I like this one. Formulated by a Lithuanian molecular biologist, Dr. Alkaitis’ Organic Day Cream ($53) is extremely soothing, light to the touch, sweet smelling, and super absorbent.  In addition to the formula’s natural Vitamins C and E complexes, it includes a spectrum of interesting ingredients—ranging from the peculiar, enigmatic (perhaps questionable?) navelwort to the proven, regenerative aloe—that, taken together, promise a uniquely healing and protective skin care experience. (Although I have to say there is some guesswork and a little bit of reaching going on when it comes to a few of the ingredients.)

The formula gets bonus points for starting off with aloe vera gel as its #1 ingredient. When I was a child, (thanks to my grandmother, who was a strong believer in the botanical’s benefits) the aloe vera plant was the first-response to the numerous ailments that befell this accident-prone girl.  Most commonly it was used to soothe finger burns, rashes and sunburn, but was also encouraged (usually unsuccessfully) to be ingested orally for its overall health benefits. Although the bitter taste turned me off, I do remember my Grandma Daniel walking around the house with a bit of stem stuck to the side of her cheek just sucking away.

Turns out there was some truth to her wacky home remedy. Aloe’s benefits can be attributed at least partly to its nutrients, since it contains peptides, carbohydrates, vitamins (including B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and folic acid), and minerals. According to studies, these nutrients, although beneficial individually, may work synergistically to soothe, heal, moisturize, and regenerate the skin.  For these reasons, extracts of aloe vera are able to reverse degenerative skin changes seen with aging by stimulating the synthesis of collagen and elastin fibers. Polysaccharides are the primary chemical constituents responsible for this; as wound healers, they act as a growth factor and stimulate fibroblasts (connective-tissue cells) to produce more collagen. What’s more, due to its high water and mineral content, aloe is particularly suited for sealing in moisture, and has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, antihistamine, and antiviral effects to boot.

Most interesting on the list is the formula’s herbal skin support complex, which includes such exotic ingredients as St John’s Wort, Water Navelwort, Horsetails, Coltsfoot, Marigold Blossoms, and Echinacea. After doing some research into all of this, I’m not quite convinced that this complex is all that supportive.  Interesting, for sure, but without substantial clinical proof to their various capabilities.

St. John’s Wort, or hypericum perforatum, is best known as a handy, mood-elevating supplement.  I find it interesting that it’s included in a skin care product because studies have shown that high oral dosages may result in increased photosensitivity. However, further clinical studies have shown that very few people demonstrated this effect when it is applied topically to the skin. What it does do when applied topically is to help create an unblemished complexion. One active ingredient, hypericin, has anti-inflammatory, nervine (calming) and antiseptic properties. Others tests have shown it to possess anti-microbial properties. All in all, it’s generally soothing to the skin and healing to wounds, and is often used in cosmetics for skin that is extremely sensitive, irritated or allergic.

Coltsfoot’s (tussilago farfara) main topical use is to help relieve inflammation, although it also acts as an antioxidant thanks to the all-powerful quercetin (which you can read about here). Further tests also showed that coltsfoot extract has nice microbial activity. One interesting tidbit of information is that it also goes by the names of “assfoot” and “dummyweed,” descriptors that might make you think twice about applying it to your face.

Marigold Blossoms, or calendula, is the one ingredient in this skin support complex that I am quite familiar with, having had a good experience with it in Jurlique’s calendula cream for sensitive skin.

An important healing herb, calendula is high in carotenes, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, fatty acids, and essential oils. It is very soothing, with anti-inflammatory, astringent and antiseptic properties. As such, it is used to promote wound healing and discourage infection, particularly in the care of burns, cuts, wounds, eczema, oily skin, inflammations, rashes, and insect bites.  And attention all breast-feeding women: calendula is also great for sore and cracked nipples!

What’s more, it also has good vulnerary properties (preventing tissue degeneration while arresting bleeding in wounds), making it excellent treat thread, spider, and varicose veins.

Echinacea Pallida (Coneflower) extract is another familiar ingredient, albeit most well known in supplement or tea form. Long considered by traditional medicine to be one of the most powerful detoxifiers for the circulatory, lymphatic and respiratory systems, recent clinical studies have found it to possess anti-microbial and an immune-modulating properties. In skin care, echinacea functions to simultaneously reduce the skin irritation caused by hydroxy acids all-the while boosting the acid’s anti-aging efficacy.

The inclusion of Horsetail (equisetum arvense) extract is interesting in part because of the herb’s storied past.  For example, did you know that this plant is the sole surviving descendant of the giant fern plants that covered the earth some 200 million years ago, and has the strange and unique capability of absorbing gold when gold is dissolved in water?  Neither did I.  The herb has been used therapeutically since, well, forever, I guess, showing up in Roman, Greek, Asian and Indian Ayurvedic medicine across the ages.

In modern skin care, horsetail is primarily used for improving circulation and rejuvenating connective tissue. Its primary constituents include flavonoids and saponins (which act as skin cell regenerators), phenolic acids, silicic acids (which improve circulation and boost connective tissue, on top of softening and smoothing the skin), and the minerals manganese, magnesium, iron and copper (which are necessary for collagen and elastin biosynthesis).

Now the one ingredient that I had quite a hard time finding anything about was Water Navelwort, or umbilicus rupestris. Sounds like something dreamed up by J.K Rowling for the wizards-in-training at Hogsworth academy, does it not?  Literally there is nothing, nothing out there to testify to its attributes.  The one bit I could find was a brief anecdote ascribing how the plant is sometimes used to ease the pain of lower cuticle scratches.

Ingredients:

Organic Aloe Vera gel*, virgin cold pressed Organic Shea butter*, Organic Herbal Skin Support Complex (compounded from the organic herbs St. John's Wort flowers*, Water Navelwort*, Horsetail*, Coltsfoot*, Marigold blossoms* and Echinacea root*). Vegetable Lecithin, natural vitamin E complex (D- alpha, beta, gamma, delta tocopherols), Natural vitamin C complex and Citrus seed extracts and 100% pure Essential Oils.

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