There is a big movement towards natural products across the board, and certainly in the personal care market nearly everyone is going natural.
I think that there is a lot to be said for being as natural as possible. Humans are basically just animals the same as the rest of the animal kingdom. We have all evolved together over millions of years and we have the equipment to handle that which nature produces. Synthetic chemicals that are produced in the laboratory are new and the way the world and our bodies will react to them isn’t always predictable. The precautionary principle is a good one, and why risk introducing something new into the environment unless it is safe beyond all reasonable doubt.
But some people take it a step further and equate natural with good. This takes it too far. Lots of things are both natural and unmistakably bad for your health. The park near where I live is famous for its mushrooms, but I wouldn’t go and eat them unless I was sure I knew that the species I was picking was known to be safe. Biologists will tell you that you can eat any mushroom that grows in the UK. But some of them only once. The plain fact is that some natural things aren’t particularly good for you and some are positively harmful.
The only way we can tell whether something is beneficial is by investigating it thoroughly and scientifically. Anyway, that ramble was to introduce some research I have come across. Olive oil has a very positive image and gets lots of good press for its supposed benefical properties. Is there any reason other than the generally good feeling people have for natural for its reputation. Well I love to shoot down idols when they turn out to have feet of clay – but when it comes to olive oil evidence keeps coming to light of how good olive oil is actually is for you. I have just come across a paper in a scientific journal that demonstrates that applying olive oil to your skin can potentially protect it against skin cancer. (If you are squeamish about testing on animals look away now.)
What they found was that mice exposed to UVB radiation developed significantly fewer carcinogenic tumours than mice coated with camellia oil. It is important that they compared the olive oil with another oil. This showed that it was the olive oil that was special – not just any old oil would do. They suggested that the mechanism was that presence of anti-oxidants in the olive oil soaked up the reactive oxygen species produced by the action of the radiation on the mice’s skin. This fits in well with other research findings in the field and with what we know about the chemistry of oxidation and the structure of the skin.
What can we infer from this? Well the way UV causes cancer is very similar to the way UV causes skin ageing. Could regular application of olive oil to the skin slow down the ageing effect of sunlight on the skin? We can’t be absolutely sure, but it seems a reasonable thing to suppose.
Protective effect of topically applied olive oil against photocarcinogensis following UVB exposure of mice Arief Budiyanto, Nazim U. Ahmed, An Wu, Toshinori Bito, , Toshihiko Osawa, Masato Ueda3 and Masamitsu Ichihashi Carcinogenesis, Vol. 21, No. 11, 2085-2090, November 2000)