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Fact or Fiction? Cucumbers on puffy eyes really do soothe and reduce swelling.

Fact or Fiction? Cucumbers on puffy eyes really do soothe and reduce swelling.
Thumb through a beauty magazine or a luxury resort brochure and you'll probably see the serene image of a recumbent woman wearing a pristine robe and artfully wrapped towel turban, face slathered in a luscious cream mask... with perfectly shaped cucumber slices carefully positioned over her eyes. But is there more to this iconic image of spa luxury and blissed-out relaxation? Continue reading

New Trends from East to West

New Trends from East to West
One of the exciting things about the beauty industry is that it constantly evolves as unusual ingredients, new products, and fascinating techniques for rejuvenating the face are discovered and shared. The increasing popularity of trends from other countries has revolutionized what happens in our own salons. What makes the beauty industry even more wonderful is the "surprise factor" of many of these trends! Here are some of the most striking and attention-grabbing techniques, products, and ingredients whose popularity originated in the East and are infiltrating spas in the West. Continue reading

Hyaluronic Acid: Skincare Superstar

Hyaluronic Acid: Skincare Superstar

You’ve probably been hearing more and more about the anti-aging benefits of hyaluronic acid in skincare products. But did you know that this essential anti-aging ingredient is already located deep within your skin? Naturally found in the skin’s extracellular matrix (ECM) where collagen is located, hyaluronic acid is like your own personal fountain of youth, responsible for keeping skin plump, smooth, and youthful-looking.


HA's Global History

Although it’s always been lurking in the human body, hyaluronic acid was officially discovered in 1880 by the French chemist Portes, who called it “hyalomucine.” Decades later in the ophthalmology lab at Columbia University, German biochemist Karl Meyer coined the name “hyaluronic acid” or “hyaluronan” for this substance with an extremely high molecular weight. In 1942, due to its naturally viscous nature, Hungarian doctor Endre Balazs initially filed a patent to use hyaluronic acid commercially as an egg white substitute for baking purposes. Hyaluronic acid then became increasingly recognized as having an important role in overall bodily health. For the next seventy years, Balazs became an expert on the therapeutic effects of hyaluronic acid on the human body, and made countless groundbreaking discoveries. Initially used in medicine as a treatment to reduce swelling and pain in arthritic joints, the large molecular size of hyaluronic acid helped the body resist stress to the joints, tissues, and skin due to its viscous, lubricating effect.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Hyaluronic acid is present in almost every tissue and organ in the body. In fact, almost 50% of the body’s hyaluronic acid is found in skin tissue and helps keep skin plump, supple, and smooth. However, with age, the body produces less and less hyaluronic acid, so skin loses moisture and dries out more easily. Skin then becomes thinner and takes longer to repair itself. Collagen fibers become brittle and break down, causing sagging, wrinkles, and other visible signs of aging.


Skincare Superpowers

Don’t be fooled: hyaluronic acid isn’t actually an acid—it’s a glycosaminoglycan, or a longer, more complicated version of a sugar. A water-binding, jello-like substance, hyaluronic acid attracts water and expands it up to 1,000 times—like a saturated sponge underneath your skin, giving it a long, steady drink of water throughout the day. With it, innovative chemists and dermatologists are discovering unprecedented ways to make skin look firmer, dewier, and ageless. No wonder it’s the perfect choice for skincare formulators, professional estheticians, doctors, and savvy consumers.


Moisture Booster and Wrinkle Eraser

Although hyaluronic acid can be used in an injectable form to fill out wrinkles, topically applied medium or low molecular weight forms can also help plump away wrinkles and firm up sagging skin. When aging or stressed cells crave moisture, collagen fibers dry out and deteriorate, like aging rubber bands. However, due to its hydrophilic, or water-loving properties, hyaluronic acid binds with water, saturating skin with moisture and locking it in, and keeping collagen nourished and healthy. High, medium, and low molecular weights of hyaluronic acid offer the perfect solution for restoring moisture to aging skin as well as helping prevent dehydration due to seasonal changes or cold, dry environmental conditions.


Damage Control and Repair

The anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties of hyaluronic acid play an essential role in cell metabolism, supporting the skin’s ability to naturally heal and repair itself. It is often utilized to help skin recover following procedures that include chemical peels, laser treatments, resurfacing, or micro-needling.  Hyaluronic acid also helps fight free radicals that break down collagen and elastin, which make wrinkles, sagging and other signs of aging more evident. 


