Humans have utilized plants for healing and health since the beginning of their existence on Planet Earth. Though animal nutrients from animal foods are beneficial for many people in the diet, and may be used for topical skin health, plants are abundant and offer a wider range of uses in topical skin preparations. Just like the phrase “you are what you eat” rings true for foods consumed internally, one can just as easily make the argument pertaining to topically applied “skin food.” Though vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and other nutrients may be synthesized in a lab, or isolated from the whole and offered as a dietary supplement or isolated topical active, there is no substitute for whole food nutrition for gorgeous skin and a healthy body.
What is whole food nutrition?
Simply put, whole food nutrition is obtained from foods–plants and animals–that are in a form as close to its whole, living form found in nature. In nutrition, this means getting vitamins from foods that naturally contain them instead of from supplements or processed foods that have been fortified with synthetic versions of the nutrients. In skincare, it means using ingredients in your skincare products that are minimally processed, and often processed using traditional means, rather than mass produced in a laboratory. Examples are unrefined, unbleached oils that have been cold pressed from nuts and seeds such as jojoba oil or shea butter; in addition to herbal preparations made from using natural solvents like alcohol, glycerine, or a carrier to extract the nutrients from freshly harvested plant parts (flowers, stems, roots, seeds) or even the whole plant itself.
For more about different ways herbs are prepared for topical use, click HERE.
Studies have shown the benefits and efficacy of individual phytochemical constituents on the skin, such as isolated antioxidants branded as Resveratrol® Pycnogenol®; as well as amino acids and peptides. While these, in addition to isolated vitamins and minerals may have measurable benefit, absorption and delivery is often an issue because when you separate an individual part from the whole, its benefits begin to degrade and its bioavailability is reduced. This is why so many ingredients like these contain hidden ingredients–they need to be packaged into phospholipids and other delivery systems, and also must be preserved before they’re even added to a formulation. That, by the way, is something that will not be disclosed to a customer, or even necessarily, to the product manufacturer.
Why does this happen?
The reason is that though certain components of plants may show more benefit than others, those “others” may in fact be important nutrients which serve co-factors for the vitamin or phytochemical desired in the formulation. Co-factors are “‘helper molecules’ that help in the biochemical transformations.” Co-enzymes are a type of co-factor, and for the purposes of this article, will be referred to as co-factors. They are needed to enhance the star nutrient’s bioavailability—meaning its ability to be recognized, absorbed, and utilized by the body. Skincare nutrition that’s introduced to the skin in a form as close to whole as possible, with the least amount of processing possible, contains the necessary co-factors for bioavailability and therefore, efficacy.
Let’s consider Vitamin A as an example. Retinols and other Vitamin A metabolites and precursors are some of the most common—and most controversial ingredients in skincare. Though there are known, scientifically proven benefits of Vitamin A for various skin conditions including acne, there are problems with many forms of Vitamin A used in skincare. The most commonly used retinols in over-the-counter products are low quality. Higher quality cosmetic grade retinols (retinyl palmitate, pro-retinol) have concerns with absorption, leading to topical oxidation and inflammation, in addition to phototoxicity. Pharmaceutical retinoids such as tretinoin and retinoid acid are known to be skin irritant, drying, and also phototoxic. Other Vitamin A precursors such as retinaldehyde and retinyl propionate are known to be less sensitizing and more bioavailable, but are less stable and more expensive—and while the skin is able to store these more than other retinols, these may still be too strong and sensitizing for some people. However, properly extracted plant oils that naturally contain carotenoid antioxidants plus cofactors, such as carrot seed oil, rosehip seed oil, or sea buckthorn oil, sunflower seed oils and others are easily recognized by the skin, and since many are oils, are more likely to absorb than water soluble actives can without further processing.
The same action is demonstrated in the world of nutrition. While certain individual vitamins show benefit for specific health benefits (Vitamin C’s positive effect on the immune system, for example), taking a vitamin in supplement form is not as effective or as bioavailable as consuming it in a whole food form (example: eating citrus fruits). And like with supplements, not all individual skin nutrients and chemicals are are created equal. The purity, quality, solubility, and many other factors determine efficacy and bioavailability.
The importance of bioavailability for healthy skin
One of the main causes of acne and other skin disorders is vitamin deficiency, “either because not enough of the vitamin is obtained from dietary sources (primary deficiency) or because there is a problem with the absorption, transportation or utilization of the vitamin (secondary deficiency).” Common deficiencies associated with acne are Vitamins A, B Complex, C, D, E, and K; in addition to mineral deficiencies of zinc and selenium. Vitamins A and D are co-factors of Zinc, Vitamin K is a co-factor for Vitamin D, many of the B vitamins are co-factors for each other, and so on.
While healthy skin cells are built from the inside out, it’s always been my belief that we must also nourish and protect the skin from the outside in. The skin’s barrier function is primarily a lipid barrier. Nutrients stand a much better chance to actually get absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin where they can do their job to nourish and protect the skin when they are introduced to the skin in the forms of oils, lipids, and fats. Water soluble extracts and actives have a much tougher job; though the skin does also need to be hydrated for maximum absorption potential.
Whole food nutrition as a skincare business focus
You may have noticed that natural plant oils and butters are highly on trend in the natural skincare market today. There are several reasons for this–mainly, because they do not harbor bacteria, mold, and yeast the same way water-containing products do–but also because they are highly effective.
What’s interesting is that licensed aestheticians used to want to exclusively use and carry “professional” skincare brands in their spas (click HERE to read more about what that actually means), but that’s starting to change. More and more aestheticians now seek out artisan skincare makers who specialize in top quality, organic oil blends. Brands like Laurel Whole Plant Organics, Annmarie Skincare, and Qet Botanicals have become extremely popular choices for holistically minded aestheticians to use to create custom treatments, and recommend to their clients for their homecare regimens.
Many of my Create Your Skincare Live and Mastermind students also focus on whole food nutrition in their boutique skincare and custom ranges, and have a preference for oils. So for the reasons of bioavailability, versatility, feasibility, efficacy, and popularity, it’s a fantastic time to start a whole food nutrition-based skincare business.
In the plant world, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, and the parts depend on each other. The whole human body will always benefit more from whole plant and whole food nutrition, topically and internally. Thus it is possible to use food and plants as medicine.
Have you thought about starting a skincare business or adding customized skincare to your practice?
Create Your Skincare Mastermind teaches you to create and customize all natural, boutique skincare products from scratch–I even teach you how to choose the best ingredients for different skin types and create your own herbal skincare ingredients. Once you learn that, you’ll get certified as a Boutique Skincare Designer, and actually build (or solidify your existing) skincare business from the ground up. You’ll learn how to get your business started, how to be legally compliant, how to manage your time efficiently so you’re an awesome boss AND employee, how to craft your signature brand, what you need on your website, and so much more.
Click here to learn more and save your spot in our next class!
You can also get started today with a free class, where you’ll learn to make two simple, yet effective whole food nutrition-based skin moisturizers.
Click HERE to sign up the free skincare class today.