Why Does Plant-Based Skincare Work? Because We Are Nature.
If we had to choose one plant to represent Botnia, it would be Rose Geranium. Our power plant holds many benefits for the skin, but that’s not the only reason why we love it so much. If you look a little closer at a rose geranium leaf, you may notice some of the similarities between its physiology and human skin! Let’s dive into learning why plant-based skincare works so well for our skin, because it’s all connected.
We are nature
It’s true! We are living breathing nature. Our bodies are created in a completely symbiotic relationship with nature. The food that feeds us is also the nourishment that heals and cures us too. We are part of a closed system with the plant world. Plants grow from nourished soil, rainwater, and their own genetic blueprint from seed to become a plant with a biological system just like we are. It’s no wonder that plants are healing for our skin. Their physiology is close to us in their function. Packed with systems to heal themselves, to fight pathogens and to grow healthy and strong. Did you know that plants have an epidermis like we do?
Plants are covered with epidermal cells that protect the underlying tissues of the plant just like our skin. If you look closely at a rose geranium leaf, you’ll notice small hairs along the leaf and stems of the plant, similar to the vellus hair on our faces. Plant-based skincare is so powerful because it’s using what we already know about each plant’s intelligence as a building block to aid the function of our skin.
Plant epidermis of a leaf (left), human skin (right)
Human biology vs. plant biology
When we dive into the science behind plants, it allows us to have a deeper connection to the skincare we use and understand the underlying reasons for using plant-based skincare to heal skin. We spoke to our farm specialist Emily, who studied biology and is a naturalist, to get her thoughts on how human biology and plant biology are similar.
Human tissues vs. plant tissues
Just like in humans, plants have a specific type of tissue called meristematic tissue, or meristems, that is made up of meristematic cells. This tissue is found in various points on a plant where new growth appears (think roots, tips, shoots, buds) and it is essentially undifferentiated cells. This means that these cells can become any specialized structure in the plant, depending on what the plant needs at that particular time. What’s so powerful about this is that these meristematic tissues exist in plants that help the plant grow tall and when you cut off a piece on the plant, this tissue enables the plant to regrow a limb or flower. In human tissues, these are called stem cells and this would be closest to our embryonic tissues when our cells are growing and dividing.
This is why comfrey, for instance, can knit skin together. Comfrey roots and leaves contain allantoin, a constituent that helps new skin cells grow and is similar to human tissue function.
Human vellus hair vs. plant “hair”
The hairs on a plant’s leaves are called trichomes and there are two kinds of trichomes: glandular and non-glandular. Non-glandular trichomes are straight, pointy, single plant cells projecting from the epidermis (the outer layer of cells) of the plant. Glandular trichomes are multicellular, have a spherical head to them, and produce essential oils and give the plant its distinctive, fragranced smell. When you compare the structure of plant hairs to the structure of human hairs, there’s a striking similarity.
Check out our Instagram Reel showing the similarities between human vellus hair and rose geranium trichomes.
Human cells vs. plant cells
Both plants and humans are eukaryotic, meaning that they are multicellular. This is in contrast to prokaryotic organisms, like Archaea and Bacteria, which are unicellular. Eukaryotes all have a nucleus (you can think of this as the brain of the cell) which is enclosed by a membrane as well as other membrane-bound organelles (you can think of these as the organs of the cell), like mitochondria.
This is foundational biology of a plant and also a human.Humans and plants have epidermal cells, which are the most numerous and least differentiated cells of the epidermis – a single layer of cells covering and protecting the underlying tissue. In plants, the epidermis covers the stem, roots, leaves, fruit, flowers, and seeds and its waxy cuticle provides a protective barrier against mechanical injury, water loss, and infection. These epidermal cells also regulate transpiration, increase water absorption, and secrete substances, which are all very similar to what the epidermis of our own skin does!
Why plant based skincare works with human skin
It’s no wonder plants heal us; they are so similar in cellular structure. Plants can act on our skin as they would on their own epidermal tissue. For instance, comfrey stitching up wounds and lavender essential oil healing burns.
Plants create their own chemicals, many of which have the same properties as manufactured chemicals but are much less harsh on our skin, which we can use to target specific issues or needs. For instance, Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) from papaya and pumpkin can be used as a naturally occurring enzymatic exfoliator.
Additionally, certain plant-derived ingredients like jojoba seed oil are incredibly similar to our own sebum and therefore can be a wonderful plant-based moisturizer and oil-production regulator for people who are sensitive to more synthetic ingredients. The omega fatty acids in plant oils can heal our skin without stripping or drying it.Lastly, the entire purpose of essential oils in plants is to protect them from predators or pests or to attract pollinators. In the first case, volatile essential oils like lavender, neem, and tea tree are used to repel pests from the plant but are wonderful antimicrobials that fight infection in/on the skin.
Rose geranium and the skin
To celebrate Botnia’s sixth birthday, we’ve brought back our favorite hydrosol, Rose Geranium! A plant with many benefits for the skin. We love suggesting rose geranium hydrosol in place of a toner; it’s an effective humectant attracting moisture and holding it in the skin. When used after cleansing, it helps to tighten pores and reduce the appearance of enlarged pores. The terpenes citronellal, linalool, and geraniol help to keep bacteria off the skin, and their antiseptic properties also help heal the skin. The antifungal and antibacterial properties are what makes Rose Geranium Hydrosol a powerful ingredient that naturally preserves our skincare.
As a key ingredient in our professional back bar, rose geranium hydrosol is used as a soother to bring down inflammation in the skin and buffers the potency of stronger botanicals when mixing a custom mask in the treatment room.
Learn more about the key benefits of Rose Geranium Hydrosol and different ways to incorporate it into your skincare routine here.
We are nature: what an exciting way to think about why treating the skin with plant-based skincare is so incredibly powerful. This is just the tip of the iceberg in showing how humans and plants are so alike! Just like our body, plant bodies are packed with a cellular function that when applied to our skin can aid our skin's function at the highest level, bringing about homeostasis in our bodies. This is why whole plant skincare is powerful—because it contains an entire system for healing and nutrition for our skin.
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