From snail mucus and snake venom to all manner of flora only harvestable once a year in some remote glacial setting, skin care companies are quick to tout the next beauty miracle out of Mother Nature’s coffers. So sometimes it’s easy to overlook the less sexy ingredients that have long been used in health and beauty but perhaps don’t have a headline-capturing back story. Well, it’s time to take a second look at these four natural ingredients that, though not new, are having a serious moment in skin care.
Called “God’s teardrop” in South Korea, propolis is a sealant used by honeybees to sterilize and protect their hives. “It’s a big ingredient in Korea not only for skin care but also for medical purposes,” says Sarah Lee of K-beauty website Glow Recipe. “Propolis has been used in traditional medicine and for beauty treatments for thousands of years.” With its antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties (phew!), propolis helps protect and renew cells, soothes skin and even helps heal blemishes. Get your propolis on in Hey Honey Good Morning Honey Silk Facial Serum, Amarte Overnight Express Therapy (it also has silk extract, another highlighted ingredient below) and LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule, a mainstay of my own skin care regimen and Glow Recipe’s star product that contains an astounding 50 percent propolis extract.
Medicinal charcoal may have been used for centuries to draw out toxins from the body (like after poisoning), but it’s having a moment right now, used in everything from juices to teeth whitening. “Toxins bind to charcoal, and it helps rid the body of them,” says Dr. Sejal K. Shah, a Manhattan-based board-certified dermatologist. “The basis for using charcoal in skin care is similar — it acts sort of like a magnet for impurities (dirt, oil, etc.) on the skin.” In addition to detoxifying, charcoal has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, says Alicia Yoon of K-beauty retailer Peach & Lily. One caveat, according to Dr. Shah: “I do feel that charcoal probably works best as a mask, as the longer you leave it on, the better.”
For a pore-purifying mask, try the combination skin must-have, Eminence Balancing Mask Duo, which features a moisture-rich pomelo side that smells so good, you don’t mind waiting around while your pores are vacuum suctioned by the charcoal side. If you prefer your mask in sheet form, Shangpree has a charcoal hydrogel mask that’ll scare the spouse or roommate of any regular sheet mask user (yes, it’s pitch black), but its almost patent-like finish clings to the face and cools irritated skin the entire 30 minutes. Afterwards, my skin is glowing and mattified and pores look significantly smaller. But it’s not just masks — charcoal is also found in Earth Therapeutics Purifying Vegetable Facial Sponge (something I use every morning for light exfoliation and purification), Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser and even cotton swabs from Sephora.
This metal has been used since ancient times as a healing agent, and more recent studies have confirmed its skin repair, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. “Copper stimulates new collagen and elastin synthesis,” says Dr. Shah. “It’s also important for the production of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are important in maintaining structural integrity, hydration and copper-dependent enzymes, which are involved in numerous processes in the body.” Find copper in Neova Copper Moisture Mask and Purity of Elements Radiance Face Serum.
Silk — yes, the kind made by insects to protect its cocoons during metamorphosis — is often used in skin care for its antioxidant and moisturizing properties, says Dr. Shah. “The amino acids in silk may also be beneficial for skin health and promote collagen and elastin synthesis.”
Indeed, it’s what Dolce & Gabanna went with when they launched their skin care line in 2014. The brand’s Aurealux line features gold silk sericin sourced from a golden cocoon naturally grown and harvested using centuries-old sericulture techniques. In Clé de Peau Beauté Concentrated Brightening Eye Serum, the proprietary illuminating ingredient is derived from natural silk and pearl.
Intrigued? Shop these products here.
Adapted from a story written by me, originally published in Audrey Magazine.