The natural skincare market is booming and with good reason. More and more people are choosing to live a more green lifestyle, including choosing products that are sustainably sourced and good for the environment. Along the road, many have also discovered the benefits of opting for a natural approach to their skincare.
However, the terms ‘natural’, ‘organic,’ and ‘clean’ get thrown around a lot in the skincare and cosmetic industry. This can make it increasingly difficult to know whether or not the product you are looking at is even any of these things.
In this article, we hope to clarify what natural skincare is, some of the terms to know when looking at products, and the benefits of choosing to move to a more natural approach to your skincare.
First, we need to tackle a few of the most common terms you may find when looking at natural products. The terms ‘natural’, ‘organic,’ and ‘clean’ are often used interchangeably in the skincare industry. Many people use these terms to describe the same product, although these terms have different meanings.
Natural skincare can be described as products that are made using ingredients that are produced in nature. This can make things tricky, as, in many states and countries, you don’t have to regulate or test your natural products. Unfortunately, this means that many producers can label their products as natural, despite it containing non-natural or synthetic ingredients.
The term organic simply refers to the ingredients used and how they were grown and sourced. For a product to be 100% organic, each component used must be produced without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or other synthetic ingredients. The term organic is regulated in the USA, and for a producer to label a product as organic, at least 95% of the product has to be organic.
You can see how this can make it extremely difficult to create organic skincare products, hence the hefty price tag attached to many of these.
The term clean is another unregulated term within the skincare industry. Because of this, many producers can decide for themselves what they consider clean. For most, though, the term clean refers to products that are non-toxic and don’t impact the environment. Clean products may contain synthetic ingredients. However, these will only be ingredients that the FDA has approved as safe to use on the skin and for the environment.
This question may spark off a long debate. That is because it is quite a personal choice, and unfortunately, with so little regulation, the scope of products and what they claim to be can sometimes be quite vague. In the end, individuals will have to decide which product is best for them.
Perhaps you want skincare that is good for you, and you don’t mind that some of the ingredients are artificial. After all, natural hyaluronic acid is derived from the umbilical cords of cows and horses. If you are vegan, then the synthetic version used in clean skincare products may be for you.
If you are eager to move in a purely green direction, then natural is the option for you. However, you might need to take some time to carefully go over the labels of the products you choose to make sure that they are really natural. If there is no ingredient list on the label (which unfortunately happens), you can ask for it or simply steer clear and move on to the next product.
Organic products are regulated, but there is still that 5% margin that does not have to be organic, which has me on the fence. These products are also on the more expensive side of the spectrum and might not suit everyone’s budget.
Luckily, with the increase in demand for natural and organic skincare, the industry is evolving quickly. With this, we have also seen the rise of genuinely remarkable skincare brands that take the natural and organic approach whole-heartedly and test their products before releasing them to ensure their products’ safety, sustainability, and eco-friendliness.
A study was conducted in 2015 to ascertain the main benefits of including plant extracts in skincare products. The study finds out botanical products are a source of:
- Essential oils
- Anti Oxidants
- Bio-active compounds
However, let’s take a look at the main benefits of using natural skincare products for specific skin types.
A natural skincare regimen for oily skin can help you battle oily skin without resorting to synthetic products that could have other effects such as blocking your pores which may lead to acne, or dry out your skin. Natural products for oily skin may include colloidal oats, honey, aloe vera, and various clays to battle excessive sebum production.
Dry skin can be very frustrating to deal with. Dry skin can cause itching and even flaking skin, and there are few things more irritating than this. A few different factors can cause dry skin, such as genetics, heat, arid climates, hot showers, harsh soaps, and other products applied to the skin. A natural skincare regime can help reduce these effects and hydrate the skin to avoid dryness.
Combination skin can be tough to combat. Finding the right product that properly hydrates the skin without causing shine can sometimes be challenging. However, there are natural products available that can work to combat both dry and oily skin, returning your skin to a more balanced state.
Many acne solutions can be pretty expensive, and using them can lead to other issues such as dryness, oily skin, or even skin sensitivity. A natural skincare solution can help you unblock pores while effectively combat acne and providing the proper moisture and cleansing properties.
Choosing a natural skincare routine for sensitive skin can help to rebuild the skin’s natural protective barrier. Many synthetic and chemical skincare products contain irritants such as fragrances, which can negatively affect sensitive skin. Natural products for sensitive skin leave out these known irritants such as fragrances, perfumes, and certain synthetic syndets.