The Many Faces of Hyaluronic Acid

Not all hyaluronic acid is the same. Size matters. Be on the lookout for the different types of hyaluronic acid now on the market. Old-school, traditional hyaluronic acid is made up of large molecular chains with a heavy weight (1,000 kilodaltons and above), which are the key to restoring moisture and plumping wrinkles on the surface of the skin. Now, thanks to advanced technology, hyaluronic acid has undergone a metamorphosis. Low and medium molecular weights of hyaluronic acid (under 1,000 kilodaltons) are small enough for the skin to absorb down into the extracellular matrix. There, hyaluronic acid bathes collagen and elastin fibers, keeping them moist and supple and preventing the brittleness that results in wrinkles and sagging. Differing molecular weights of hyaluronic acid are necessary to prevent loss of moisture on the surface of the skin, while maintaining skin suppleness and elasticity in the extracellular matrix.

Differing forms of hyaluronic acid are also becoming more well-known in topical skin care. For example, hyaluronate refers to the base of hyaluronic acid, while sodium hyaluronate is the salt form of HA, which is added in a powder form to formulations to help reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). Hyaluronan is known as a polyanionic form of hyaluronic acid, a polysaccharide also synthesized by cells as a salt instead of an acid. HMW HA, or high molecular weight hyaluronic acid, provides surface moisturization. MMW HA, or medium molecular weight, mimics hyaluronic acid in the natural skin structure to help promote skin elasticity. LMW HA, or low molecular weight, improves absorption and skin functioning. Fermentation-derived hyaluronic acid contributes to an increase in skin elasticity and a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. For those who have a preference for botanical-derived ingredients, a form of hyaluronic acid is derived from cassia angustifolia, a plant with polysaccharides that have been shown to mimic the moisturizing and film-forming benefits of hyaluronic acid.


Your Partner in the Treatment Room

How can you use hyaluronic acid in the treatment room to help your clients renew their skin and a more youthful appearance, without resorting to injectable hyaluronic acid to fill out sagging, wrinkled skin?  In this age of scientific breakthroughs, topically applied hyaluronic acid is becoming the go-to product for firming sagging skin, plumping away wrinkles, and protecting skin against oxidative damage from ultraviolet rays.

Increase the efficacy of all of your facial treatments by utilizing hyaluronic acid in a variety of forms and molecular weights. The more hyaluronic acid you introduce into the skin, the younger the skin will look.

For mature skin, use high molecular weight hyaluronic acid to restore moisture and plump wrinkled, sagging skin, while its low molecular weight counterpart helps regulate inflammatory response, promote skin renewal, treat photo-damaged skin, and prevent further oxidative damage.

For dry, irritated, or eczema-prone skin, high molecular weight hyaluronic acid adds moisture to skin, then seals it in. Low molecular weight helps prevent collagen and elastin fibers in the extracellular matrix from drying out and breaking down.

For acne-prone skin, high molecular weight hyaluronic acid is a highly recommended moisturizer to alleviate the dryness that acne medication often causes, and will not clog pores. Low molecular weight helps relieve skin irritation and inflammation.

For hyperpigmentation, lines, superficial acne scarring, and other skin imperfections, micro-needling treatments have been shown to help promote the production of collagen and elastin when hyaluronic acid (at high and low molecular weights) is driven into micro-punctured skin.


Hyaluronic Acid for Home Care

Because hyaluronic acid is so appropriate for various skin types and conditions, it is a must-have retail item for client home care—either as an addition to an existing skincare regimen, or as an ingredient in skincare products. Ingredient declarations on product labels may list different forms of hyaluronic acid, but all forms should be located at the beginning of the list, which indicates that the concentration is high enough to make a difference in the skin. Finally, hyaluronic acid plays well with other anti-aging ingredients, such as growth factors, stem cells, peptides, and antioxidants. The result? Estheticians now have access to an unparalleled anti-aging power team—headed up by the superstar benefits of hyaluronic acid. 



