You know how I've been saying that there are natural alternatives to yucky preservatives like parabens and ureas—chemical ingredients that have been linked with skin irritation, dermatitis, and other potentially more serious health effects?
Well here's one of them: aspen bark extract. A natural preservative, this ingredient also has skin conditioning properties. No surprise, as when you're dealing with natural ingredients, they often impart more than one benefit to your formula.
So much smarter than using potentially harmful chemicals, don't you think?
What makes the Aspen tree resistant to disease also helps protect your skin care formula from contamination.
A Little Bit About the Ingredient Itself
Aspen is actually the name of an entire tree species, which includes several varieties like the American aspen, Eurasian aspen, Japanese aspen, and Chinese aspen. The Quaking aspen, which grows widely in North America, is also called the trembling aspen, golden aspen, and mountain aspen. All these trees like cold regions with cool summers, and typically grow at high altitudes in the mountains. They do like the sun, and reach from 49–98 feet tall.
What's unique about these trees is that they're considered to be the stems of one of the earth's largest living organisms. Hundreds or even thousands of trees—which are actually clones of one another—are all joined underground by a single root network. Because of this built-in support system, they can live for thousands of years. Even if the trees die, the roots can stay alive underground for many years after. This shared root system also means that all the tree leaves turn color at the same time in the fall, creating a large brilliant display.
Internal Health Benefits of Aspen Bark
The American Indians are known to have used the bark of the aspen tree to brew a tea that would treat numerous ailments. Because the bark is rich in a substance called “salicin,” which is similar to the active ingredient in aspirin, it was used to provide pain relief and reduce fever. Aspen is also considered a digestive tonic—soothing to the tummy. It was used to treat diarrhea as well as bladder inflammation or urinary tract infections.
Aspen wood was also popular historically for making bowls and paddles, and today it's still used to make chopsticks and playground equipment, since it is lightweight and doesn’t splinter. Shredded aspen is also used for packing and stuffing, and makes popular animal bedding.
Aspen Bark's Benefits to the Skin
The main use of aspen bark extract in skin care is as a natural preservative. An excellent alternative to parabens, it protects your product from contamination. This helps to extend the shelf life of natural skin care products so you can use them until they're gone.
But aspen's benefits don't end there. Because of it's natural salicin content, it gives you a soothing feeling. The extract also has a conditioning property, helping to make skin smooth and soft to the touch. Finally, the ingredient has a very low irritation potential, meaning that even those with sensitive skin can use it without worry. That's certainly something you can't say about chemical preservatives!
What's also neat about aspen bark extract is that it can be extracted without harm to the tree, then isolated and applied to cosmetic products. So the question becomes, “Why aren't more companies using preservatives like these?”
I can't answer that question, but I can refer you to my products, several of which are protected by aspen's preservative qualities.
- Aloe Herb Facial Cleanser
- Anti-Aging Serum
- Anti-Aging Eye Cream
- Rosemary Peppermint Body Wash
- Citrus Mint Facial Cleanser
Did you know that aspen bark extract makes a great natural preservative? Please share your thoughts.
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Photo courtesy Aidan M. Grey via Flickr.com.