The skincare ingredient must have : Ceramides

Hello folks!!

Sorting through all the anti ageing skincare products in the market, I am pretty sure you might have come across the term ceramides at some point. They are often touted as miracle workers for ageing and dehydrated skin. So what exactly are ceramides?

Imagine that the brick and mortar structure you see in the picture below is the outer later of your skin. If the bricks are to be your skin cells, then the ‘glue’ or mortar holding your skin cells together is ceramide.

File:Brick and mortar (5110740610).jpg

Brick and Mortar (image source: wikicommons)

To nerdyify things a bit.. the intercellular spaces between skin cells are occupied by lameller sheets. The major lipid component of these lamellar sheets is ceramides. In addition to ceramides, cholestrol and free fatty acids are also found in the lipid domain. Together, they play an important role in maintaining skin hydration by preventing water loss and holding on to moisture. Unfortunately, as we age our ability to produce ceramides decreases and hence our skin gets dry and dull. Ceramides also play an important role in keeping our skin firm and thus when the production declines with age, our skin starts to sag 😦

An important thing to note is that ceramides refer to a family of molecules, in other words there are many different types of ceramides occurring naturally in our skin. There are 9 different types found naturally in human skin: they are labelled ceramide 1 thru ceramide 9.

So how do we go about choosing the right moisturiser that helps us maintain firm healthy moisturized skin ?

Ideally, for ceramide creams to work optimally to restore skin balance and function , cholestrol and fatty acids should be present along with ceramides . As you may recall, these 3 components together form the majority of the intercellular spaces between the skin cells naturally.

Ceramides found in skin care products are usually synthetic or plant derived. When looking through the ingredient lists, you will  notice that ceramides are often labelled in the following fashion:

Ceramide 1 : Ceramide EOS
Ceramide 2 : Cermamide NS = N-stearoyl sphinganine
Ceramide 3 : Ceramide NP = N-stearoyl phytosphingosine
Ceramide 4 : Ceramide EOH
Ceramide 5 : Ceramide AS
Ceramide 6 : Ceramide AP = α-hydroxy-N-stearoylphytosphingosine
Ceramide 6 II : Caproyl sphingosine
Ceramide 7 : Ceramide AH
Ceramide 8 : Ceramide NH
Ceramide 9 : Ceramide EOP
Ceramide E : Cetyl-PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide and Hexadecanamide

If you are curious to know more about the different ceramide containing moisturizers in the market, I suggest checking out the following website : The author has detailed 6 ceramide containing moisturizers.

Is there proof that ceramide containing moisturizers work?

Now this is where things get a bit complicated. There are so many different types of ceramides and depending on the other ingredients present, the concentrations etc the story can change. Here is a sampling of different studies showing the efficiency of ceramides as a skincare ingredient:

There are of course, more studies outlining the efficiency of ceramides as a skincare ingredient. As I mentioned earlier, this is just a sampling of different types of studies done with ceramides which prove that they can be effective in fighting atopic dermatitis, wrinkles and also hyper pigmentation.

After reviewing quite a few research publications, I personally believe that ceramides can be a beneficial skincare ingredient. Have you tried any ceramide creams? If so what do you think of them?


  1. Hashizume H. Skin aging and dry skin. J Dermatol. 2004 Aug;31(8):603-9.

Marula Oil: Argan oil’s wonderful sister perhaps :)

Hello folks!

I have been MIA since I have been enjoying some wonderful downtime with family 🙂 Lets kick off September with a post on Marula oil which is one of the current darlings of the cosmetic industry. General curiosity had made me dig up scientific info on this oil and now I can’t wait to try it out on my skin 🙂



Sclerocarya birrea or better known as Marula tree (Source: Wikimedia)

The Marula tree plays an important role in traditional African medicine and diet. The tree grows throughout Africa. It can be found in South Africa and all the way up north in Ethiopia and Sudan. The tree is also found in the western African nations like Gambia, Nigeria and Cameroon.

The fruit of the Marula tree is eaten fresh or fermented to make beer 😀 (Would love to try that out if I ever visit any African nation). Marula oil is obtained from the soft white edible kernels found inside the fruit and is considered a good source source of dietary protein and oil.


Marula Fruit (Source: Wikimedia)

Traditional Uses
Local populations in southern Africa, have been using marula oil for years to protect against dry and cracking skin, as a base oil for soap and as a shampoo for dry, damaged and fragile hair. The oil is also used to massage babies and as body lotion massaged onto the skin of their face, feet and hands.

