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Glossary M-Z

  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP)

    Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is a water-soluble derivative of Vitamin C, a more stable and oil soluble form of ascorbic acid, which will stimulate collagen synthesis. It is anti-aging, anti-oxidant (hydrophilic), anti-acne, skin brightening agent. It reduces pigmentation flaws and evens out skin tones, decreasing the appearance of age spots and freckles. It can be used to lighten and brighten overall skin tone for a more luminescent complexion. Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate will be transformed by the skin enzymes into ascorbic acid, an antioxidant and a cofactor for an enzyme crucial in the synthesis of collagen (prolyl hydrolase). As an antioxidant agent, Vitamin C scavenges and destroys reactive oxidizing agents and other free radicals. Because of this ability, it provides important protection against damage induced by UV radiation (and the DNA mutations and cancer that may result from it). Vitamin C also improves skin elasticity, decreases wrinkles by stimulating collagen synthesis, reduces erythema (redness), promotes wound healing and suppresses cutaneous pigmentation. Because body control mechanisms limit the amount of ingested Vitamin C available to skin, topical antioxidant therapy becomes an efficient way to target Vitamin C directly into skin.

    Magnesium Stearate

    Magnesium Stearate, one of a group of stearate salts which also includes Lithium Stearate, Aluminum Distearate, Aluminum Stearate, Aluminum Tristearate, Ammonium Stearate, Calcium Stearate, Potassium Stearate, Sodium Stearate, and Zinc Stearate. They are all fine, white powders with a slight fatty odor

    The stearate salts are generally used for their lubricating properties. They are also used for their abilities to help produce stable emulsions, i.e. preventing the liquid and oil components of a formula from separating, and as an agento to adjust the viscosity of a formula.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists magnesium stearate as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for direct addition to food. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel also evaluated the scientific data and concluded that magnesium stearate was safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products. (Also included as safe are Lithium Stearate, Aluminum Distearate, Aluminum Stearate, Aluminum Tristearate, Ammonium Stearate, Calcium Stearate, Potassium Stearate, Sodium Stearate, and Zinc Stearate.)

    Many of the fears concerning magnesium stearate were related to this ingredient in products that were ingested. The CIR Expert Panel reviewed acute oral studies indicating that the stearate salts were practically nontoxic, and also had a low potential for dermal toxicity. Skin irritation studies showed only minimal irritation at high concentrations. The use of magnesium stearate (5.5%) as a pharmaceutical vehicle was determined to be neither a teratogen nor mutagenic.

    The Environmental Working Group (EWG) gives magnesium stearate a rating of “0,” which is the safest designation.


    One of the exciting new skin care actives that has been shown to reduce wrinkle depth by up to 45%. Matrixyl™3000 contains matrikines (Palmitoyl Oligopeptide and Palmitoyl Terapeptide-3) which are messengers of skin reconstruction and repair. They stimulate new tissue growth of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid to fill wrinkles naturally from within and provide visible anti-wrinkle efficacy.

    Moor Mud (Maris limus)

    Moor mud contains a concentration of over a thousand elements formed from the residue of herbs, flowers, and grasses, a process that started over ten thousands years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. It is unique in that it contains very little clay and has an unusually high concentration of bio-minerals, trace elements, vitamins, amino acids, plant hormones and fatty acids in a molecular form that is easy for the human skin to absorb. Its unique healing properties have been observed for millennia. It is not only used cosmetically, but also to successfully treat a multitude of ailments that include arthritis, muscle strains and pains, drawing poultices, hormonal imbalance, and to promote post-surgical healing with minimal scar formation. It is antiaging, anti-inflammatory, and a natural antibiotic. It is used exclusively by many international spas as a natural exfoliant, cellulite reducer, and to reduce swelling and inflammation after abrasive procedures.

    Origin: Czecholslovakia

  • Olea europaea (Olive) Oil

    The olive tree is an evergreen native to the Mediterranean countries. Its oil has been important since antiquity being used for medicines, cooking, rituals, soap making, fuel, and skin care. Olive oil attracts external moisture to the skin and still permits the skin to properly breathe, release trapped sebum, and shed dead skin without clogging pores. It contains polyphenol compounds that act as antioxidants to help repair and prevent damage to the skin, soothe inflammation, and benefits bruises and sprains. It is used in lip balms, soap, bath oils, body lotions, and hair products. Warmed olive oil makes an excellent moisturizing hair treatment, especially when essential oils are added. Soaking fingertips in warm olive oil softens the cuticles and adds resiliency to brittle nails. Occasionally, olive oil has been known to elicit allergic reactions.

