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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.

Northern landscape  (NS) © Ursula Snyder 2022

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.

Cloudberry fruit © Ursula Snyder 2022

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:


Photoprotection Against Photoaging

UV penetration of skin

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 (which can lead to mutations and neoplasia); protein, connective tissue, and cell-membrane degradation; and, 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, UVA, and infrared radiation

Raspberry seed oil, lingonberry fruit stem cells, 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.  Recent research has found that diatom frustules (algae-derived silica) can enhance SPF.

Diatoms. Courtesy of the Swedish Algae Factory


Protection through anti-oxidant activity

Preventing generation of reactive oxygen 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 present reactive oxygen 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, knotgrass, red maple, black spruce, cranberry, lingonberry, raspberry, blueberry and bilberry, and sea buckthorn.

Wild Raspberry. © Ursula Snyder 2022



Anti-inflammatory activity

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 and edelweiss have long histories of use as anti-inflammatory, edema-reducing and soothing agents. Ursolic acid found in 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 apple, lactobacillus ferments of rye flour and oat kernel, oat beta glucan and great burdock; secoiridoid glycosides found in bogbean; mucilage in violet leaf; and oat avenathramides.

Labrador Tea © Ursula Snyder 2022


Skin regeneration and repair

Stimulation of structural protein synthesis  (e.g., collagen and elastin) and inhibition of collagen and elastin degrading proteins

Presence of human skin bio-identical peptides, proteins, and lipids in specially processed plant extracts.

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. Bogbean, black spruce bark, red maple bark have been shown to stimulate synthesis and/or inhibit degradation of collagen and/or elastin.  

Spruce Bark. © Ursula Snyder 2022

The outermost layer of the skin barrier consists of large, flattened cells called corneocytes. They 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.  In addition, the rarer gamma-linolenic acid is found in black currant, evening primrose and sea buckthorn oils. Uniquely processed extracts of oat kernel have been found to contain skin bio-identical lipids.


Stimulating microcirculation of blood in the skin, which facilitates transport of oxygen and micronutrients

Flavonoids and anthocyanosides found in bogbean, great burdock, knotgrass and violet may help stimulate blood flow in the skin.


Violet © Ursula Snyder 2022

Hydration and moisturization to improve skin elasticity 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 and oat beta glucan, for example, are sources of these in DU NORD SKIN CARE products. The plant oils have a role, as mentioned above.


Antiseptic effects

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. In addition, undecylenic acid in elderberry contributes to its antifungal action and alpine rose has been shown to protect against the herpes virus HSV-1.

Astringent/toning effects and possible sebum regulation

Astringency is largely due to tannins, which are present in bearberry, bogbean, cloudberry, meadowsweet, juniper, sweet fern, and great burdock, for example.

Meadowsweet © Ursula Snyder 2022


Reduction of photoaging-induced hyperpigmentation / skin-tone evening

Extracts from plants that contain the glycoside arbutin, (bearberry, 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. A lactobacillus ferment of rye flour has also been found to inhibit tyrosinase.

Bearberry.© Ursula Snyder 2022


Neurologic and aromatherapeutic effects potentiated by topical application of a plant extract.

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 theprincipal aromatherapeutic effect is the simple pleasure derived from the delicate scent of the north.

Wild rose. © Ursula Snyder 2022

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: Solar radiation penenetration of epidermis (Epidermis Modified by U. Snyder.) Photo of diatoms courtesy of the Swedish Algae Company, AB. All other photos on the site by Ursula Snyder. ©2017-2022 Ursula Snyder / DU NORD SKIN CARE