What is really in those “all natural plant extracts”?

What is really in those “all natural plant extracts”?

Learning what is in your natural plant extracts

As the consumer demand for more natural products has grown, there has been an ever-increasing trend to use whole plant extracts in skin creams and dietary supplements, instead of highly purified single molecule ingredients. This approach is very good as the synergistic benefits of the whole plant extract are concentrated and are in a form that your body knows and recognizes.

But in choosing which ones you use, you need to be aware there are many ways in which to make plant extracts, some which increase the potency, some which have no benefit and other techniques which can be harmful.

How do they make extracts?

Dietary supplements are plant based extracts that have been made using a variety of manufacturing processes. Some of these techniques will produce a highly concentrated plant bioactive, while others use solvents to pull the bioactive compounds out of the plant material.

Freeze drying is an expensive process in which the plant material is gently frozen to a highly concentrated form using water.  There is also spray drying which passes the liquefied plant material through a high-pressure nozzle and removes the water.

The use of solvents

Alternatively, the far cheaper and more common form of making plant extracts is the use of solvents such as methanol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol and acetone. This process works by absorbing the bioactive compounds out of the chopped up plant material and then evaporating the solvents off and drying the extract.

The problem with evaporating off solvents such as methanol is that not all of the solvent is removed and traces remain. Some of the solvents used and the other chemicals that are often mixed in during this process can be toxic and affect your long-term health.

Regulatory environments allow these solvents to be used based on the premise of limited exposure.

What to look for

When choosing which skincare to use or dietary supplement to take, check which process they use to make their plant extracts.

Using a solvent to make an extract is very cheap and allows companies to make bulk extracts for minimal cost, but traces of the solvent can remain.

Also remember information about the extracts used in skin creams does not have to disclose if they contain solvents, parabens or preservatives, only the finished cream.

Plant extracts can also contain traces of herbicides, pesticides and excess levels of heavy metals. Some countries have regulations requiring routine testing of these as well as solvents and microbial contamination, but others do not.

So the “all natural” product may not be as pure as suggested. It pays to really do your homework and check where companies are sourcing their “natural ingredients”.

Beauty cream fillers make up majority of product but have no active role

Beauty cream fillers make up majority of product but have no active role

The global manufacturers won’t tell you, but the fillers that are going into your treatments and beauty creams make up the majority of what you’re paying for, writes international cellular scientist and creator of Atopis, Dr Iona Weir. 

Like most women, I’ve always been a label reader. Whether it’s buying my family’s breakfast cereal or a skin cleanser, I won’t buy it unless I’m satisfied with what’s on the label.

In the consumer product industry, food and ingredient labelling is a comparatively new phenomenon, sparked by widespread demand to know exactly what is in the products we’re consuming. The good news is that the government listened and introduced regulations to make manufacturers accountable for their products.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established The Food Labelling Guide in 1994 to guide the industry, while Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) set out its legislative requirements labelling in the Food Standards Code (2003).

Although the legislation was predominantly aimed at food manufacturers, the same labelling principles are now being applied to most health and beauty products to help consumers make informed choices about the products they purchase. For food particularly, it can also help prevent adverse or life threatening reactions.

Regulations are very clear, particularly in New Zealand, Australia and the US, that a label needs to be legible and, most importantly tell the truth. Occasionally some beauty and health products can slip into the market not telling the whole story. Just do a quick Google search and you will find countless examples of where a particular ingredient might have been excluded because it’s such a small quantity, or the ingredient is being disguised under another name, such as palm oil-derived ingredients that can have more than 20 different name variations.

Consumers need to check the amount of each ingredient including what is known as ‘filler’ like benign cream of something like petroleum-derived waxes such as paraffin.  If the filler is the highest-listed component and the active ingredient is less than or similar to the preservative amount, forget it.

Thankfully, this issue is rare in most reputable brands. However it highlights why it’s so important for consumers to understand not only what ingredients are being used, but what quantities are being used in each product. When you know this basic information, the next step is to ask yourself: ‘Am I getting value for money?’ This is like buying what you think is mango juice, which is only 5 percent mango, and the rest apple juice, – check the amount of each ingredient. Again, if a filler is the highest-listed ingredient and the active is less than or similar to the preservative amount – don’t buy it.

So, what is in your skincare products?

The ‘breakthrough ingredient’ sits within, in most skin products, ‘the rest.’ In other words, the filler. This means the bulk of what you’re buying does nothing at all. 

