pH – acidity factorPotential Hydrogen – pH – is a way to measure how acid (or basic) something is. The pH scale goes from 1 to 14, and at pH value 7,0 we say that something is pH neutral. All pH values under 7,0 mark a higher acidity, and all pH values above 7,0 mark alkalinity.

Alkaline fluids (pH above 7,0) absorb oxygen, while acid fluids try to eliminate it. All fluids which take care of cell nutrition and guarantee their functions, and which need enough oxygen, have a pH, slightly over 7, meaning they are all slightly alkaline. These fluids need a sufficient amount of oxygen, because there is no life without oxygen. Any fluid with the purpose of destroying, preventing or metabolising is acidic, which guarantees that microbes get destroyed and food gets digested in the body.

When we are born, the human skin is basic, which is the reason babies smell nice. In time acid metabolites begin excreting through the skin, even though that is not the skin’s basic function. This happens when there are a lot of acid metabolites and the other excretion organs (intestines, liver and kidney) are already overloaded. The toxins begin to excrete through the skin as well, since it takes over the task of other overwhelmed excretive organs.

The main culprits for the surplus of acids in the body and consequentially for the skin’s acid mantle are nicotine, alcohol, stress, acid body care products, environmental pollution, UV-rays, use of aggressive cleaning and hygiene products, overloading and/or improper functioning of the excretion organs, medicine (mainly antibiotics), and a diet with too many “acid” foodstuffs (sugar, carbohydrates, meat).

Due to the above mentioned reasons the skin of most adults in western world has an acid pH, namely around 5, while the vagina has an even more acidic pH, around 4.

Astringent activityIncreases the tautness of the skin, narrows the pores, reduces the oiliness of the skin (it regulates the sebum secretion) and stops smaller bleedings (speeds up the coagulation of blood from fresh small wounds).
Antioxidantsa) When used in products as ingredients, which influence the skin, antioxidants are the chemicals that protect the cells from free radicals and strengthen the defence mechanisms of the skin.

b) As part of a product, they protect those ingredients, sensitive to oxidation, from going bad.

In more detail:

Antioxidants are substances that slow down, prevent or remove cell damage or damage to cell ingredients. They work by reacting with radicals, which can cause the change in structure and function of lipids (cell membranes), proteins and DNA. Antioxidants are substances that in different ways protect important cell components (such as cell membrane, cells organelles) from actions of the radicals.

Antioxidants protect from oxidative stress, which mean that the balance between the formation of radicals and antioxidative defence has been broken, leading to possible cell damage. It is the consequence of lowered levels of antioxidants or increased formation of radicals.

Lipophilic antioxidants – inhibitors of lipid peroxidation

They slow down or interrupt lipid peroxidation, which otherwise leads to changed structure and function of the cell membrane.

In more detail:

In lipids (or fats) lipid soluble antioxidants work as inhibitors of lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation is uncontrolled oxidation of lipids in biological membrane, which starts like a chain reaction of radicals and continues as a complex and intertwined system of oxidations which take place in radical and non-radical way. Lipid molecules gradually oxidise in a radical way. The oxidation of the lipid components leads to a changed structure and function of the biological membrane and by that to different tissue damage (e.g. in skin that damage is dry skin, pigment stains, deep lines, cancerous changes …); lipid-soluble antioxidants can interfere with the above mentioned reactions by reacting with individual intermediates and break the chain of connected reactions. The final result is the slowing down or the interruption of lipid peroxidation.

Antimicrobial actionPrevents contamination with microorganisms. It destroys microorganism or inhibits their multiplication and growth (it works mainly against bacteria and fungi).

Antimicrobial agents:

·         Preservative function: in products (cosmetic products, foodstuffs)

·         antiseptic (antiseptic function): on the surface of skin and mucous membranes

·         disinfectant (disinfecting function): on the surfaces of different items and on work surfaces.

