Sweet Almond oil has long been used in cosmetic preparations for the skin, but why is it of so much benefit for those with sensitive skin?
An Introduction to Sensitive Skin
The skin is our largest sensory organ. It is first in line for a battering from everything our environment can throw at it. From external weather, air conditioning and pollution, to stress and an unbalanced diet, your skin feels it all. It’s no wonder that it is often the first to show signs of wear, becoming dry, irritated and sensitive.
Skin is made up of layers. The epidermis (outer layer) acts as a barrier to bacteria and other potential contaminants that might penetrate the skin. Secreted by the sebaceous glands, the film that sits at the very surface is the acid mantle (or hydro-lipid film). In brief, when this layer becomes out of balance the result is dry, irritated and otherwise sensitive skin.
Many products for “oily skin” work by stripping away this natural layer. You may have experienced this as that tight, dry feeling you can get after some cleansers. Although the cleanser certainly stops your skin feeling oily, this effect is temporary. Your skin’s response is to go into overdrive, producing more secretions to make up for the loss. In addition, harsh ingredients within the cleansers may also irritate already unbalanced skin. When you stop using the product, your skin will be even more unbalanced. This can lead you to believe that you continue to “need” that product and you can become reliant on it.
Conversely, other products for “dry skin” rely on mineral oils (a byproduct of the distillation of petroleum). These oils aren’t easily absorbed by the skin. They create a layer that sits upon it, interfering with its ability to breathe. This creates a reliance on the product as the skin becomes accustomed to not having to produce enough moisture. Again the problem is masked and compounded by the product that is supposed to be helping the skin.
In addition, where skin is dry and maybe flakey, the temptation can be to rub the dry particles away. The top layer of the epidermis (the stratum corneum of “horny” layer) is sensitive to friction. So, over-rubbing and exfoliation can actually exacerbate any underlying problems, interfering with the skin’s natural ability to maintain its moisture balance.
It is better to work with your skin to bring your body into balance so that your skin finds its own natural equilibrium.
The Almond and its value for Sensitive Skin
The almond is a deciduous tree of the Mediterranean climate region. It produces drupes (stone fruit) and is a relative of the apricot and peach. Although it is commonly called a nut, it is instead an edible seed within a hull.
“Almonds have been in human use for thousands of years, both to eat and in cosmetic products. As a tree that originated in the Middle East, it is mentioned at various times in the Bible and is seen as a symbol of Christ (whose human “shell” surrounded his divinity) and also of Mary. It also appears in various mythologies from around the Meditterean sea.
“The nature of almond is shown by its harmonious relationship between the healthy all-protecting shell on the outside, protecting a robust kernel, rich in oil and nutrients, on the inside.
As this quote from Weleda demonstrates, the almond was noted in history as symbolic of “protection”. Maybe this was what first drew attention to its potential cosmetic use? The strengthening of that outermost “hard” layer (aka “horny” layer) of skin to protect the rich layers and body contained within?
Indeed, almond oil is similar in structure to the skin’s outer lipid layers and is easily absorbed. The kernel is a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid and Vitamin E. These fatty acids help to strengthen the skin, protecting it from water loss. They also work to support the skin’s natural processes. As such it is a very popular choice as an ingredient in cosmetic ranges and a clear first choice as the Lead Plant for the Weleda range for sensitive skin that I use at Doncaster Wellbeing.
Ethically sourcing Sweet Almond Oil
Another important consideration is the environmental impact of farming almonds. There has been an increasing demand for Weleda’s products for sensitive skin and it has become increasingly important that the almond oil used is harvested responsibly whilst continuing to meet the high quality standards.
Weleda works with the Manan co-operative in the Valencia region of Spain. The co-operative grow and harvest organic almonds in the hills around the city of Alicante. The land used is one of the largest almond cultivation sites in Europe:
“The partnership between Weleda and Manan flourishes on a shared philosophy of sustainable development and environmental protection. You can see this in matters as simple as the economical use of water over the total area of 6000 hectares. The growers are deliberately sparing with water, a precious commodity in Spain, because over-irrigation can eventually lead to salinization of the soil, erosion and reduction in soil fertility.
By reducing water use, the farmers show that they are thinking long-term, but it comes at a price. The yield for this group of earth-conscious growers amounts to about 500 kilos of harvested almonds per hectare, only a tenth of what can be harvested under the intensive cultivation methods of California’s plantations. As the customer company, to support this commitment to sustainability, Weleda must ensure that the lower yield is offset by prices that are higher, and therefore fair to the farmers.
Harvesting in this hilly landscape involves a lot of labour-intensive cooperation between workers. Equipped with nets and poles, two experienced workers take around ten minutes to harvest the fruit from each tree. Harvesting almonds is not as easy as it looks – nets bulging with almonds are very heavy and there are physically-demanding hours of stooping, bending and stretching. But these farmers are highly motivated thanks to their long-term partnership with Weleda and they take pride in producing good quality almonds and in handling them properly so that the crop is dried carefully and quickly after harvesting.
The almonds then undergo gentle cold pressing and filtration. The next step is refining and organic certification. Finally, the resultant oil is sent to Weleda’s manufacturing facilities in Switzerland, Germany and France, to be made into the wonderful product range available today.
Such a fantastic journey for the almond oil that contributes to the valuable Weleda Almond Sensitive Skincare range!