Founder and CEO of Le Mieux Cosmetics and PurErb Herbology-based Skincare & Aromatherapy, Janel Luu has over 35 years experience in the beauty industry as an educator, researcher, and formulator. She has taught over 37,000 skincare professionals and physicians on topics ranging from anti-aging cellular technology to centuries-old Meridian techniques.


Dermascope Oct 2017


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Korean Skin Care: Get Your Glow On

Korean Skin Care: Get Your Glow On

Bored with traditional skin care? Tired of hearing the same catchwords and promises? Then all you need to do is take a closer look at the skin care that Korea has to offer, and you'll be surprised (and occasionally entertained) by the trends that are taking the beauty industry by storm. In fact, the breakneck speed of innovation is driving the growth of South Korea's buzzing beauty industry, estimated at $13 billion in just the past year. Whether it's about a new twist in a skin care routine, an innovative product, or an unusual ingredient, there's always something to learn from K-Beauty.



            K-Beauty blurs the lines in creating innovative experiences and surprises. Ten-step regimens that include double-cleansing are not the only path to achieving "glass skin," known for its clear, luminous, dewy, and seemingly poreless quality. With every new trend, it's almost as if skin care goes hybrid as textures combine and transform. Masks become foam, oil morphs into cream, exfoliants double as moisturizers. New skin care methods and interesting products are not only effective, but they are an experience in themselves.

—The Seven Skin Method

            Also known as the seven toner method, the "Seven Skin Method" is a regimen where seven layers of toner are layered on in succession. In this way, the skin is drenched with moisture, without the heaviness or greasiness that may come with layering traditional oils and creams. Providing the optimal balance of hydration and skin's natural oils, it's the fast track to the Korean ideal, "chok chok," referring to a plump, luminous, dewy glow to the complexion. With this method, however, it's important to avoid toners with alcohol, which will dry out the skin and potentially cause irritation if layered more than once.

—Bubble masks

            Due to this obsession with Korean beauty, masks come in an infinite variety of choices, ranging from splashed-on liquid to painted-on mud. One popular version is the bubble mask, with activated bubbles that introduce micronized ingredients into the skin. The sensation is unique—like tiny champagne bubbles tickling skin as they oxygenate skin cells. Bubble masks provide a sensorial quality that is exciting for clients, who rarely have experienced anything like it. It’s a great surprise during a facial: clients feel a playful tickling, an unusual effervescent "crackle, pop" sensation. Bubble masks are a fun and effective way to hydrate and oxygenate skin, and even provide a brightening effect.

—Sun sticks

            Sunscreen sticks are an increasingly popular form of sunscreen that provides a very convenient way to protect skin from damaging UV rays that cause premature wrinkles, dryness, dark spots, and other signs of skin stress and aging. Although they might initially seem like sticks of deodorant being rubbed across the face, these sun sticks can provide superior levels of protection, as with 50+ SPF (level of protection from UVB rays) and PA +++ (level of protection from UVA rays).

            Depending on ingredients, the sun sticks may also offer anti-aging and brightening benefits, are much easier to travel with, and are less messy than traditional sunscreens or BB creams. Some may be oily and leave a white cast that is difficult to blend into skin. However, other brands blend in clear and matte, and can actually provide a good primer for fixing makeup. This kind of innovation and convenience is a great way to encourage people to use sunscreen every day to protect against UV damage, whether it's a sunny day outside or not.

—Microneedle patches

            Before microneedle patches came along, microneedling treatments were provided by dermatologists for their twofold benefits: first, to stimulate collagen production for healing and rejuvenating skin, and second, to increase the absorption (and efficacy) of skincare products. However, to some individuals, a dermaroller or microneedler may look like a tiny torture device implanted with uniform rows of miniature needles. Fortunately, K-Beauty has a less daunting and much more convenient solution: transdermal microneedle patches. These patches function according to the same principle of micro-needling—without the scary needle roller.             Some microneedle patches are loaded with hyaluronic acid, retinol, vitamin C, or skin brightening ingredients. The tiny needles (or microscopic spears) implanted in the patch improve ingredient delivery to problem areas. If the patch doesn't contain infused ingredients, that's fine, because after patch removal, serums or creams can immediately be applied for better absorption into the skin. Clinical studies with microneedle patches have shown success in improving skin brightening, increasing elasticity, and reducing facial wrinkles, including crow's feet and nasolabial folds. According to skin sensitivity, whether it's a microneedle roller or microneedle patch—when there's no pain, there's no gain in the war against aging.