Antifungal actionDestroys fungus or inhibits their multiplication and growth (some fungus often cause fungal infections). The fungi that cause skin infections are divided into three groups (simplified): dermatophytes (Trychophyton rubrum, T. Mentagrophyte, Microsporum canis ), yeasts (Malassezia furfur, Candida) and moulds.
Carminative actionPrevents the formation of intestinal gasses and helps with the expulsion of said gasses.
Antiseptic actionSee: antimicrobial action.
Antispasmodic actionPrevents or eases smooth muscle contractions.
Tonifying actionTonifying action increases the general well-being of the body and the spirit. It strengthens and stimulates all the organs and systems in the body, such as the respiratory system, the digestive tract, secretory organs, cardiovascular system, nervous system and endocrine system, helping the growth and proper organ function. It also strengthens the immune system.

Tonifying the skin (toning action) follows the skin cleansing. The tonic refreshes the skin, increases the blood flow and works as an antiseptic. It gives the feeling of cleanliness, freshness and at the same time, due to increased blood circulation, revives the skin and increases its tonus.

Tanning the skin is colouring the skin with a tanning cream.

Regenerative effectSpeeds up the regeneration of the epidermis and the scalp.
Occlusive effectOcclusive agents are used as moisturisers in hydrating creams. The occlusive effect means that the oils in care products form a water proof layer on top of the skin, like a thin film which prevents moisture loss. The water stays trapped in the lipid barrier and hydrates the skin. Water in the dehydrated cell softens the lipid barriers which swell and thus reduce the peeling of the skin. Lanoline, lipids and waxes are examples of occlusive agents.

To prevent dehydration and to regenerate dry and damaged skin, the lipids, similar to the skin’s own, are the most appropriate. Those are lipid alcohols, lipid acids, short- and long-chain esters in combination with triglycerides, waxes and squalen. For this purpose natural oils, such as avocado, almond, jojoba and olive oil, are used.

MicrocirculationCirculation of blood in the smallest blood vessels; it is a major part of the circulatory system, because this is the level where the exchange of gasses and nutrients takes place between the blood and tissues, providing the tissues and organs with nutrients. The structure of capillaries – a big part of the circulatory system – is adapted to this function.
NutrientsNutrients are substances in the organism’s metabolism, which the organism receives from its environment and uses to build and repair its tissues, regulate body functions, and coverts and uses them as energy; organic nutrients include carbohydrates, fats, proteins (or their building blocks – amino acids) and vitamins. Inorganic components, such as minerals, water and oxygen can also be thought of as nutrients.

In skin-care products, the nutrients and/or active ingredients that stimulate microcirculation take care of skin nutrition and balance.

SebumSebum is the secretion of the sebaceous glands. It is a thick, semi-liquid substance, composed of fats and epithelial cell remains from the Malpighian layer (a level of epidermis directly under the granular layer, composed of keratinocytes, which begin to flatten, melanocytes and nerve endings).
EpitheliumEpithelium is the tissue on the surface of the skin (epidermis) or lining the inner surfaces of body cavities and mucous membranes.

The skin is composed of several layers. The top layer is the epidermis; beneath it are the dermis and the subcutaneous fatty tissue. The epidermis is composed of epithelial cells and keratinocytes which form in the basal/germinal layer (stratum basale), mature in the prickle cell (stratum spinosum) and granular layer (stratum granulosum) and die in the cornified layer (stratum corneum). The last layer peels on the surface, which causes the cells to fall off.

MineralsThe most important minerals for normal functioning of the human organism are copper, zinc, phosphorus, iodine, calcium, potassium, chloride, magnesium and iron, with trace amounts of fluoride, cobalt, chrome, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and vanadium.

Iodine (I): As a component of several thyroid hormones, Iodine has a strong influence on the metabolism of nutrients, the functioning of nerves and muscles, the condition of skin, hair, teeth and nails, and on physical and psychological development. Iodine also helps transform beta carotene to vitamin A. It is an efficient antiseptic and sterilisation additive to water.

Zinc (Zn): Plays a role in maintaining eyesight, metabolism of acids and bases, metabolism of carbohydrates, cognitive functions, DNA synthesis, fertility and reproduction, metabolism of macronutrients, metabolism of fatty cells, operation of the immune system, protection of cells from oxidative stress, cell division, vitamin A metabolism and the synthesis of proteins. It helps maintain a normal blood testosterone level and keep the bones, hair, nails and skin healthy. As an anti-inflammatory it is sometimes used for acne treatment. Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp is sometimes treated with shampoos which contain zinc pyrithione, sulphur and selenium sulphide.