If you are starting your natural journey, you may come across a few terms that you are unfamiliar with. To choose the right products for you, knowing what some of those terms mean is essential.
Naturally occurring ingredients are those that are used in their unaltered and unprocessed state. This can include natural clays, honey, and some plant materials.
Naturally, derived products come from putting a natural ingredient through a process that changes its form but still keeps it natural. This can include products like butters and oils. For example, cocoa butter is derived by putting cocoa beans through a physical process such as cold-pressing. Another example is essential oils which are derived through a process of distillation.
Synthetic ingredients are those ingredients that have been created in a lab by combining various other ingredients. An example of a synthetic ingredient is parabens, which is a popular cosmetic preservative used in many skincare products.
Vegan products are created without using any animal by-products. This can sometimes be quite difficult to guarantee. Many natural and even some organic products may be grown in areas where insects and other forms of animal life can be harmed during the harvesting and other processes that go along with getting those ingredients. That being said, though, for those that follow a vegan lifestyle, these products have been sourced with the least amount of effect on animal life.
Cruelty-free products are not tested on animals or any other living beings. Sometimes this term is used interchangeably with vegan. However, these are two different things. While vegan products can indeed be cruelty-free, not all cruelty-free products are necessarily vegan. An example of this may be a balm that contains beeswax. Beeswax is not vegan as bees produce it, but the process in which the beeswax was harvested can be cruelty-free.
Fair trade is the term to describe that the ingredients used in the product were sourced ethically. This would refer to the impact of sourcing these ingredients on the immediate environment, the planet as a whole, and of course, people.
Sustainable products and ingredients provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. At the same time, they protect public health and, more importantly, the environment across their entire lifespan. This includes the way these ingredients are harvested or extracted, all the way until the final product is disposed of.
Parabens are artificial preservatives that are added to cosmetic and skincare products to maintain stable shelf life. Parabens keep nasty bacteria and molds from developing within the product, which could be harmful. Research regarding paraben’s effects on human health is still ongoing, though. A product that is paraben-free does not contain any parabens. A few common parabens you may find on an ingredient label include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.
Phthalates are chemicals added to a wide range of cosmetic and skincare products for a variety of reasons. One of the most common uses of phthalates is within fragrances. A product that is listed as phthalate-free does not contain any of these chemicals. The most common phthalate you may come across on an ingredient label is diethyl phthalate.
Sulfates are primarily used in bath products like soaps, shampoos, and similar. Sulfates are also known as surfactants, and their use in these products is to help the oil and water-based ingredients mix together. A common sulfate you may encounter on ingredient labels is sodium lauryl sulfate. Sulphate-free excludes the use of these surfactants.
As with any lifestyle change, there are a few things that you should be aware of before making the change. Although you can just jump all in, as it were, that might not give you the best experience, and you might not keep the routine up. Let’s take a look at a few tips to consider when changing to a natural skincare routine.
This may sound counter-intuitive. However, there is an excellent reason that we suggest you start slowly. We recommend you introduce one new product every week. Everyone is different. Therefore everyone reacts differently to a new product. If you start using ten new skincare products all at once and you have an adverse reaction, you won’t know which product caused the reaction. If you space them out and start using one every week, you’ll easily be able to tell which product causes a reaction if you experience one.
When you change over to a natural skincare routine, it takes a while for you to see the results. This does not mean that the product is ineffective or won’t work. It just means that your skin needs some time to adjust to the change. There are many invisible processes taking place that are getting your skin back to a natural state.
Many different ingredients target specific issues. As you use natural products, you will start to learn what these various ingredients are best used for. That way, you can target products with the ingredients you need for your individual issues.
For example, if you are looking for a product that will help with breakouts, you might want to look for a product containing willow bark extract. Willow bark contains salicylic acid, which is known to help prevent breakouts.
If you are looking for a product with anti-aging benefits, you might look for a product including vitamin e and vitamin c that are extracted from various plants. These antioxidants and vitamins are known to combat the signs of aging.
Regardless of your motivation for pursuing a natural skincare routine, knowing what that entails is important to ensure your success—understanding the differences between natural, organic, and clean means that you can choose the best natural products that suit your self care needs. Equally important is knowing how to transition from an artificial to a natural skincare routine.