Yes, I’m sure many have all had a brush with the prickly spines of the Milk Thistle as children. Running barefoot across the lawn. In fact, there is a legend that tells how the thorns of this plant saved a sleeping party of Scots from ambush. Which is claimed to be the reason for the weed becoming the National Flower of Scotland in the 15th century.
But more than just an annoying weed today. One we mostly want to be vanquished from our yards. This pretty purple crown produces an oil that really should be on your radar! Mostly, it is rare to find this oil in ingredient lists. With skincare / natural soapmakers opt for the more publicized and popular moisturizers such as Almond, Sunflower, or Olive oils. Yet the humble Milk Thistle has been used for over 2000 years in herbal remedies.
Although, many of these ancient remedies were in the form of tonics. Used internally for liver, kidney, and gall bladder ailments. Milk Thistle is an excellent source of powerful antioxidants as well as four other topical benefits to the skin.
The Antioxidants found in Milk Thistle Oil
The active ingredient found in the thistle plant is silymarin. A non-comedogenic antioxidant which is to say that it will not clog pores. Often referred to as a hero ingredient, this antioxidant helps to protect against many daily stressors. Such as ultraviolet radiation, pollution, cellular damage, and free-radical damage. While being effective for all skin types.
High in Linoleic fatty acids Milk Thistle is a top source of this essential fatty acid. Which is considered to be one of the most effective ingredients in skincare, strengthening the skin’s protective barrier while providing excellent moisturizing and healing properties.
The combination of antioxidants and fatty acids has brought some researchers to the conclusion that Milk Thistle may be more effective than vitamin C or vitamin E, two of the antioxidant heavy hitters in nature.
The Effects of Natural Hydration
As we age the process of cellular rejuvenation naturally slows. The cell turnover rate almost doubles once our age reaches between 30 and 40. This is why hydration is such an important part to prevent premature aging. Even skin that appears to be oily may be dehydrated on a cellular level. Triggering our sebaceous glands to overproduce sebum, which increases the appearance of oily skin while still being dry deep down.
This is where the protective barrier created by MilkThistle’s Linoleic acid content excels. By locking in the body’s natural moisture the cell membranes are fortified to resist environmental stresses. As well as improves the skin’s elasticity to reduce fine lines and sagging skin, thereby reducing the effects of premature aging.
Also, it is believed that milk thistle may provide some relief to skin inflammation problems. While more human research is needed a 2015 study found that it helped to improve inflammatory skin conditions when applied to the skin of mice. The enzymes found in the plant working to soothe irritation, while gently removing dirt and oil from pores, there by helping to clarify skin.
Possible Concerns of Using Milk Thistle Topically
Generally, milk thistle works well with all skin types. Where dry skin benefits from the added moisturizing ability of Linoleic fatty acids as well as mature skin. While the oil’s anti-inflammatory / antioxidant properties are seen as beneficial to problem skin types. However, this is not to say the hero ingredient is without concerns for people with allergies.
Although allergic reactions are rare, milk thistle is a member of the Asteraceae family, such as ragweed, daisy, marigolds, and chrysanthemums. Meaning that people with existing allergies to these plants should avoid milk thistle oil as well.
Most references to symptoms of this allergic reaction tend to speak about ingestion of the plant with notable reactions including:
- Burning of the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hives or rash
- Swollen tongue
- Trouble breathing
However, itching, rashes, and hives are the seemly most likely reactions to topically using the plant’s oil.