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Flower Power? Well, if you lived through the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, you may remember the term, “flower power.” It meant love-ins, social permissiveness, and hippies dressed in clothing with eye-popping colors and embroidered flowers, and they even wore flowers in their hair.
The participants of the movement became known as “flower children.” Songs were written about “wearing flowers in your hair,” the Beatles animated movie “Yellow Submarine” was popular, and Bob Dylan songs ruled the radio.
If you fast-forward to 2018 the term “flower power” takes on an entirely different meaning. It relates to the use of flowers and plants as healing ingredients that help to beautify skin and make it more peaceful (less irritation is a good thing!), radiant, and youthful in appearance.
Flowers have been used medicinally for thousands of years. As far back as 2500 BC, a Chinese book on roots and grasses included references to 365 different drugs that had their origin in dried parts of medicinal plants, some of which are still used today. These include camphor, ginseng, jimson weed, cinnamon bark, ephedra, and many others.
Many other references discuss plant pharmacology. Homer’s classics “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” from 800 BC, referenced 63 different plant species used in pharmacotherapy.
The most well known writer on using plants in medicine was Dioscorides, who was called “the father of pharmacognosy.” In the year 77 AD he wrote his classic text on 600 medicinal plants that included descriptions, how to collect them, their medicinal properties, and therapeutic effects.
His writings included references to plants used as palliatives for every type of pain, or as emollients, diuretics, cardiac stimulants, and more. The most popular plants referenced included poppy, buttercup, jimson weed, henbane, deadly nightshade, chamomile, garlic, ivy, sage, coriander, and many others.
During the Middle Ages, many monasteries began cultivating plants to be used for medicinal purposes, including sage, anise, mint, savory, tansy, and others. From 742 AD and continuing on throughout history, many of the plants described in various writings of their time are still in use today - in one form or another.
Flowers and their extracts have been used throughout history to help treat skin conditions and beautify skin. The plants’ benefits were passed on from generation to generation and were refined, enhanced, and upgraded in each successive use.
It started what we know today as a sophisticated and modern use of the plants that nature has given us and we’re continuing to search for new flowers and plants along with new uses for existing ones.
The concept of using “nature’s bounty” was applied to help the human population live a better, healthier life. And in this case - to have better, healthier skin. Flowers from lavender to hibiscus to calendula have been used historically to treat skin irritations, as well as to freshen and even out the complexion.
Many flowers contain high levels of antioxidants that help fight environmental stressors, these stressors cause premature aging of the skin that has no correlation to a person’s chronological age.
Skin loses its elastic properties due to a loss of collagen and elastin. The skin then sags, giving the appearance of an older person’s skin. Intermittent age spots can develop as well.
Antioxidants work to mitigate the damage caused by free radicals, along with another condition known as oxidative stress. The skin regains its tone, the sagging dissipates and skin looks more radiant and youthful in appearance.
Scientists believe they can actually delay the aging process by mounting a strong antioxidant defense, and that an optimal intake of nutritional and topical antioxidants can minimize the damage to cells caused by oxidative stress. This includes flower extracts, which are formulated in a wide array of quality skincare products.
Most floral ingredients used in cosmetic skincare formulations offer many benefits to skin, such as the many varieties of flowers and plants that are anti-inflammatory for skin. These include calendula flowers, hamamelis bark, marshmallow root, oat straw, yarrow, sage leaf, evening primrose oil and the list goes on and on.
Inflammation is a complex process that helps a body’s defense system operate at optimal levels. Flower and plant components have an anti-inflammatory action that impacts different stages of the inflammation process.
They operate by preventing an inflammatory reaction from starting in the first place, and if a reaction has already started, they help to reduce the itching and skin flare that are so uncomfortable. And while many of their healing properties began as folk medicine, research and testing has shown that they do in fact work and have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Let's take a look at a few of the most popular flowers in skincare:
Calendula is excellent for treating skin inflammation, and was part of a healing compound used during the Civil War to treat wounds. Calendula can help soothe contact dermatitis, eczema, and acne breakouts.
Its antibacterial properties fight potential bacterial infections and kill off damaging free radicals which helps heal skin with environmental damage (from UV rays, pollution, smoke, blowdryers, harsh weather conditions, etc..).
Calendula encourages the healing process, enhances the appearance of the skin, lowers inflammation, and promotes blood flow to the skin cells. Amazing that a cheerful little orange flower can provide antioxidant protection to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and scars, but calendula is a powerful flower!
It will tighten the skin, heal damage cells, hydrate dry patches, boost new skin cell growth, plump up the skin to create a youthful look, and preserve the health of your skin’s ecosystem.
