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.


Buy your copy of It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

  • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
  • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
  • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
  • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

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