The Basis of DU NORD SKIN CARE
DU NORD SKIN CARE is designed to deliver comprehensive skin care that nourishes, fortifies and protects. The key elements are to help maintain well-hydrated skin and strong skin-barrier function; to help protect skin exposed to UV radiation and other generators of oxidative stress and inflammation; and, as appropriate, to help soothe and heal inflamed and irritated skin and repair and regenerate constituents of the skin barrier.
A Role for Northern Plants in Skin Care
Northern plants experience long winters, cold temperatures and often extreme shifts in temperature. During the shorter summers, these plants are exposed to intense UV radiation for long hours. And during most seasons, they are subject to strong winds; on the coast, winds that carry salt air. A number of species have adapted to grow in nutrient-poor, acidic, rocky soils or almost no soil at all. Some have developed the benefit of being unpalatable or physically harmful to herbivores. Northern plants, like all plants and all of us, are also subject to such other environmental stressors as pathogens (bacteria, fungi, viruses), air pollution and effects of climate change. Native northern plant species, as well as introduced species that have adapted to northern regions, have done so in part by evolving unique sets of secondary metabolites, protective biochemicals, that are responsible for these aspects of plant defence, protection and plastic adaptation. As a result, these plants not only survive but thrive in their harsh environments.
A number of these phytochemicals also turn out to be beneficial for human skin. Some function as UVB, UVA, and infrared radiation absorbers; some as antioxidants, oxygen-radical and nitrogen-radical scavengers (or neutralizers) and chelating agents; some as anti-inflammatories and anti-allergens; and some as antimicrobials. Some stimulate cellular regeneration and repair and synthesis of important skin constituents, such as collagen and elastin. Some stimulate gene expression of other proteins important for skin health, while others inhibit the expression of genes or actions of proteins that degrade skin constituents. Some have venotonic and vessel-protective activity and stimulate circulation in the skin with accompanying nutrient import and removal of waste products. Some have been found to regulate the production of sebum, the oily substance secreted from the skin's sebaceous glands—an excess of which can make our skin or hair feel oily or greasy and clog pores.
Cumulatively, these phytochemicals may help with hydration and moisturization of skin; increase or restore the skin’s firmness and its elasticity; and reduce the appearance of fine lines and deeper wrinkles that occur with normal, or intrinsic, aging. They may also help to prevent premature aging, or extrinsic aging, due principally to sun exposure (photo-aging), but also exposure to pollutants and other generators of oxidative stress and inflammation. They may help to reduce or relieve symptoms associated with acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis (or eczema), wounds, sunburn and infection. The secondary metabolites extracted from the root of one plant Rhodiola rosea (Roseroot) even have purported neuroadaptogenic effects, as some studies show components of the root extract can induce synthesis of beta-endorphins. Roseroot has a long history of use, especially in Russia and Scandinavia, for promoting a sense of health and wellbeing, reducing sensation of fatigue and alleviating stress, in part caused by the duress of living in extreme cold and high altitudes.
Many northern berry plants (notably blueberry, black currant, cloudberry, cranberry, elderberry, lingonberry, raspberry, sea buckthorn) have high levels of essential fatty acids (i.e., fatty acids required for human health but not synthesized in the human body), other lipids, vitamins, and minerals, all of which play a role in skin health and vitality, especially with regard to the maintenance of the skin barrier, which protects the body from pathogens and pollutants or other contaminants and prevents water and nutrient loss from the skin.
All in all, northern-derived botanical ingredients—water/glycerin- and oil-based extracts of leaves or needles, flowers, fruits and seeds, stems or twigs, roots and barks—have the potential to be powerful agents for promoting healthy and vibrant skin.
A Little More Detail…
First and foremost, beneficial effects of the all the northern plants used in DU NORD SKIN CARE were discovered long ago by Indigenous peoples and traditional cultures. Various parts and kinds of preparations of many northern plants have been used as medicinals for a variety of conditions, including as antiseptics and treatments for wounds, sores and skin infections, and for soothing and relief from irritations, inflammation and dry skin.