—Fascia-firming massage

            For those who prefer more of a hands-on approach to skin rejuvenation before anti-aging products are applied, Meridian facial resculpting zeros in on the superficial fascia, which is the connective tissue lying underneath the skin. During massage along Meridian lines, wrinkles and creases in the fascia are smoothed out by rolling and pressing along the jawline and neck. The look of drooping eyelids, dull skin, and puffiness can be minimized by using the forefinger and thumb to gently pinch and roll along the eyebrows and eye sockets. As an added bonus, the experience of being touched releases oxytocin to improve a sense of overall well-being.



            No one would blame you if you thought that ginseng, jellyfish, bamboo, bird nests, and pig collagen were the ingredients of a traditional Asian family stew recipe dating back hundreds of years. But these ingredients have also become trending on skin care shelves in addition to the pantry shelves. Here are other unusual ingredients that have also been trending across the globe.

—Silk worm cocoons

            You probably wouldn't associate worms with beauty, but silkworm cocoons are another K-Beauty novelty. Silkworms create their cocoon to protect them as they metamorphose into a future butterfly. For skin care use, the cocoons are dried and cleaned. Before using, they should be immersed in hot water until they become a soft, soggy "sock" to put on the finger. This can then be used as a silky-soft way to exfoliate and get rid of flaky patches.

            Sericin is a protein found in the silk threads making up cocoons, which can be extracted as a powder and used in skin care oils or creams. Sericin is said to help improve the skin barrier by keeping skin hydrated and sealing in moisture.


            These amazing creatures are usually sought after by tide pool sight-seers, but now starfish are receiving a closer look for their skin care benefits in the latest "must-have" face cream. Since starfish can regenerate its own lost or injured limbs, can they hold the secret to skin regeneration as well? Starfish extract is loaded with collagen, calcium, and skin-loving vitamins, which are all skin care ingredients that help plump skin, smooth out wrinkles, and rejuvenate the complexion.

            As this ingredient trend spreads, it's not likely that the ocean's supply will be depleted. Scientists have indicated that the starfish used in beauty creams are bi-products of environmental groups that reduce the overgrowth of the starfish population in order to prevent the destruction of coral reefs and other essential fish habitats. 


            Not just food for pandas, bamboo has been used for centuries in Korea for helping heal skin. Not surprising, since bamboo regenerates itself incredibly fast, skyrocketing upward at an average rate of three to five feet a year, and some varieties actually grow over a foot a day. Used in skincare, bamboo is known as an excellent hydrator, drawing moisture to the skin to plump it up. And no worries about depleting the bamboo forests of the world--due to its rapid growth, it's one of the most sustainable ingredients in skin care you'll ever find.



            Stay on top of K-Beauty trends by pepping up your own skin care regimen, transforming your facial protocols, or just passing along the information to clients. In this way, you'll be at the forefront of the global skincare industry by continuing the spread of this amazing "K-phenomenon." You won't just find ways to benefit skin... in the process, you'll add a lot more fun, excitement, and surprises to your life. And who doesn't love a good surprise?



Founder and CEO of Le Mieux Cosmetics and PurErb Herbology-based Skincare & Aromatherapy, Janel Luu has over 35 years experience in the beauty industry as an educator, researcher, and formulator. She has taught over 37,000 skincare professionals and physicians on topics ranging from anti-aging cellular technology to centuries-old Meridian techniques.


LNE March 2018

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Natural Ingredients: When Nature and Technology Collide

Natural Ingredients: When Nature and Technology Collide

What's better for skin, natural ingredients or chemicals?  Wait—that's a trick question. Have you ever heard of "dihydrogen monoxide"? Sounds like an intimidating chemical, but it's just a fancy term for regular water, H2O. In fact, every substance is made of chemicals—even plants! That's because any chemical is made up of atoms and molecules, which can occur naturally or can also be synthesized artificially.

So, without using the word "chemicals," a better question might be:  "What's better for skin, natural ingredients or synthetic ingredients?"  In terms of skin care products, "natural ingredients" are derived from flowers, leaves, roots, bark, marine sources, soil (clay), minerals, and so forth. On the other hand, synthetic ingredients are created in a lab, and are often categorized as "cosmeceuticals."

