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To continue my Five Best ingredients series, I have pulled together some plant-derived oils (find more botanicals in this post). This post was inspired by Jimmy and in turn by aloe vera (which I'll come back to in moment) because I was struck by the fact that the stuff you can squeeze out of leaves and seeds can have such amazing healing powers. And the evidence is no longer based on undocumented rain forest lore; there is loads of research being done on botanical oils and the results are very impressive.
These are all oils to look out for in a list of ingredients or they can be bought and used in the raw.
Last December I was staying on an island in Mozambique and, seduced by the barefoot paradise vibe, wasn't paying attention to where I was walking one day with the result that I badly lacerated the skin on my ankle and shin against a particularly viciously thorned cactus. Nearly three months later, I still had the scars to prove it and then I remembered Jimmy posting something about using pure aloe vera on a scar that was stubbornly refusing to fade. I followed his example and, five days later, my ankle is almost as good as new.
Although my personal experience with aloe vera has been very positive, the data is contradictory. Some scientists say there isn't enough evidence and others say that it is actually counter-productive. Other other hand, the University of Texas reviewed all the medical literature and concluded that the evidence was strongly in favor of aloe's healing properties. And just look at what is in aloe vera oil: 8 amino acids, all the main vitamins, except D, and more than 75 compounds, including polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates), steroids, organic acids, enzymes, antibiotic agents, amino acids, and minerals.
Argan oil comes from a Moroccan tree and (although mostly used as goat fodder by local herders) has recently gained scientific recognition for its nutritional riches. Most of the research assumes that argan oil is to be consumed in some way. However, there is no reason to believe that the same assumptions wouldn't apply to topical skin care. Plus my own experience with argan oil (particularly a product by Kaeline) has been very positive. Argan is more of an anti-ager than aloe, which I would put in the healing/soothing category. Argan is a powerful antioxidant due to high levels of tocopherols (vitamin E). It is also high in unsaturated fatty acids.
You can increasingly find argan oil in make up and skin care products - for example, Amarte Natural Finish BB Cream.
Rosehips have been laboring for years under the weight of misinformation. It was thought that they were a source of vitamin E and a form of retin A. This turned out to be a red herring and rosehip seed oil is in actual fact high in (fatty) linoleic and linolenic acids (in all about 77% fatty acids) as well as Vitamin C, all of which are essential for the health of the hair and skin. Flavonoids, a ketonic compound (namely 3-pentenpropyl-kentoe) and trans-rhodanic acids have been detected.
My husband has been using pure rosehip oil as an aftershave lotion and he reports that razor burn is a thing of the past.
Grape seed oil (and olive oil) has a vast library of research behind it. The dominant component is linoleic acid which makes up a whopping 78%. There are also antioxidants in the form of polyphenols. The thing that has put grape seed oil in the anti-aging hall of fame is resveratrol, which is a phytoalexin, a defense mechanism produced by several plants (it is in peanut skins) to fend off attacking bacteria. There is documented proof of its cancer-fighting and anti-aging properties. The problem is that the proof has been entirely substantiated in a petri dish or on worms, fruit flies and small animals.
Everyone knows that olive oil is good for you and is one of the main reasons for the low incidence of heart disease of people who live on a Mediterranean diet. The thing that makes olive oil such as powerful antioxidant is hydroxytyrosol (a stable form of polyphenol). Measured as ORAC, its antioxidant capacity is said to be 40,000 umolTE/g, twice as much as CoQ10 and ten times that of green tea. One of the most olive oil rich cosmetic lines that I have come across is Terralina. All the products in the line have olive oil in just about all its forms and are as about as organic as it gets.