From the March 2006 Idaho Observer:

Nourishing Natural Ingredients: The Key to Skin Hydration

by Debbie Schachter

An amazing amount of advertising dollars are devoted to the latest and greatest skin care magic potions that promise to "cure" all your skin ailments and wrinkles. What these companies do not tell potential customers is that their products work topically and never reach the deeper layers of the skin where hydration and nourishment of the cells needs to take place for truly healthy skin. By masking the underlying problem and simply sitting on the surface of your skin, these moisturizers actually do more harm than good.

Like water off a duckís back

The majority of moisturizers contain what are known as "occlusive agents." Mineral oil and petrolatum are two of the most common occlusive ingredients contained in 99 percent of all skin moisturizers. These petroleum-based oils are the main ingredients in the "recipe" being sold to the unwary consumer and are just a temporary fix for the real problem. I call it the "feel good, do nothing" product and compare the effects on oneís skin to "water on a duckís back."

The reason for this is that when occlusive agents are applied to your skin, they clog the pores and prevent entry of oxygen and nutrients. These agents perform as guards ó blocking the penetration of any beneficial ingredients into the innermost dermal layers. The skinís re-hydrating and healing process is stalled without these essential vitamins and functional fats. Your skin feels "temporarily less dry."

Anatomy of a wrinkle

Various fats play many roles in our body other than as a simple concentrated energy source and "cushion" that most of us think of fats as providing. All cells produce hormones directly from the fatty acids that we must receive from our diet or from the topical application of these fatty acids. These hormones influence all aspects of local cell activity. They are involved in such activity as inflammation, healing, and both cell proliferation and dying. When our skin doesnít have enough of the CORRECT fats, or when other negative (occlusive) ingredients prevent the absorption of these fats, our skin de-hydrates and wrinkles. The primary cause of wrinkling, puckering, and other skin imperfections is called cross-linking. This is when a build-up of free radical toxic plaque binds your skinís collagen and elastin fibers causing your skinís supportive structure to become inflexible and unhealthy. This in turn leads to cavities (holes) in the structural layer beneath your outer skin. As the muscles beneath the skin are continually contracting against these cavities, it causes your outer skin to fold into furrows, making your visible skin wrinkled and uneven.

Young, healthy skin contains a natural abundance of lipids that create the optimum lipid barrier (known as the stratum corneum). These lipids act like the protective coating of paint on a new car. Without a healthy lipid barrier, the effects of the environment, everyday stress, and exfoliation leaves skin dull, rough and wrinkled.

The aging factor

As we age, the amount of free radical toxins accumulating in our body increases, making wrinkles more prevalent in older skin. By dissolving the cross-linking, by counteracting the free radicals and by enhancing the production of new collagen and elastin fibers with the proper nutrients, we can strengthen the skinís supportive structure while reducing the number and size of the cavities in our skin.

The major change that occurs in the lower layer of the skin is that approximately 20 percent of the dermal thickness is lost in elderly individuals. The resulting decrease in the amount of elastin fibers that provide elasticity to the skin causes the skin to wrinkle and be less resilient. This accounts for the paper-thin skin that the most elderly people experience.

If you eliminate the harmful, non-penetrating, mineral oil based chemicals contained in most moisturizers and add what your skin is really craving and recognizes as useful, you will have "healthy hydration." Since we canít "replace" our skin, we need to enhance our skinís health with specific nutrients. Providing our skin with the proper fatty acids will reduce wrinkling and create a softer, more even skin texture.

Oil from downunder

Emu oil, first introduced by the Australian aborigines as a genuine intensive skin moisturizer, is the only easily- absorbed natural oil that is molecularly the same as the oil found in human skin and all other organs of the body. The use of emu oil was among many natural remedies for the treatment of bruised skin and an immediate remedy for dry skin problems.

Emu oil serves as a transdermal carrier (transporter) of other valuable nutrients to the skin and has been shown to have better skin penetration/permeability and better moisturizing properties than any other "cosmetic" oil. Most cosmetic oils are phospho-lipids or "polar" compounds, which mean they carry an electrical charge at one end. Polar compounds do not pass through the skin as readily as non-polar compounds. This is why most cosmetic oils rubbed on the skin lack the ability to penetrate and, therefore, do not effectively hydrate the skin. Emu oil has a high concentration of mono-unsaturated fatty acids which explains its ability to penetrate easily through the skin. The lack of phospho-lipids in emu oil, or the oilís non-polarity, explains why this oil penetrates so well! 

Studies have shown that the fatty acid composition of emu oil appears to closely mirror that of human skin. As skin ages there are marked changes that occur including dryness, wrinkling and laxity due to the loss of water and ingredients that can penetrate deep into the dermis. Imagine how well nourished your skin could become if emu oil was transporting vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C, evening primrose oil, ceramides, lipids, and other  nourishing vitamins to the inner dermal layers of your skin. 

An ideal topical moisturizer that would help aging skin should have the ability to help reverse skin dryness and scaling by enhancing the ability of the skinís upper layers to retain water. Emu oil as a primary ingredient in a moisturizer has been shown to reduce the incidence of wrinkle formation Ė this oil works powerfully at the cellular level to deliver what can only be described as a radical increase in your skinís ability to repair, protect and improve its appearance.

Same scams, different symptoms

Most popular skin care products are designed along the pharmaceutical model of medicine: They treat only the symptoms, disguising the condition rather than solving the underlying issues. This is a recipe to sell more skin creams, lotions and oils, but do nothing to restore the nutritional balances necessary for healthy skin. To make matters worse, the harmful "oils" and ingredients in most moisturizers often result in side effects worse than the symptoms they are designed to alleviate.

To fully appreciate the damage most skin care products can cause, just lump them in the same category as the pharmaceutical drugs being mass marketed to alleviate arthritis, depression, pain, high blood pressure and other symptoms.

Topical steroids, the most common treatment for eczema, psoriasis, and other dermatological conditions, cause thinning of the skin with long term use, making the skin more easily irritated. Discontinuation of the medicine can actually result in a new, fiercer outbreak than the original one. Steroid creams can even be absorbed through the skin causing internal complications.

Be an informed consumer

Donít be fooled by expensive, fancy ads, super models and packaging. When packaging creates a "magnetic attraction" while being pushed on us by aggressive sales people, we find that less dollars are invested in quality ingredients.

When using a nutrient-rich moisturizer, you should see and feel the results with skin thatís softer and smoother to the touch. So remember that whatever products you choose to use, ingredients that signal natural pathways in the skin have the greatest (and only) potential of any immediate and longterm benefits.

Debbie Schachter has been a skin consultant and make-up artist for 15 years. She first became acquainted with natural cosmetics when working in health food stores as a teenager. She has worked with holistic physicians and is a natural ingredients advocate after personally observing the many detrimental effects most popular moisturizers have had on peopleís skin. She is also the president of Miracle Skin products. To contact Debbie, call 877-282-7546 or email her at

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