Exfoliation in a wal-nut shell.
We are taking a deeper dive into our dual-action hero, the Active Enzyme Exfoliator, breaking down its name and looking at specific ingredients starting with (drum roll), walnut shell powder. Yes, this ingredient is considered controversial and yes, we want to share our perspective on why this ingredient has a place at Josh Rosebrook.
First, let’s start with a quick crash course on exfoliants. There are two categories of ingredients that have exfoliating properties: chemical and physical. Chemical exfoliants function without the physical action of rubbing in the form of enzymes or acids. These exfoliant compounds break the biochemical bonds that hold dead skin cells together, making it possible to remove them. Physical exfoliants remove dead skin cells by the action of rubbing a particle over the skin - the rubbing sensation physically loosens the dead skin cells. In the Active Enzyme Exfoliator, the physical exfoliant is the walnut shell powder and the chemical exfoliants are herbal-infused honey, neem and papaya enzyme. The formula is then rounded out with a herbal infusion, packed with antioxidants and proven calming properties to revitalize and brighten the appearance of the skin.
Exfoliation is a very personal step in your skincare routine that requires your best judgement to match the type of exfoliant to your skin. It could be argued that the third criteria of exfoliant is... you! YOU control how much pressure is applied and how often. With any manual exfoliant, too much pressure or vigorous movement can be inappropriate and hurt your skin both in the immediate and long run. Dr. Neal Schultz believes the main issue falls on human error when it comes to physical exfoliation: “How long and how rigorously a person scrubs his or her face will determine whether the skin gets irritated.” The conversation about pressure is akin to brushing your teeth - if you have a heavy hand and apply unnecessary pressure on your teeth and gums regularly, you run the risk of damaging your gums, causing bleeding, and potentially could even end up with receding gums! With that, let’s talk about walnut shell powder.
There’s no easy way to put it, but walnut shells have gotten a negative reputation in personal care products - a quick google search will reveal why and demonstrates various opinions from dermatologists and aestheticians spanning back well over a decade. Historically, the majority consensus is that the sharp and uneven shape of walnut shells can scratch the skin, causing microtears which allow harmful bacteria to penetrate and create vulnerability to infection. We do agree with several dermatologists that have weighed in on the subject: they question the quality of the walnut shells which have commonly found their way into many products, often dialing the skincare results down to lawsuit level. Sadly, walnut shells have been stamped as universally bad but if we take a step back, it’s not so much the walnut shell as an ingredient that's controversial, but the shape and size of it that causes the central debate.
Our opinion: not all walnut shells are created equally.
Crushed walnut shell is a fibrous and durable material ideal for an abrasive, both soft and hard. On the whole, walnut shells are largely used for heavy duty industrial purposes, such as absorbents for chemical clean-up or for sandblasting and stone polishing. We are fully aware that this industrial image probably doesn’t shed the best light but transparency here is key, so bear with us. Green technology is also embracing walnut shells in water filtration systems and artificial turf, even so far as a plastic alternative filler for children’s stuffed toys.
There have been instances where people have experienced recorded allergic reactions to walnut shells. However, after further investigation it turned out that the shells were inadequately washed and not all nut components (including meal and oil) were fully removed from the final shells used. Yet, the processing that walnut shells undergo for the cosmetic industry is entirely different.
We use a high quality walnut shell that is washed (to remove any trace of the nut meal and nut oil), sterilized, finely ground and polished to produce an even consistency in shape and size of the granules. There is also a grading system for walnut shell powder size: large, medium, medium-fine to extremely fine; ours is 40/60 making it medium fine grade. The shape - how polished and round -is the most important factor that distinguishes our walnut shell powder to smoothly and effectively resurface the stratum corneum (outermost skin layer). The consistently rounded and even granules we use remove concern about harmful barrier disruption as there are no sharp, uneven and un-polished granules that could potentially cause damage to the skin.
"For me, nothing will take the place of an effective, physical skin polish. As much as we need and love chemical exfoliation with an effective acid or enzyme and sing their praises for their profound abilities, a manual exfoliant like walnut shell will deliver a polish to my complexion that is irreplaceable."
Additionally, any manual exfoliant ingredient that doesn’t have uniformity in shape and size, can, of course, easily irritate and damage the skin - even with very little pressure. Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City shared: “Walnut shell scrubs have traditionally been considered to be harsh on the skin, but the issue was that if the powder wasn’t finely ground up enough, sharp edges may disrupt the skin barrier.” If the eye of the walnut shell storm comes down to the shape and the processing, then we have weathered the hurricane by continuing to invest in the highest quality source we could find. Walnut shell, especially, is a testament to both the rigorous and excruciatingly detailed sourcing standards that we set for all our ingredients, and understanding the practices and processes that suppliers use to prepare ingredients. We know that not all walnut shells are created equal, but our walnut shell powder is certainly shaped equally. In our walnut shells, we trust.
The beauty of the Active Enzyme Exfoliator is the duality of exfoliation that it offers. If you have ultra sensitive skin, or suffer from challenging skin conditions, you can still greatly benefit from the powerful enzymatic exfoliants packed into the formula which is teeming with calming plant compounds. Omit manual exfoliation and smooth a thick layer of the dark paste over the face and neck, leaving it on for a few minutes. When ready, rinse with warm water and pat dry. Next mist your face with the Hydrating Accelerator and apply your choice of moisturizer. The Active Enzyme Exfoliator can also be mixed with our Cacao Antioxidant Mask, creating a wonderful 2-in-1 effect when time is of the essence.
We’ll be continuing the conversation about chemical exfoliants with our Daily Acid Toner as our ingredient portfolio expands to include some powerful new players like Hibiscus sabdariffa flower acid and glycolic acid. This luxurious facial acid toner helps resurface, soften and smooth skin while working to support skin changeover and considerably increase skin hydration. Yes, it is that good - find out for yourself soon!