In the last few years, botanicals in skincare have been all the rage. I totally get it. They smell heavenly, or they can anyway. I, myself, was obsessed with one luxe product in particular, boasting 60+ botanicals in one 1mL bottle. It was fairly expensive and I treated it like gold. “But, does it actually work?” I asked my colleagues who are dermatologists, microbiologists, and scientists. The answer? It depends on the current state of your skin.
Healthy skin is characterized by a stable, balanced microbiome, the ecosystem living on your skin containing millions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other organisms. A healthy microbiome supports immunity and prevents colonization of pathogenic or harmful species of microbes, which can cause everything from low-grade inflammation to severe disease. In fact, accelerated aging in the skin and skin disease are highly correlated with an imbalanced skin microbiome.
Understanding your skin microbiome is important when you’re considering botanicals, or any ingredient for that matter, because in addition to your sweat and sebum, topicals are essentially “food” for the microbes that inhabit your skin. To keep your skin microbiome balanced and optimally functional, it’s important to choose ingredients that not only feel (or smell) great to you, but that are also safe and supportive of a healthy skin microbiome.
At Parallel, we believe in balancing the skin microbiome by using personalized, targeted phages. We know that phages not only target pathogenic bacteria, they can also boost the power of other key ingredients. Here are just a handful of botanical ingredients that are compatible with targeted phages and healthy bacteria, supporting a balanced, resilient skin microbiome.
Amla (Protection + Overall Skin Health)
Also known as Indian gooseberry, Amla has been consumed for over a thousand years as traditional medicine. This fruit is densely packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Vitamin C boosts collagen production, while antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging your skin. This ingredient can also reduce UVB-induced damage of keratinocytes and inflammation of the skin. Amla balances your skin pH and can help maintain the natural flora of the skin.
Arbutin (Improvement of Dark Spots)
Arbutin is a glycoside extracted from bearberry plants of arctic regions. Arbutin is a safe alternative to hydroquinone and works by inhibiting the production of melanin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for skin darkening. Alpha arbutin oil is applied on the face to reduce skin discoloration, fade sun spots, dark patches, and promote a more even-looking skin tone which makes you appear fresh and more youthful. A healthy skin microbiome helps enhance the skin-whitening effects of arbutin, as your healthy microbes can convert arbutin into hydroquinone, a safe, widely used skin lightening cosmetic ingredient.
Aloe Vera (Skin Soothing and Anti-Inflammation)
Can you talk about skincare and not mention aloe vera? Loaded with innumerable benefits, this versatile plant has been a foundational skincare ingredient for decades. Aloe vera contains growth hormones that stimulate healing and collagen production. It can also reduce free radical damage of the skin, induced by UV radiations of the sun. The anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera reduce the reddish look of acne and skin blemishes. When combined with targeted phages, aloe vera can help soothe skin after phages have eliminated pathogenic bacteria.
Rose (Reduction of Pores and Irritation)
One of the oldest flowers known for their ornamental property, roses can be used in several forms to procure the most benefits; rosewater, rose oil, and crushed rose petals can be used on the skin alongside other ingredients. Being a natural astringent, it tightens skin pores as well as hydrates the skin. It reduces skin irritation and prevents free radical damage of skin that will help eradicate fine lines and wrinkles. Phytochemicals in the rose extract are anti-microbial but work well with phages, thus it defends against pathogenic organisms. Additionally, the low pH of rose water is microbiome friendly.
Mint (Skin Cleansing)
Mint leaves work wonders for irritated skin. Mint leaves contain vitamin A and salicylic acid which are known for treating acne and cleansing pores. The astringent action of mint leaves removes sebum and dead cells from pores. When mint is used in your regimen, it can enable phages to more easily target pathogenic bacteria. Furthermore, antioxidants in mint leaves reduce the appearance of aging on the skin which includes fine lines, wrinkles, and dark circles.
These botanicals are just a few that we’ve come across. We’re inspired by the fact that nature provides so much that can support radiant, healthy skin -- flowers, herbs, plants, good bacteria, targeted phages, supportive fungi, etc. The key is finding products that support your skin microbiome and your skin microbiome type, specifically. Understanding your skin microbiome will enable you to find the right ingredients for optimal function and appearance. So in short -- I’m a fan of botanical ingredients; they smell and feel amazing. But I'm a superfan of using them in conjunction with other really functional, natural ingredients for your skin microbiome type to achieve optimal results.
At Parallel, we aim to help you understand your skin microbiome so that you can find the right products for you. Interested in joining our community? Sign up here to share about your skin journey and be kept apprised of skin microbiome research opportunities and personalized products.
A parallel world lives amongst us: the microbial world. This world impacts not only our lifespan, but also our healthspan.
Our mission is to empower people with real science to make meaningful decisions to improve their healthspan.
Parallel is a microbial diagnostics and next-level skincare company that aims to revolutionize skin health by providing deep insight and true personalization, through best-in-class testing and targeted, clean microbial formulations.
Carson, C. F., et al. “Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: A Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews, vol. 19, no. 1, Clin Microbiol Rev, Jan. 2006, doi:10.1128/CMR.19.1.50-62.2006.
Fujii, T., et al. “Amla (Emblica Officinalis Gaertn.) Extract Promotes Procollagen Production and Inhibits Matrix Metalloproteinase-1 in Human Skin Fibroblasts.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 119, no. 1, J Ethnopharmacol, Sept. 2008, doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.05.039.
Lee, Myung‐hee, et al. “Skin Anti‐inflammatory Activity of Rose Petal Extract (Rosa Gallica) through Reduction of MAPK Signaling Pathway.” Food Science & Nutrition, vol. 6, no. 8, Wiley-Blackwell, Nov. 2018, p. 2560.
Maeda, K., and M. Fukuda. “Arbutin: Mechanism of Its Depigmenting Action in Human Melanocyte Culture.” The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, vol. 276, no. 2, J Pharmacol Exp Ther, Feb. 1996, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8632348/.
Scarano, A., et al. “Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Safety of Peppermint Peel (PMP) Soft Peeling for Skin Ageing.” Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, vol. 33, no. 6 Suppl. 2, J Biol Regul Homeost Agents, 2019, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32425029/.