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    The Body


Dr Paula Baillie-Hamilton

The Chemical Maze

By Bill Statham

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The main purpose of any cream is to keep the skin moist. Many conventional creams form a suffocating film on the skin to prevent moisture loss. Even a natural humectant, glycerin, actually attracts water from the air and surrounding tissue.

It keeps the skin moist as long as there is sufficient moisture in the air. In a dry climate it actually draws moisture from the skin.

Collagen, elastin and keratin enjoy some popularity as humectants. Whilst they are compatible with the skin and deposit a protective film, they are usually sourced from animals and therefore cannot be termed “cruelty free”.

Some skin care companies would like you to believe that your skin can use special animal proteins to rejuvenate and replace aging cells. This is nonsense! The size of the molecules, even when broken down (hydrolysed), are far too large to penetrate the skin. Even if they could get in, they would be immediately rejected as foreign matter and attacked by the immune system.

Natural phospholipids, from lecithin, are fantastic humectants. An important benefit of phospholipids is that they are hygroscopic (attract water from the surrounding air) and hold water where an increased level of hydration is needed.

Therefore, phospholipids increase the hydration levels of the skin without being occlusive (forming a film to prevent water loss, and preventing normal cellular function).

A recent study proved the value of topically applied phospholipids in skin care. It found that environmental factors (sun, wind, pollution) and the detergents and solvents, found in most skin cleansers, actually stripped the natural phospholipid content from the top layer of skin.

This loss resulted in a rough feel and a pitted appearance under a microscope. Importantly, the phospholipids in the uppermost skin layers cannot be replaced by natural cell function, as the top layer of cells no longer metabolise; they serve only as a protective barrier.

Remarkably, the study showed that topically applied plant phospholipids restore the barrier function of the skin, protecting it from substances such as bacteria and harmful chemicals.

Some Synthetic Un-"Natural Humectants

1. Propylene Glycol – causes irritation and contact dermatitis
2. Ethylene/Diethylene Glycol – causes irritation
and contact dermatitis
3. PEG compounds (eg Polyethylene Glycol) –
may contain the toxic by-product dioxane

Some natural Humectants

1. Lecithin
2. Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5)
3. Glycerin