If you have ever read an online blog, you will see all kinds of people talking about mixing “lemon juice with turmeric powder” and putting it on your face to cure all your skin issues. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But, do any of these home remedies work? Let’s take a look at the facts.
To understand what to put on your face it’s important to understand some basic anatomy. Skin is the largest organ in the body and one of the main functions is to keep things out. Bacteria, viruses, dirt, chemicals, and oils are all things your skin is designed to keep from entering your body. In basic terms, your skin is made up of the stratum corneum, which is the outer layer. Next is the epidermis, which are the layers that peel off when you have a sunburn. And finally you have the dermis which is the thickest part of the skin. In order to penetrate these layers, the bacteria, dirt, chemical, etc must be really small. Have you ever heard of the Dalton Rule? It comes from a study published in Experimental Dermatology and states a molecule must be under “500 Daltons to penetrate the skin.” For those of us who aren’t physicists, it’s a measurement on an atomic level. That’s small. Real small.
There are all kinds of things people put on their face. Apples, avocado, tea, lemon, oranges, etc are all known to have antioxidant properties. Within the organic skin care movement, it would seem like a logical thing to do, right? But when you look at how things absorb into the skin, it has to be small and in a form that the body will recognize. If the body does not recognize it you could have a reaction. Certain antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, polyphenols, do work and they can be very effective, but you also have something that is stable and will be readily absorbed. Many things people try on their face may not be readily absorbed through the skin or cause a reaction and you end up doing more harm than good.
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) is a potent antioxidant that not only helps collagen bind together, but can be used to inhibit free radicals and to slow down brown spots (hyper-pigmentation). Without it our bodies would literally break down. This used to be a huge issue for sailors, where, for months at a time, they did not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and left them susceptible to a disease called Scurvy. Left untreated it can be fatal. Thankfully, in our modern society, Vitamin C is everywhere. Citrus-based fruits (and vegetables) are great sources of antioxidants like vitamin C. If this is the case, you could probably just spray it on your hands and have it work on your skin, right? Wrong. Vitamin C is a notoriously unstable molecule. A study published in the Journal of Applied Chemistry outlines how air, temperature, and pH effect vitamin C. When exposed to these different environments, Vitamin C is essentially destroyed. In his book, The New Ideal in Skin Health, dermatologist Dr. Thornfeldt writes, “unfortunately this molecule is the least stable. It can only be delivered across the stratum corneum with a pH of <3.5.” So, for those of you who believe pouring lemon juice on your face will erase years of acne will probably end up being disappointed. This is not to say eating fruits and vegetables won’t help—it definitely will. But you have to wonder if lemon juice alone could produce results, why hasn’t Loreal or Allergan just packaged it up? Unfortunately, the answer is because it doesn’t work.
As another potent antioxidant, zinc is used for everything from eczema to treating colds. It’s a naturally occurring element that has some very useful properties. Zinc has been shown to help both as a sun block and to be used as an anti-inflammatory. It is widely considered to be a safe and well tolerated. In a study published in the Dermatology Research and Practice Journal ,zinc was useful in dealing with acne, rosacea, and anti-aging. One company to look at that widely uses a topical form of zinc is Colorescience. They have a dry, brush-on susnscreen that uses both zinc and titanium to block both UVA and UVB rays. It’s called Sunforgettable and carries with it an SPF of 50.
Onward and upward
We aren’t interested in offending or discrediting anyone—to be fair we always look at the facts. There are a lot of people out there that sell “snake oil” or have no idea what they are talking about. Clinical based studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals are the best and are what we look at when studying various claims. Otherwise, how would you know what is legitimate and what is not? The answer is you wouldn’t. To get something to work on your skin it must be targeted, in concentrations that are strong enough, and stable long enough to deliver the desired outcome. We want our readers to be informed about decisions they make. Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself. Should you know someone that could benefit from reading this, please pass it along!
To your skin health,
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