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What’s the best plant based moisturizer? Episode 18

WHICH plant based moisturizers are most effective? WHAT are the 7 habits of women with great skin?  WHEN will Perry pose for our Beauty Science Beefcake Calendar?  Learn all this and more in this week’s pulse pounding episode!

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Beauty Science News

This week Perry reviews an article he found on the Seven Habits of Women with Great Skin.

  1. They never go to bed with their makeup on.
  2. They wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without sunscreen.
  3. They get their beauty sleep.
  4. They use RetinA on a regular basis.
  5. They’ve mastered the secrets of flawless makeup application.
  6. They don’t overdo it.
  7. They have their dermatologist on speed dial.

Some of these made sense to use from a beauty science perspective and others just felt like “filler.” Leave a comment and let us know what you think after you listen to the Show.

Question of the week

Rebecca asks us to recommend the most effective, longest lasting, all around best plant-based moisturizer for skin. In our response we talk about the different methods of moisturization and what it means to be “plant-based.”

(BTW, Rebecca is a licensed cosmetologist in Colorado and she has her own blog. You can find her at Extrabec.com.)

3 methods of moisturization.

1. Occlusives
Purpose: To reduce how much water evaporates through your skin. (Cosmetic scientists refer to this as TransEpidermal Moisture Loss or TEWL.) Occlusive agents form a hydrophobic barrier on your skin that keeps the water on the inside. The most effective examples include petrolatum, mineral oil, and dimethicone. Some plant oils help occlude the skin but typically they are included more for their emolliency.

2. Hydrators
Purpose: In this context I’m talking about adding water to skin and the only ingredient that can really do that is…water. For some product types (like shampoo) water is just a carrier or solvent for other ingredients. But in the case of moisturizing lotions the water contained in the product is also hydrating your skin.

3. Humectants
Purpose: To bind (or even attract) moisture to your skin.
Ingredients known as “polyols” have the ability to hold on to large amounts of water and keep it close to your skin. In some cases they can even absorb moisture from the atmosphere. These ingredients have two drawbacks: they can make your skin feel sticky and when the air is REALLY dry they can actually pull water out of your skin instead of the atmosphere. Examples include glycerin, sorbitol, and hyaluronic acid. Glycerin and sorbitol work pretty well and they’re cheap. Hyaluronic acid can hold hundreds of times its weight in water but it’s really expensive.

What does it mean to be “plant-based”

For example, if the “lauryl” part of a surfactant like sodium lauryl sulfate is made from coconut oil, does that mean that SLS is a natural, plant-based ingredient?

Are plant-based ingredients good moisturizers?

We found an “occlusivity rating” of various oils that compares plant-based moisturizers with petrolatum and mineral oil. In this evaluation a higher scorer is better so clearly petrolatum and mineral oil are the best. But plant oils (like olive oil, rice bran oil, and shea butter) do a pretty good job as well.

  • Petrolatum 80+
  • Mineral oil 75+
  • Olive oil 70
  • Rice bran 70
  • Shea butter 70
  • Macadamia oil 70
  • Castor oil 68
  • Soybean oil 68

Reference: http://www.floratech.com/Uploads/pdfs/occlusivitychart.pdf

What about other ingredients?

To determine if a product is plant-based you need to look at more than just the moisturizing ingredients.  You have to evaluate the emulsifiers, thickeners, pH control agents, and so on. So pick one of your favorite “natural” brands, preferably one that lists the sources of their ingredients in parenthesis. For example, Seventh Generation puts an “*” next to each plant derived ingredient. Some examples:

caprylic/capric triglyceride*
glyceryl stearate*
stearyl alcohol*

cetyl hydroxyethylcellulose (plant-based),
xanthan gum*

Control agents
lactic acid*
essential oils and botanical extracts*

The Beauty Brains bottom line

The best plant based moisturizing ingredients are olive oil, rice bran oil and shea butter. Look for a natural brand that you trust that discloses the source of their ingredients and then look for these as the first few ingredients.


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tree February 18, 2014, 7:50 am

    It’s not plant based but what about lard and tallow?

    • Randy Schueller February 18, 2014, 10:38 am

      Moisturizers based on animal fat (lard and tallow) are also effective (but I believe less so than petrolatum. I’d have to look for the data to be sure.)

  • Rodolfo Baraldini February 18, 2014, 9:11 am

    Optimal explanation. Only for a more accurate information, some waxes derived by plants have an occlusivity ( consequentely an hydratation ) higher than paraffins and petrolatum .

    • Randy Schueller February 18, 2014, 10:37 am

      @Rodolfo: Thanks for you input. Can you please provide a reference to back up what you say about plant waxes being more occlusive than petrolatum? Thanks.

