American Spa Magazine by Heather Mikesell.
While there is no shortage of innovative skincare ingredients on the market today, the increasing interest in more natural ingredients has certainly shone a light on grains, such as corn, oats, rice,, and more. Found in various skincare formulations, these hard, dry seeds are proving to be effective exfoliators. According to Szilvia Hickman, senior vice president of Szép Elét, which distributes Ilike Organic Skin Care, they’re also a great natural substitute for synthetic microbeads, which have been banned in some states due to their environmental impact on marine life. “Cornmeal is an all-natural scrubbing alternative to plastic microbeads in various face and body exfoliators,” says Hickman. “It can be formed into different shapes and sizes depending on the purpose of the product and whether we want a gentler or stronger scrubbing effect on the skin.”
Interestingly, grains aren’t always viewed positively when it comes to the skin. In fact, they often get a bad rap for contributing to various skin conditions when ingested. In Wheat Belly Total Health (Rodale, 2014), author William Davis, M.D., reveals how wheat and closely related grains, such as barley, corn, and rye, are actually disrupters of skin health. From triggering autoimmune reactions, increasing inflammation, and spiking blood sugars, grains can sabotage your complexion when consumed, he says. “One of the reasons why people fail to connect grains with skin health is that their disruptive effects can show themselves in so many varied ways,” says Davis. “The most common is red facial discoloring, especially on the cheeks, along the sides of the nose, and around the eyes. Other wheat and grain disruptions of skin health include eczema, acne, dandruff on the scalp, dryness, excessive oiliness, rosacea, and other autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis.” Fortunately, eliminating these ingredients from a diet can help. “Wheat and grain elimination should be, in my view, the first and most powerful effort anyone can make in regaining a beautiful appearance and skin,” says Davis.
Cereal for the Skin
One of the most popular grains used in skincare is oats. “Since medieval times, oats have been used for their medicinal properties,” says Close. “Today they are prized for protecting against free radicals, reinforcing cell immunity, and preventing inflammation. Oats are also an excellent moisturizer, forming a thin film over the skin to help retain moisture while soothing and softening the skin.”
According to Regina Muhammad, cofounder of Buff Her House of Exfoliation, oatmeal is great for sensitive skin. “It contains saponins, which are natural cleansers that gently remove dirt and oil from pores,” she says. Geraldine Howard, cofounder of Aromatherapy Associates, is also a fan of oats, thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. “Oat flour soothes and balances excess oils, resulting in a healthy and matte complexion,” she says. “Oat amino acids hydrate the skin and provide a soft foam.”
While corn, oats, and quinoa are just a few of the grains being celebrated for their skincare benefits, new varieties are emerging all the time. “Grains are important in skincare, because they have anti-inflammatory, protective, and hydrating benefits,” says Close. “They are a great complement to active ingredients, as they calm irritation and allow the skin to focus on looking younger and feeling healthier.