However, in these days of advanced skincare technology, there's really no need to just have the two choices, as if they were polar opposites. In fact, natural ingredients are often the very source of cosmeceuticals, and in turn, cosmeceuticals can help promote, deliver, and even magnify the effects of natural ingredients.   

In this day of technology, there is now a third choice: a symbiotic hybrid of natural ingredients that are married to scientific advancements, with the goal of amplifying and enhancing skin care. By using microencapsulation, plant stem cells, and plant-derived cosmeceutical ingredients, formulators are redefining the role of "natural ingredients" in skin care.




Skin care formulators face many challenges when working with natural ingredients, such as concentration, stability, and delivery.

Challenge #1: Concentration. Some plant extracts would need to be applied in large quantities to provide the desired result. On the other hand, certain essential oils can be irritating to the skin when applied topically. In fact, just because an ingredient is identified as natural, doesn't necessarily mean it's well suited for the skin or will prevent allergic complications.

Challenge #2: Stability. When separated and isolated from their natural source, natural actives can undergo stability issues due to sensitivity to light, oxidation, temperature, and pH levels. The molecules break down and lose potency, which reduces or even destroys their effectiveness.  For example, vitamin C extracted from a natural source is known for reducing melanin production, fading hyperpigmentation, inhibiting free radicals, and boosting collagen. However, when exposed to light and air, some forms of vitamin C oxidize, lose efficacy and may even damage proteins and DNA.

Challenge #3: Delivery. The smaller the molecule, the more easily it is absorbed by skin, but larger molecules need a vehicle to allow them to pass through the stratum corneum. Water-soluble ingredients can't effectively penetrate skin's lipid layer, and oil-soluble ingredients might be too large or too unstable to pass through.

The good news: Many natural moisture factors and antioxidants stay on the top layer of the skin to soothe, hydrate, plump, and maintain the moisture barrier. The bad news: Without effective concentration, stability, or delivery system, many natural ingredients won't effectively penetrate skin's protective barrier.

Solution: Natural ingredients and cosmeceuticals don't have to battle it out when they can work in perfect harmony. The science of encapsulation technology can be married to the power of natural ingredients.



Like shuttles that deliver people to their destination on time without losing their luggage, microencapsulated natural ingredients 1) reach the targeted location, 2) do not lose their potency, 3) are released in a timely manner. So how does encapsulation impact natural ingredients and the skin?  The stratum corneum, the top layer of skin, is a barrier protecting the body from bacteria, environmental damage, and moisture loss. Microencapsulation technology allows natural ingredients to be absorbed through that protective layer. It begins with an outside shell material ("encapsulant") that prevents the natural active ("core") from getting out before it reaches the targeted area, and blocks other material from getting inside. Commonly used encapsulation substances include wheat proteins, soy, natural lipids such as phospholipids, liposomes, or beeswax, and polysaccharides like carrageenan from algae and chitosan from sea crustacean shells.

For example, vegetable-derived liposomes function as water soluble and oil-soluble carriers that easily pass through the stratum corneum. These microspheres smuggle in natural actives that are hydrophilic (water soluble) as well as actives that are lipophilic (oil soluble). Once absorbed, the skin is sealed with a micro-thin, flexible film to reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL), dehydration, or the evaporation of moisture within skin. 

En route to the targeted site, the shell material prevents the active ingredient from degrading due to exposure to light or air, which maintains the ingredient's stability and efficacy. The core is released when there is a particular trigger, such as heat, pH, moisture, enzymes, diffusion, or dissolution. With a controlled release over time, the natural active is delivered to targeted areas at its full potential to provide anti-inflammatory and anti-aging skin benefits. This type of delivery system has an extremely low potential of skin irritation as the active targets wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, atopic skin, rosacea, post-treatment skin, wound sites, and other skin issues.



Many of the most potent natural ingredients depend on microencapsulation to provide skin renewing and healing benefits, and in a particular, the growing advancements in plant stem cell technology. Stem cells are essential for skin renewal. They work best with growth factors, which signal stem cells to renew collagen, elastin, and epithelial cells at targeted locations. Like human stem cells, plant stem cells are undifferentiated cells that divide to create the same type of stem cells or become specialized cells. They function as a cellular repair system, continuously dividing and replenishing other cells.

