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Blog posts tagged in skin care

PRESERVATIVES the necessary evil in skin care products Part 2 How do preservatives work?

“PRESERVATIVES the necessary evil in skin care products”

Part 2

How do Preservatives actually work?

“Preservatives are thought to act by:

  • disrupting membrane transport processes or
  • by inhibiting synthesis of DNA and RNA  or
  • disrupting some key enzymes, such as ATPases and phosphotransferases, in some bacterial species.

Propylparaben is considered more active against most bacteria than methylparaben.

The stronger antibacterial action of propylparaben may be due to its greater solubility in the bacterial membrane, which may allow it to reach cytoplasmic targets in greater concentrations. However, since a majority of the studies on the mechanism of action of parabens suggest that their antibacterial action is linked to the membrane, it is possible that its greater lipid solubility disrupts the lipid bilayer, thereby interfering with bacterial membrane transport processes and perhaps causing the leakage of intracellular constituents.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraben

So in essence the propylparaben mimics the bacterial membrane and can therefore transfer through it much more easily than some other preservatives. The high concentration then helps to disrupt the activity of the bacteria.

Ortron is always keeping abreast of issues with certain raw materials and evaluates their potential hazards. Where possible we substitute ingredients which have questionable properties with much more acceptable ones. There are some very useful alternatives to parabens and Methyl chloroisothiazolinone & methyl isothiazolinone MIT, some are even from natural sources. These alternatives will be discussed in more detail in another part to this topic of discussion regarding preservatives.

In part 3 we will examine what the issues are with Methyl ethyl propyl butyl isobutyl para benzoic acid (Parabens)

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Is it correct to call an ingredient natural or naturally derived




The first thing one needs to ask is what do people mean by natural?

By definition natural means existing in nature and not made or caused by people. Coming from nature and not having any extra substances or chemicals added as well as not containing anything artificial.

So by this definition we can see that there are some natural things that can be used in skin care products. Honey is an example but most honey has to undergo some form of human intervention through heating or autoclaving in order to sterilize it of the bee excrement and other detritus. So under this circumstance, do we consider honey natural?

When stating something is “natural” do we really mean “naturally derived”?

Many skin care products in the market currently claim to use "natural" or "organic" ingredients in their formulations. This would be a wonderful concept and definitely evokes the idea of purity and wholesomeness but the reality is far from this ideal concept.

There are very few, if any, raw materials that can claim to be “pure” and “natural” as there always needs to be some sort of “human intervention” to yield a viable ingredient ready to be used in skin, body or hair care products.

An example is that of claims that a soap is “natural”. Soaps are usually manufactured through a process called saponification. This is a heated reaction between a caustic ingredient (such as lye or sodium hydroxide) and an oil or fat. The product off this reaction is a soluble salt. This salt is then able to lift off dirt and oils from the skin using a water loving head and an oil loving tail. Therefore the problem is that there are no naturally occurring soap ingredients.

When a product is reputed to be made from natural ingredients there needs to be a question of where this product occurs in nature. Even water is not “natural”. When making a cream, the water has to be purified otherwise there may be too much biological activity present in the final product. So in theory the only really natural ingredients present in the product will be the microbes that spoil the final skin care product!

Can something be considered natural or organic if it is derived from crude oil?

Theoretically yes. Oil is produced when organic matter decomposes and undergoes a series of heat and pressure situations yielding a thick, black and viscous solution made of a number of organic ingredients. This can then be separated by various distillation steps. It can therefore be assumed that products such as mineral oil, Vaseline (petroleum jelly), paraffin etc. can be classified as naturally derived and organic products but have been manufactured by human intervention.

Can raw materials be safely declared organic or natural?

Companies claim they can certify, register and guarantee ingredients as being organic and natural, in some cases at considerable extra costs to the raw material prices. These registrations that ingredients are organic or natural are creating thriving new businesses but there may be debate whether they may or may not be necessary. For any ingredient to be considered as "certified organic" and of "natural origin" the following points need to be taken into consideration:

  • ·         In many of the cases there had to be some form of human intervention to achieve the final raw material. The point is to what degree has there been human involvement.
  • ·         The product which has been farmed on a property specifically designed to not introduce herbicides, pesticides and other objectionable additives, cannot necessarily guarantee that the neighbouring property has not used those products. The wind is indiscriminate which way it blows and so no guarantee that there had been an avoidance of introduction of the these unwanted elements. Some of the airborne pesticides and herbicides may still land in the property that tries to prevent using them. How does one analyse for all these variables and so "certify" them?
  • ·         Water travel used for irrigating the crops may travel through a water table. There is no reassurance that the water is not contaminated by man-made pollutants such as chemicals from fracking coal seam gas. The water sourced from dams and estuaries may be contaminated from run-off. Even rain has no guarantee of being pure due to the airborne pollutants present which are absorbed into the water droplets forming rain.

