You could try forest bathing, or you could connect with nature by incorporating one of its many wonders into your daily routine with ingredients from around the world.
Aloe — Mexico
The stuff you put on sunburns and scrapes is also good for your hair and scalp. And after seven years of growing in arid climates like those found in Mexico, aloe’s active compounds are at ideal levels. The same compounds that calm skin (polysaccharide sugars) can also coat and hydrate hair and soothe tight, itchy scalps, says dermatologist Melanie Palm.
Olive Oil — Lebanon
Lebanon’s use of olive oil dates back to the Phoenician times. With so many microclimates, the aromas and tastes may vary but the benefits stay the same. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality, filled with antioxidants, healthy fats, and Vitamins E and K. Ingest or apply to your skin, nails, and hair. Vitamin E hydrates, while antioxidants help to fight free radicals.
Shea Butter — Ghana
It takes 18 steps for a single shea nut to become shea butter at the Tungteiya Women’s Association in northern Ghana, which churns out at least 390 tons of the finished product each year. As Ghanaian women have known for generations, the dense butter makes for a rich, occlusive moisturizer. “It has fatty acids that restore the skin’s barrier and prevent water from escaping,” says Palm. For the same reason, cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski suggests applying shea butter immediately after a moisturizing oil to lock in hydration. Just one caveat: Palm recommends avoiding this rich ingredient on acne, as it’s likely to worsen breakouts.
Seaweed — North Atlantic & Japan
“The benefits of seaweed can range from providing antioxidant protection to increasing skin elasticity and building collagen,” says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, noting that seaweed has different concentrations of nutrients depending on where it’s from. Seaweed from Japan, for example, is often used in skin-firming products, and seaweed from the North Atlantic is packed with nutrients, like copper, that help boost collagen production. “Certain biological processes, like building elastin and collagen in the skin, require minerals like the ones in seaweed,” says Wilson. “They help skin operate at maximum efficiency.” Seaweed is also rich in antioxidant polyphenols and some fatty acids, says Palm.
Matcha — Japan
Zoom in on a shot of the mountainsides of Kyoto, Japan, and you’ll see that all that green is acres of leaves. Green tea leaves, to be exact. From these leaves, matcha is ground into an antioxidant powder that helps protect skin from environmental stressors, like pollution, says Rabach. “Many of those antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory properties, so matcha could help soothe redness and blotchiness.” That’s why Palm suggests that patients with sensitive skin consider using it topically. And if you’ve already got a morning matcha latte habit, keep sipping, adds Wilson. Its high levels of anti-inflammatory epigallocatechin gallate are good for the body and skin.
Naturally occurring ingredients like these come with a giant warning: They will cease to exist if suppliers don’t play the long game. “In most cases, nature isn’t replicable. Once it’s gone, that’s it,” says Juliette Crepin, who advises companies on responsible sourcing at Conservation International. “Sustainable sourcing helps create a supply chain that better guarantees resilience of ecosystems where valued plants are grown, and at the same time creates an equitable environment for local communities.” To encourage responsible practices, seek out brands that are closely aligned with environmental- protection organizations like Conservation International (which works with Costa Brazil and Biolage), Green America (which has certified Derma E and Aveda), and the Forest Stewardship Council (look for the FSC certification on packaging).
Originally published in the June 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia
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