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Weleda Skin Food ($10.00, Amazon.com) has been receiving a lot of attention lately as an all-natural, highly effective moisturizer. Chocked full of natural plant and seed oils, Weleda Skin Food sounds like it should make all-natural devotees happy…but does it?
Sunflower Seed Oil
Sunflower seed oil appears to replace dry skin’s fatty acid deficiency. According to a very small study (3 individuals!) published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, application of sunflower-seed oil to the individuals’ right forearms for 2 weeks markedly increased the amount of lecithin in the patients’ skin, the rate of transepidermal water loss was significantly lowered, and the scaly lesions disappeared. Interestingly (and surprisingly!), these results were not found with olive oil. However, the authors speculate that the reason is that sunflower seed oil is a natural source of linoleic acid, whereas olive oil is a source of oleic acid.
Another exciting finding with sunflower seed oil: topical application has been found to prevent bacterial infections in infants in one small, controlled Egyptian study.
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil naturally has excellent hydrating properties. In fact, sweet almond is the massage oil most commonly used by the professional masseuse, for it absorbs into the skin at a pleasant speed and hydrates without becoming too greasy.
One warning: Because of the almonds used in the manufacturing process, sweet almond oil is not to be used on or by individuals with nut allergies.
Beeswax and Hydrolyzed Beeswax
In a partially-blind, single-controlled study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, a mixture of beeswax, honey, and olive oil was found to improve symptoms of 8/10 patients with dermatitis and 5/10 patients with psoriasis. (Unfortunately, Weleda Skin Food only contains beeswax and hydrolyzed beeswax, not honey or olive oil.)
Beeswax in its most commonly used form, PEG-20 Sorbitan Beeswax, has been declared safe for use upon review in the International Journal of Toxicology. It is generally included in cosmetics and skin care as a hydrating ingredient.
Rosemary extract is generally used as a natural antioxidant, as it is a natural source of three antioxidant compounds: carnosic acid, carnosol, and rosmarinic acid. In a 1996 study, it was found that the antioxidant capacities of these compounds varies greatly depending on the lipid constituency and pH of the formulation.
In general, according to the “polar paradox” of Porter et. al. (cited here), polar antioxidants function better in nonpolar (oily) formulations, whereas nonpolar antioxidants function better in polar emulsions. For this reason, as suspected, the polar carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid have been found to be more effective in oil-based creams like Weleda Skin Food, whereas the nonpolar carnosol has been found to be more effective in water-based creams.
The other consideration with the efficacy of rosemary extract as an antioxidant is its pH. At the slightly acidic pH of 4-5, rosemary extract’s three antioxidant components function optimally. However, at a neutral pH of 7, rosemary extract loses all pH activity. I don’t have Weleda Skin Food here to do a litmus test, but an educated guess suggests that the pH is somewhere around 7 – but if you have information to refute this, please comment!
Also known as marigold extract, this extract “has many pharmacological properties. It is used for the treatment of skin disorders, pain and also as a bactericide, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.” It also functions as an effective natural antioxidant. However, the concentration of calendula extract in Weleda Skin Food is rather low, and its properties may not be very evident after use.
From reading others’ opinions of the cream and studying the ingredients, Weleda Skin Food is thick and creamy. It does not drink in immediately, but still remains non-greasy.
At the moment, I am always a little more skeptical of “all-natural” skin treatments, for the simple reason that there are less published scientific research studies incorporating “all-natural” ingredients and their efficacy. At any rate, however, there is no denying that the studies out there demonstrate that the ingredients in Weleda Skin Food make it a hydrating, soothing, cost-effective, unique all-natural antioxidant cream. It may not have the antioxidant power of, say, Topix Replenix (with green tea polyphenols) or Revale Skin (with coffeeberry), but for the cost and for being all-natural, it’s a great choice. Product rating: 8.5/10 (High concentration of proven ingredients: 2.5/3 (minus half point for limited research). New technology or unique formulation: 3/3. Value for the money: 3/3. Sunscreen: 0/1).
Ingredients in Weleda Skin Food
Water (Aqua), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Lanolin, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Alcohol, Beeswax (Cera Flava), Glyceryl Linoleate, Hydrolyzed Beeswax, Fragrance (Parfum), Viola Tricolor Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Cholesterol, Limonene, Linalool, Geraniol, Citral, Coumarin.