Today, it seems like every beauty company is jumping on the bandwagon and offering natural and organic skin care products. While the natural trend is something to be excited about (who wants to rub synthetics on their face every day?), there is also reason to be cautious. False advertising, myths, and greenwashing are rampant in the natural beauty industry. So, before you spend a pretty penny switching to a natural skin care routine, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind.
Do Read Product Labels
The first rule of natural skin care is to always read the ingredient labels. Don’t be fooled by marketing terms—terms like “natural,” “organic,” and “green” aren’t regulated in the beauty industry; thus, any company can make these claims without meeting a certain standard of quality. Look beyond the fancy packaging and do your homework. Here are some tips on what to look for when reviewing a natural skin care product label:
- Review the Order of Ingredients for Quality: Ingredient lists are organized by quantity with the lowest percentage being at the bottom and the highest percentage at the top. Thus, if a product has a filler like “water” as the first ingredient, then that means the product contains more water than any other ingredient on the label. A great natural skin care product should be made from mostly active natural ingredients, so make sure that those are at the top of the list. Typically, natural products will use a filler like organic aloe vera juice as the first ingredient instead of water.
- Natural & Organic Certifications: Review the packaging to see if the product has received any natural or organic third-party certifications. USDA Organic, Ecocert, Organic Soil Association, and Australian Certified Organic are just a few examples of these kinds of organizations.
- Avoid These Ingredients: Now that you know which ingredients you DO want in a natural skin care product, let’s talk about the ingredients that you DON’T want. There are a number of cheap preservatives, additives, and fillers that many companies try to sneak into their products to make more money. Some of these ingredients have been linked to health concerns ranging from irritation, contact dermatitis, hormonal disruption, and even cancer. These ingredients include Propylene Glycol, Parabens, Phthalates, Sulfates, PEG compounds, Petrochemicals & Mineral Oils, Ethoxylated Ingredients, as well as Synthetic Fragrances & Colors.
Do Research Unfamiliar Ingredients
Have you heard of ingredients like coco-betaine, phenoxyethanol, or polysorbate 20? Of course not! Afterall, who has time to familiarize themselves with every chemical used in skin care? The good news is, you don’t have to become an expert chemist in order to avoid potentially gnarly chemicals. If you bump into a chemical on an ingredient label that you aren’t familiar with, simply do a quick internet search for the name. Organizations like the Environmental Working Group’s Skin-Deep Database has information on the safety of thousands of commonly used chemicals in cosmetics. In less than one minute of research, you can get a pretty good grasp on whether you’d want to put that chemical on your skin.
Do Buy Organic
There is good reason to jump on the organic bandwagon when it comes to skin care. When a product claims to be natural, that means that the product should not contain anything artificial or synthetic; however, the term natural doesn’t imply the quality of the ingredient.
When an ingredient or product is certified organic, it means that it was created without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, sewage, ionizing radiation, antibiotics, and growth hormones. So, something could be natural and produced using potentially harmful pesticides or antibiotics. A study on women in the United States conducted by the Environmental Working Group showed that women on average apply 168 chemicals to their skin every day—many of these chemicals do get absorbed into the bloodstream. Using totally clean organic products can help to reduce your daily uptake of these chemicals.
Again, the term “organic” isn’t regulated in the cosmetics industry. If you want to make sure that you are buying a truly organic product, then your best bet is to buy products which have been certified organic by a reputable third-party organization like the USDA, Ecocert, or Australian Certified Organic.
Don’t Forget the Rest of your Body
If you’re going to go through the trouble of switching to a natural skin care routine, you might as well switch out some of your other daily staples for all-natural versions as well. The same chemicals you are avoiding in your facial care products are the same chemicals that may appear in your deodorant, toothpaste, and hair care products as well. You don’t have to overhaul your bathroom cabinet all at once; however, now that you know how you evaluate an ingredient label, you should gradually switch out your daily health products for more natural ones.
Do Keep Cool or Refrigerated
Did you know that natural skin care products have a shelf life? Natural and organic skin care products are essentially perishable food items for your face. They are made with real fruits, vegetables, and plant extracts. Without heavy duty preservatives (which are usually synthetic), all-natural skin care products have a shelf life of between 3-12 months depending on the formulation. To extend the life and potency of your skin care routine simply keep your natural products refrigerated or in a cool location.
Don’t Trust Buzzwords
As the natural and organic beauty industry grows, so does the number of companies making false claims about their products to take advantage of the trend. We already mentioned that the terms natural and organic aren’t regulated in the beauty industry, but there are other frequently used terms that you should be cautious of as well. Terms like “chemical free,” “green,” “clean,” and “eco-friendly” should be treated as pure marketing jargon. There are no standards for these terms, so they are essentially meaningless. In short, don’t trust the buzzwords and always read the ingredient labels!
Don’t Assume Natural Means Safe
Just because a product contains all-natural ingredients doesn’t mean that it will be safer or less irritating than a product that contains synthetics. There are poisonous plants after all! You wouldn’t want to rub poison ivy on your skin just because it is natural, would you? If your skin is sensitive to lavender, then even the most natural lavender product will cause irritation.
When it comes to natural skin care, it’s all about the formulations. If you want a gentle all-natural shampoo, then look for gentle all-natural ingredients like saponified organic oils, aloe, calendula, and burdock root while avoiding harsh ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate.
Don’t Expect Fast Results
Lab-created chemicals have been a staple in skin care for a long time. The reason? Well, they work. These chemicals are created to be super potent and can give instant results. The downside is that they can be contaminated with harmful chemicals, the results can be temporary at best, these chemicals can also cause damage if improperly used. Natural skin care, on the other hand, isn’t designed to transform your face overnight in most cases. It takes time for natural ingredients to penetrate and improve the condition of the skin. A natural skin care routine is kind of like a fitness routine—you won’t get instant results, but you will be much better off in the long-run with consistency.