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Botanical Ingredients for the Medical Spa

By: Katherine Tomasso
Posted: October 31, 2013, from the November 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Compared with the ablative, aggressive treatment options of the past, skin inflammation is less prevalent and less severe, yet it does still occur. Plants—and the phytochemicals they contain—are an important source of raw materials specific to the recovery process.

Primary and secondary metabolites. Plants have two kinds of active constituents: Those they use to thrive and those that appear to be secondary to growth. These are known as primary and secondary metabolites, respectively. Primary metabolites include starches, amino acids, fixed oils and fats. Secondary metabolites are other plant chemicals that, only a few years ago, were thought to be useless by-products of metabolism. Researchers now know that living organisms wouldn’t produce anything superfluous. Whatever a plant’s secondary metabolites, you can be sure that they have a purpose, either for the plant directly or for the benefit of humankind. Of the 900 plants and herbs used in skin care preparations, it’s estimated that approximately 25% of them contain natural plant steroids and salicylates, compounds that have very potent anti-inflammatory properties. The versatile actions of botanicals indicate how perfectly the natural skin care products segment aligns with the 21st century medical spa.

Soothing, anti-inflammatory botanical ingredients

Using high-quality, botanically based products that are concentrated with essential fatty acids and lipids, vitamins, minerals and amino acids delivers a restorative action to the skin that complements procedures, such as microdermabrasion, as opposed to competing with them.

Whether irritation is the result of mechanical or chemical means, botanically rich products can support the skin through the inflammatory and repairing stages. Optimizing skin health involves hydrating, soothing, protecting, nourishing and rejuvenating actions, and plant extracts are active in each of these areas. As you seek out the best options to complement medical device therapies or rebalance the skin after a peel, look for products and ingredients that address all of the skin’s needs, and specifically those that control inflammation.

Arnica (Arnica montana). This has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s to reduce inflammation and heal wounds. Part of the sunflower family and rich in polyphenols—the pigmented parts of plants—its main constituent is thymol, a highly antiseptic component. Arnica is also very effective at neutralizing the negative energy of free radicals.