Properties of Marula Oil

Marula oil is a clear, pale, yellowish-brown colour and has a pleasant nutty aroma. The oil is classified as medium rich and is silky to the touch with an excellent ‘slip factor’ making it ideal as massage oil. The presence of high amounts of Oleic acid and Linolic acid both of which are beneficial for skin moisturization makes this a great skincare ingredient.

File:Marula Oil.jpg

Marula Oil (Source: Wikimedia)

Proven Benefits

Scientific evidence supporting some of the traditional uses of Marula oil exist. It has been shown that Marula oil can improve skin hydration and combat skin redness. The presence of large amounts of fatty acids , especially Oleic acid enables easy absorption into the skin. Marula oil has also demonstrated anti inflammatory properties which explains its ability to calm skin redness.  A study on the  irritancy potential of Marula oil not only concluded that it was non irritating, but also that the oil has moisture retention properties and has a moisturizing effect on the skin.

A lot of the Marula oil based products in the market claim to be anti ageing. However, I could not find any studies supporting those claims. Overall, I think Marula oil sounds fabulous to combat dry skin issues. Have you tried Marula oil in your skincare routine?

Until next time…ciao!!


  1. African seed oils of commercial importance —Cosmetic applications
  2. Sclerocarya birrea (Marula), An African Tree of Nutritional and Medicinal Uses: A Review
  3. Safety and efficacy of Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst (Marula) oil: A clinical perspective

The perfect winter time face mask!

Hello folks!

Its here..its December! Usually this is my favorite time of the year and I get into the holiday spirit by mid November, however this year it is yet to hit me. For some reason I can’t believe that 2015 is almost went by too fast. It is getting slightly cold and my skin which is always dry is getting drier.

Winter is when my facial skin decides to shed and get all flaky. Sometimes even applying straight up oil on my face doesn’t help with the flakiness. (I know..all you oily gals must have cringed a little reading that line 😉 ) This year I found an awesome and simple solution for my dry skin problems! An egg!! or to be more precise an egg yolk 🙂

File:Raw egg.jpg

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I have heard of countless face masks using egg whites but never tried them since they dry out your skin. Egg white face masks are great for tightening your skin and controlling oil so do try it out if your skin isn’t like the Sahara desert.

Now egg yolks are a different ball game. They are moisturizing and soften your skin! After separating the yolk from the white, I like to add a little bit of honey to the yolk and mix them together nicely. The mixture will be a bit runny so this is not a face mask you can slap on and walk around. You will need to remain seated till it dries a little. Another thing to note is the smell :D..Yes it isn’t the most pleasant smelling face mask but the result is totally worth it in my opinion! Plus adding the honey does mask some of the eggy smell.

After it dries down (15 to 20 minutes) you can wash it off with lukewarm water and your skin will be moisturized and soft like a baby’s butt 🙂 I like to apply this face mask once a week and my skin is loving it so far!

As you may be aware, honey is known to be a great moisturizing agent and combined with the egg yolk, the mask delivers a punch!

There are many other combinations I saw online. You can add blended avocado or even milk powder to this mix to make it even more hydrating for the skin. I have yet to try these other versions. For now, I love this simple mask with just honey and egg yolk!

Have you tried any egg yolk based face masks? I would love to try them out!

Until next time…ciao!!

Micellar Cleansing Waters: How do they work?

Hello everyone!

So, if you ask a beauty junkie what their favorite makeup remover is at the moment, chances are they will mention the Bioderma Micellar Cleansing Water or some of the popular drugstore versions that have come out recently. Micellar waters have become so popular due to their ease of use and efficiency. In case, you have ever wondered how this ‘magic’ water works, in this post I’ll try to explain!

If you take a look at the ingredient list of any of the Micellar waters in the market the very first ingredient is… surprise! Water! This is usually followed by a surfactant /detergent and skin conditioning ingredients. A surfactant molecule comprises of 2 parts; a hydrophillic (water loving)  head and a hydrophobic (oil loving but water hating) tail. When a sufficient number of these detergent molecules are placed in water, they come together to form what is known as a micelle.

Essentially, a micelle is a spherical structure with all the water loving head regions of the detergent molecules being in contact with the water around them, and the the oil loving tail regions on the inside where they don’t come in contact with the water.

Micelle structure in water (Image source: wikimedia commons)

These micelles are not visible to the naked eye, which is why a bottle of Bioderma looks like water and you don’t see globs floating around! Also, at this point if your freaking out at the term detergent/surfactant being used not fear! The detergents used in micellar water are very gentle ones which do not irritate the skin ( its not the same type of detergent that is used in your dish washing liquid or bar soap!).

