With an overwhelming list of natural skin care ingredients out there how do you differentiate between the best natural skin care ingredients and natural skin care ingredients that should be avoided?
Firstly, it’s important to recognize the the term “natural” can mean just about anything!
There’s absolutely no regulation of the use of the term in the US or anywhere else in the world (as far as our research shows). Also, there are some awfully poisonous and dangerous substances that occur naturally in nature. So, marketing a product or ingredient as “natural” is something that should be viewed with a healthy amount of suspicion in our opinion!
When it comes to food, everyone knows that organic produce is better for you, but it seems this logic hasn’t yet hit the same critical mass in the skin care industry.
The fact is we all use skin care products, whether it’s a soap bar, a moisturizer or mascara or all of the above. It’s also a fact that our skin is porous and absorbs much of what is applied to it and that includes the myriad of synthetic and harmful chemicals contained in the majority of body care products sold today.
The FDA and cosmetic companies say no worries – it’s just small quantities, however, no one actually knows what the long-term effects of their application are and secondly, what the cumulative effects of being exposed to a cocktail of chemicals (however small) every day will do.
Europe, on the other hand, has banned well over a thousand of these harmful “natural skin care ingredients” that should never be used because they’re linked to cancer, birth defects, genetic mutation and/or reproductive harm.
In a previous post we discussed the importance of organic and natural products. How we can properly identify those products by either:
- looking out for a certification or logo; or
- by simply reading the ingredient list.
But how do you know which natural skin care ingredients are good for you or what the best natural skincare ingredients are? There are thousands and marketing does a great job at muddying the waters!
So, to answer this we looked at a cross-section of the best organic and natural skin care products on the market. This was based on our own personal experience and hundreds of other raving reviews.
Also the brands had to tick every one of our sustainability criteria (their products had to (i) include organic natural skin care ingredients – either certified or clearly natural and identifiable ingredients; (ii) be vegan; and (iii) cruelty fee – see more below).
We then collated a list of the most common ingredients found across the range of products we surveyed.
It’s no accident that those products had the best reviews. Many of the ingredients found in them have solid scientific and research backed evidence (which we’ve included links to below) that they’re good for you in one way or another.
Of course, it must be said that we’re all different. An ingredient might be perfect for one person’s skin and not so good for another. It’s a case of trial and error. But at least you’ll know that each of the ingredients listed below are a healthy addition to any skin care product that you buy.
By referring to, or becoming familiar with our list below you’ll be able to identify whether the product you’re looking to buy has a quality formulation or not.
If this is your first time visiting, our approach to sustainable beauty (or personal care products in general) is to look for brands and products that are:
- cruelty free
- organic / natural
- palm oil free
- have ethical ingredient sourcing policies and
- use thoughtful, (ideally) compostable packaging.
We hope this is a useful resource for you! We’d also love to hear your thoughts and suggestions and if you have any additional ingredients you think should be added to the list!
CLICK FOR COMMONLY USED TERMS
Antioxidant: is a molecule that inhibits, or stops, the oxidation of other molecules. They occur naturally in plants, animals and plant based foods like vegetables, tea, wine and chocolate. Our own bodies also naturally produce a complex system of antioxidants to combat oxidation or the chemical reactions that create free radicals.
Emollients: are waxy lubricating agents that contain a mixture of compounds used to soften, smooth and hydrate the skin. They also contain occlusive properties, meaning they provide a layer of protection which helps prevent water loss. There are a variety of emollient ingredients including plant oils, mineral oils, shea butter, cocoa butter, triglycerides, stearates and fatty acids like lanolin.
Emulsifier: are substances that stabilise or prevent emulsions from separating, like the combination of oil and water.
Free radicals: are ions or molecules that have an unpaired electron which causes them to be highly chemically reactive towards other substances, including our skin cells. They attach and bind themselves to other molecules which changes the chemical structure and results in damage or destruction of the original molecule.
Thankfully, we’ve evolved to create important defences (i.e. antioxidants) to protect our cells and especially our DNA from free radicals.
Humectant: is a substance that attracts water molecules (usually from the deeper layers, like the dermis), to the epidermis or upper layer of the skin. By doing so, it prevents dryness and maintains the skin’s suppleness.
One of the most well-known humectants is glycerin which naturally occurs in all lipids (i.e. fats), including our own skin. Note that a lot of humectants have emollient properties, while not all emollients have humectant properties. A combination of the two make for the best moisturizers.
Sebum: is a complex oily mixture of glycerides, fatty acids, wax, squalene and cholesterol that’s produced by the sebaceous glands. Except on our palms and soles, these glands are found all over our body with the highest concentration found on our back, forehead and chin (around 2,600 to 5,800 sebaceous glands per square inch).
Sebum is vital to our skins health. It provides a layer of protection from bacteria and fungi as well as reducing water loss from the inside but also providing a waterproof shield from the outside. We need just the right amount of sebum for optimal protection, however, too much can lead to clogged pores and eventually acne.
Polyphenols (also known as phenolics): are naturally occurring phytochemicals or micronutrients that are found abundantly in fruit, vegetables, red wine, tea, plant oils to name but a few. They influence and contribute to the bitterness, astringency, color, flavor, odor and oxidative stability of the food or liquid. Phytochemicals are important because they have potent antioxidant properties which helps protect cells from free radicals.
They also have a range of other positive biological effects like inhibiting angiogenesis (growth of blood vessels that feed tumors), reducing inflammation and promoting normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
There are 4 major types of polyphenols to look out for, flavonoids (fruits, vegetables, legumes, red wine and green tea), stilbenes (red wine and peanuts), lignans (flax, legumes, cereals, grains, fruits and algae) and phelonic acid (coffee, blueberries, kiwifruits, plums, apples, and cherries).