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Rooibos: skin deep

My last post [1] was about using Rooibos as a baby bum cleaner to avoid or treat nappy rash, but there are so many other wonderful uses for this herb that I’ve decided to write some more about it. This post is about the properties of Rooibos that relate to skin (and hair) care.

As mentioned in my previous post, Rooibos is very rich in antioxidants. It contains substances that mimic the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is used by all living systems where cells are exposed to oxygen, to break down super oxide radicals into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. Thus it protects the skin (and body) from many of the negative effects of ageing, and is known by the Japanese as the anti-ageing tea. Other useful substances in Rooibos include in particular alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) and zinc. Both of these are commonly used in skin cosmetics and are indeed very beneficial to the skin.

AHAs are used in organic synthesis and are said to combat wrinkles and other signs of aging and to improve the skin’s general look and feel. They promote exfoliation, resulting in smoother skin, and have a strong impact on keratinisation. This is the renewal of the stratum corneum – the keratin-filled and outermost layer of the epidermis. Keratin keeps the skin hydrated and accounts for its elasticity. Deeper in the dermis AHAs also boost the formation of collagen and other components of the skin.

The main benefits of zinc to the skin are to heal wounds and to act as a mild astringent. Zinc is essential to the formation of collagen and the enzymes that are required for skin healing. As an astringent it helps to tighten the skin, prevents oiliness and acts as a soothing anti-inflammatory. These properties make it an excellent acne treatment and a calming treatment for many other skin irritations. Zinc also acts as a natural insect repellent and sunscreen.

Rooibos also contains a number of other useful substances, such as minerals (e.g. calcium and fluoride), various flavonoids (potent anti-oxidants) and Vitamin C. As its popularity has grown, more research has been done on Rooibos, and it has now been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-microbial and anti-mutagenic effects, as well as the ability to improve hair growth and condition. It is recommended in the treatment of acne, eczema, rashes, sunburn, dandruff, nappy rash, itchy skin, oily skin, hair loss and to help protect against skin cancer. (If you want to check these studies out, just look them up on Google Scholar [2].)

In my next post I will write about some simple spotless [3] ways to start taking advantage of this great range of benefits to skin and hair, apart, of course, from drinking it!