Asian Herbal Skin Care Products – a Quiet Revolution

The original inspiration for the development of the Indochine Natural product range comes from the exotic Old Quarter of Ha Noi that has a history spanning 2,000 years. The narrow crowded streets with bustling commercial activity spilling onto the pavements is where you will find "Herb Street," or more correctly Pho Lan Ong named after a famous 18th Century traditional medicine practitioner. This street is a sensual delight of textures and smells from the sacks of herbs in shops lined with rosewood herbal medicine cabinets. In narrow corridors, squatting workers grind and process herbs. Many of the raw materials we started to use in our original line of Indochine Natural products come from these traditional herbalists.

With the establishment of our production facility on Penang Island, Malaysia, this link to ancient Asian herbs has continued. Penang Island is located in the Straits of Malacca, which for many centuries has been a major shipping route to Europe. Penang Island has been associated with the spice trade to Europe since the 16th century. These exotic spices were to be had only in small quantities in Europe after long and dangerous voyages in seas beset by pirates and swept by terrible storms.

Today, in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Georgetown on Penang Island, traditional traders still trade in these highly prized commodities in markets where your senses are assailed by the odor of exotic spices. Our Indochine Natural products utilize traditional handmade methods and spices including cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, clove, ginger, and turmeric, to produce a range of exotic natural soaps and other skin products.

This focus by Indochine Natural on ancient Asian recipes and ingredients appears to be in contrast to the mainstream where the technological takeover of skincare that commenced in the United States during the1950s is now a global phenomenon. Even in most Asian countries these days the current Asian skin lines have opted for synthetic formulas with an unhealthy appetite for skin whiteners in almost every product line, and the total absence of the traditional ingredient richness of the past. If one takes a walk down Singapore’s Orchard Road for example, your senses are assailed by the abundance of products and advertising for skin-whitening products including moisturizers, cleansers, face masks, and even the humble soap bar.

However there is a quiet revolution taking place. While on the one hand the new digital technologies has largely driven the marketing of modern skin care products, these same technologies have given consumers access to increasing information on the dangers of many cosmetics ingredients. Additionally, there is rising awareness that many of these modern synthetic cosmetics fail to deliver what is promised, and this is now easily transmitted by disgruntled consumers via various social networking media. With consumers becoming better informed, there is now an increasing trend towards alternatives to the ever increasing availability of modern synthetic products, and many is Asia are now returning to the more traditional Asian ingredients.

At Indochine Natural we have found no shortage of natural Asian ingredients with long histories that we regularly formulate into our cosmetic recipes. For example, Rice Bran Oil has a long history in Japan as a base for soaps and skin creams, and is purported to reverse the effect of aging by slowing the formation of facial wrinkles as a result of its high concentration of vitamin E and gamma-oryzanol. Another ingredient we regularly use in our soaps is Turmeric, which for many centuries has been a very traditional cosmetic ingredient. Turmeric’s reported skincare benefits have been investigated scientifically, especially curcumin, which is the principal biologically active constituent of turmeric. Recognizing that curcumin acts as an antioxidant, a lot of scientific research has focused on ways that it can be incorporated as an ingredient in cosmetic and skin treatment products to reverse oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the skin which are a major contributor to the aging of skin.

Incorporated into all Indochine Natural products are 100% pure essential oils. These oils have a long and well-documented use in cosmetics, and their benefits to skin care are wide ranging. The fragrances of essential oils can positively influence your emotional and mental state, which in turn can assist in alleviating stress related skin problems. Many essential oils have the effect of stimulating and regenerating the production of healthy skin cells following sun damage for example. Other oils have the capacity to sooth sensitive skin, and many have anti-bacterial and ant-fungal properties.

So yes, there is a quiet revolution taking place as consumers turn their attention to more traditional and natural cosmetics ingredients. However the major cosmetics manufacturers are not taking on this challenge laying down, as we see packaging now taking on a more "natural" look, often with botanical images being featured. And many of these manufacturers now include botanicals with their largely synthetic ingredients to at least give the impression that the product has "natural origins." This trend then places more pressure on consumers to read labels and understand the ingredients used, not an easy challenge in an environment where for example some products are labeled as "organic" but in fact only contain very small percentages of organic ingredients.

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