  Plant-derived stem cells have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and are used in skin care formulations that provide potential anti-wrinkle, antioxidant, and anti-aging benefits. Plant stem cells aren't just extracted from vegetation or fruit and dropped into skincare. Instead, they are cultured in labs where scientists and formulators have more control over the purity and quantity of the anti-aging substance produced by the plant, away from contaminants like pollution or pesticides. Antioxidants and other nutrients in the stem cells of the plant can therefore be more powerful when cultured in the lab for use in skin care products.

Harvesting for plant stem cells does not destroy the host plant. To obtain stem cells in the lab, the plant is slightly wounded by a small cut. The plant starts to heal itself by creating active substances that are non-programmed, "blank" cells with the potential to develop into various cell types performing different functions. A tiny bit of this tissue is extracted from the actively dividing cells of the host plant as it regenerates itself. Unlimited stem cells can then be cultured from the original, and their molecular potency can be multiplied by 1,000 times or more. The lab environment also ensures their purity, safety, and standardization. Best of all, researchers have found that when these stem cells are topically applied to skin, they help trigger renewal and even magnify the effects of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Still, these stem cells would need to be microencapsulated in order to be absorbed through the stratum corneum and deep into skin for anti-aging or repair benefits.



Plant stem cells are a logical source for anti-aging skin care, since plants have evolved sophisticated natural mechanisms for combating environment stress and harsh environments. Sources for plant stem cells include highly resistant flowers, plants, and fruits that survive and even thrive in extreme conditions. With high concentrations of antioxidants, plant stem cells help neutralize free radicals that cause photo damage and other signs of premature aging. Research supported by clinical trials has shown that plant stem cells help deliver moisture deep into skin, plump away wrinkles, minimize inflammation, boost collagen production, restore elasticity and firmness, and protect skin against damage from UVA and UVB rays. Stem cells from plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables are cropping up in skin care formulations, where they are touted not only for their antioxidant benefits but are also used for the purpose of promoting skin renewal.

  • Alpine rose is used to help delay skin aging by protecting vital skin stem cells.
  • Argan improves tone, elasticity, and density while accelerating skin's natural repair process.
  • Asian ginger assists in minimizing pore size, excess sebum, and shininess.
  • Edelweiss inhibits collagenase, which limits collagen degradation and loss of firmness.
  • Lilac helps acne-prone skin by reducing the activity of enzymes involved in the production of sebum.
  • Gardenia supports collagen and hyaluronic acid synthesis for improving firmness and moisture retention.
  • Gotu kola reduces the appearance of redness while boosting collagen synthesis.
  • Grape defends against signs of skin aging caused by exposure to UVA and UBV rays.
  • Hibiscus provides cellular hydration to support the wound healing process.
  • Mushroom fades away dark spots, acne scarring, and signs of photo aging. 
  • Raspberry calms skin irritation and combats oxidative stress while sealing in moisture.
  • Swiss apple stimulates cell renewal and reduces the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and crow's feet.
  • Tomato supports cellular structures and helps prevent collagen degradation.



In the treatment room, exfoliation is essential. No matter how many skin-loving ingredients are put onto skin, they cannot interact with other molecules and cellular processes if dead skin cells, excess sebum, or makeup residue are in the way. The number one rule of helping product penetrate skin is to keep it exfoliated and hydrated.

Exfoliants like alpha and beta hydroxy acids derived from natural substances provide multiple skin benefits. Encapsulated in liposomes, they can be delivered into skin with a lowered chance of skin irritation. Look for exfoliants containing phospholipids or liposome carriers along with the appropriate hydroxy acid or natural fruit enzyme that suits the specific skin concern.

  • Azelaic acid (from wheat, rye, or barley) minimizes hyperpigmentation, reduces inflammation, and clarifies pores.
  • Bromelain (enzyme derived from pineapple) clears away surface debris while providing antioxidant benefits.
  • Citric acid (from citrus fruits) serves as antioxidant, exfoliant, and skin lightener.
  • Glycolic acid (from sugar cane) smooths lines and wrinkles, reduces hyperpigmentation and dark spots, and promotes cell regeneration.
  • Lactic acid (derived from milk) softens, smooths, and improves skin tone.
  • Mandelic acid (derived from bitter almonds) is great for sensitive skin as it reduces enlarged pores, targets acne, smooths lines and wrinkles, and brightens.
  • Papain (enzyme from papaya) promotes exfoliation by digesting keratin protein.
  • Salicylic acid (a BHA from willow bark) targets congested pores, minimizes pore size, and helps control sebum production.