Each of the plants used as the raw material to produce the hydrosols (water-based extracts), glycerin- and oil-based extracts, seed oils and essential oils in the DU NORD SKIN CARE line has a unique phytochemical profile that includes polyphenols, terpenes and terpenoids, phytosterols, lipids, fatty acids, polysaccharides, other bioactive molecules, vitamins and minerals. Laboratory investigation (using in-vitro model systems and in-vivo analysis on animals and humans) has shown that the actions of individual components or extracts of these plants might generally be categorized as follows:
Protection Against Photoaging
UVA makes up most of the total UV radiation we are exposed to and can penetrate through the upper epidermal layers, deep into the epidermis and dermis, generating reactive oxygen species that can cause the oxidization of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids; stimulation of collagen- and elastin-degrading enzymes; and DNA damage. Notably UVA can penetrate glass, and its intensity is fairly constant throughout the day; that is, UVA radiation intensity is related to the number of daylight hours. Although UVB radiation makes up a small fraction of total UV radiation (and does not penetrate glass), it is the “sunburn radiation” and is related to heat intensity, which is why a suncreen with high SPF is especially recommended if we are outside during the mid-day hours. UVB radiation is the immediately more dangerous. It is directly absorbed by DNA in the keratinocytes, detrimentally altering the DNA structure in these cells. The regions where the damage has occurred have to be cut out and repaired.
Although the skin's defence and repair mechanisms are complex and powerful, chronic low-grade exposure to UV radiation can eventually lead to alteration of cellular homeostasis, irreversible DNA damage; protein, connective tissue and cell-membrane degradation; and, ultimately, cell death.
The sensorial and visible effects on skin of UV radiation damage may include dry and rough texture, deep wrinkles, loss of elasticity, areas of hyperpigmentation and impaired wound healing. Because UV radiation also induces pro-inflammatory responses, chronic overexposure may lead to immunosuppression and increase the risk of skin cancer.
(On a more positive note, UVB also is required for the biosynthesis of vitamin D3, so a bit of exposure mid-day when the UVB content of sunlight is highest may help to prevent vitamin D3 deficiency. However, like skin care, "sun care" is individual. Seek advice from your physician as to what is appropriate for you.)
The first lines of defence to prevent photoaging are broad-spectrum sunscreens that absorb both UVB and UVA. DU NORD SKIN CARE products are not broad-spectrum sunscreens, but they do contain extracts of plants that have phytochemicals which may boost the activity of recognized sunscreens.
Photoprotection through Absorption of UVA, UVB and Infrared Radiation
Raspberry seed oil, lingonberry seed oil, lingonberry fruit stem cells and fruit extract, cranberry seed oil, black spruce bark extract, edelweiss flower extract, oat beta glucan and the mycosporine-like amino acids from the red alga Porphyra umbilicalis, for example, are all notable for absorbing in one or both of these UV radiation regions or in the infrared region.
Protection through Antioxidant Activity
- Preventing generation of reactive oxygen species and nitrogen species produced as a result of exposure to UVA radiation in particular, air pollution or other environmental and lifestyle stressors
- Neutralizing the formation of already-formed reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species (radical scavenging)
A variety of polyphenols (flavonoids, phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, tannins, lignans, stilbenes, hydroxycinnamic acids), Vitamin C, Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols), and carotenoids (including provitamin A, or beta-carotene) are associated with antioxidant and radical-scavenging activities.
Many of the plants associated with the DU NORD SKIN CARE line have been studied and analyzed for their antioxidant/ radical-scavenging activities, notably alpine rose, edelweiss, fireweed, roseroot, chaga mushroom, red maple, black spruce, cranberry, lingonberry, raspberry, blueberry, Echinacea sp. and sea buckthorn.
- Prevention, attenuation or inhibition of inflammation and edema associated with skin damage from solar radiation, pollution, or other environmental chemical irritants (e.g., tobacco smoke, synthetic fragrances, harsh soaps), allergens, pathogens, wounds and inflammatory skin conditions (e.g., acne)
- Soothing/calming, anti-irritant / anti-itch, analgesic effects
Oats, edelweiss and fireweed in particular have long histories of use as anti-inflammatory, edema-reducing and soothing agents. Ursolic acid found in heather, meadowsweet and Labrador tea; salicylates in meadowsweet, aspen bark, balsam poplar, and wintergreen; alpha-bisabolol (the main active ingredient in chamomile) found in balsam poplar bud essential oil have been noted as having anti-inflammatory activity. Anti-inflammatory activity and soothing effects have been attributed to polysaccharides found in oat beta glucan, chaga mushroom, cornflower, and great burdock; secoiridoid glycosides found in buckbean; mucilage in violet leaf and Iceland moss; alkylamides and chicoric acid in Echinacea purpurea; and oat avenathramides.
Skin Regeneration and Repair
- Stimulation of structural protein synthesis (e.g., collagen and elastin) and inhibition of collagen and elastin degrading proteins
Collagen and elastin are the main components of the dermis whose function is to provide structural and biomechanical support (strength and resilience to deformation) as well as nutritional support (via blood vessels) to the epidermis above it. Anthocyanins, vitamin C, and flavonoids found in the northern berry seed oils, for example, can affect regulation of collagen synthesis. Buckbean, black spruce bark, red maple bark have been shown to stimulate synthesis and/or inhibit degradation of collagen and/or elastin.
