Today let’s have a chat about one ingredient you might find in your skincare – Comfrey. You might know it’s in your skincare [because kindly it’s pointed out on the label] or you’re a skincare BUFF (go you!) and specially went looking for it! On the other hand you might not know it’s there, it could be sneaking onto your skin #CovertComfrey. There is a thing or 2 you should know about Comfrey before you decide whether you want to invite Comfrey to have a party with your skin.
WHAT IS COMFREY?
You might be reading along thinking, YES i need to know about this, so i can make a conscious decision about this dude, Comfrey.. but what the hell IS Comfrey? Well my lovely, Comfrey is a HERB. It grows naturally and it’s the leaves AND roots that have been used for ‘donkeys years’ in everything from herbal teas to skincare.
WHAT IS COMFREY DOING IN YOUR SKINCARE?
This dude, Comfrey is a herb which packs a punch. There are a lot of herbs about which old-wives tales tell us will do WONDERS. Sometimes like all good gossip, those wonders have gotten a little blown out of proportion. Comfrey on the other hand, is one herb which isn’t, this guy can make some changes for your skin.
Comfrey is used in skincare because it has ‘healing hands’. It has been used for everything from broken bones, to stomach problems and skin traumas! Phew! That’s a lotta jobs for 1 herb! This guy will get your body healing faster – not bad ‘ey. Sounds like the kinda thing you want skin to do. Comfrey literally makes skin heal, it’s like a teacher disciplining the class. Without it, things happen much more slowly. Comfrey being the teacher to your skin, shows it how to heal, and gets the healing happening FAST. Comfrey is so good at this, that sometimes it can make skin heal too fast. When you have a cut or sore, before it ‘heals over’, there’s lots of ‘juices’ that need to work their way outta that wound first. Because Comfrey works FAST sometimes the wound can heal up before they have a chance to. Comfrey is almost TOO good at what it does best… and there is another pretty big catch you should be aware of…
WHY YOU SHOULD AVOID COMFREY
Comfrey is a natural ingredient, that means that it is a huge MIXTURE of lots of different ingredients. This is the biggest difference between natural vs. manmade. Natural ingredients have a huge number of ingredient in them. Take Cocoa powder, it looks like one ingredient, but it’s packed full of flavonoids, Caffeine, Theobromine (responsible for lowering bloog pressure!!#HealthyChocolate), Zinc, Iron… it’s like the pass-the-parcel party trick, there’s lots of layers!
Usually it’s one or 2 ingredients in something natural that have superhero status powers! In Comfrey the super-hero is an ingredient called Allantoin. Here is the catch with Comfrey, there are some ingredients in there that also do bad. In Comfrey the bad ingredients have a badass science name of ‘Pyrrolizidine alkaloids’, don’t worry about trying to pronounce that, i mean ‘Pyrroliz… who?’. All you need to know is that these guys are toxic, especially toxic to your liver.
WHEN YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY AVOID COMFREY
Because we now know about those badasses hiding away in Comfrey [#WeFoundYou], it’s banned in most countries in food and tea’s. That’s not the case for skincare, this is a GREY area. When you put something on your skin, not all of it will get absorbed, and not all of it will get deep into your skin. Some skincare is designed to stay on the VERY top layers and other skincare is designed to pull through active ingredients much more deeply.
The bad stuff can happen when Comfrey gets absorbed more deeply into skin, that gives it acess to your BLOODSTREAM. It’s like getting a skeleton key to your whole body! You should absolutely AVOID using anything containing Comfrey on broken skin for this reason. Broken skin, gives up that skeleton key like a dog sniffs out food – quickly!
HOW TO AVOID COMFREY
If you’ve been reading alone and you’re now thinking, nuh, this Comfrey guy just isn’t for me, then here is how to avoid it! A lot of the time, if skincare contains Comfrey it will get some ‘face-time’ on the front of the bottle. Just take a look at this Comfrey and Calendula moisturiser from Pai. Sometimes it might be used, but not made famous on the bottle. In this case you want to hunt the ingredient list for this name – Symphytum officinale, it could also be named Symphytum officinale leaf extract.
SWITCH THE COMFREY FOR ALLANTOIN
If you are thinking, this ingredient sounded so full of promise for my skin and it sounds like a typical bad-boy relationship with huge highs but also a lotta points you could do without. Then don’t worry lovely, i have just the good-boy for YOU! That boy is Allantoin. Allantoin is the part of Comfrey that does all the good. If only it was so easy to blot out the ‘bad’ points of a bad-boy *wink wink*.
Allantoin not only helps your skin to heal, it’s also an anti-irritant. It literally helps skin to tolerate other ingredients. Not bad ‘ey! That is why it is especially a super-hero for sensitive skin! This guy has no other name, he is a straight up ‘n down kinda dude, Allantoin is exactly what you’ll find him called on the ingredients list.
PRO-TIP: You don’t need a lot of Allantoin to get the job done. Usually between 0.5-2% is used, so that means this ingredient will be one of the last on the ingredients list. #TimeSave. Just scan the bottom to check if there is Allantoin in there!
Will you be using skincare with Comfrey in? Have you used it in the past?
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.