The underlying conclusion is that man has polluted the earth so much that in reality it is not possible to source ingredients that are completely natural. Nearly all of the raw materials used in skincare formulations have undergone some form of human intervention to yield a suitable ingredient for formulating. Instead of calling them "natural" or "organic" we should really call them “naturally derived”.

Ortron uses many raw materials in their formulations. The fats, oils, emulsifiers, herbal extracts, essential oils, etc are all sourced from sustainable plant origin where possible. Ortron is always researching plant alternatives for any animal derived raw materials they use. 




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What is a moisturiser? Is it the same as an emollient a humectant or a hydrotrope?

What is a moisturiser? Is it the same as an emollient a humectant or a hydrotrope?
Moisturisers, emollients, humectants and hydrotropes have one thing in common, they all deal with water in one way or another.
There seems to be a misconception that moisturisers and emollients are the same thing. Unfortunately they are not exactly the same, hence they have a different name.
A moisturiser is an emulsified blend of fats, waxes and oils which utilises properties of those certain chemicals to enhance the moisture retention level on the skin surface.
As explained before in Ortron’s blog (“Are sun screens really as effective as people wish you to believe?”) skin can dry out due to heat from the sun and dry air. “Once the skin has no more moisture to protect it, then the skin starts to denature (much like what happens when you boil an egg and the albumen changes form). This denaturing creates what we perceive as pain and burning. After this burning, we have the blistering of the skin which leads to that typical peeling of the skin.”
This drying out of the skin also results in premature aging of skin. The skin starts to lose its elastic properties as there is some damage to the collagen and elastin under the epidermis through the heat and drying.
Therefore a moisturiser must allow the skin to “breathe” and also to maintain a balanced level of moisture. This helps to maintain its suppleness but only as long as the moisturiser is always present. Unfortunately we perspire and the cream dries out so we need to regularly apply the cream to achieve maximum effect.
An emollient is a product that “softens” and “oils” the skin making it more pliable but not necessarily retaining moisture onto the skin. If anything it may actually occlude rather than retain the water onto the skin. So “Sorbolene” creams are mainly emollients but not very good moisturisers as they are made up of heavy emollients such as vaseline or petroleum jelly with some emulsifiers.
Examples of emollients are capric caprylic triglyceride, cetearyl octanoate, lauryl alcohol, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, almond oil
A humectant is a product that reacts with water, binding it hydrostatically into a mesh type network. This doesn’t necessarily result in any type of moisturising effect as the water is hydrostatically bonded within the humectant molecule. This is invariably used to prevent a product from drying out.
Examples of a humectant is propylene glycol, glycerine, and sorbitol.
A hydrotrope is a product that binds water through electrostatic forces due to their strong affinity to water (through their hydrophilic, or water loving, head) and some organic molecules (through their short chain hydrophobic, or water hating, tail). Hydrotropes are fantastic when used in products such as conditioners. Through its ability to capture water molecules and bind them tightly to an organic phase (the hair follicles) they prevent hair drying out through harsh hot blow drying.
Some examples of hydrotropes are cyclodextrin, dendrimer, sodium benzoate.

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Shaving problems resulting in razor burn and ingrown hairs

Shaving 1

Major problems associated with shaving and depilating

Common complaints encountered when shaving or depilating hair are;

  • In the case of shaving, developing shaving rash or razor bump and 
  • Most commonly the formation of ingrown hair when shaving or depilating.

These are best shown in figure 1 2

ingrown hair and razor bump

There are many various methods employed for hair removal:

  • Shaving using sharp blades and a “soap”
  • Plucking the hair out
  • Waxing (whereby a layer of wax is applied followed by a rapid removal of the wax layer)
  • Using a scrubbing material to vigorously massage the follicles out
  • Laser burning of the hair strand
  • Electrolysis (which involves the insertion of a fine needle into the hair follicle down to the hair root. A mild current is then passed down the needle to the tip. This then cauterizes the hair root enabling the hair to be withdrawn).

All these methods have the potential to develop some form of ingrown hair problem, although the electrolysis method has a higher success rate at removing the hair permanently with very few side effects. The method discussed in this blog is on the use of shaving products for face and body.

Most shaving products use the philosophy of hardening the follicle then running a razor blade over it. This will initially tug the hair out slightly from the skin so that it can then be cut by the blade. The problem with this method is numerous.