Too many ‘beauty creams’ at all levels of the market fall into this category, and while it’s not harmful, the filler still has no active role to play. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do – fill up the bottle.

Every product needs some emulsifier to bind the cream ingredients together, but many companies use them in excess to bulk, or “fill” the product. This is why I was determined to make Atopis – a clinically trialled skincare range that effectively treats common skin conditions as well as signs of aging – a complete, concentrated product. Every Atopis product only has a very small amount of emulsifier to help bind it, but you can be assured that the majority of the cream is made up of active ingredient.

The key ingredient in all Atopis treatments is Myriphytase, which includes our own probiotic peptilipids, using a unique fermentation process. Instead of mixing Myriphytase into a filler product, Atopis is concentrated further with coconut water – a substance containing vital minerals and vitamins as well as cytokinins, which slow down the aging process by encouraging cell renewal, and antioxidants to neutralise environmental toxins. Coconut water regulates the skin pH, tones and reduces pores and is anti-inflammatory, and reduces redness.

Beware of claims from so-called ‘coconut-based’ creams, which purport to contain coconut water or oil. Instead of real coconut, they might contain a synthetic chemical that is actually coconut-smelling glycerine filler.

Why should you care?

As an entrepreneurial scientist, over the years I’ve turned down some very lucrative opportunities with international manufacturers based on ethics. I will not lie to consumers nor will I ever rip off the original innovator.

This is particularly important when choosing a treatment product for a particular skin complaint such as eczema, acne, psoriasis or very dry and itchy skin. As a consumer you should know what level of ‘active ingredients’ is required to control and treat your skin condition – and check to see if it’s really in the product.

Anti-aging products drive one of the largest segments of the global beauty and cosmetics industry, and many manufacturers aren’t shy in making claims that their revolutionary, age-defying product, in regard to the appearance of your skin, can literally turn back time. It is not unusual to enter a department store or beauty salon and see names like ‘liquid gold’, or ‘skin caviar’ listed on packaging. These luxe creams are marketed at high-end consumers and are often based on such claims.

However, just because a product touts the latest global ‘active ingredient’ trend with a flashy price tag doesn’t mean you should just jump on the bandwagon – always check the percentage of the claimed active ingredient in the product.

Think value and percentage of active ingredient

Again, when buying any product, keep value in mind and ask what amount of active ingredient you are really paying for. Whether it’s a small or large purchase, always read the label and look for a product that is as concentrated as possible.

The entire product has to work for you, so do your research and pay for a product that offers you the honesty and transparency that you and your family deserve.


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Fresh coconut water has many benefits for our skin

Fresh coconut water has many benefits for our skin

Dr Iona Weir was horrified to see a photograph, taken this week, of a bacterial/fungal growth in someone’s pasteurised coconut beverage container. Dr Weir explains that when we pasteurise coconut water we often lose most of the goodness that is beneficial for our skin. Here’s also why fresh coconut water will always be best!

Mass found in a pasteurised coconut water container

It’s not the latest hopeful auditioning for Alien 3, but instead this slimy guy is a huge slug which likely grew through contaminated coconut flesh. I’ve seen this happen when I undertook a global search for the best possible coconut water essential to formulate the breakthrough Atopis treatments for skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and hormonal acne, and for treating the signs of aging.

As recently reported, in the NZ Herald     a woman discovered an unwelcome addition while drinking what was, until then, her favourite coconut water. It was a popular ‘long life’ brand which is flash pasteurised. This procedure is done in a matter of seconds at temperatures of around 71C (159F).

Problem is if there is a solid-like coconut flesh and some bacterial/fungal spores present – the flash pasteurisation will not be enough to kill them. Flash pasteurisation works really well for clear juices but not good for solids in which such spores can survive up to 115C (239F).

However, the high temperature of flash pasteurisation destroys many of the vitamins, nutrients and plant hormones that are essential for health benefits and skin health.

This meant for Atopis, I will not compromise and instead we source fresh coconuts and use our unique filter sterilisation process of the fresh coconut water, which removes bacterial spores but protects the nutrients, vitamins and plant hormones.

Fresh coconut water provides treatment for dry skin

And you can be sure that our treatments are so natural and toxin-free they could be eaten, also making our creams safe for babies and animals.

You’ll find nothing alien in Atopis – just relief and beautiful skin. Free shipping, for a limited time, at www.atopis.com