For thousands of years we’ve mined natural salts and minerals for their beautifying properties. So, what are the benefits?…
When it comes to mineral intake, chances are you don’t automatically reach for a bottle of lotion to top up any deficiencies – and nor should you. In an ideal world, a healthy and balanced diet should provide you with all the nutrients your body needs. But for your skin, it’s a different story. ‘Minerals are like oxygen – they’re fundamental, whether for your heart, bone or skin health,’ says Westlab pharmacist Karen Davis. Our cells all strive for a balance of electrolytes to function properly, which is where mineral skincare could help. ‘If that balance is thrown off, you’re not going to get the radiant skin you desire.’
‘Minerals move through cells as if they’re on a conveyor belt – if a cell needs the mineral, it will grab it as it goes past,’ says Davis. This is one reason we’re seeing a rise in mineral skincare products, including mineral-infused bath salts and magnesium-spiked moisturisers. By using skin as an entry system – known as transdermal absorption – our cells have a better chance of maintaining a healthy balance. ‘This is valuable because you’re not competing with everything going in through your diet,’ explains Davis. ‘Minerals are tiny molecules, small enough to penetrate skin.’ A recent study found hair follicles enhanced transdermal magnesium absorption, and led to a definite penetration of salts through both healthy and damaged epidermis.
Why is mineral skincare trending?
Our penchant for natural formulas certainly plays a part in the soaring popularity of mineral skincare, but there’s more to it, says Davis. ‘The main factor is our skin barrier. Because we’re exposed to more pollution, household chemicals, UV and air conditioning these days, this is constantly under attack. This is why we’re seeing more conditions like dry or sensitive skin, and eczema. Because of their role in cell health, minerals can help protect the skin barrier.’
‘There’s a buzz about magnesium right now,’ says Davis. ‘Stress reduces levels, and our diet is deficient in it: thanks to intensive agriculture, there’s less in the soil than there used to be.’ Balanced levels are crucial for plump, hydrated skin cells. ‘Magnesium also provides protection against free radicals, reducing the likelihood of damage which can result in early wrinkles,’ says Kim Davies, head of training and product education at luxury mineral brand Omorovicza. ‘It can also reduce severity of breakouts.’ One study found bathing in a magnesium-rich bath improved skin barrier function, enhanced hydration and reduced inflammation (good for skin conditions like psoriasis). Plus it’s key for muscle function.
‘Without potassium, your cells dehydrate, the water balance will be off and you won’t get oxygen to your cells properly – these all affect skin health and are important in eliminating toxins,’ says Davis. ‘Potassium helps keep skin hydrated, and increases production of new cells, improving a dull complexion,’ adds Davies. ‘It’s also known to help regulate sebum production, reducing blemishes and fading scarring.’
Studies link calcium to tissue healing. ‘It’s essential for overall skin health – to the point where a deficiency can lead to premature ageing. This is because it’s vital in maintaining daily skin functions including sebum regulation and cellular turnover,’ says Davies. Most bath salts contain calcium, but tap water, particularly in hard water areas, is also a good source. However, calcium ions in water bind to surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), making them insoluble so they precipitate on the skin. This can raise the pH of the skin surface and disturb its function as a physical barrier, so avoid using products containing SLS if you are in a hard water area.
‘This maintains skin’s integrity,’ says Davis. ‘By keeping the skin barrier strong, it stops bugs getting in.’ One Australian study foundzinc ‘starves’ certain bacteria to stop infection. A natural soother, ‘it’s often in barrier creams for wound healing, and its reparative qualities mean it crops up in serums.’ Davies says zinc also tackles breakouts. ‘As an astringent, it tightens pores, lifting away excess oil and debris to prevent clogging.’ Plus it’s in reef-safe sunscreens.
This is needed for the synthesis of collagen and elastin, proteins that give skin its structure. It’s being researched as an anti-ager, and could hold promise for acne scarring. ‘Copper also helps control sebum levels,’ says Davies.
Your masterclass in mineral skincare
For years, we’ve mined natural salts and minerals for their beautifying properties. So, what are the benefits of mineral skincare?