  • Parabens

    The following contains excerpts from the FDA website (www.fda.gov).

    Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetic products and include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and benzylparaben. Various combinations are used in products to protect against a wide range of microorganisms. Mixtures of the different parabens allows for lower levels in products while increasing activity. Besides cosmetics, parabens are used in foods and drugs.

    The FDA believes that there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the presence of parabens in cosmetics at this time. Despite that, there is widespread concern among consumers over the use of parabens because of studies that detected parabens in breast tumors (J of Applied Toxicology, 2004). The study discussed the weak estrogen-like properties of parabens and the influence of estrogen on breast cancer. The weakness in the study is that it did not provide a causal relationship between breast cancer and parabens and it did not measure parabens levels in normal tissue. The FDA issued their safe use opinion taking these weaknesses into account as well as studies that show that parabens has much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen.


    Despite the approval of the FDA for paraben usage in cosmetics, we have made a commitment to eliminating parabens from all of our treatment products to alleviate concern that many have expressed over this preservative. Products have been reformulated to accommodate alternative preservatives. An occasional product that is not formulated in-house may contain parabens, but this will always be noted. We also list all of our ingredients on every product page so you can quickly assess this information.

    Parabens update. Encouraging news from University of California, Berkeley.

    Parabens is an excellent preservative but feared by many as a cause of breast cancer. While we had never read any studies presenting definitive proof, we decided to err on the side of caution and avoid it in our products. Parabens continues to be used in a preponderance of commercial products and we suspect that most folks could find any number of items on their shelves that contain this ingredient, which makes it worthy of ongoing attention.

    The good news is that studies continue to demonstrate no causative link between parabens and breast cancer. We cite below an update found in the April 2012 University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter:

    “Don’t believe rumors that antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer. Most good studies over the years have not found a link. One concern has been that paraben preservatives in antiperspirants and deodorants could migrate into breast tissue and cause cancer. However, a new English study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology
    found that women who never used these products had similar levels of paraben residues in their breast tissue as users. Parabens are added to many cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food products, and have been detected in nearly all human blood and urine samples. It’s thought that parabens may increase cancer risk because of their weak estrogenic activity, but so far there has been no convincing evidence to support this claim.”

    When I was teaching science to middle school students, I rarely showed a video, but one that made it into the classroom each year was an investigative report on faulty science and the science of fear. One of the segments highlighted the potential connection between breast implants and connective tissue disease. The suggestion of this link led to dramatic trials, huge settlements, fearful women, and the demise of the company that produced the implants. Ultimately, studies showed that the incidence of connective tissue disease in women with implants was no greater than in women who had never had implants. To wit, the ultimate conclusion of the scientific community was that there was no connection between implants and connective tissue disease.

    So, in all things, remain vigilant, but educate yourself and practice discernment. Live in knowledge. An informed mind is always your best friend.

    Pearl Powder

    Pearl powder is finely milled freshwater or seawater pearls that is hydrolytic and easily absorbed by the skin. Being hydrolytic means it is readily acceptable to skin cells where the work of repair and regeneration takes place. What makes pearl powder unique is that is contains a host of amino acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, zinc, iron, copper, strontium, selenium, silicon, and titanium. Chinese studies report that pearl powder enhances the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD), the skin antioxidant enzyme which eliminates free radicals that lead to wrinkles and skin aging. Its skin brightening activity is also related to this enzyme, minimizing melanin production which causes freckles, age spots, and dark patches on the skin.

    A short list of pearl powder benefits include:
    -Prevents and smoothes wrinkles.Hides pores, softens fine lines.
    -Brightens skin and lightens age spots, acne blemishes, areas of hyperpigmentation.
    -Promotes soft skin that is smooth, fine, and elastic.
    -Promotes collagen production to firm skin.
    -Neutralizes skin damaging free radicals.
    -Antiseptic properties promote healing for acne, rashes, boils.
    -Promotes healthy skin metabolism that minimizes overactive oil production.
    -Promotes surface exfoliation to encourage skin renewal.
    -Provides some sunscreen protection.