Selenium (Se): Helps maintain healthy hair and nails. It is part of the semen production, immune system and thyroid functions. As an antioxidant it protects the cells and tissues from damage caused by radicals, and at the same completes the antioxidative effects of vitamin E.

Sulphur (S): Represents approximately 10 % of the body’s mineral supplies. It is present in every cell, but especially in the protein rich tissues of hair, nails, muscles and skin. In metabolism it works as a part of vitamin B₁, biotin and vitamin B₅.

In dry skin, the capability of the cornified layer to retain water is closely linked with the presence of the substances that retain water in the skin, those are NMFs (natural moisturizing factors) and lipids, which form the lipid layer of the skin. The natural NMFs are electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphates, chlorides, lactates etc.) free amino acids (serine, citrulline etc.), sodium salt of pyrrolidone carbonic acid (Na-PCA) and azo compounds (urea, glucosamine and creatinine).

VitaminsVitamins and minerals, known as micronutrients (because we only need negligible amounts of them) take part in almost every biochemical process in the body.

Vitamin A (retinol, retinal, beta carotene): Is part of iron metabolism, it is important for the immune system and differentiation and specialisation of cells, while contributing to maintaining healthy skin and hair and healthy mucous membranes in nose, throat, respiratory organs and digestive tract. It stimulates the healing of the wounds and is used to treat some types of skin diseases. Beta carotene, a transition form of vitamin A, is carotenoid (a type of plant dye). It is stored in the skin and the body transforms it to vitamin A as needed.

Vitamins of the B complex: B complex is a group or a mixture of eight essential vitamins. Even though they are chemically different, they are often found in the same type of food. They are important for maintaining healthy skin, stimulating metabolism, maintaining the muscle tone, strengthening the immune and nervous systems, and speeding up cell growth and reproduction.

Vitamin B (thiamine): It is also called the “energy vitamin”. It is a vitamin necessary for the digestion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and a part of transforming the glucose surplus into fatty tissue. Vitamin B₁ influences the performance of the heart, contributes to a normal psychological status and healthy working nervous system. Large doses (up to 100 mg) can relieve itching due to insect bites.

Vitamin B (riboflavin): Similarly to other vitamins from B group, B2 contributes to releasing energy in metabolism, healthy skin, hair, nails and mucous membrane. It helps to form red blood cells, corticosteroids and thyroid hormones, and is necessary for proper working of nerves, eyes and adrenal glands. It is often used to treat acne, cataract, anaemia and depression. The consequences of vitamin B2 deficiency are dry lips and skin, peeling skin, mouth ulcers and dermatitis.

Vitamin B (niacin, nicotinic acid): Niacin in involved in over 50 important processes in the body. It contributes to energy release in metabolism, influences the nervous system and maintaining healthy skin and mucous membrane, stabilises mental health, reduces tiredness and exhaustion, and helps detoxify the body of certain medicine and substances. Additionally it helps regulate blood sugar and can contribute to reducing cholesterol level.

Vitamin B (pantothenic acid): Together with other vitamins, B5 – pantothenic acid – is necessary for transforming food into energy, red blood cell and bile formation; for the synthesis of fat, suprarenal steroids, antibodies and certain nerve impulse transmitters. Pantothenic acid can be found in dexpanthenol lotions and creams to sooth pain caused by burns, cuts and abrasions; it reduces skin inflammation and speeds up the wound healing process.

Vitamin B (pyridoxine): Vitamin B₆ is a family of compounds which include pyridoxine, pyridoxamine and pyridoxal. This vitamin supports the immune system, nerve impulse transmission (especially in the brain), energy metabolism and creation of red blood cells.

Vitamin B (biotin, vitamin H): Together with other vitamins, B7 is necessary for metabolism of carbohydrates, fatty acids and proteins, and it also participates in transforming food into energy. It is especially important for healthy hair, skin and nails.

