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Free-range formulae: What's up in 'nutrabeauty' is from down on the farm

Article-Free-range formulae: What's up in 'nutrabeauty' is from down on the farm

Key iconKey Points

  • Natural ingredients are a popular addition to skin care products, but how well they work depends on matching the right ingredient with the right skin type or condition
  • Two skin care experts offer their insights and recommendations for "farm"ceutical ingredient/product selection

You see it all the time: "All natural!" "No artificial ingredients!" "Totally organic!" The succinct accolades touting the benefits of "natural" products and ingredients abound, and the world of skin care and beauty is no exception.

But how much do we really know about botanical cosmeceuticals and their benefits? What exactly are they?

Cosmetic Surgery Timesspoke recently with Emily P. Fritchey, a licensed clinical esthetician with an extensive background in herbal medicine, natural health and alternative treatments for healing, aging and problem skin issues. As president and founder of Sunshine Botanicals in Atlanta, "microbrewers of ultra-pure, handcrafted botanical formulations," she was invited to discuss the subject at this Spring's annual Society of Plastic Surgical Skin Care Specialists meeting.

"A botanical is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal or therapeutic properties, flavor and/or scent," she explains. "Herbs are a botanical subcategory. Organic ingredients are produced according to certain production standards. It means they were grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste or sewage sludge, and were processed without radiation or chemical additives."

Ms. Fritchey
EDUCATE & EVALUATE Viewed from the scrubs of a cosmetic surgeon, why, and how, are these valuable for patients? Do they work? In a word (or two), they can.

"I think they work," says Leslie Baumann, M.D., professor of dermatology and chief of the University of Miami Cosmetic Group, and author of the popular blog "But only when the correct ones are used." But identifying the "correct" product may not be as cut-and-dried as it seems.

"Cosmeceuticals can be very good," Dr. Baumann tells CST. "The trick is knowing the patient's skin type so you will choose the right botanicals for that skin type." The key, she says, is understanding what you want to use, for which patients.

Ms. Fritchey agrees. When it comes to evaluating what to use, what's good, what isn't, and what's hype, the practitioner needs to educate him or herself. "Know your source!" she advises. "Natural ingredients are in high demand and many companies 'angel dust' these ingredients into their formulas — that is, using just enough of the botanical extract to be able to claim the latest 'hot' ingredient for marketing purposes."

One would wish that meager inclusion of glam ingredients were the worst aspect of additives. Unfortunately, looking beneath the surface of conventional cosmetics and skin care products can be downright scary. "A quick look at a few ingredients of concern [in conventional skin care products]," Ms. Fritchey ticks off: "Parabens are chemical preservatives that have been identified as estrogenic and disruptive of normal hormone function. Along with phthalates, parabens were banned by the European Union in 2003.

"Ironically, some sun blocks contain suspected carcinogens, including diethanolamine and related ingredients (DEA, TEA), padimate-o and titanium dioxide. Moreover, sunscreens can contain chemicals associated with skin irritation and rashes, including avobenzone (parsol 1789), benzophenone, octyl-methoxycinnamate and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)."

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