    While the FDA does not have an opinion on the claims ascribed to this ingredient, what is apparent is that pearl powder is packed with skin care actives that are known to promote healthy, youthful skin. There are no reported issues with safety whether the powder is ingested or applied to the surface of skin.

    Pearl powder is the active component of Abbey St. Clare’s smooth as silk Kashmir Pearls Primer and Finishing Powder.


    The foundation of firm, smooth skin is collagen. Young people have lots of collagen. Collagen gives the skin its support and thickness. With each passing year, collagen levels decrease and thus skin becomes looser, thinner, and wrinkled. One of the goals of all facial creams is to encourage natural collagen synthesis within the skin.

    Collagen is protein and is made of long chains of amino acids strung together. Shorter chains of amino acids are called peptides. When collagen breaks down in the skin, it forms specific peptides that signal collagen damage. The skin receives this alert and the metabolic machinery is initiated to make more collagen.

    Many think that you can increase skin collagen by applying it directly to the skin. Not so. Collagen is a very large molecule that cannot penetrate the skin’s protective barriers. Peptides to the rescue. Peptides are small molecules that reach the deeper layers of the skin. When we apply peptides directly to the surface of the skin, we are tricking it into thinking that its collagen was damaged and that it needs to make some more.

    Peptides with copper attached are now becoming more available and offer an additional benefit. Copper has long been a useful agent in treating chronic wounds. Copper peptides seem to encourage collagen production and serve as an anti-aging antioxidant in regeneration of skin. They are naturally healing and appear to remove damaged collagen.

    Argireline is a neuropeptide that is often called the Botox Alternative. It blocks signals from nerves to the facial muscles, blocking contraction of the muscles which leads to smoother skin. It is considered especially helpful in reducing the depth of expression lines around the eyes, on the forehead, and in the mouth area. While a few researchers aren’t fully convinced, the early evidence, along with a plethora of anecdotal evidence, makes this a supremely useful addition to the anti-aging arsenal.

    Peptides found in Abbey skin care* include palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl terapeptide-3 (Matrixyl 3000), acetyl hexapeptide-3 (Argireline), acetyl tetrapeptide-5, acetyl octapeptide-3, pentapeptide-18, and palmitoyl tripeptide-5. We have recently have found a source for a copper peptide (glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine-Cu2+) and will be adding it to several of our skin creams and eye cream.

    Finally, peptides do not work alone. They have to be delivered to the skin in a carrier that enhances penetration. They are very expensive ingredients. Effective formulations must contain optimum concentrations for results, usually between 3%-10%. An inexpensive potion may tout a peptide as a selling point, but often its concentration is insignificant. Heavy creams that deter penetration are also to be avoided. Caveat emptor.

    *Abbey St. Clare peptide actives:

    *Palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl terapeptide-3 (Matrixyl 3000TM): Night Line Relief Serum; Face Firming Concentrate; Essential Eye Creme.

    It has been shown to reduce wrinkle depth by up to 45%. They stimulate new tissue growth of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid to fill wrinkles naturally from within and provide visible anti-wrinkle efficacy. This ingredient is for long term wrinkle reduction.

    *Acetyl hexapeptide-3 (Argireline): Night Line Relief Serum; The Yellow Crème; Essential Eye Crème.
    Superior anti-wrinkle efficacy and is marketed at the “Botox Alternative.” It reduces the severity of wrinkles around the eyes, up to 17% after 15 days of treatment and up to 27% after 30 days of treatment. It prevents skin aging induced by repeated facial movements.

    *Acetyl tetrapeptide-5: Essential Eye Crème
    Anti-edema properties and a proven efficacy in reducing puffy eye bags. It also enhances skin elasticity, skin smoothness, and shows a decongesting effect.

    *Acetyl octapeptide-3: Night Line Relief Serum; The Yellow Crème; Face Firming Concentrate; Essential Eye Crème.

    An anti-wrinkle active which reduces the depth of wrinkles on the face caused by the contraction of muscles of facial expression. It is a safer, more economical, and milder alternative to Botulinum Toxin, topically targeting the same wrinkle-formation mechanism in a different way.

    *Pentapeptide 18: Night Line Relief Serum; The Yellow Crème; Face Firming Concentrate; Essential Eye Crème.

    Especially for wrinkles around the eyes, forehead, deep facial wrinkles. It has a synergistic effect to compliment the action of Argireline.

