Posted before Dec-31-2007
A quest for beauty has always been the driving force for mankind and it is not surprising that people have used, from time immemorial, various sorts of cosmetics and other products to look beautiful and enhance health which is the ultimate source of beauty. In the beginning, they used natural ingredients derived mostly from plants, and in the process discovered several herbs and other products that can work wonders in enhancing beauty and health. In the last century however, with advancement of science and discovery of petroleum by-products, chemicals and synthetic products came to be used more and more.
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However, we now know for certain that these chemical based cosmetic products do more harm than good in the long run. Modern research is bringing to light more and more damaging effects of these products. For example borax, a chemical derived from a mineral known as boron atrocacite and used extensively as an emulsifier in skin creams, has now been severely indicted in some medical reports from Denmark. Its prolonged use has been found to be carcinogenic, that is, causing cancer, especially in children. Many European countries have banned it, but it is still in commercial use in the US and UK.
In this situation, it is heartening to note that modern science is rediscovering plant derivatives and other herbal products as far better alternatives to chemical based cosmetics. More and more people, inspired by this rediscovery, are adopting natural, herbal based alternative systems of medicines, like homeopathy and Ayurveda, for the care of their beauty and health.
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Petroleum by-products, like paraffin or Vaseline, have long been used as the chief ingredient in skin care products. They do moisturize the skin; however, in the long run they suppress its normal functioning. The skin loses its natural ability to moisturize and take care of itself and becomes dependent on these. Lip balms that are so popular in winters to prevent and treat dry, chapped or cracked lips, contain vaseline which deprives the lips of their natural suppleness. Many skin medications for conditions like eczema or psoriasis temporarily suppress the symptoms visible on the surface, but do not address the cause underlying it.
In comparison, vegetable oils and fats are readily absorbed into the skin and provide natural nourishment, such as vitamins A, D, E and essential fatty acids, to it. This not only improves temporary skin conditions, but enhances its health in the long run.
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Mega doses of vitamins, derived from natural sources, have been found extremely beneficial for the skin. Especially useful in skin care products are compounds known as tocopherols or vitamin E.
The name vitamin E is given to a group of tocopherols of which the most active is alpha-tocophrerol. It can be derived from natural sources like wheat germ oil or sunflower oil in which case it is known as d-alpha-tocopherol. Alternatively, it can also be synthesized in labs, and in that case it is called dl-alpha-tocopherol. D-alpha-tocopherol is however 1.36 times more active than dl-alpha-tocopherol.
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Tocopherols have an affinity to bond with oxygen and thus prevent oxidization of other compounds. They themselves are destroyed in the process but don't leave behind any harmful residue. Therefore vitamin E is used, in the strength of 0.5%-1.0%, as antioxidant in oils, fats, and skin care products containing oils and fats.
However, more important is the fact that vitamin E has this effect even inside our body where it prevents oxidization of easily oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids and thus prevents the release of a large number of free radicals. Now, free radicals are associated with the process of aging and accompanying symptoms like wrinkling of skin. Thus, vitamin E is instrumental in slowing down aging and keeping the skin glowing with health.
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Deficiency of vitamin E and selenium renders cells more vulnerable to oxidization and free radical formation. Exposure to sunlight or heat, breaking down of certain environmental pollutants - all can lead to formation of free radicals in such cells. A generous application of vitamin E can prevent the process and also absorb the dangerous ultra-violet rays of the sun that lead to skin reddening, sunburn and more serious effects like skin cancer. Ultra-violet rays, along with free radicals, are the main culprits in early aging of the skin, loss of its elasticity and appearance of wrinkles on it. Vitamin E benefits the skin by countering the effects of both and also stimulating blood circulation, giving the skin a radiance of inner health.
Thus tocopherols are active and operate in both, the skin care product containing oil or fat, and the skin and inner body of the person using them. The amount of tocopherols required in the product, or in the body, depends on the amount of oxidization prone compounds, like polyunsaturated fatty acids, present in it. Therefore, the more polyunsaturated fatty acids a product has, the more tocopherols it needs to prevent their oxidization. Similarly, the more polyunsaturated fats you have in your diet, the more tocopherols you need to prevent the release of free radicals.
Besides making and keeping your skin beautiful, tocopherols provide protection against the harmful effects of various cytotoxins and radiotherapy. In creams and ointments, they help in healing cracks and sores, and if used regularly over a long period of time, can remove blemishes and scars. Taken internally, they slow down the process of aging and keep you vibrant with health.
If you are taking tocopherols internally, guard against high doses. Even though high doses are not dangerous, they can adversely affect blood pressure.