The cosmetic patients who enter our practices today do not appear to be the typical cosmetic patients we were seeing just a decade or two ago. The modern cosmetic patient is younger, perhaps even in her twenties or thirties, and she puts as much focus on prevention as on correction. She is also far more concerned about the source of her products, frequently requesting natural or organic alternatives to prescription medications. She might even perceive products that are not natural as unsafe, and peruses the ingredient list for chemicals and preservatives that she has read are â€œtoxicâ€ on the Internet.
Sales of products claiming to be â€œorganic,â€ â€œnatural,â€ or â€œnaturally derivedâ€ have soared in recent years. But what do these terms really mean? Certifying products as organic has become a trend of late, but there are a number of worldwide organizations that have differing definitions of â€œorganic.â€ A common misconception among patients and consumers alike is that organic is better, but, in reality, organic is not necessarily better. Naturally derived ingredients are not invariably organic, rather they contain plant-derived elements that are actually improved upon in the laboratory setting.
One of the reasons why natural ingredients have gained such popularity is their abundance of antioxidants. Oxidative stress is a major driving force behind aging. Free radicals are highly reactive species, capable of damaging biomolecules such as lipids, proteins, and DNA, and they are continuously formed during our normal metabolic processes. Their production is increased with exposure to environmental factors such as sunlight and cigarette smoke. As a result, humans have evolved an antioxidant defense system to minimize the potential for free radical damage. However, we need to keep replenishing our antioxidant stores, and natural ingredients are an excellent source of these desirable antioxidants. Several natural ingredients that exhibit antioxidant and photoprotective effects on the skin include, among others: shiitake mushrooms, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), feverfew parthenolide-free extract (PFE), tea extracts (green and black), coffeeberry, grape seed extract, and licorice. In this article we will focus on shiitake mushrooms, feverfew, and tea, and then shift gears and discuss the benefits of wheat for damaged hair.
Shiitake Mushroom Complex
Mushroom extracts, including shiitake mushroom extract, possess not only antioxidant properties but also anti-irritant properties. Therefore, the right combination of mushroom extracts could be the ideal ingredient in anti-aging skin formulations. Shiitake mushrooms and mannetake (reishi) mushrooms contain polysaccharides, triterpenes, proteins, lipids, phenols, and cerebrosides.1 These serve as anti-irritants and antioxidants, and stimulate the skinâ€™s natural renewal process. Mushroom extract skin care applications include protection against photoaging and improved skin elasticity.2 Natural shiitake complex inhibits elastase activity. As we age, enzymes such as elastase diminish our elastin, compromising the integrity of the dermal layer. Natural shiitake complex has been shown to inhibit elastase in a dramatic fashion. The degree of elastase enzyme inhibition increases as the concentration of the shiitake complex is increased (Figure 1).3 Shiitake derivatives also display potent antioxidant activity, which is critical for anti-aging because oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species are major