Notes from China
TCM IN COSMETICS:
BACK TO THE FUTURE
HOW BIG of a role can Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) play in cosmetics? Many TCM experts
I’ve interviewed say the potential is enormous because the materials are so effective.
For example, one TCM derma professional relayed the following story. His
client, a 40-year-old woman, returned to
his office to treat blemishes that had been
successfully treated months before. After
careful examination, the professional finally asked the woman a question that
seemed irrelevant to her skin: “Is there any
issue that is causing you to be angry?”
The answer was yes. Turns out, there
was a family issue that led to numerous
sleepless nights and the outbreak of the
skin problem. As a result, psychological
counseling, rather than topical and oral
medications, became the major treatment
for her skin problem.
When pressed to find out how could
detect such a cause for the customer’s skin
problem, the professional referred to the
basic principle of TCM.
“The facial area where the woman’s
skin problem occurred happened to
Ally Dai is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of
indicate something wrong with her liver,
which is the organ vulnerable to inappropriate anger based on TCM theory. Plus,
she also displayed an unstable emotional
state,” he explained. “Physical health and
emotion are intimately connected.”
use or are strictly constrained by regulations, due to ecological, legal and health
Herbals are the most common raw
material category in TCM. Under the basic TCM application principle, the origin,
harvesting, processing and storing of
herbal materials should all be dealt with
great caution by following the instructions handed down from ancient times,
on the ground that these factors can determine the quality and efficacy of botanical ingredients.
Another general principle of TCM application is the synergistic effect. Apart
from the efficacy of individual primary
ingredients, the final efficacy of a formula
relies upon the interactions between different ingredients; therefore, their combination should be carefully selected to
enhance the desired effect, which requires
better understanding of action mechanisms and overall effects.
Proper storage of herbs is essential to their efficacy.
All About Being Holistic
Yes, the core of TCM theory is all about
being holistic; i.e., the human body is
always intricately connected to the external environment. Based on the notion of harmony and balance, Traditional
Chinese Medicine is actually a very vital
holistic system of health care with its own
unique ways of prevention and treatment.
Focusing on adjusting and boosting
the human body’s own immune system, it
emphasizes prevention and tends to use
the combination of different ways of treatment including diet and medicine, as well
as acupuncture, massage and exercise.
When it comes to TCM, herbals, as
well as animal and mineral products and
even human ones, all can be utilized. Some
of the animal or human products would
seem rather strange in western eyes, such
as cow’s gallstone and antelope’s horn, or
even unacceptable like human placenta.
But nowadays, many of these non-plant-based materials are either no longer in
Catering to the natural green trend in the
global market, Chinese traditional herbals
also account for the vast majority of TCM-derived materials currently used in cosmetics. In an attempt to differentiate their