  1. The method of stiffening the hair follicle results in a spear like fibre piercing the skin when it springs back into the root. It can then be trapped under the skin rather than being freely able to grow through the orifice naturally occurring for it.
  2. Another issue is that some hair follicles will stiffen up but recoil like a spring and curl under the skin. This then develops a lump where the hair continues to grow in a coil pattern under the skin and not able to be released. This is particularly problematic for the African/American type skin where the hair has a tendency to curl naturally.

Many of these shaving products come as soap bars, sticks, lather creams, foaming aerosols and oils. They are usually very high pH products having pH values around 9 to as high as 11 in combination with stiffening waxes (not the shave oils which would have an apparent neutral pH) which are not really suited to the pH of the skin as they would tend to dry and strip the skin of it's natural oils. The pH is kept high possibly under the premise that it minimises any irritations to the skin from the shaving.

Ortron Corporation has developed and is marketing a unique shaving cream (Tetrashave™). This skin care product goes against all of the above mentioned principles of how a shaving product should function. Unlike the anionic properties (negative ions) of the stearic acid in combination with the triethanolamine to neutralise and form the basis of the emulsion, the Tetrashave™ has a totally unique and innovative formulation.

The Tetrashave™ is a type of skin conditioner and not an anionic soap. It is a cationic (positive ions) formulation which incorporates a slightly high pH in combination with tea tree oil and herbal extracts. The conditioning effect of the cation along with a pH around 7 to 7.5 helps to soften the hair fibre of the beard or body and does not harden them.

Therefore when the blade passes over the follicle and cuts a soft hair there will be no recoiling or springing of the hair. The tea tree oil assists in the healing process of the skin after a blade has abraded the skin. Tea tree oil is critical in the formulation as it helps avoid infections of the skin and hair root.

This cream then acts as a type of skin moisturiser by trapping moisture onto the skin surface and therefore is a great skin care product. Men and women would not need to use any moisturisers after using Tetrashave™. The subtle herbal fragrance will also not interfere with any aftershaves or perfumes that people may want to use. Women could safely use this product to shave their legs, underarms and even the scalp.



1 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/64/AtTheCuttingEdge.jpg/280px-AtTheCuttingEdge.jpg
2 http://www.paradoja7.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ingrown-hair-diagram.jpg

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Vitamin C and its relationship to Anti-Ageing products Part 1.


 fruit bowl


Vitamin C and its relationship to Anti-Ageing products.

Background, Technical study paper Part 1


Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a powerful antioxidant. It neutralises free radicals caused by sun exposure. Radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. They are very harmful to the body as a result of their high reactivity. This type of reactivity may induce mutations and possibly cancer. Vitamin C, being an excellent source of electrons, can therefore donate electrons to free radicals such as hydroxyls and superoxides and “quench” their reactivity. Ascorbic acid may be sourced through many fruits and vegetables, some of which contain significantly higher levels of vitamin C than others, for example kakadu plum, papaya as well as vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts.

The name ascorbic acid derives from the Latin of a-, meaning “no” and scorbutus, meaning “scurvy”, a disease caused through the lack of vitamin C. This disease potentially ranks as the second most important nutritional deficiency, after protein-calorie malnutrition. Scurvy, once common among sailors, causes bleeding and inflamed gums, loose teeth, poor wound healing, pain in the joints, muscle wasting and more.


 Ascorbic acid structure                                     Ascorbic acid ball figure

Figure 1 A simple schematic and ball diagram of L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)1

The structure of vitamin C is simple (see Figure 1) and resembles a monosaccharide as it is derived from glucose. Most animals are able to synthesize ascorbic acid. Only primates, guinea pigs, and some fruit bats have lost the ability to synthesize it.

Ascorbic acid is a vitamin and vitamins are organic molecules that mainly function as catalysts for reactions in the body. Catalysts are substances that lower the energy and time necessary for the progress of a chemical reaction. Under normal circumstances these reactions may, in most cases, take considerable time and energy to achieve completion.


Vitamin C is water-soluble and very important to all humans because it is vital for the production of collagen. Inside the cell, it helps form a precursor molecule called "procollagen" that is later packaged and modified into collagen outside the cell. Collagen (refer to blog “The role of collagen and elastin”) is a gluelike substance that binds cells together to form tissues.

It is the most abundant of the fibres contained in connective tissues. Connective tissue gives the human body form and supports its organs.2  Collagen production increases skin thickness and density causing a plumping effect thus decreasing the appearance of wrinkles. Elastin is responsible for skin elasticity and for the repair of temporary creases.

Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that has been proven to stimulate collagen production. Linus Pauling wrote about the connection between vitamin C and collagen in 1986.3 His theory was that it would be beneficial for the body to absorb masses of amounts of the vitamin C in order to properly combat the effects of influenza and other ailments. This just happens to be a slight exaggeration on his part but in essence there is definite merit to his theory.

A molecule of ascorbic acid is much easier to absorb through the outer skin than proteins such as collagen and elastin. A major problem though with the ascorbic acid is that when it comes in contact with water it hydrolyses and breaks down to a straight chain sugar molecule as shown in the reaction in figure 2. Water will therefore divide the vitamin C molecule up into a glucose-type straight chain molecule and thereby render it useless for its intended purpose.

Vitamin C is also important in that it helps protect the fat-soluble vitamin A, as well as fatty acids from oxidation. A symbiotic combination of vitamins C and E results in a more powerful anti-oxidant than the vitamins on their own.

 Ascorbic stick for reaction with water      Glucose from vitamin c

Figure 2 Reaction of water with L-ascorbic acid


Simply eating a large amount of fruit to absorb the vitamin C does not facilitate a proper use of the molecule. A small amount of the vitamin may enter the blood stream. It then needs to somehow reach the designated areas where collagen build up is necessary. This method is therefore too unreliable to be properly effective.

Rubbing dry L-ascorbic acid on the skin achieves very little except to irritate the skin. Vitamin C is an acid and therefore can have the same effects as that of alpha hydroxy acids (AHA, see Ortrons easlier blog on this topic)

Somehow the vitamin C needs to be "placed" under the skin to where the collagen and elastin are formed. Injecting the product is very invasive and not necessarily achieving its intended function.

Firstly in order for vitamin C to reach specific areas under the skin of the body, it needs to be micronised thereby reducing the particle size and increasing its reactive surface area and solubilisation. This particle reduction enhances skin penetration. The micronisation is carried out in an oil medium in conjunction with the vitamin C which helps to prevent  molecular decomposition. This decomposition occurs through the heat generated while reducing the particle size. The other purpose of the oil is to coat the reduced particle hence reducing the likelihood of absorption of moisture from the air which leads to decomposition. This admixture can then be used in a skin care formulation cream which enables delivery of the vitamin C through the skin to the areas where it is needed.

There are many vitamin C creams on the market but very few actually achieve the desired results.


A debate exists over the anticancer properties of vitamin C. However, current evidence suggests that the major benefit of ascorbic acid with regard to cancer may be in reducing the risk of developing cancer, rather than in therapy. Vitamin C can work inside the cells to protect DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid), the hereditary material in cells, from the damage caused by free radicals. Also, it can reduce the development of nitrosamines (amines linked to the NO group) from nitrates, chemicals that are commonly used in processed foods. Once formed, nitrosamine can become carcinogenic (cancer-causing).4

Part 2 of this study on vitamin C will be examining current methods of delivering the active ingredient vitamin C to areas where it is needed compared to the patented specialty skin care cream, the Transdermal Delivery system™.

The article will be titled “The development of TRANCEED ™ and the unique transdermal delivery system technology, Technical study paper Part 2”.

This article highlights how advanced Ortron has progressed ahead of the market in respect to skincare manufacture and product development and research, in particular regarding the exclusive patented products. These skin care products cater for the more boutique small businesses that wish to market a value added product which currently have no rivals.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:L-Ascorbic_acid.svg
2 http://www.chemistryexplained.com/Ar-Bo/Ascorbic-Acid.html#ixzz3FzsqY71L
3 http://www.vitamincfoundation.org/collagen.html
4 http://www.chemistryexplained.com/Ar-Bo/Ascorbic-Acid.html#ixzz3FzsqY71L

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What is the role of collagen and elastin and do these type of creams really work?

In order to understand what collagen and elastin do, we must first understand;

  1.   what these molecules are and;

  2.   what are their functions in the skin.

What is collagen and elastin?
Wikipedia edition June 2014 quotes that:
Collagen is the main structural protein of the various connective tissues in animals. As the main component of connective tissue, it is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up from 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content. Collagen, in the form of elongated fibrils, is mostly found in fibrous tissues such as tendons, ligaments and skin, and is also abundant in corneas, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, the gut, and intervertebral discs. The fibroblast is the most common cell that creates collagen.
Elastin is a protein in connective tissue that is elastic and allows many tissues in the body to resume their shape after stretching or contracting. Elastin helps skin to return to its original position when it is poked or pinched. Elastin is also an important load-bearing tissue in the bodies of vertebrates and used in places where mechanical energy is required to be stored. In humans, elastin is encoded by the ELN gene