This flower's ability to fight infections means your skin has a fighting chance to become smooth and supple. And your skin won’t itch or be painful due to the anti-inflammatory properties soothing the skin. The gentleness of this natural extract makes it a favorite ingredient amongst sensitive skin sufferers who are searching for a cream or cleanser that is compatible with their skin.
The ancient Greeks used rose petals, rose water, and rose oils to create perfume and cosmetic products to brighten and plump up skin. Plus, roses have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and were used in many different ways to treat skin irritations like eczema, dermatitis, and fungal infections.
The top reason that roses are used in skincare products is their high concentration of vitamin C. It’s one of the more potent skin rejuvenators available, and is less intense than vitamin C derived from citrus products. Roses also have excellent hydrating properties.
One of the most widely studied flowering plants is Spilanthes acmella, also known as the “toothache plant.” It is in high demand in the cosmetic industry as it is often called the plant version of Botox. When it’s applied topically its astringent effect helps to reduce facial wrinkles that are caused by contracted facial muscles.
Some studies have found that Spilanthes acmella has powerful antioxidant
properties. This is important, because when skin is exposed to UV rays from sunlight and other environmental toxins, skin undergoes what is known as photoaging.
The photoaging process creates free radicals, molecules that combine with oxygen and damage the skin at the cellular level, affecting the DNA, cell membranes and the mitochondria within the cell.
There are many other varieties, including Spanish and French lavender, but they’re used for purposes other than topical skincare formulations.
Lavender is one of the more versatile flowers used in topical skincare solutions. Combined with other ingredients, lavender helps to control dryness, and has natural antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Because it is able to remove bacteria and excess oils from the pores, it works wonders on acne.
Lavender’s antioxidants help to nourish your skin, and along with other ingredients helps to remove the free radicals responsible for making your skin look dull and dehydrated. What makes it ideal as a skincare product ingredient is its ability to reduce inflammation. It works wonders on dry skin, helping to equalize your skin’s pH balance.
One of lavender’s top properties is its anti-aging ability. It works by providing oxygen to skin cells and helps your skin grow new cells. This regenerative power is what gives your skin a healthy glow. By plumping up your skin, wrinkles and fine lines disappear, giving you a more youthful appearance. When formulated as an extract along with other ingredients, it produces less reactions and side effects that it would in oil form.
Lavender is also known to normalize oily, sensitive skin by helping balance the amount of oil the sebum produces. And here’s another surprising benefit - the soothing aroma of lavender helps to reduce anxiety, and by doing so it reduces cortisol levels that can irritate the skin.
Flower extracts and plant materials used in cosmetic formulations are used to treat a variety of common skin conditions. These include rashes, which are caused by skin irritations, allergies, infections, blocked pores, or other issues. Examples would be eczema, hives, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
Bacterial infections are quite common, as skin is exposed to a variety of bacteria, and are often treated with topical or oral antibiotics. Some topical compounds, which include flower extracts, work as long as the infection has not penetrated the top layer of skin.
Many flowers have antibacterial powers that help to keep skin clean and free of infections, including infections from the bacteria most responsible for acne breakouts (Propionibacterium acnes).
Another area where products utilizing floral extracts work is pigmentation disorders. If there is absence of melanin there is a loss of pigment. If there is an increase in melanin there is excessive pigmentation, or spots, that can be caused by irritation, hormones, aging, or other underlying problems. Conditions known as age spots, freckles, and melasma are just a few examples of hyperpigmentation.
Many people prefer the natural healing properties found in herbs and flowers, because there are fewer side effects and the products are easy to tolerate. While many different plants and flowers are being tested, there have been 31 plants listed as “effective” in variety of skin diseases through the year 2012.
We’ve provided some background on why floral and plant extracts are more and more popular in cosmetic product formulations. After thousand of years of use, you shouldn’t be surprised! Now it’s time for you to harness flower power to help beautify your skin.
Many floral extracts provide outstanding antioxidant and vitamins that also help moisturize your skin. Antioxidants are your best line of defense against premature aging, as they ward off free radicals and work to help rebuild cells for a firmer, more radiant skin tone.
When looking for quality skincare products, be sure to read labels. The ingredients are always posted, so be sure that you find products that have pure floral oils and extracts as ingredients that are prominently listed.
If you do have any questions about using products full of floral ingredients, talk to a dermatologist or a licensed esthetician. That way you can be assured that you’re using the right floral products for your skin type. Then begin your own flower-powered regimen of using beautiful floral ingredients for better skin.