A plethora of natural cosmeceuticals can be used for different skin conditions and concerns in the treatment room. Keep in mind that natural ingredients aren't limited to plants and algae—they also include minerals and clays. In fact, whether encapsulated or not, some herbs, plants, clays, and algae contain a mother lode of skin-loving minerals, with benefits for each client's individual skin issue.

For mature skin: Along with encapsulated plant and fruit stem cells, here are some powerful botanical actives and skin-loving minerals to look for in anti-aging formulations:

  • Allantoin is extracted from the comfrey plant to soothe sensitive skin and stimulate skin cell regeneration.
  • Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG--derived from green tea) is a potent antioxidant that interacts with other organic molecules to combat and minimize oxidative damage.
  • Mamaku leaf is a skin conditioner known for tightening and smoothing sagging skin.
  • Red ginseng has an abundance of polyphenols, flavonoids, and antioxidants for improving microcirculation and oxygenation to help renew, tone, firm, and brighten skin.
  • Silver and copper are skin-firming minerals that accelerate healing after microneedling, dermaplaning, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, lasers, IPL, RF, and PRP treatments.
  • Tasmanian pepperberry contains high levels of anthocyanin and rutin flavonoids to intensify antioxidant activity, strengthen capillaries, and minimize dark circles and puffiness.
  • White lily flower with anti-inflammatory properties calms stressed skin and decreases puffiness.
  • Zinc and selenium ward off environmental damage and are included in helping boost post-treatment repair.

For dry, irritated, eczema-prone skin: Prep, hydrate, and then seal in moisture. Look for products containing botanical oils or butters with anti-inflammatory properties and superior levels of phytonutrients that absorb quickly.

  • Abyssinian is rich in vitamins A, B, D, E and oleic acid to balance skin, seal in moisture, and promote radiance.
  • Babassu has up to 47% lauric acid to help reduce redness and increase moisturization.
  • Baobab with superior levels of fast-absorbing omega fatty acids relieves skin irritation and is low on the comedogenic scale.
  • Calcium is a skin-loving mineral that specializes in barrier function repair due to its moisture-boosting and skin-renewing properties.
  • Cupuacu seed provides vitamins and minerals such as calcium and selenium that improve moisture retention and promote barrier repair.
  • Dilo helps support skin's moisture barrier and hold in moisture due to its high levels of lipids and phospholipids.
  • Neem contains high levels of omega fatty acids, carotenoids, and vitamin E, which help restore skin's protective barrier and prevent moisture loss.
  • Sacha Inchi is famous for up to 85% omega fatty acids, which help prevent dryness and inflammation.
  • Spirulina, ascophyllum nodosum (ANK), chondrus crispus, porphyra yezoensis, and other mineral-rich blue, green, brown, and red algae extracts create a moisture cushion for stressed cells.

For hyperpigmentation: Use phyto-derived ingredients containing natural tyrosinase inhibitors to block the conversion of amino acid tyrosine to melanin, which gives skin its color and is responsible for hyperpigmentation issues.

  • Alpha arbutin (biosynthetic enzyme derived from bearberry plant) is known for inhibiting liver spots.
  • Dipotassium glycyrrhizate (licorice root extract) has been shown to prevent tyrosinase activity by up to 50 percent.
  • Kakadu plum is one of the world's richest sources of vitamin C to help control melanin production and improve radiance.
  • Kojic acid (by-product of the fermentation process for rice wine) is very effective in fading out darkness and discoloration, with a lower potential for skin irritation.
  • Lady's mantle is a natural skin lightener that helps fade away freckles, discoloration, and age spots.
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP), aminopropyl ascorbyl phosphate (AAP) are stable forms of Vitamin C that reduce melanin production and protect against oxidative damage.
  • Pearl powder is a treasure trove of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and selenium that help improve the appearance of dull, blotchy skin.
  • Soy interferes with melanin transferring to top layer of skin and evens out discoloration and tone.