Figure 1 of the skin structure in relation to the effects of collagen and elastin 1

What is the function of these molecules in the skin?
In essence we note that the role of these molecules is to act like a “spring” so as to return the plumpness in the skin. When you visualise the skin surface having folds and crevices (as seen in the above schematic diagram), then the role of the collagen and elastin is to “push” these creases out from the inside in order to reverse the aging process. This naturally happens in young skin when it is pinched or distorted in some way.
Unfortunately, as we get older that “springiness” in our collagen and elastin start to break down and cannot function well to prevent the signs of aging. These molecule then become stiff and brittle.
Following is a detailed description taken from the website for The Dermal Institute (Postgraduate Education in Skin and Body Therapy) of an article “Structural Changes Associated with Aging Skin” by Dr. Diana Howard 2
“Breakdown of Collagen and Elastin
The majority of age-dependent changes that occur in our skin happen in the dermis, which can lose from 20-80% of its thickness during the aging process. This is the result of changes in the fibroblasts, the cells responsible for collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) biosynthesis. Not only is the collagen and elastin produced at a slower rate, which impacts the skin’s inability to repair itself, but the organization of the protein also changes, affecting the skin’s structure.
The breakdown of collagen and elastin is controlled by the activity of Matrix Metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes known as collagenase and elastase, respectively. Studies have shown that UV radiation activates these enzymes within hours of UVB exposure. Long-term elevation of the MMPs, which is typically found in people with prolonged exposure to sunlight, results in disorganized and clumped collagen and elastin that is characteristic of photodamaged skin.
Changes in elastin fibers are so characteristic in photoaged skin that the condition known as elastosis is considered a hallmark of photoaged skin. This is characterized by an accumulation of amorphous elastin protein and a breakdown in the typical structural layout, which results in decreased skin elasticity and tensile strength. This phenomenon accounts for why more mature skin takes longer to assume its original position when extended or pulled.”

So what can be done to repair the collagen and elastin in the skin?
There are many collagen and elastin skincare creams on the market that claim to help stabilise the collagen and elastin levels in the skin. These creams contain the molecules. Only problem is that for these elements to have any effect they must be somehow “placed” under the skin as shown in the following picture.

Figure 2 Simplified model of collagen and elastin 3

These proteins do not travel through the skin and so there is some doubt cast over these claims. At best these creams would only help to “fill in the nooks and crannies” on the skin, much like spakfilla does in the cracks and holes in a wall. These creams help to bridge across the crevices but unfortunately once the cream dries out on the skin, then the creases reappear to then have to undergo the same procedure again.

Needling is another method to repair the creases but this method is painful and invasive. This method is not always a guarantee of success.
The only effective way of rebuilding the collagen and elastin under the outer skin layer is to allow the body the ability to naturally fabricate it. This is what normally happens in the body when it is young but diminishes with age. One of the recognised methods to do this is by use of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). 4
An article presented in the NYU Langone Medical Centre website, showed that apart from using alpha-lipoic acid or other anti-oxidants have shown that:
A small, 3-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found benefit with a cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid . Use of this antioxidant substance improved several measures of aging skin as compared to placebo, especially skin roughness. Benefits have also been seen in preliminary studies with a cream containing vitamin C .”
Antioxidants are substances that neutralise free radicals. These free radicals are created by ultraviolet light from the sun. They are naturally occurring substances that can harm many tissues of the body, including the skin. 5

Vitamin C is a powerful, naturally occurring anti-oxidant that acts as a trigger mechanism for the body to rebuild the 2 proteins in the area where the ascorbic acid is present. Any topical oil in water cream applications will not have many benefits because ascorbic acid is easily hydrolysed when in contact with water and so is very unstable. The molecule readily undergoes breakdown to form inefficacious hydrolised by-products.

Using derivatives of ascorbic acid, such as ascorbyl palmitate, will give little results because these types of molecules are too strongly bound for the body to be able to break down to yield the useful acid form. Too much energy is necessary to be able to break the molecule to the acid form of the vitamin C.
So the only problem remains is how to transport the vitamin C to the areas where it is needed namely under the subcutaneous layer of the skin?

This will be discussed in the next  blog on “Vitamin C and its relationship to Anti-Ageing products.



1 http://rankines.com/CUSTOMER%20CARE/SKIN_INFO/files/Collagen-Elastin-Production.png
2 http://www.dermalinstitute.com/au/library/11_article_Structural_Changes_Associated_with_Aging_Skin.html
3 http://www.wrinkletreatment.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/collagen_elastin.jpg
4 http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=38389
5 http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=38389

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