Sandalwood is well renowned for its distinctive scent. However, the oil, which is steam distilled from the fragrant heartwood (centre of the tree), also contains potent therapeutic compounds that are beneficial for the skin. Dr. Dhanushka Hettiarachchi, Chemist and sandalwood expert, discusses the wonder that is sandalwood in an interview below.
Tell us a little about sandalwood:
There are over 15 different sandalwood species found in the Asia Pacific region. Several species produce a highly aromatic wood that retains its fragrance for decades, with Indian sandalwood considered the most important of these. Indian sandalwood, or the scientific term Santalum album, is grown sustainably here in Australia, this is the sandalwood species About Time We Met uses.
How do you get sandalwood oil from a sandalwood tree?
Sandalwood oil is concentrated in the heartwood, or the centre, of the tree. The trees mature after 15 years and following harvesting, the oil is extracted using a steam distillation process which locks in the oil’s most potent volatiles. The oil extracted through this process is 100% pure and natural. The heartwood can also be chipped and ground into fine powder. The powders contain more than 3% pure sandalwood oil and are considered to have therapeutic benefits.
Tell us more about sandalwood oil?
Alpha- and beta-santalol make up the majority of the 125 naturally occurring active ingredients in this essential oil. More than 70% of the oil is made up of these substances, which are primarily responsible for sandalwood's extraordinary capacity for skin healing.
The Santalum album species has the highest concentration of alpha and beta santalol, which has a variety of therapeutic advantages. Alpha-santalol is said to be responsible for sandalwood’s skin benefits – it possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tyrosinase properties. What this means in simple terms is it helps reduce signs of ageing, soothes the skin, brightens and evens skin tone and reduces the appearance of acne. We completed a study last year that also shows sandalwood can protect skin against damage caused by blue light (found in the sun’s harmful rays) and pollution.
Can you tell us more about the study?
The peer-reviewed study showed that sandalwood oil is a more effective antioxidant than vitamin E in defending the skin against environmental stressors like pollution and blue light. In the study, skin cells were exposed to a source of solar and digital blue light. As a result, the skin cells created reactive oxygen species, which set off a chain of events harmful to the health of the skin. However, the formation of reactive oxygen species was reduced by up to 76% when the cell cultures were treated with sandalwood oil. Sandalwood oil performed 30 to 40% better at a documented reduction when compared to vitamin E, which served as the standard.
In addition, the study found that when isolated skin tissue was exposed to simulated environmental pollution including cigarette and ozone, the enzyme MMP1 which digests the collagen tissue was increased. However, when the skin isolates were treated with sandalwood oil, the enzyme MMP1 was decreased, suggesting the collagen protective effect of Santalum album reduces the appearance of wrinkles.