      • Rodolfo Baraldini February 18, 2014, 12:11 pm

        Obviously it depend by the system of measure but eicosenyl octadecenoate , eicosenyl eicosenoate of jojoba oils , cerotyl linoleate of candelilla and other are performing very similar to beeswax, approx 10% more then petrolatum.
        Floratech is suppling some jojoba esters with an occlusivity higher then petrolatum, but I don’t know the exact composition.
        Patents and papers are on line but, if I remember , some very interesting studies about this matter is signed by Rigano and Wiechers .

        • Randy Schueller February 18, 2014, 1:38 pm

          Thanks Rodolfo! We’ve worked with the late Dr. Wiechers on a past publication so we’re familiar with his work. I’ll have to look for these specific references.

  • Susan February 18, 2014, 11:06 am

    I would pay to see Perry all beefcaked up 🙂

  • Courtney (The Beauty Cat) February 18, 2014, 1:33 pm

    I agree that some of those are just “fillers”. I’m very surprised that thoroughly cleansing the face and regular exfoliation weren’t on the list. Those are key to having great skin. Regularly washing your pillowcase is another one I would have added. I may just make a post about this on my salon page! I’ll plug you of course!

  • Eileen February 18, 2014, 3:30 pm

    I agree with the first four items on that list, but 5-7 are pretty much just fillers. Knowing how to apply makeup flawlessly will do nothing for the health of your skin but it will certainly make you look better, I’m not sure what was meant by “They don’t overdo it.”, and keeping a derm on speed dial sounds terribly neurotic and extremely expensive (What price vanity!). I see a dermatologist twice a year for IPL for my rosacea (rather than taking medication), but I certainly don’t call every time I have a boo-boo.

    I’m so glad Courtney mentioned washing pillowcases frequently. They get quite a build up of old oil and product from our face and hair. I change my pillowcases 2-3 times a week.

    I laughed when I read about animal fat because I instantly thought of the Indian tribes back in the day that used bear grease on their hair and skin. It certainly protected their hair and skin, but supposedly smelled to high heavens. I’m sure bear grease was not what the reader had in mind 🙂

  • Tess @ Tips on Life & Love February 18, 2014, 4:48 pm

    I never even knew about plant-based moisturizers– this post was really very helpful! And your tips about women with great skin– so true! It’s so difficult not to fall asleep with your make-up on. Do you recommend using make-up remover clothes or do you recommend good, old-fashioned soap and water?

    • Randy Schueller February 18, 2014, 7:24 pm

      @Tess: You don’t need to spend a lot of money on expensive makeup remover cloths but “old fashioned” soap is not the best for your skin. That’s because it has a high pH which disrupts the skin’s natural acid mantle, leaving you more prone to drying and skin infections.

  • Jackson February 19, 2014, 5:00 pm

    That occlusivity chart was interesting. Wonder where coconut oil would fit.

    • Randy Schueller February 19, 2014, 5:59 pm

      After we finished the episode, we found that the occlusivity chart listed a couple of esters from Jojoba oil that may be more occlusive than petrolatum. I’ll see what else we can dig up about them.

  • Cass November 25, 2014, 8:31 am

    I realise that this was posted a long time ago but I’ll give it a shot….
    Is it a good idea to put pure vegetable oils on my face? Ones that only have the oil + a preservative such as Vitamin E?

    Also I was using a hair oil that contains almond oil,vitamin E and avobenzone on my face before I sleep. Now this was before I found out that avobenzone degrades on exposure to UV light and can lead to generation of free radicals. Do you think this might be harmful even if I just use it in the night time?

    • Randy Schueller November 25, 2014, 4:18 pm

      Hi Cass. Avobenzone is still an approved sunscreen so I don’t think you have much to worry about. Except that sunscreen is expensive and so you’re wasting some money by using it at night.

  • Pilgrim September 25, 2015, 7:56 pm

    my $0.02

    plant based – rose hip oil

    animal based – lanolin (eucerit)

  • Jonathan September 27, 2017, 5:35 am

    How dry does the climate need to be for humectants to begin pulling water from the skin itself , and is there an alternative to mitigate this damage for those who live in drier climates ?

    • Randy Schueller September 27, 2017, 6:39 am

      I don’t have the data on this off hand but I assume that humidity level below 30% or so could be a problem. The alternative would be to use moisturizers with occlusive agents like mineral oil and petrolatum.

  • Patricia Swayze February 3, 2020, 10:58 pm

    I always heard that petroleum-based products were bad for your skin because they block the skin pores and don’t allow your skin to breathe properly. That why I stopped using mineral oil years ago.

    • Perry Romanowski February 18, 2020, 8:07 am

      Well, that’s not true so you can start using petroleum based products again.