    *Palmitoyl tripeptide 5: Aniba Serum; Aniba Tonic; Face Firming Concentrate.

    Heals,calms irritated skin and intercepts cascade of events that results in damaged skin. Especially useful for red, itchy, or flaky skin.


    A commonly used cosmetic preservative that does not release formaldehyde and is approved worldwide for use in all types of water-based cosmetics. Phenoxyethanol occurs naturally in green tea but skin care inclusions are almost always the synthetic version. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel continually evaluates research data and concludes that phenoxyethanol is safe as a cosmetic ingredient when used in approved amounts (1%).

    Pomegranate Extract (Punica granatum seed extract)

    The name “pomegranate” is of ancient origin and it is often referred to as the “fruit of life. We use an organic extract to promote skin regeneration, improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, and stimulate cellular repair.

    Pomegranate Oil (Punica granatum seed)

    This is a luxurious and highly penetrating oil that is naturally high in flavonoids which makes it deeply nourishing to the outer epidermis. High in antioxidants and lipids, pomegranate oil fights free radicals, promotes skin regeneration, and helps heal inflammation and reduce swelling. It is a wonderful anti-aging oil that moisturizes skin, improves elasticity, and reduces wrinkles. Its strong anti-inflammatory properties repair sun-damaged skin, and are beneficial to reduce swelling and ease muscular aches and pains. Calming and healing for a plethora of skin problems, including eczema and psoriasis, direct application can relieve irritation, itching, and flaking.. Pomegranate oil has been reported to be particularly beneficial when combined with Sea Buckthorn Berry Essential Oil.

    Propylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate

    A mixture that is a diester of propylene glycol and fatty acids. This is a very different compound from propylene glycol . It is used as a safe skin conditioning agent to maintain and improve skin cell resilience by combining with proteins to promote overall skin health. It is used as a skin care emollient in moisturizers, cleansers, fragrances, and cosmetics such as foundations, lipsticks, and concealers.

    -It is an FDA approved food additive.
    -The Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database gives it a low hazard score of 1 (1/10).
    -The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) group research showed it to be a safe cosmetic ingredient. Safety recommendations valid for up to 50% of formula.
    -Skin irritation studies reviewed by the CIR Expert Panel found that Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate caused minimal to no irritation, and negative comedogenicity results.
    -The CIR Expert Panel’s review of data on “fatty acids and propylene glycol were negative for mutagenicity, chronic toxicity, and skin irritation and sensitization.”
    -Caveat from CIR: “Data were found suggesting that Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate and Propylene Glycol Dipelargonate may enhance the skin penetration of other chemicals. Because these ingredients may enhance the penetration of other ingredients, the CIR Expert Panel recommended caution when formulating with the propylene glycol mono- and diesters and other ingredients for which limits have been set based on low dermal absorption.” In other words, use with caution if formula includes other ingredients that should not be absorbed by the skin.

  • Rhassoul Clay

    Rhassoul clay has been used for over 1400 years as a soap, shampoo, and skin conditioner. Mined deep beneath the Atlas Mountains in Eastern Morocco it comes from the earth as a chunky, rock like substance but becomes smooth and silken once refined and micronized. The finest spas around the globe value it for its therapeutic benefits.

    Rhassoul is a reddish-brown clay that has extraordinary power of absorption, increased ability to swell with the addition of water, and higher levels of silica, magnesium, and calcium than other clays, which makes it one of the most effective clays for deep cleansing, detoxification, and general skin conditioning. It is excellent when used as a cleanser or in masks as it washes like soap and leaves a unique, sweet scent on the skin. Rhassoul is an excellent exfoliant and removes dead skin layers, resulting in a general smoothing of the surface skin in addition to its oil removal characteristics.

    Clinical studies conducted by two American research laboratories (International Research Services, Inc. www.irsi.org and Structure Probe, Inc. www.2spi.com) evaluated Rhassoul used in a clay mask on skin condition. After a single use the results found that it
    -Reduces dryness (79%).
    -Reduces flakiness (41%).
    -Improves skin clarity (68%).
    -Improves skin elasticity / firmness (24%).
    -Improves skin texture (106%).
    -Removes surface oil and oil from inside and around clogged pores.

