Finding the cure for wrinkles has been prevalent, especially for women, since Cleopatra’s era. Although many products have been developed and advanced over the past centuries, few if any can actually boast being “the cure” for this natural aging process. Cleopatra credited her youthful skin to her daily use of milk and honey for washing and bathing her skin.
Another well-known French beauty from the late 1600’s, Ninon de L’Enclos, was still so physically alluring at the age of 90 years old that young men fell hopelessly in love with her. Her face was as smooth and free of wrinkles at 90 as it had been at 20. Louis XIV declared that she was the marvel of his reign. Paintings of her from ages 50 to 85 show her with youthful, clear, wrinkle free skin. Her secret, which was later revealed around 1710, was a simple balm made from beeswax, lard and onion juice!
Although anti-aging skin treatments from Cleopatra’s and Ninon’s eras, and even the most highly advertised “wrinkle creams” on the market today, cannot stop the natural aging process of the skin, studies have shown several natural and herbal ingredients can certainly slow the process down significantly. I will be covering a few of the most effective of these ingredients a little later.
Firstly, let’s do some “Wrinkles 101”. Wrinkles are visible creases in the skin. Wrinkles form as the skin loses collagen, a protein that allows the skin to retain fluids that support a smooth, supple contour. As the collagen-filled elastic tissues underlying the skin are increasingly damaged, wrinkles deepen and become more prominent. Exposure to ultraviolet light and free radicals accelerate the process. Frequent exposure to sunshine results in premature skin wrinkling and increased pigmentation, called liver spots. Exposure to cigarette smoke means exposure to toxic free radicals that also contribute to wrinkling. In women, smoking exacerbates skin wrinkling that occurs after menopause, canceling out the anti-wrinkling effects of estrogen treatment. Other factors that can lead to premature wrinkling include poor diet and nutrition, poor muscle tone, habitual facial expressions, stress, lack of proper skin care, excel sun exposure and heredity.
The use of some herbal antioxidants in skin creams can stop the free radical process that destroys collagen. Herbal sources of alpha-hydroxy acids stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid, the body’s natural agent for moisturizing and restoring suppleness to the skin. These therapies can soften existing wrinkles and prevent new wrinkles from forming.
What Cleopatra and Ninon both knew even long ago is that they needed to use ingredients that were agents for moisturizing, retaining and restoring suppleness to their skin. The use of milk, honey and lard (or oil), for example, were excellent choices for keeping their skin moisturized, and are common ingredients still used today in many natural skin care products.
There are several herbal extracts and essential oils, which when added to an effective natural skin softening agent, can heed excellent anti-wrinkling results without the use of synthetics. Here are my top 10 favorite botanically-inspired ingredients, which we in the natural skin care world affectionately refer to as “miracle herbs” for the skin.
1. Aloe Vera: Most potent natural source of alpha-hydroxy acids
2. Calendula: Stimulates growth of skin cells, soothes sun-damaged skin and protects it from infection
3. Carrot Seed Oil: Rich in Beta-Carotene and is valued for its soothing, relaxing properties
4. Frankincense: Rejuvenates the skin and has excellent cytophylactic properties (encourages the growth of skin cells) while being a good all-over skin tonic. It is also effective in healing sores, carbuncles and wounds, while reducing ugly scaring and reducing skin inflammation
5. Grape Seed Extract: Anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory
6. Green Tea Extract: Prevents free radical damage to the skin
7. Helichrysium (Everlasting): Extremely expensive but excellent for scar tissue, burns, cuts, wounds, stretch marks, preventing infection, bruises, warts, eczema, also anti-inflammatory
8. Pine-Park Extract: Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, improves skin elasticity
9. Wild Sea Buckthorn Berry: Excellent source of carotinoids, including a high level of beta-carotine, vitamins A, C and E, absorbs UV rays, regenerates and heals skin tissue
10. Witch Hazel: Natural astringent that tones the skin
Here are a few of the natural softening agents (oils) with unique properties that not only moisturize and nourish the skin, but also aid in the skin’s ability to retain the moisture:
• olive oil
• apricot kernel oil
• sweet almond oil
• shea butter
• meadow foam oil
• evening primrose oil
• borage oil
• pumpkin seed oil
If you are interested in using an entirely natural product which incorporates many of the above mentioned ingredients without the use of synthetics, parabens, sulfates or other toxic ingredients, you may want to consider this handmade product called Evening Blossom Anti-Aging Balm. While it boasts being an old-fashioned, completely natural/herbal anti-wrinkle balm, the ingredients chosen for this product reveal that some extraordinary herbal research went into its “secret” recipe.
A few more suggestions for achieving naturally healthy skin are to drink eight ounces of water daily, use natural oils rather than harsh soaps, avoid alcohol-based toners which can dry and chap the skin, get regular exercise and do not smoke.
Natalie A. Deckerb – As a student of Herbology and Aromatherapy, and as an Usui Reiki Master and Teacher for over 10 years, I have a love for everything natural and holistic.