It was 1782 and for the first time, in Chile, a very particular evergreen tree was described, soapbark, scientific name Quillaja saponaria. The term quillaja comes from the Chilean word quillean which means to wash. In fact, the extracts of its bark are rich in saponins, which are substances that make soapbark a natural remedy against coughs, inflammation and high cholesterol, but also and above all a precious ingredient in cosmetics for its delicate cleansing properties. Today we will deal with this last aspect by analyzing what soapbark can do for our beauty.
Soapbark and its properties for skin and hair
The internal part of the bark of soapbark is a widely used ingredient in cosmetics since it contains particular substances, called saponins, which when in contact with water form a cleansing foam. The same substances are also contained in soapwort, or Saponaria officinalis. Saponins have a skin-friendly cleansing action, well known for hundreds of years. Saponins behave like non-ionic surfactants and, unlike anionic ones, the most famous of which is sodium lauryl sulfate, they are considered much more delicate and less irritating (Mijaljica et al, Molecules, 2022). Not only that, saponins are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal (Arabski et al, J Biomed Biotechnol, 2012 - Cortes et al, Antibiotics, 2021). Thanks to these characteristics, saponins have a cleansing, purifying action but also help keep tissues hydrated and soft with a very low risk of causing allergic reactions. They can also help regulate sebum production (European Commission Database-CosIng). Panama wood extracts are used in products for cleansing the skin of the face and body but also in shampoos, where they are believed to help combat dandruff, scalp irritation and hair loss (Fleck et al, Molecules, 2019).
Soapbark in cosmetics, uses and applications
We can exploit the properties of soapbark as a delicate, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging cleanser by using products that contain this ingredient. In the INCI it appears with the wording Quillaja saponaria bark extract. On the market, it is easy to find products such as cleansing milk, cleansing cream but also shampoos containing soapbark.
Alternatively, you can also buy soapbark in specialized shops and online, but make sure that the product is of high quality. To prepare a hair cleansing decoction, bring half a liter of water to the boil along with a spoonful of soapbark. Simmer for five minutes, then filter and leave to cool.
Then apply the decoction to damp hair and head, massaging, then rinse thoroughly.