There’s often a divisive gap between the medical community and the cosmetics industry on the value of herbal skin care products. The confusion this results in for the rest of us can be frustrating but the application of a little logic might help clear the air. Because, if you think about it, most medicinal and cosmetics products were herbal at one point in human history.
Native American Indians depended on plants and it would be wholly irresponsible to discount their practices as primitive simply because they are old. Advances in technology may have opened the world to new opportunities but that advancement doesn’t invalidate things that have worked in the past. For example, the use of Yellow-Spined Thistle in the treatment of burns and skin sores is no less valid today than it was 200 years ago. There are simply other options available.
One plant you’ve likely heard of that has received ready acceptance the world over is Aloe Vera. Thanks to humans, this plant has migrated to warm climates the world over and is used in everything from the treatment of burns to medicines. And, of course, you’ll find plenty of it in cosmetics. Again, the medical community hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon and begun lauding its value, but the cosmetics companies sure have.
Doctors Aren’t Always Right, Cosmetic Companies Aren’t Always Honest
The thriving malpractice industry should make that point clear but your common sense should tell you that, while certainly the smarter choice to bet on, even doctors get it wrong now and again. In my own lifetime, medical doctrine has changed on everything from the value of fat in our diets to numerous instances in which once wildly prescribed medicines have been yanked from the shelves as dangerous. So does that mean we should believe the cosmetics companies instead of the doctors? Not really. It just means that we should expect more out of both.
To claim clear and beneficial value in herbal skin care ingredients absent clinical study is no less irresponsible on the part of cosmetics companies than medical professionals claiming they don’t provide benefit without testing and proving their premise. In other words, the cosmetics industry is often guilty of hawking wares with no real proof of benefit and the medical community is often guilty of poo-pooing herbal ingredients without any real clinical study to support their skepticism. So what’s a gal or guy to do? Apply a little common sense and do your homework.
Absent clinical study by either party, we’re left to depend mostly on anecdotal evidence. The internet, for all its many flaws, has opened up doors our parents didn’t enjoy. An afternoon reading product reviews by those without any skin in the game (pardon the pun) can get you a long way towards deciding if an herbal skin care product can really deliver on its claims.
The simple truth is that virtually everything those same medical professionals so gleefully prescribe (in excesses, some might argue) have their roots in some herbal, botanical or natural substance. Seems odd, then, doesn’t it, that they’d have such a beef with the cosmetics industry for embracing “natural” as a good thing? On the surface, maybe. As already stated, it’s the absence of real medical studies in support of the claims the cosmetics companies make that inclines doctors to disbelieve the hype, but there’s more to it than that.
Doctors Just Hate Herbal Skin Care Products
Not really. Where the medical community does have a point is that herbal or botanical inclusion in skin care products is often little more than opportunistic marketing. What I mean by that is that we often make the mistake of assuming that “natural” is better. So when we see things like aloe or coco butter included in our skin care products, we make the assumption that the product is chalk full of healthy, natural ingredients and that it is, therefore, better for us. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the presence of those natural ingredients in organic herbal skin care products may be blinding you to the other ingredients on the list which may include plenty of chemicals.
The simple truth is that the marketing of natural herbal skin care products as somehow “better” is a sham. While there may be herbal skin care products with real benefits, a touch of lavender, saffron or jasmine or anything else prominently displayed on the product packaging is little more than bait. Sure, your herbal lotion or cream may smell a bit better for their inclusion, but you probably aren’t getting much in the way of any health benefits from rubbing it on your face.
Even assuming an herbal ingredient does have real beneficial value, that doesn’t mean every product you find it in has properly processed it or included enough of it in their product for it to result in any measurable results. This is even true of more mainstream chemical or vitamin-based products. Having it mentioned on the bottle really means next to nothing.
One example I’m fond of is the inclusion of “a complex of caffeine from coffee bean” in Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream. The product claims to brighten and depuff tired eyes. I won’t say whether the product works or not (for $29.50, I’d hope it does) but what I will say is that the mention of caffeine from coffee beans is nothing more than a clever play on perception. You know coffee wakes you up. You know it’s the caffeine in beans from which the coffee was made which is responsible for waking you up. That in mind, your natural inclination is to accept that having caffeine from coffee beans in a product really can wake up your puffy, tired eyes. Poppy-cock, I say.
Caffeine is a crystalline alkaloid and a diuretic. More importantly, it is a central nervous system stimulant. You get those “stimulating” benefits from it by processing it through your digestive tract and transferring it via your bloodstream to receptors in your brain. The very notion that rubbing minute quantities of caffeine on your puffy eyes will somehow “wake them up” is asinine. But we buy into it because human nature inclines us to seek commonality. If caffeine wakes me up then, sure, why wouldn’t it wake my eyes up too? Never mind that humans develop tolerance to caffeine. Ignore that there’s FAR more of the stuff in a single cup of coffee than you’ll ever find in a jar of eye cream.
In the case of Origins skin cream, it is likely other ingredients in far greater quantities which are responsible for the results you may or may not receive. Again, the product may work just fine (I’m not claiming it doesn’t). And for all I know, the drying nature of a diuretic may sap moisture from those puffy eyes and cause them to depuff (I doubt it). Even if that were the case though, is that what you want to do to the sensitive skin around your eyes? I’m just pointing out that it’s very easy to get suckered in by nonsense claims about herbal or botanical ingredients in skin care products that really offer little more than false assurances.
Dave Hates Herbal Skin Care Products
No, I don’t. I know that, having read what I’ve written above, you may be inclined to believe I’m not a fan, but it’s simply not true. Though I’ve evolved into a much more technical lifestyle, my younger years were spent avidly studying herbs and botanicals. I was fascinated by everything from the way Dumbcane could render a person temporarily mute (and in a lot of pain) to how the boiled bark of dogwood was a great treatment for constipation. In fact, I’ve been writing here about foods that are good for your skin and the benefits of antioxidants. I really do recognize the value of plants of all kinds for their medicinal and (yes) cosmetic potential. But I also know enough about marketing to realize that, all too often, cosmetic companies are preying on an assumption that a picture of a familiar, pretty plant (preferably one that smells great) is a fantastic way to get into a consumer’s wallet. It’s the same reason so many cosmetic products look like creamy, delicious food. It’s psychological marketing rather than honest help.
If you have your heart set on finding herbal skin care products than can really work and can deliver on their promises without too much in the way of a chemical boost, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Spend plenty of time researching online and pay particular attention to reviews and feedback by real consumers just like you who have tried and love a product before you settle. No cosmetics company is going to come right out on the bottle and tell you “we just put these flowers and herbs in here because we know you’re gullible and they smell good.” Finding a product that is both herbal and functional will be entirely up to you.
While you’re at it and conducting your search, you may find a few sites out their run by people who concoct their own herbal skin care recipes. They often offer recipes or sell their cosmetics online. While I’m a big advocate of small business and always cheer for the little guy, you should be careful here. That’s particularly the case if you suffer from sensitive skin or skin allergies.
If you’re curious about herbs and their many uses, you should stop by www.naturalherbsguide.com. You might be fascinated by what you can learn there about all kinds of natural herbal remedies and supplements.
Check back soon for another beautiful skin post. I have to run to the grocery store to pick up a new bottle of shampoo with yogurt in it. Mmmm… yummy yogurt. I’m sure it’ll make my hair beautiful.