So how does this bottle of water with microscopic blobs work you ask?

Micellar waters are meant to be used with cotton pads. When you soak a cotton pad with micellar water, the cotton absorbs the water and the micelles which are no longer in water break up at the surface of the cotton pad. Since the cotton pad has absorbed the water, the detergent molecules get attached to the cotton pad with the water loving head region attached to the cotton and the water hating/oil loving tails pointed away from the cotton pad.

When you take this soaked cotton and wipe your face, the oil loving tails of the detergent molecules grab on to the oil, grease and makeup on the skin surface. Pretty simple right! As you may have guessed, if wearing heavy makeup you might have to go in for a second round since the tails might not be able to grab onto everything in the first round.

Hope you found this explanation helpful! Do let me know your questions in the comments!

Have a great week!

Until next time…ciao!

Why do you have curly red hair? The why behind hair types and colors explained!

Hello everyone!

Have you ever sat at a hair salon and wondered why your hair and the hair on the heads of people next to you are so different not just in natural hair color but also texture? Well if you have, this post might just be your cup of tea; and if you never thought about it during your haircut session, it looks like you have a chatty stylist/something more fun to do than question things around you!!

(Image source: wikkimedia commons)

In order to understand why people have different hair colors and textures, we need to first take a look at the basic structure  of a hair strand/shaft. We can broadly say that there are 3 main parts to the hair shaft. The outer most thick scale like structure is called the Cuticle. The cuticle layer is colorless and  allows light reflection, so it plays a big role in having shiny lustrous looking hair 🙂 Over brushing of hair and too much friction can damage the cuticle (that is why they say backcombing is bod news in the long term).The Cuticle is followed by the Cortex which forms majority of the fiber mass of a hair strand. The Cortex contains spindle shaped cells which are aligned parallel to the central axis of the hair strand. Finally, at the center of the hair strand you have the loosely packed porous region called the medulla.

structure of hair shaft medulla cortex cuticle

(Image Source: Wikkimedia Commons)

 Hair color

When it comes to hair color the Cortex is the most important layer. This layer in addition to the spindle shaped cells also contain the pigment cells (melanin).  The type of melanin and its distribution in the Cortex determines the persons natural hair color. There are 2 types of Melanin pigments : Eumelanin and Pheomelanin. All human hair colors have both these types of pigments present, but its the ratio is which they are present which ultimately decides if you have blonde,red , brown or black hair.

Black to brown hair: A higher amount of Eumelanin pigment is found in these indivuduals as compared to Pheomelanin.

Red to Blonde : A higher amount of Pheomelanin (with red hair having the highest) compared to Eumelanin.

Grey Hair: No melanin pigments!

Hair Type

The type of hair you have on your head is greatly influenced by your race. Broadly there are 3 races: Mongoloid, Caucasian and Negroid, with all of them having very distinct hair types. It all comes down to the differences you see when you take the cross section of a hair strand/shaft. Scientists have found that mongoloid hair is straight and has a circular cross section. Interestingly, Caucasoid hair can be straight, wavy or curly but still give the same type of cross section; elliptical. Negroid hair on the other hand has a larger diameter and flattened elliptical cross section. So why is the cross section shape so important you might ask?

Lets go back to the hair cortex. We all know that keratin, a protein is the primary component of hair. Proteins are made up of amino acids and they link together to form longer chains. One of the amino acids involved in keratin strands is cysteine which has a sulfur group which is capable of forming bonds called disulfide bonds with other sulfur groups. Hence, the cysteine residues in adjacent keratin strands are able to form bridges or links through disulfide bonds.  A very round shaft (circular cross section) allows less disulfide bonds, and those that are present are in line with one another, resulting in straight hair. The flatter the hair shaft(flattened elliptical cross section), the curlier hair gets, because the shape allows more cysteines to come in contact with one another and form the necessary disfulfide bridges. In other words, the more the interaction between the cysteine groups of different keratin strands, the tighter the curls get !!

Hence although we all have the same keratin protein in our hair, the cross section/ shape of the hair shaft plays a huge role in determining the type of hair you have!

Hope you enjoyed this post! In the coming weeks w’ll chit chat about the hair growth cycle, what happens when you get a straightening treatment etc 🙂

Untill then…ciao!!



1. Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. Clarence R. Robbins.

2.Rodney D Sinclair.(2007) Healthy Hair: What Is it?.Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings 12, 2–5.

3.Khumalo NP, Dawber RPR, Ferguson DJP (2005) Apparent fragility of African hair is unrelated to the cystine-rich protein distribution: a cytochemical electron microscopic study. Exp Dermatology 14:311–314

Aloe Vera and your skin

Hello everyone!

