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Written by Deniz Ataman,
Independent Journalist

When you search “sandalwood beauty products,” there’s an overwhelming number of brands that reference sandalwood as a colour, a scent or an olfactory ingredient on the label. As an inimitable scent used for centuries, natural sandalwood is more than just a pretty smell. Though its scent is a main selling point in fragranced products, its powerful role as an active beauty ingredient is only scratching the surface of what it can truly offer as a single ingredient, or as a complement to other skincare ingredients.

With the emergence of “A Beauty” and minimalism in beauty more broadly, consumers are looking for fewer products filled with ingredients that still pack a punch and are able to provide a rich sensory experience. Sandalwood and active beauty intersect in the functional wellness sphere. When it comes to our cosmetics, it’s more than just about looking good, it’s about actively improving our skin. Parallel to the US$300 billion athleisure trend, active beauty is about fewer products in our daily regimen that do more. Nowadays, the clean beauty movement has opened-up formulations that complement a holistic routine for wellness, i.e. if you can eat it, you can definitely apply it to your body.

As an intoxicating scent, powerful skincare ingredient and flavouring, Indian sandalwood as an active beauty component adds to the evolving functional wellness lifestyle of mindful nutrition and hydration, daily exercise and respect for the natural world.

Indian sandalwood is a hard worker whether on its own or with other ingredients in cosmetics. Its cosmetic active component, alpha-santalol, targets a myriad of skin issues such as anti-ageing, acne and inflammation. With studies showing sandalwood is a natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-pigmenting ingredient, it holds its own as a cosmetic wellbeing ingredient. Alpha-santalol goes one step further with studies showing its ability to calm the nervous system and reduce the effects of stress through topical applications and inhalation.

Beta-santalol, also found in Indian sandalwood, is responsible for sandalwood’s signature soft, creamy, woody fragrance. As “nature’s true wellness ingredient,” Indian sandalwood contains more than 70% alpha and beta santalol—the most concentrated out of all the sandalwood varieties.

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In Quintis’ last post on ageless beauty, we shared how Indian sandalwood complements the trio of antioxidants: vitamins A, C and E to prevent aging and protect from pollution. As a natural ingredient with no known allergens, sandalwood serves as a safe and effective ingredient in formulations without label requirements per International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and European Commission (EC) guidelines. For those of you who are new to the fragrance industry, IFRA is the global governing body of the fragrance industry and regulates allergen safety in fragrance ingredients; while EC ensures that fragranced products adhere to allergen safety labels in Europe.

Many active beauty products are including more plant-based actives and nixing animal testing. At Quintis, our ethical supply chain adheres to cruelty-free standards, giving our harvested sandalwood the greenlight to join in on the vegan and cruelty-labels many conscious consumers covet today.  Unfortunately not all sandalwood is supplied according to such ethical standards – in fact it is estimated that up to 90% of sandalwood is sourced through questionable means.  Sometimes referred to as “liquid gold” and being revered for thousands of years, sandalwood has unsurprisingly been subject to illegal harvesting and poaching, resulting in the International Union of Conservation placing Indian sandalwood on its endangered species list.

Our ethical supply chain adheres to cruelty-free standards, giving our harvested sandalwood the greenlight to join in on the vegan and cruelty-labels many conscious consumers covet today. 

Despite this, Quintis has proudly secured the future of this incredible species allowing its benefits to be experienced by generations to come. In addition to sandalwood’s functional fragrance, its benefits extend beyond its intoxicating scent serving as an:

  • Antioxidant for skin aging prevention, photoprotection and anti-pollution
  • Anti-inflammatory for acne, and pollution induced skin inflammations
  • Antimicrobial for skin infections
  • Anti-pigmentation for skin brightening and reducing dullness caused by sun and pollution

New plant extracts, peptides and acids in active beauty products indicate more innovation in functional beauty, and a space for sandalwood as a natural complement to some popular ingredients:

  • Activated charcoal to absorb dirt, toxins, debris and impurities
  • Tea tree and Blue Cyprus to encapsulate pore-clogging oils
  • Fruit acids, alpha hydroxy acids and plant acids to unclog and reduce the look of pores
  • Plant based retinol to improve the look of uneven skin tone and texture and prevent damage from UV rays, pollution and free radicals
  • Peptide blends to visibly firm and strengthen skin
  • Fatty acids to improve texture, suppleness and alleviate skin sensitivities
  • Plant based ceramides to prevent moisture loss and replenish skin barrier.

As a natural active ingredient that addresses many common skin issues, sandalwood is a one-stop ingredient that can also boost the function of natural ingredients we see in skin care products every day.

We want our foundation to do more than just visibly even out skin tone—we also want it to protect our skin from free radicals and provide sun protection. We want our moisturisers to do more than soften our skin—we also want them to fight inflammation at the cellular level. Indian sandalwood’s powerful actives offer credibility to a formulation and on the label as a sustainable and cruelty-free ingredient. A multitasking natural, sandalwood aligns with functional wellness both inside the bottle and in the soil.

Suggested Reading

Moy RL, Levenson C. Sandalwood album oil as a botanical therapeutic in dermatology. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. 2017;10(10):34.