    Origin: Morocco

    Rice Bran Oil

    Rice Bran Oil (Oryza sativa) is extremely effective in keeping skin smooth, soft, and wrinkle-free due to its complexity of components. The oil is obtained from rice bran, the outer coat of brown rice. This coat is removed during the milling process and is rich in vitamin, minerals, proteins, and essential oils. Japanese women have long used Rice Bran Oil for smooth and clear skin, making it known as “Bran Beauty.”


    -It contains a host of natural antioxidants which fight free radicals to repair and prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging.
    -It is extremely gentle, making it ideal for sensitive or fragile skin.
    -Rich in Vitamin E tocopherols, it is also one of the richest sources of the Vitamin E tocotrienols, an antioxidant 40-50 times more powerful than tocopherols in repairing skin damage.
    -The molecules of are small — smaller than Wheat Germ Oil which is a common source of Vitamin E in skin oils– and more easily penetrate the skin without being heavy or greasy.
    -It is rich in phytic and ferulic acids, which promote gentle exfoliation while helping balance melanin production. This makes it excellent for facial cleansing.
    -Rice Bran Oil contains gamma oryzanol which intercepts ultraviolet rays at the skin surface and hinders their transmission, a property useful in sunscreen preparations. It impedes the progress of melanin pigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for darkening the skin, and helps protect skin lipids from oxidation to prevent freckles, age spots, and discoloration.
    -Its oryzanol content makes it excellent for deeper toned skin to even out areas of skin discoloration.
    -Rice Bran Oil contains proanthrocyanidins,strong antioxidants which protect collagen and elastin throughout our bodies but especially in our skin.
    -Rice Bran Oil can be massaged into the scalp to promote healthy hair and relief from dandruff. It provides sheen and moisture without weighing hair down.

    The American Heart Association recommends it as heart healthy nutritional oil with a balance of mono-, poly- , and saturated fats which help keep cholesterol levels down, a main factor in preventing cardiovascular disease.

    Rosehip Seed Oil (Rosa mosqueta, Rosa canina, Rosa rubirosa)

    There is no better moisturizer for aging skin. It is a natural antioxidant known for working wonders to slow down signs of aging by improving skin elasticity and reducing the formation of wrinkles. It encourages the regeneration of skin cells, which is why it is one of the oils of choice to reduce scarring (even old scars) and prevent and fade stretch marks. It is high in essential fatty acids, Vitamins C and A, and is the best vegetable source for Omega 3. High in both linoleic (Omega 3) and linolenic (Omega 6) fatty acids with the effect that it is good at reducing the size of pores. Its natural content of tretinoin, a derivative of Retinol (Vitamin A) and Vitamin C make it very useful for all types of skin inflammation which includes acne, psoriasis, eczema, burns/sunburn, photodamage, and boils. The Vitamin C content of Rosehip Oil helps diminish age spots and areas of discoloration due to excess melanin. It is wonderful oil for use around the eyes and in synergy with other ingredients will increase circulation to diminish dark circles. There is some indication that even those with oily skin can use it because it counteracts the high melting point of fats in your skin and allows the body to process them more efficiently. Rosehip Oil has a short surface time on the outer layer of the skin which means that it quickly penetrates and leaves no oily residue. It is a true multitasking agent, helpful even for diaper rash.

    Rosemary Essential Oil (Rosemarinus officinalis var verbenone)

    This is the rosemary variety of choice for skin care, as it is known for its cellular regenerative properties. It is helpful in formulations for aging, wrinkles, burned, or sun damaged skin. Also highly recommended to help clear and prevent acne.

    Rosemary Essential Oil (Rosemarinus officinalus var cineole)

    Rosemary is one of the garden’s wonderful herbal scents. Brushing its leaves on a warm day elicits a fragrance that is fresh and refreshing.. It is used in cooking as well as cosmetics and brings a stimulating lift to the spirit.

    The essential oil has a variety of uses in cosmetics (See also Rosemary verbenone), soaps, massage oils, and hair care. It is used in shampoo to stimulate growth, combat dandruff, and adds a deepening glow to dark hair. Skin care uses include acne and oily skin care. Massage therapists use it to stimulate the circulation and decrease edema and cellulite.

    The stimulative nature of rosemary makes it unsuitable for those who are pregnant, have high blood pressure, or are prone to seizures.

  • TALC: Be not afraid.

