a strong liking for the proteins in the skin which contain a high level of amino end groups and are active from those points by dissolving cell bonds and thus cause breakdown of the skin integrity. This breakdown can result in the potential exposure of the melanin sites in the skin. When these melanin sites are exposed; unsightly brown colour stains or blotches can appear on the skin.

When these acids have bonded to the amino groups the “neutralisation” of these products is very difficult even dilution is very difficult. What then happens is that they begin to react indiscriminately with all of the available skin, be it dead or live. Unfortunately the reaction continues until the acid is all “used up”.  So they are deemed unstoppable.  Hence lower concentrations are seen as more favourable in cosmetic applications.

The role of the acid is to “exfoliate” the outer layer of the skin and force the skin to repair itself by producing a fresh layer.  If this process is performed often then eventually there is no more skin regeneration available and hence unable to properly cover the capillaries in the outer layer of skin.

Asian skin is much finer than European type and so are often more significantly affected by these acids (brown stains). The capillary blood vessels help in the maintenance of body temperature. When the body gets hot, blood flows through these fine blood vessels and are able to cool the blood by natural radiation and disperion of heat.

When these capillaries are exposed and skin over this is removed or thinned , then the blood can clearly seen to course through them, giving the appearance that the person is blushing or getting a hot flushes and cannot retreat easily to normal until the person returns to a cool environment and their body temperature cools down.

In 1997, CIR --the cosmetic industry's self-regulatory body for reviewing and addressing safety of cosmetic ingredients--concluded that the AHA's glycolic acid and lactic acid and their related chemical compounds are safe for use in products intended for consumer use when:

  • the AHA concentration is 10 percent or less
  • the final product has a pH of 3.5 or greater (lower numbers indicate greater acidity)
  • the final product is formulated in such a way that it protects the skin from increased sun sensitivity or its package directions tell consumers to use sunscreen products.
Enzymes


There is an alternative to the physical and chemical exfoliants. These alternatives are specialty ingredients called “proteolitic enzymes” and are significantly more selective with what is being broken down.

One still needs to be careful which enzyme to use; as some enzymes can be rather aggressive, such as the pineapple enzymes, which are very acidic in nature.

Whilst enzymes take a little longer to achieve the desired results than the chemical and physical methods there are much less harmful side effects than any of the other methods listed above.

papayineAnother regularly used product is Papain which is a non-irritating stabilised acid-free exfoliant which operates in the pH range of 6 to 7. Papain is a natural enzyme derived from the unripe papaya. The enzyme only digests certain linkages in the skin causing no damage to the underlying living cell layer (Proteolitic enzyme). People with sensitive skin can easily tolerate papain enzyme therapy whereas they may not handle the irritation often associated with AHAs , Retinoids and to a lesser extent BHAs in water based creams and gels. 

 

We are currenly adding more and more peptides to our actives listings and will be updating more on these products.

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The "Preservative-Free" Product

Formulators will almost universally agree that cosmetic products must be preserved sufficiently to protect the end customer.  The main reason that products must be preserved is that, that will ensure that the mixture is protected from the contamination, that it will be exposed to during normal usage (whether that contamination is intentional or unintentional). We can't keep products in our fridge just to minimise bacterial growth.biocide

In todays market we find a wide range of users from those who don't know what they are using (and dont even bother to read the instructions) to the other side of the spectrum where the product's ingredient label is read carefully and unknow ingredients  are carefully researched. Today's consumers are experts as to where to find ingredient information on the products they purchase, and are extensively using the internet to validate label information.

We know from experience that there are some ingredients that have their own anti-microbial activity. These are short chain alcohols, antioxidants, glycols, a number of herbal extracts, essential oils and a number of other ingredients. Even Zinc Oxide when used as an inorganic sunscreen will have sufficient anti-microbial properties at high enough concentrations to inhibit microbial growth. In those sircumstances a preservative-free claim can safely be made. Ingredients listed as preservatives must be used and notified as such,  but ingredients not appearing on any official preservative lists but which do have their own inherent anti-microbial activity, can be used to make a preservative-free claim.  Microbiologists would have the experience and background to see that some of the other ingredients in the formula are working in that capacity.  This is certainly on the proviser that the product passes the typical 3 month microbiology challenge test. 

in 2010 a questsion was posed to formulators  "would you be comfortable launching a preservative free product" and the responce was significant.

preservative free

So, with a good percentage  responding that they would not be comfortable launching a preservative-free product, how do we address this issue and convince the consumer that preservatives should and must be used in all cosmetic products?

So we certainly do need to launch clean cosmetic products and make sure they stay clean during their use and shelf life while in the possession of the consumer using whatever ingredients necessary and available to achieve this goal. This should be the objective of every formulator no matter where they are from. It's a fairly simple task - but very safe and effective. And by the looks of that poll, most of the formulators out there are certainly in agreement with this.

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