Vitamin B (folic acid, folacin, folate): Healthy hair, skin, nails, nerves, mucous membrane and blood depend on folic acid, also called B9. Folic acid is one of key components of DNA and RNA (regulating growth and regeneration of all cells). It is important for cell division. During pregnancy it contributes to the development of mother’s tissue, synthesis of amino acids, formation of blood, homocysteine metabolism, normal psychological functions, and a functioning immune system. It is codependent with vitamin B12 (they activate each other); vitamin C and niacin are also important for folate availability.

Vitamin B₁₂ (cobalamin): In metabolism it contributes to release of energy, influences the nervous system, homocysteine metabolism and stable psychological functions; it also reduces tiredness and exhaustion. It is also important for forming red blood cells, immune system functions and cell divisions. It is necessary to form RNA and DNA genetic materials and myelin (fatty substance which forms a protective layer around the nerves). It is the largest of all vitamins.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): The connecting tissue all over the body is built from collagen; the creation of collagen depends on vitamin C. Therefore vitamin C helps heal wounds, burns, broken bones and treatment of bruises. Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant (substance which protects cells from radicals) and immune system stimulator.

Vitamin D (cholecalciferol – D, ergocalciferol – D): Vitamin D contributes to the normal absorption (use) of calcium and phosphorus, providing a normal blood calcium level, maintains healthy bones, good muscle function, healthy teeth and good immune system. It is important in cell division and is necessary for normal growth and development of children’s bones. Vitamin D3 is biosynthesized in our skin under the influence of sunlight (UV-rays).

Vitamin E: Encompasses a group of compounds that include tocopherols and tocotrienols, of which alpha-tocopherol is the most common. It is necessary for proper function of the immune and endocrine systems and reproductive glands. It protects the cells from oxidative stress, because it is a strong antioxidant (substance which protects cells from radicals).

Vitamin K (menaquinone, menadione, phylloquinone, phytomenadione): Contributes to normal blood coagulation, maintaining healthy bones and normal kidney functions.

Omega-3 fatty acidsAre among key foodstuffs, namely foodstuffs that are essential for our body but which the body cannot produce by itself. Omega-3 fatty acids are not only the substance for creating some tissue hormones, but are the basic building blocks for our cell membranes. Without them cells cannot perform their functions as they should. In the early childhood omega-3 fatty acid are important for the proper development of brain and retina.

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DPA and DHA) can be found in linen seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, walnut and other nut oils, they can also be found in sea plankton, algae and blue fish. Omega-6 fatty acids (GLA – gamma-linoleic acid) can be found in passion fruit, evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) and currant (Ribes) oils. Olive oil is rich in omega-9 fatty acids, of which the oleic acid is the best known. Omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids maintain a normal blood cholesterol level and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In cosmetics they influence the formation and maintaining of healthy cells of the top protective skin layer (Stratum corneum). Because these fatty acids are similar to our skin acids, they absorb well into the top layers of our skin and supplement the lipid deficiency. They have an anti-inflammatory and regenerative effect on the skin. They keep the moisture in the skin and prevent moisture loss from deeper skin layers.

ProteinsThe ingredient or the building blocks of every cell in the human body. The proteins are complex organic molecules, composed of at least 50 chain linked amino acids. We differentiate simple protein and composed proteins with a cofactor. Food usually contains proteins which the digestive enzymes break down into individual amino acids, which are used for the synthesis of the body’s own proteins. In the bodies of the living creatures the proteins are used as enzymes, necessary for almost all life processes, while at the same time working as the building blocks, e.g. keratin, pigments (melanin) and poisons. In cosmetic products proteins are used as nutrients, natural moisturising agents, anti-inflammatory substances etc.
EnzymesEnzymes are proteins or protein complexes which catalyse biochemical reactions in living and non-living cells, which means they regulate the speed and direction of these reactions, while they do not get used up and do not change permanently. As catalysts they are specific, meaning that each enzyme only works on specific substrates (sometimes only on one) or speed up only one reaction. Enzymes are produced by living organisms.

Example: Aloe Vera juice contains enzyme bradykinase, which works as a pain relief and has an anti-inflammatory effect; tyrosinase, which breaks down tyrosine, prevents the creation of melanin and consequentially, the occurrence of hyperpigmentation on the skin.