Monday, December 21, 2009

Natural Products For Hair And Skin

I have been researching information on natural products for cosmetic use for quite a long time. I have searched the literature available in books and online. Books can be out of date by the time they go to press as new research becomes available and is released very quickly. Information is constantly being updated. There are many reputable online sources for information about plants and trees and the oils, barks, extracts and other versions used in cosmetics.

Since the 1970s and the resurgence of natural products becoming mainstream popular again today, I have seen almost no scientific information available, become a lot of excellent scientific information. This information is accessible to anyone interested in taking the time and effort to look for it.

The most important thing to remember about any natural product is whether or not it is safe to use and then in what quantities it is safe. Sometimes there are few restrictions recommended on quantities. Sometimes there are many restrictions. Governments are now beginning to regulate natural products. It means that an industry that has previously had no restrictions put upon it, will have to fall in line with food and drug regulations on safety, labelling, doses and precautions clearly listed on the container in addition to any insert.

Some natural products like foods such as sage and other herbs are perfectly safe in the amounts usually eaten but taken in excess, there can be adverse effects. One cannot assume that a food item can automatically be used in large quantities frequently as a cosmetic. Researching a product carefully for current information is the best "remedy" of all. Plants and extracts can act differently topically as opposed to ingestion but not in all cases. There is the issue of skin absorption that is not to be discounted. Cosmetic products are tested for skin absorption and safety and are regulated with regard to the amount of an ingredient used. However, not all natural cosmetic products are regulated, even though they are on the market. Buyers should beware!

Much more is now known about natural product interactions with drugs and long term use effects. Some people rely on traditional use as the measure of a natural product’s safety. Traditional use of a natural product does not signify its safety. If one looks at cosmetic history throughout the world, many natural toxic substances were used both medicinally and cosmetically in many cultures at various times and the toxicity of them was not recognized until much later. Lead in cosmetics was used in Ancient Rome and during Elizabethan times. It can still be found to contaminate some cosmetics today like kohl, a popular eye make-up, as stated in this FDA advisory and (updated) this one from Health Canada.

Many traditional herbs are used in combinations and at doses known to be safe by those trained in how to use them. The safety of many of the products in question is being validated by science. In other instances, the plants or herbs have shown no evidence of efficacy or safety.

I believe that some of the answers to cosmetic questions, including hair care can indeed come from natural products used on their own, in combinations, or added to conventional formulations. The key questions of concern are about the safety and proper use of such products, as more information becomes known.