- Increasing the skin lipid content
The outermost layer of the skin barrier consists of large, flattened cells called corneocytes. The are considered "dead" cells because they lack nuclei and organelles and have little metabolic activity, but they are crucial for our skin health. Inside these cells is an envelope containing bundles of filamentous keratin, a tough, water-insoluble protein. Corneocytes are often modelled as dense, impenetrable "bricks," held together by a "mortar" of extracellular lipids—principally ceramides, cholesterol and free fatty acids—and enzymatic and structural proteins. This mortar allows limited, slow absorption of molecules from the external environment (e.g., water, electrolytes, topically applied lipids) and limits the loss of water and nutrients from the dermis and lower layers of the epidermis.
Essential fatty acids (omega-6 and omega 3 fatty acids) have functions in both the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin. Linoleic acid (omega-6) is specifically involved in skin barrier function, as it is a fatty acid moiety of ceramide molecules. Longer-chain fatty acids, derived from linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid (also an omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3), are involved in the inflammatory response, with both pro- and anti-inflammatory effects.
Plant oil lipid components—unsaturated fatty acids, saturated fats, sterols, phospholipids, and glycolipids—can play a role in the synthesis and integrity of skin barrier. Seed oils used in DU NORD SKIN CARE have significant concentrations of linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. Lingonberry seed oil is said to have the highest alpha-linolenic content of the northern berry seed oils. In addition, the rarer gamma-linolenic acid is found in black currant, evening primrose and sea buckthorn oils. Oat oil has been found to stimulate synthesis of ceramides.
- Stimulating microcirculation of blood in skin, which stimulates transport of oxygen and nutrients
Flavonoids and anthocyanosides found in buckbean, great burdock, cornflower, violet, and elderflower may help stimulate blood flow in the skin.
Hydration and Moisturization to Improve Skin Flexibility and Resilience
Provision of water to skin (humectant properties)
Prevention of water loss across the epidermis through regeneration and repair of the epidermal barrier and by providing a physical film on the skin surface to retain moisture.
Plant polysaccharides are both humectant and film-forming agents. Apple, Iceland moss and oat bran beta glucan, for example, are sources of these in DU NORD SKIN CARE products. The plant oils have a role, as mentioned above.
One of the fundamental actions attributed to secondary metabolites is antimicrobial action, which may be antibacterial, antifungal or antiviral. Thus, most of the plant extracts in DU NORD SKIN CARE may have some antimicrobial effect.
Fireweed has documented action against Propionibacterium acnes. The undecylenic acid in elderberry contributes to its antifungal action. Alpine rose has been shown to protect against the herpes virus HSV-1 and chaga mushroom may also be active against this virus.
Astringent/toning effects and possible sebum regulation
Astringency is largely due to tannins, which are present in buckbean, cloudberry, meadowsweet, juniper, sweet fern, fireweed, and great burdock, for example.
Reduction of hyperpigmentation / skin-tone evening
Extracts from plants that contain the glycoside arbutin, (lingonberry, bearberry and heather, for example), which is known to inhibit a protein (tyrosinase) required for the production of melanin, may help to reduce hyperpigmentation. Ellagic acid, a metabolite of Ellagitannin (found in cloudberry), has also been studied for its role in reducing hyperpigmentation.
Neurologic and aromatherapeutic effects potentiated by topical application of a plant extract.
Roseroot, for example, has been found to stimulate beta-endorphin production which may lead to a sensation of well-being. Labrador tea is associated with causing drowsiness, or alternatively, alleviating insomnia. Rose oil is said be beneficial as an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety agent. Goldenrod essential oil has been used to help alleviate stress and calm nervousness. Many of the essential plant oils used in DU NORD SKIN CARE have purported aromatherapeutic effects, but probably the principal aromatherapeutic effect is the simple pleasure derived from the delicate scent of the north.
Northern plant extracts, each with their unique phytochemical constituents, affect human skin. Put together in the unique combinations as they are in the DU NORD SKIN CARE line, northern plant extracts offer a potent means of skin care.
Photo credits: Photos of Edelweiss and Alpine Rose by Martin Quandt ©2017 Martin Quandt. Photo of Porphyra umbilicalis by Annelise Chapman ©2017 Annelise Chapman. All other photos on the site by Ursula Snyder. ©2017 Ursula Snyder / DU NORD SKIN CARE