    Let’s talk talc. Talc is powdered magnesium silicate, an earth mineral known for its softness. In classrooms past, I gave my earth science students sets of rocks and minerals to observe, touch, and test. A piece of talc was included because it registers 1 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it the softest mineral on earth. Students were always delighted to discover its silken smoothness. Each year several pieces of talc required replacement as students found the talc nugget a soothing worry stone to roll in their hand to relieve tension and stress. Life can be a challenge and I was happy to oblige them.

    I think of this when I read emotional and fearful reactions to the presence of talc in cosmetics. People fear that talc causes cancer. People fear that talc causes respiratory distress. They fear that talc will cause death, disease, or skin irritation. Well, the antidote to fear is knowledge, and current science comes to the rescue-. Be not afraid.

    Concerns arose because before the 1970’s, talcum powder was often contaminated with asbestos fibers, now a known carcinogen. Once understood, the dangerous asbestos was quickly banned and laws mandated the purity of talc in all products. Certainly today, forty years later, talc is purified, purified again, and then purified one more time before it is released for home products. The researchers at Cosmetic and Personal Care Product Safety affirm this:

    “Cosmetic grade talc does not contain asbestos, which is confirmed by X-ray diffraction, and optical and electron microscopy. In addition, the producers of cosmetic-grade talc have established purity specifications to ensure that it does not contain residue levels of asbestos.”

    The primary concern about talc was its linkage to ovarian cancer when used in the perineal area. This resulted from a small sample study in the early 1990s. Subsequent larger studies have provided no supportive evidence that talc is carcinogenic or a causative factor in the development of ovarian cancer in humans. (Always look at the date of an online article when reading information about talc.) Lack of supportive data prompted the National Toxicology Program in 2000 to exclude talc from its list of carcinogens, and in 2005 it withdrew talc from further review as a causative agent for the range of reported adverse health outcomes. Age, family history, excess weight, and hormone therapy remain the major risk factors in the development of this tragic disease. The suspected link with ovarian cancer was associated with perineal use, so avoid talcum powder as a body powder.  

    The relationship of talc to respiratory problems lacks confirmation. When animal studies are reported regarding the safety of a substance whether ingested or inhaled, the unspoken variable is that the amount and duration of testing of a substance is dramatically skewed from reality. Almost any particulate matter inhaled in geometrically enhanced proportions over improbable time frames will cause respiratory problems. Such is the case with studies of inhaled talc. 

    Purified talc is a valuable cosmetic ingredient that is absorbent, is inert which avoids allergenic reactions, is soft, smooth, and enhances slip which makes it a natural alternative to silicones, allowing products to glide onto skin. The Federal Drug Administration classifies it GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) and it is used often as an anti-caking ingredient in food products. Yes, sometimes you are probably eating talc.

    Misinformation of any kind causes us to make poor decisions. Fear is never recommended as a successful guide to life. Be not afraid; be informed.

         Cosmetic Ingredient Review

         Cosmetic and Personal Care Product Safety
         Cancer Research UK

         European Respiratory Journal
         The American Cancer Society


  • Tannin

Tannin is a substance common in fruits (grapes, persimmon, blueberry, etc.), tea, chocolate, legume forages (trefoil, etc.), legume trees (Acacia spp., Sesbania spp., etc.), and grasses (sorghum, corn, etc.). The word tannin comes from the historical practice of using the tannin found in oak bark to tan leather, though in the modern world, synthetics are now used for this purpose.

Tannins are responsible for the astringent taste we experience when we partake of wine or unripe fruits, and for the enchanting colors seen in flowers and in autumn leaves. They can have an anti-tumor benefit when consumed in tea or foods. There is some research pointing to similar benefits for skin. Tannins in herbs are astringent and may have constricting properties on skin. They are soothing to the skin and are used to treat burns and for wound healing.

Tea Tree Essential Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)

A potent antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral oil. Tea Tree works on a wide range of skin problems including blemishes and rashes, relieving the redness and itching of psoriasis, seborrhea, and eczema. It rival benzoyl peroxide in fighting acne without causing burning, redness, itching, or other side effects. It helps prevent irritation from shaving and infection of ingrown hairs. It is a calming and centering oil.

Toner / Astringents

Applying a toner to freshly cleaned skin is an important step in face care. The toner acts to clear the skin of any residual cleanser, cellular debris, perspiration, or excess oil, refines and tightens pores opened during the cleansing process, helps to invigorate the skin and increase circulation, and it will soften and emulsify deposits and blackheads in the follicles. Because the toner is left on the skin, the addition of herbal extracts, essential oils, anti-inflammatory skin actives and antioxidants to the solution greatly increases its healing value in the development of healthy skin.

