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Soothing skin care ingredients

Karen Fischer looks at seven soothing skin care ingredients for healthy skin, plus the skin types they are most suited for

1 Evening primrose oil
(Oenothera biennis)

Referred to as the ‘King’s cure all’, evening primrose oil (EPO, for short) has long been used topically to heal the skin and enhance skin elasticity. It is rich in gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), which is anti-inflammatory and traditionally used to treat eczema and soothe joint pain and stiffness.

Ideal for: most skin types, normal skin to very dry skin, sensitive skin and skin rashes.

How to use: EPO is expensive and rather rich so it’s best applied within a mix of water and oils in a balm for dry skin types, or a cream for people with normal skin.

2 Colloidal oat powder
(Avena sativa)

Nature’s soother, oats have been used topically for centuries to relieve itchy and irritated skin. And today researchers have identified the active ingredients that make oats so special, including polyphenols called avenanthramides which are responsible for the anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties. Colloidal oat powder also contains cleansing saponins and beta-glucan, which forms a protective barrier to soothe and hydrate your skin. Colloidal oat powder and oat oil are popular ingredients to soothe eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis, but anyone can use oat powder to cleanse their face and neck for glowing, soft skin.

Ideal for: all skin types, sensitive skin, acne and skin rashes.

How to use: Disperse oat bath powder into a bath or mix a teaspoon of oat powder with water to make a runny face paste to cleanse the skin (or remove light make-up by rubbing it in circular motions). Tip: Do not rub acne, apply oat paste and pat it on gently, leave it on for 1 to 3 minutes, adding more water to prevent it from drying out, and wash it off with water.

3 Camellia seed oil
(Camellia oleifera)

Camellia seed oil is prized for its skin restorative and hair nourishing properties and it’s a treasured Japanese beauty secret which has been used for centuries by geishas. Cold pressed camellia seed oil is rich in vitamin A, vitamin E and squalene, which is a natural antioxidant that mimics your skin’s natural oils.

Ideal for: most skin types, normal skin to very dry skin, sensitive skin and skin rashes.

How to use: Camellia seed oil is expensive and works its magic within a mix of water and oils in a balm for dry skin types, or a cream for people with normal skin.

4 Refined shea butter
(Butyrospermum parkii)

Shea butter is the superhero of the skin care world — it’s not only super hydrating and anti-inflammatory, it contains antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamins which create skin softer than a baby’s bottom. It’s extracted from the nut of shea trees and refined is better, as opposed to unrefined shea butter. According to research, refined shea butter contains no IgE-binding proteins (the proteins associated with allergic reactions) which makes it allergy-friendly and unlikely to cause reactions in people with tree nut or peanut allergies. I tested other nut butters including cocoa butter, and refined shea butter won hands down when it came to hydrating super dry and sensitive skin.

Ideal for: very dry, dry and normal skin types, sensitive skin and skin rashes (do not use on acne, oily T-zones or oily skin).

How to use: 100 per cent shea butter is too rich and hard to apply as it’s solid — it works its magic when used in combination with gentle carrier oils (such as apricot oil and camellia seed oil) in a ‘water in oil’ formula, like a balm for dry skin or a cream or lotion for normal skin.

5 Sodium bicarbonate
(also called baking soda and bicarb soda)

Sodium bicarbonate is nature’s exfoliator with antibacterial super powers. For centuries, medicated baths have been prescribed to people with eczema and psoriasis, and bathing with sodium bicarbonate is a popular choice as it helps to reduce bacterial infections, skin itchiness and irritation.

Ideal for: most skin types, acne and skin rashes (some people react to it when used 100 per cent on its own but are fine when used in combination with other ingredients).

How to use: Disperse ¼ cup into a bath or mix a teaspoon of bicarb with water to make a runny face paste to cleanse and exfoliate your skin. Moisturise your skin straight afterwards as it helps the cream to soak in nicely.

6 Zinc oxide

Zinc oxide is nature’s wound-healer. It soothes the skin, has wound-healing properties and helps to protect against skin rashes such as nappy rash and eczema. It also has a potent antimicrobial effect when applied topically to the skin, guarding against Staphylococcus aureas (Staph), Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Candida albicans yeast infections. It’s also great on oily T-zones and is used in some sunscreen formulas as zinc oxide offers protection from sunburn and age spots, when it is suspended correctly in a well-made formulation.

Ideal for: acne, oily skin, normal skin, dry skin, sensitive skin and skin rashes.

How to use: 5–21 per cent zinc oxide needs to be suspended in a mix of water and oils in a balm for dry skin, or a cream for people with normal skin. Do not use homemade zinc creams for sun protection as they need to be made correctly and tested for efficacy.

7 AHA and BHA

Want younger looking skin? Alpha hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid and citric acid) gently remove dead skin cells, making way for baby soft, younger skin.

AHAs are used topically to treat acne, acne scars, clogged pores, wrinkles and age spots. Beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) removes excess sebum and unclogs pores so your skin appears smoother and less oily. It’s ideal for treating acne and clogged pores.

Ideal for: Combination skin, acne, oily skin, wrinkles and ageing skin. Not suitable for sensitive skin.

How to use: Suspend within a mix of water and oils or in a serum. Use as a daily spot treatment or as a once-a-week facial.

YHL’s top tip

Colloidal silica is a compound of silicon and oxygen, two of the most abundant substances on earth. When applied to the skin it adsorbs irritants, impurities and bacteria which may be the cause of problem skin, and particularly useful for those suffering from spots and blackheads due to hormonal fluctuations. These impurities are removed when the gel is rinsed off with water. A recent Dermatest study demonstrated that colloidal silica gel reduced skin sebum by 81 per cent and decreased skin bacteria levels by 30 per cent. Ninety-five per cent of the study participants rated the gel as good or very good.

Extracted from The Healthy Skin Kitchen by Karen Fischer, BHSc., Dip. Nut. (£19.99, Exisle Publishing).

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