Peat or moor or heilmoor is a buzz word that creates a bit of confusion in the field of cosmetics and among environmentalist community. In this article, we will do our best to give a short overview of peat meaning, it`s main functions and characteristics. Talking about peat, we can`t go around the bog, so we`ll cover also the bog, sometimes called the mire or even a swamp.
What is a Peat Bog?
Bogs are water reservoirs. They are super important for the environment as they hold water on planet Earth. Bogs get the water supply from rain. The lack of oxygen and high acidity is the reason why dead bog plants deposit as humin rich partially decayed vegetation matter – the peat – including the magical beauty peat that can be used for functional skincare. Water drainage through peat works extremely slowly. As the bog grows, the wet hollows are enriched with oxygen that accelerates decomposing – this is how bog pools are created. This process takes thousands of years. The acidic peat ph and high humic acid content make it hard for microorganisms to survive, so in pure bog pools with dark brown yet clear water you never find any fish or even bacteria. Bog water tastes amazing but it does not quench your thirst. It is perfect for swimming as the acidic peat water makes your skin and hair extra soft and smooth.
Read more about bogs and the science behind them.
What is Sphagnum Peat?
The surface of a bog is covered with a thick and soft layer of Sphagnum moss, which absorbs water into its empty cells. Sphagnum peat or sometimes also called peat moss is formed during thousands of years from the water-saturated decaying moss that has sunk below the surface of a bog. That is a good yet simplified definition of peat. In perfect conditions there is no oxygen getting through to specific layers of the peat and therapeutic peat aka balneological peat layer is born. It is that layer of peat inside the ground where plants do not grow and objects can remain mummified the same for thousands of years. A few hundred well preserved bodies have been found from peat bogs.
That`s a pretty great illustration and proof for the preserving qualities of peat, right!? Turns out that oxygen is our blessing and curse at the same time. Fortunately, it has been scientifically proven that peat is remarkably strong in rejuvinating the skin even with oxygen hanging around.
The Mysterious Peat pH
The pH of peat is usally between 3,8-5,5, which means that it is super good for skin clarification and smoothing. With peat beauty products you don`t need a separate scrub or grainy exfoliator – peat masks offer natural acidic and even enzymatic peeling. What is especially great about peat acidity – it does not make your skin sensitive to the sun and UV rays. No phototoxicity comes with using peat masks and peat serums, peat water toners and other peat based products, unless they contain AHAs or BHAs or other photo sensitizing cosmetic ingredients.
What is Peat and Peat Extract Used For?It is agreed in the therapeutic peat society that good cosmetic peat always contains 3 humic substances – humic, fulvic and hymatomelanic acids. In addition to loads of research about humic acid being able to treat psoriasis and arthritis, it has been scientifically proven that fulvic acid is potent enough to fight many inflammatory diseases, to boost the immune system, help with gut health and even alleviate diabetes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6151376/
Labs around the world are constantly trying to figure out new ways how to extract beneficial actives from peat in order to naturally and safely influence human health.
Peat is used for:
- agricultural purposes – planting soil for greenhouses and gardening
- heating – briquettes
- cosmetic and medical uses – peat masks, toners, acne serums, psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, cellulite, body wraps, baths, athritis treatment, etc.
Peat skin care is a wide and interesting subject that we will cover separately.
The Difference Between Organic Peat, Mud and Clay
There is a common confusion when it comes to muds, clays and peat in the cosmetic industry. Long story short – lake and sea muds are mostly mineral, peat is organic, both of them contain bioactive humic substances, so in terms of skincare the actives are very similar. While both mud and peat are skin-healing agents then clay is purely mineral and only has a mechanic (drying, dirt pulling, mineralizing) effect on the skin. So, what is peat made of? And we mean the cosmetic kind:
- humic acid
- fulvic acid
- amino acids
- other microelements
Peat Soil Characteristics
A good therapeutic peat is found approximately 1,5-3m below the surface level. It`s only a shallow layer that can be used for functional skincare. True therapeutic peat can help with psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, acne, wrinkles and imbalance. The characteristics of real and beneficial balneological or cosmetic peat are:
- pH 3-6
- water content at least 75%
- degree of humification of at least H6 on the von Post scale
- humic acids should be at least 20 % of dry weight
So, not all peat products are made of real therapeutic peat. The origin and peat source is extremely important when it comes to making efficient peat cosmetics that really works.