When it comes to our skincare, it’s best to choose products based on all-natural, plant-based ingredients – also known as botanicals. A botanical ingredient is an extract or oil derived from plants, flowers, herbs, nuts, seeds, roots and berries.
These have been used in beauty regimes for centuries, even Cleopatra used black cumin seed oil as a beauty treatment. You may not be familiar with the term, but most of our natural and organic beauty brands use botanicals in their products.
“To be botanical an ingredient must be derived from a plant,” confirms Hannah Mepham from natural and organic beauty brand Green People. “Examples of botanical beauty ingredients are yucca, green tea and calendula. Plant-based botanical skincare can have many benefits for the skin and botanical ingredients are usually suitable for those with sensitive skin and for vegans.”
“Just as we need healthy foods to nourish our bodies, we need healthy ‘foods’ to nourish our skin,” adds Rose Holmes, education and training manager at Rio Health, producers of the natural skincare range Rio Rosa Mosqueta. “These natural botanicals can be far more effective than synthetic ingredients—naturally nourishing, rather than increasing exposure to synthetic and sometimes drying or damaging ingredients.”
Many experts recommend also seeking products that are organic too. Mepham explains: “Not all botanical ingredients will be organic and to be sure that the plants used in your skincare are certified organic, it is best to check the label for the Cosmos, Organic Food Federation or Soil Association logo.”
What to look for
So, what should we look for in ingredients when seeking skincare products? Mepham suggests a blend specific to your skincare concerns: “For your skin to receive all the nutrients and actives it needs to stay healthy, you need to find your perfect blend of botanical actives.
“If you are concerned about skin ageing your ideal blend will contain age-defying botanicals like hibiscus, white mulberry and cucumber. These ingredients all have individual benefits for the skin but also work in synergy to hydrate, firm and brighten the complexion.
“If you have sensitive skin, your ideal botanical blend will contain skin-calming botanicals like chamomile, marshmallow and evening primrose.
“Spot-prone complexions need balancing botanicals. For a spot-zapping routine we recommend using skincare that combines green tea with spot-fighting botanicals like tea tree and willow bark.”
“In addition to looking for what is included in skincare products, consider what is excluded,” advises Holmes. “Look for a product range that has ‘no-nasties’. Added ingredients such as parabens, PEGs, DEA, TEA, SLS and others may negatively impact both skin and whole-body health. Look instead for natural oils which moisturise, nourish, protect and regenerate.”
In terms of specific botanical ingredients, we ask the experts to share their top three.
Holmes is a fan of rosa mosqueta rosehip seed oil: “A particular favourite botanical ingredient, it is extracted from the seeds of rosehips and is naturally rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C and E and essential fatty acids which play an important role in skin regeneration. Studies have shown this antioxidant-rich oil has the ability to heal and fade post-surgical scars and prevent the advancement of premature ageing. It also helps to keep skin hydrated and soft, helping also to promote cell regeneration.”
Her second recommendation is sacha inchi oil: “Sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis) oil is another nutrient-rich, moisturising oil, rich in omega-3 and antioxidant vitamin E. It also naturally contains vitamin C and carotenoids to help fight against oxidative damage.
“Another South American botanical is Manilkara multinervis. Manilkara repairs, protects and promotes skin elasticity and is ideal for both dry and oily skin. Studies show that manilkara plays a crucial role in fighting the degradation of the tissues that support the skin caused by glycation (the bonding of sugar molecules to collagen fibres).”
Mepham says her favourite are hibiscus, beech bud and pineapple. “Hibiscus is a tropical plant extract known to increase skin elasticity and is a great natural anti-agent active for those seeking firmer, smoother skin. The enzyme elastase is responsible for breaking down our skin’s precious elastin and hibiscus actively combats the ageing process inhibit the activity of this elastase.
“Beech bud is known as the ‘everlasting youth tree’ and this botanical ingredient helps to smooth the skin’s surface and restore hydration. Beech bud also increases cell turnover, refining the skin tone.
“Pineapple contains lots of skin-benefiting vitamins and a protein-digesting enzyme called bromelain. This enzyme breaks down the protein bonds that hold dead skin cells onto the skin so is great for face scrubs and flaky-scalp shampoos.”
Holmes adds: “Natural botanical ingredients have many beneficial properties which can revitalise and renew skin. Combinations of these botanicals can help prevent tired, dull skin, dehydration and wrinkles. They can reduce the slowing down of cell renewal that can occur in ageing and help encourage brighter and more radiant complexion.”