Great skin from Mother Nature

We’re not surprised that the latest crop of skin rejuvenators comes straight from Mother Nature – many of you prefer products that harness the anti-ageing power of plants and believe they’re better for your skin. Doctors say they’re effective, too.

“Botanicals are the best sources for discovering new ingredients that protect and repair ageing skin,” says Zoe Draelos, MD, a clinical and research dermatologist.

Vitamins, antioxidants, and emollients that spring from leaves, nuts, and fruits can soften wrinkles, fight sagging, and boost radiance. Here, we’ve unearthed five that deliver a major youth boost – just how nature intended.


A flowering shrub that flourishes throughout the United States, bearberry is quickly becoming a popular skin brightener. The leaves contain arbutin, a derivative of the skin lightener hydroquinone, which reduces the formation of pigment-producing melanin.

Unfortunately, HQ can irritate skin. Bearberry is a milder – but effective – HQ alternative when combined with other botanically based pigment faders, says Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, a dermatologist in San Francisco.

In one study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, women with melasma who applied a cocktail that included bearberry extract once a day lightened the dark patches of skin by nearly 70 per cent after three months – without any side effects.

Those using prescription-strength HQ saw a 77 per cent improvement, but a quarter of them reported reactions, such as itchy skin.

Find it in: Exuviance Essential Skin Brightening Gel (, Derma-doctor Immaculate Correction (, June Jacobs Redness Diffusing Serum (, and Juice Beauty Soothing Serum (


It may be little, but this brightly coloured Brazilian berry (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) packs a big anti-ageing punch. Acai berries are rich in emollients such as essential fatty acids and phyto-sterols that help seal in moisture and strengthen the skin’s surface so it’s more resilient against outside irritation, says Howard Sobel, MD, a New York City dermatologist and founder of DDF Skincare.

Acai is a powerful protector against free radicals, too. The pulp contains a significant concentration of anthocyanins, the antioxidant pigments that give red and purple produce their deep hue.

Hence the reason this superfruit boasts one of the highest ORAC scores, thought to measure a food’s ability to combat premature aging – even when applied on skin.

“Acai reduces UV damage that eventually causes wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging,” says Sobel. Proof that good things really do come in small packages.

Find it in: Pangea Organics Japanese Matcha Tea with Acai & Gogi Berry Facial Mask (, DDF Mesojection Healthy Cell Serum (, and Tarte Double Dose Berry Boost & Gloss in Acai Boost (


Tea brewed from the leaves of this South African shrub are rich in anti-inflammatories such as quercetin that help relieve itchiness and facial flushing. “Red tea is ideal for reducing irritation associated with rosacea and eczema flare-ups,” says Petko Detchev, PhD, senior chemist at Jason Natural Products. It soothes skin after a peel or microdermabrasion, too.

Red tea also shines at preventing the UV damage that causes fine lines and brown spots. Packed with antioxidants – including aspalathin, found only in red tea – it reduces free radical damage by as much as 90 per cent, according to one study. Red tea decreased skin cancer tumors at least 60 per cent, as well.

Find it in: Jason Red Elements Red Clay Masque (, Care by Stella McCartney Radiance & Youth Elixir (, and Dermalogica Daily Resurfacer (


Pressed from the nut of the Moroccan argan tree, the oil is touted as “liquid gold” for its ability to moisturise dry, lackluster skin. A high concentration of essential fatty acids and vitamin E, two key parts of skin’s lubricating layer, explains the oil’s power.

“These two components help the skin stay hydrated and prevent further moisture loss,” says Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist in Fairfield, New Jersey.

The leaves of the tree are loaded with glycerin, a humectant that attracts water, plumping wrinkles, says Pat Peterson, executive director of research and development at Aveda. The leaf extract fends off wrinkle-causing free radicals as well, reducing collagen and elastin damage by 45 per cent in one study.

Find it in: Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare Superskin Concentrate (, Kiehl’s Superbly Restorative Dry Oil (, Kaeline Argatherapie Argarôme Jour Day Serum (, and Aveda Green Science Line Minimizer (


Dubbed the King of Fruit in Asia, durian may soon rule the world as a top skin rejuvenator.

Don’t let its spiky exterior scare you: The source of durian’s beauty benefits is the creamy pulp, which contains hydrating oils, protective antioxidants, and natural sugars that strengthen cell membranes and prevent moisture from escaping, says Howard Murad, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA Sch’s a buffer to combat inflammation.

So far, durian is only available in one line: Murad Intensive Wrinkle Reducer for Eyes (

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved by New York Times Syndication Sales Corp. This material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.

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Dr. Diane Howard

How does the Dermalogica range reflect your knowledge of biochemistry?

My specialty is plant biochemistry. We don’t use any synthetic fragrances in Dermalogica products, only essential oil blends.

Our first choice is to use phytochemicals (plant extracts) and plant-based actives in Dermalogica products to affect the structure and function of the skin, however, I do believe the best solution is a combination of plant-based actives and synthetic actives, to get the best results.

You were among the first to recognise the astounding antioxidant benefits of rooibos tea. How has this discovery affected your work?

As scientists increasingly recognise the need to quench free radicals to prevent premature ageing and disease, the search is ongoing to find newer and better antioxidants.

Rooibos tea was a new source of antioxidants that we incorporated into Dermalogica products about five years ago. With the discovery that polyphenols from white tea are even stronger antioxidants, we incorporated white tea polyphenols into almost all our new products.

You also recognise the regenerative properties of protein peptides. How do they work?

Peptides that are synthesised in the laboratory have been shown to act as cellular communicators that trigger processes in the fibroblast of the dermis. Topical peptides stimulate new collagen synthesis in the skin, which helps fight ageing.

As we age, we lose collagen from the dermis, which contributes to the signs of ageing, including wrinkles. From the age of 30, we lose 1 per cent of collagen each year. The application of peptides can help offset this loss.

What’s your advice about how to age well?

The most important thing is to protect your skin with sunscreen. Use an SPF of at least 30 and apply it 365 days a year. Sunscreen protection is not for summer only – any daylight exposure means you’re triggering the signs of ageing. Ninety-nine per cent of the signs of ageing can be attributed to exposure to UV radiation, even on a cloudy day.

What has been Dermalogica’s biggest breakthrough?

Recognising that skin ageing can be attributed to three biochemical reactions in the skin. Once we narrowed it down to (1) the formation of reactive oxygen species, (2) the activation of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes, and (3) the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), we could develop products to combat these triggers. That’s the foundation of the new AGE Smart line.

For more information visit the Dermologica website.

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