These days a lot of skincare products and even haircare products list aloe vera in their ingredient lists. Its usually listed as  Aloe vera extract/Aloe Barbadensis leaf extract/ aloe vera gel. In case you want to know more about this magical plant everyone loves to have in their products, my post today might just be your cup of tea :).

(Image source: wikimedia Commons)

Aloe Vera is a cactus plant that belongs to the Liliaceae family.There are more than 300 species of this plant but the most common ones are Aloe barbadensis Miller and Aloe aborescens. Various cosmetic and medical products are made from the mucilaginous tissue (the gooey stuff)  present in the center of the Aloe vera leaf . (If you’ve ever had the opportunity to break a fleshy leaf of aloe into 2, you know what I am talking about). So whats so special about this gel like stuff which oozes out of the leaf? It is infact a complex mix of various types of naturally occuring chemicals : Amino acids, anthraquinones, enzymes, lignin, minerals, mono- and polysaccharides, salicylic acid, saponins, sterols, and vitamins. These components individually and together are responsible for some of the great properties of aloe vera.

So what are the magical powers of Aloe Vera?

  • Moisturizing and anti ageing effect: Some of the polysaccharides (mucopolysaccharides) found in aloe vera gel help bind moisture into the skin. Aloe Vera  stimulates fibroblast cells which boosts the collagen production process and therefore has been proven to help fight wrinkles. The amino acids present in the gel  also soften hardened skin cells thereby acting as a skin softener. The small amounts of zinc present in aloe gel acts as an astringent thereby tightening pores. Now you know why a lot of skin care companies love Aloe 🙂
  • Protection against radiation damage:  Aloe vera gel has been reported to have a protective effect against radiation damage to the skin. However to get maximum benefits it is recommended that 100% pure aloe gel be used for this purpose. The polysaccharides, mannose-6-phosphate, and complex anthraquinones together are responsible for this property of aloe vera.
  • Wound healing: As stated earlier, collagen synthesis is boosted when aloe vera gel is applied on the skin. Collagen production plays an important role in would healing as well. Aloe gel not only increased collagen content of the wound but also increases the degree of collagen cross linking (which helps wound healing). Due to this,  accelerated wound contraction or healing takes place.
  • Anti inflammatory :Aloe gel has been identified as beneficial in the treatment of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

There are lots of other important application of aloe vera especially in medicinal products but I thought I’d just stick with how awesome it is for the skin 🙂 In case you would like to read up more on Aloe Vera take a look at the references listed below!

Until next time..ciao!!


  1. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (article here)
  2. Indian Journal of Dermatology (here)
  3. Pharmacognosy Reviews (here)
  4. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology (here)

Probiotics and glowing hair and skin? seems to work for lab mice atleast :)

Hey everyone!!

So today I thought I’d share some research that I came across a few days ago where in they found a link between a diet rich in probiotics and shiny hair and ‘youthful glow’….in aged lab mice 😀  Of course, they hope the same magic will work for us humans and I won’t complain if it did since I love yogurt 😀

Picture source: wikimeida commons

If you are interested in reading the full text of the research paper here is the link: Probiotic Bacteria Induce a ‘Glow of Health’

So the gist of this study is as follows:

They state that certain probiotic organisms dominate under natural conditions during infancy and fertility in many animal species. Taking that into consideration the scientists hypothesized that probiotics may play a role in effecting the ‘glow of health’ associated with youth and reproductive fitness. So they set about to feed aged lab mice with probiotic organisms to see if it  recapitulates these signs characteristic of youth within aged adult animals.

  1. The scientists noticed a change in the luster and density of coat hair in aged mice after feeding them a diet consisting of a probiotic rich yogurt. They found that these changes were more significant in female mice.
  2. They also noticed that the dermis (skin layer) was thicker in female and male mice on the probiotic rich diet compared to mice on a control regular diet. As you know with age our skin becomes thinner and hence more dull, so this result aims to hint at the fact a probiotic rich diet restores youthful glow in mice.

They found that these changes occur because the probiotic microbes impart some hormonal and immune system changes (w’ll not go into the details ..this is a beauty blog after all ). But all in all, don’t you think its really cool that such tiny microbes can affect our skin and hair when consumed!  There is also another paper out in case you want to read more into the data they provide for these claims : Probiotic ‘glow of health’: it’s more than skin deep.

I plan to enjoy my yogurt even if this is not applicable to humans! But it would be cool if it did..don’t you think so 😉

Until next time ..ciao!!