For oily, blemish-prone skin: Use pore-clearing exfoliants with alpha hydroxy acids, masks that contain mineral-rich clays, and non-comedogenic moisturizers.

  • Arnica contains high levels of magnesium, potassium, and calcium to help relieve skin irritation and promote skin renewal.
  • Cinnamon bark provides antiseptic and anti-bacterial benefits to assist in tissue repair.
  • Helichrysum flower inhibits bacterial growth to help reduce the appearance of blemishes while calming skin irritation.
  • Jojoba oil targets clogged pores and balances sebum production.
  • Kaolin, Rhassoul, Bentonite, or Montmorillonite are mineral-rich natural clays that remove dead skin cells and other debris, absorb excess oil, and relieve irritated skin.
  • Mandelic acid (derived from almonds) is often used in treatments for acne, melasma, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) from acne.
  • Salicylic acid (derived from willow bark) minimizes congested pores and excess oil while refining skin texture.
  • Sulfur is a pore de-clogging mineral with detoxifying anti-bacterial properties that also soaks up excess oil and reduces inflammation.
  • Tea tree oil with bacteria-fighting properties purifies pores, soothes inflammation, and clears excess sebum.


Plant science is growing. The burgeoning trends of plant stem cells, minerals, and even plant-derived peptides have firmly rooted themselves in skin care treatments. It's time for a different perspective on our expectations of using natural ingredients to improve skin structure and health. Technology married with the potential of botanical actives and therapeutic minerals can exponentially change the face of skin care. But is this hybrid the best solution?

That depends. Every client's skin is unique. The esthetician's first task is to determine the client's specific concerns in order to identify which ingredients and products would be most beneficial, and understand the reasoning behind those choices. In some cases, natural ingredients are not necessarily better. In fact, some herbal extracts may cause serious sensitivities for certain individuals. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's automatically going to be non-irritating. On the other hand, even though some synthetic compounds like parabens and phthalates have been identified as potentially dangerous to overall health, not all bio-engineered ingredients are skin's enemy.

In these days of skin care technology, science can greatly enhance the power of natural ingredients. Formulators can lock the vitamin C molecule to make it stable. They can coat natural ingredients with natural liposomes to ensure efficacy. Microencapsulation allows multiple active ingredients to reach targeted areas and perform optimally. Airtight, opaque containers or airless pumps help prevent some ingredients from oxidizing when exposed to air or light. As technology bolsters the effects of plants and minerals, leading-edge research may push skin care decades ahead of where we are today.

Lastly, remind clients that healthy skin is not limited to topical elements. The foods they put into their bodies can definitely impact skin. It's not unusual for some skin conditions to become aggravated because of internal factors, like vitamin or mineral deficiencies. However, nutraceuticals, known as "functional foods," provide dietary vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, and antioxidants. These systemic elements also affect the appearance of healthy, youthful-looking skin. Encourage clients to approach skin care from the inside-out as well as the outside-in.

Natural ingredients? Cosmeceuticals? We don't need to choose sides. Skin care doesn't need to be politicized if we take the best of both worlds in order to give a boost to each client's skin care results. Stay up-to-date, and ignite an awareness of the powerful fusion of the botanical and clinical worlds.   


Founder and CEO of Le Mieux Cosmetics and PurErb Herbology-Based Skincare & Aromatherapy, Janel Luu has over 35 years of experience in the beauty industry as an educator, researcher, and formulator. She has taught over 37,000 skincare professionals and physicians on topics ranging from anti-aging cellular technology to centuries-old Meridian techniques, sharing her passion for the most fascinating aspects of beauty and skin health. 



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Flakes, roughness, redness, cracks, fish scales, alligator skin, oh my! Seems easy enough for estheticians to identify these symptoms of dry skin, especially since dryness and dehydration are common issues for clients. In fact, chronic dryness and dehydration are major issues since consumers often tolerate flakiness, thinking it will eventually go away.

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More and more skincare companies are spotlighting peptides, growth factors, and stem cells as the rising stars in anti-aging products. These active ingredients are the latest technological advances in skincare, effectively protecting skin from damage, dramatically slowing signs of aging, and accelerating the regeneration of skin cells for more youthful-looking skin. Continue reading