Currently, the terms toner and astringent are often used interchangeably. Both refer to a solution that cleans skin and pores and causes a constriction of pores with the purpose of improving surface texture. In general, astringents usually are formulated with alcohol and are more drying to skin. Water, aloe, or witch hazel based toners are less drying and more moisturizing. Alcohol based toners should be used with caution because while they are often used for oily skin due to their drying effect, their use can have the opposite effect. The use of an alcohol-based astringent can dry the skin so much that it actually stimulates an increase in oil production. Hydrating herbal toners are preferred as they can be used as needed without over-drying the skin. The goal is a toner that works with the skin’s natural processes, encouraging the correct balance.


An enzyme present in cells that catalyzes (jump starts chemical reactions) the production of melanin from tyrosine. The inhibition of tyrosinase is one of the methods of treating areas of hyperpigmentation in the skin.


An amino acid in the skin from which the pigment producing molecule melanin is formed.


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  • Witch Hazel

    Witch hazel is a time honored medicinal that has been around so long it is positively new again. While we are lurching around for the next designer mushroom cosmetic additive, it is helpful to remember traditional (and natural) ingredients that are valuable because–well, because– they work. Like the favorite aunt who gives you that bracing advice, witch hazel is your friend.

    NOTE: Witch hazel extract is not the same as witch hazel hydrosol. Witch hazel extract is the familiar preparation that contains alcohol. Witch hazel hydrosol is gentle and has no alcohol. (See Witch Hazel hydrosol below.) Abbey preparations use both, but we only use purified extract which contains minimum alcohol and thus is non-drying.

    Abbey products that contain witch hazel:

    -Vitamin C Tonic (hydrosol) -Comfrey Tonic (hydrosol) -White Tea Cleansing Milk (extract/hydrosol) -Green Tea Scruffing Milk Cleanser (extract/hydrosol) -Tea Tree Cleansing Gel (extract/hydrosol)

    Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) extract

    Witch Hazel extract is produced from the leaves and bark of the North American shrub Witch-Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana. It is a classic folk medicine astringent that has been used for generations on insect bites, stings, and sunburn because it is anti-inflammatory and slightly anesthetic. Native Americans used poultices of witch hazel to treat a variety of conditions including hemorrhoids, tumors, and eye inflammation.

    Witch hazel extract has varying levels of astringent, antiseptic, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anesthetic properties which makes it a fundamental component of many medicinal preparations. Witch hazel is used for bedsores, bruises, eczema, insect bites, hemorrhoids, poison ivy or oak, bruises, sore muscles, swelling, psoriasis, cracked or blistered skin, diaper rash, windburn, and sunburn. Athletes rub witch hazel extract onto their arms or legs prior to workouts to help prevent muscle strain, or after a workout to help relieve soreness. It is added to bath water to relieve muscle pain.

    The value of witch hazel is being appreciated anew in skin care because in addition to its softening and emollient properties, it is becoming recognized as a potent antioxidant against free radicals. It is often found in toners and creams that strive to regenerate aging and distressed skin. It is used to cleanse oil and remove makeup, decrease under-eye puffiness, and reduce pore size. Its astringent properties make it useful as an aftershave and applied to blemishes and pimples. Sun preparations include witch hazel because it appears to counter the effects of UVA while acting as a UVA and UVB absorber. It is used to decrease swelling of varicose veins.

    For all these seeming extraordinary powers witch hazel has no connection with wizards and witches or with magic, black or white. Witch is derived from wych meaning “pliable” in old English and hazel may be related to a sister plant whose forked branches were used for divining water. So you can use it for its powerful but definitely earthbound qualities. Witch hazel extract is approved by the FDA for external use

    Avoid using witch hazel extract close to the mucus membranes or in the eyes, as it contains alcohol. It is best to use this product on unbroken skin. The natural alcohol content of quality witch hazel extract is 14% which does not irritate or dehydrate the skin. Caution is advised in OTC preparations as most of them are more alcohol than extract by volume. A preparation that contain excess alcohol content can be an irritant and drying when repeatedly used directly on the skin. The tannin content is 2-9%. See tannin.

    Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) Hydrosol

    Witch hazel hydrosol is unlike commercially available witch hazel extract because it is gentle and free of the alcohol content that is often irritating or drying. It has a subtle, fresh, herbaceous aroma.
    Many suppliers will not ship it without a preservative system because it can be unstable, so often a small amount of benzoic acid is added as a gentle preservative.

    Witch hazel hydrosol is possibly the strongest antioxidant hydrosol and should be considered one of the most important anti-aging substances. It can be included in skin care preparations or misted directly on the skin. It is astringent enough for teenage skin, but equally suitable for mature or damaged skin. Because it does not contain alcohol, it does not dry the skin.

    Witch hazel hydrosol has a host of topical applications:

    -Reduce redness, rashes, itching, swelling, and scaling of skin. -Powerfully anti-inflammatory and cicatrizant, it is useful as a wound wash and for healing cracked or blistered skin, sunburn. -It is extremely good for soothing eczema and psoriasis. -Reduces edema, arthritic and rheumatic pain, stings and bites. -Famous for its healing effects on varicose veins and hemorrhoids. -Helpful after radiation treatments to soothe skin.

    Unlike commercial products, witch hazel hydrosol can be used in oral care as an effective gargle for hoarseness or a sore throat.

    Reference: Suzanne Catty, the hydrosol expert, has given her permission for us to provide information from her book Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy.

    Witch Hazel Extract vs Witch Hazel Hydrosol

    “Witch hazel” as commonly found on store shelves is witch hazel extract.

    Witch hazel extract is not the same as witch hazel hydrosol. The difference between the two is the method of production. Common witch hazel is produced by extraction, soaking dried parts of the plant in a water-alcohol solution which draws the medicinal components of the plant cells into the solution. This is why most witch hazel solutions have 14% alcohol content. Witch hazel is a wonderful astringent and skin care ingredient but the most common complaint about it is that it is drying to the skin. All witch hazel extraction solutions are not created equal in that some manufacturers use a lower quality alcohol which is harsher on the skin and this is why some people refuse to use witch hazel. A lower quality product does indeed dry the skin, but it is not a given that all witch hazel solutions are irritating. This is a case where you get what you pay for. When we use witch hazel extraction solutions in our products, we make sure to buy a higher quality variety which is not irritating or drying.

    Witch hazel hydrosol is derived from a very different process.

    All hydrosols are by-products of plant distillation in order to obtain the plant oils. An essential

    oil is produced by subjecting the plant material to heated steam (water) to separate the volatile oils from the solid plant material. Upon cooling and condensation, a layer of oil settles upon the water which, also upon cooling, is once again a liquid. The oil is removed and the distillate (hydrosol) is left. Initially this water was discarded but then it was discovered that the water retained less concentrated but effective medicinal qualities similar to those found in the concentrated oil. This is why hydrosols, including witch hazel hydrosol, contain no alcohol.

    Hydrosols are not enhanced with any other additives except an occasional preservative, which in some cases might be a very small percentage of alcohol, but the amount is negligible in terms of its effect on the skin. Hydrosols are also surprisingly stable for up to two to ten years, even without preservatives. These days though a little preservative is not a bad thing relative to the value of the potion.

  • Sea Buckthorn Berry Essential Oil (Hippophae rhamnoides)

    A beautiful deep red oil that obtains its color from its high carotene content, including valuable lycopene. Sea Buckthorn is a skin care wonder. It is the most potent source of palmitoleic acid, which supports cellular regeneration and creates a soft and smooth skin surface. It is one of the best known natural sources of Vitamins A, C, E, and contains carotenes, flavonoids, omega 3 and 6, and numerous minerals and amino acids. It’s Vitamin C content is higher than that found in oranges. It has long been used to treat burns (this includes damage from the sun as well as from therapeutic radiation treatment), laser surgery, acne and dermatitis, rosacea, and eczema.

    Sea Clay

    Sea clay is kaolinite clay of a gray- green color. It has a high content of minerals and decomposed organic sea materials. It helps to draw oils while nourishing the skin. Sea clay is excellent for cleansing and exfoliating skin.

    Origin: France

    Silk Powder

    Silk powder is a micro fine, silky, white powder that reflects light to minimize wrinkles and adds slight sheen to facial powders. Benefits of silk powder include:
    -Contains 18 amino acids which are easily absorbed into the skin.
    -Reflects and absorbs UV rays.
    -Helps balance moisture levels in the skin.
    -Absorbs and balances excess oil.