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5 Things You Need To Know About the Safety of Natural Skincare
Oat milk shampoos, coconut cleansers, kale and spinach anti-aging creams, oh my!
Natural and organic products have taken the beauty industry by storm, and there’s no going back.
Take a look at the numbers.
When it comes to getting swept up in the natural skincare craze and keeping your skin safe, it would be a good idea for all of us to consider a few important facts.
1) This Is One Serious Market Trend
In the world of search engines, natural skincare is exploding.
Searches for skincare-related terms and words such as “organic,” “vegan,” and “paraben-free” occurred nearly 8x as often in 2017 than 2016.
This boom in the search for healthy, natural beauty products is one result of the growing awareness and shift in our society toward a greater concern for health and wellness.
The move towards natural and organic ingredients can be seen at every level of the industry.
CVS recently made a move to get rid of chemical ingredients like parabens and phthalates in 600 in-house products. (The same company that stopped selling tobacco products in 2014).
2) A Market Trend Does Not Equate to Safety and Effectiveness
So, the beauty industry has been forever changed by our health-conscious ways - and it’s good to have awareness!
But, since large-scale market trends like this can be driven by dollars, it’s always a good idea to ask the critical question in individual cases: Does “natural” mean safer and more effective?
That question requires a bit of digging, my beauties.
Don’t worry, I got you!
For starters, and it won’t surprise you to hear me say this: it all boils down to ingredients.
And, this is exactly where it can get confusing.
Sometimes we equate natural with simple - but some natural ingredients are extremely powerful and complex in their actions.
Sometimes we equate synthetic with dangerous - but many synthetic ingredients are just more predictable, more manageable versions of natural ingredients made in labs to create better formulas at a lower cost.
And, obviously, many things that occur in nature are not safe or suitable to apply to your skin.
Take lead or mercury, for instance.
But not to be applied to your skin and definitely not safe!
3) A Celebrity Endorsement Serves to Activate Your Emotions and Suspend Rational Thinking
Information is good, accurate information is critical.
Let’s face it – the main motive behind a celebrity campaign is not to provide factual information or ramp up our skincare safety.
It’s to activate our emotions and get us swept up in the dream of a celebrity’s lifestyle.
Lifestyle brands with celebrity power behind them are partly responsible for the public obsession with natural and organic products.
The Kardashians have their lifestyles on display for the world to see for a great reason.
Obsessions translate to dollars - easily.
If you crave the excitement of their lifestyle, if you get swept up in their dramas, you’ll be more likely to rush to the store and buy the products they endorse next.
If you can purchase the $50 lipstick seen on Kim, you can purchase a piece of the flare and the drama and the boldness of that life.
It gets you closer to the dream...but sometimes farther from reality.
And, by that I mean when we’re swept away by a celebrity image, we might be less likely to check the ingredients and do our research before buying.
And don’t forget the halo effect that I’ve written about before.
We tend to view celebrities, who are surely competent and accomplished in their area of expertise - whether it’s acting or singing or just getting attention - as highly competent at anything else they do as well.
So, their products have instant cred.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a great example.
Love her or hate her, she seems to exude perfection and expertise.
That’s why millions of people trust her recommendations and flock to buy the products displayed by Goop and Juice Beauty which released her first private-label product - an organic skincare line.
Even if they don’t exactly NEED a $4700 juicer in their kitchen, it’s been proven that many hundreds of thousands will buy what Paltrow is suggesting because of the association with perfection, health, and a desirable lifestyle.
And it’s perfectly OK, we all want those things!
Celebrity skincare products can be fabulous and effective, and when you find something that works well with your skin and makes you feel great, use it.
But we can all benefit from a resolution to get the facts before we apply anything to our skin, and to separate our emotions - our hope and wishes - from the real benefits and actual effects of the ingredients used in any products.
4) The Facts You Need May Not Be Easily Apparent
One thing to look out for is the common trick of pairing a handful of natural or organic ingredients with the usual suspects of hazardous chemical ingredients.
As we’ve discussed before, the outer claims and packaging of a product can be extremely misleading.
But not for my readers - you all know by now to check the ingredients!
They may not be in plain view on the front of the packaging, but the facts you need are most likely not far away.
What does the ingredients list look like? Too long to read? Impossible to pronounce, a seemingly endless string of consonants with no vowels? Avoid.
And always remember that the best place to begin is not with a package or label, but with your own knowledge about your skin and its very unique needs.
From there, know which ingredients can deliver the goods to you.
And know which ingredients, natural or not, are known to have the effects you seek.
Knowledge is power!
5) Chemicals Aren’t Always the Enemy
Yes, we have every reason to be cautious with synthetic chemicals.
The skin is the largest organ in the body, and many ingredients in skincare products are absorbed quickly into circulation.
However, for the same reason, we must be cautious with natural ingredients as well.
Remember, a natural ingredient can be quite a powerful one.
We need to differentiate “synthetic” from “toxic”.
And then we need to differentiate “natural” from clean and free of the dangerous stuff.
We could do a bit of reprogramming when it comes to what raises red flags.
It’s my belief that the future of skincare will be transparent and straightforward.
It will probably not, however, become a straight-from-the-grower-to-the-bottle endeavor.
If I could collect the flowers from the Lavandula shrub, express the oil on the spot, and mix it into your cleanser, I would!
But, in reality, it doesn’t work that way.
Certain processes and additions are needed to keep bacteria and mold from invading the bottle and to keep the final product from going rancid.
Essential oils alone cannot preserve a product for practical use.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again.
Lovelies, many synthetic ingredients are just more predictable and manageable versions of natural ingredients made in labs to create more effective formulas at a lower cost.
They’re not always the evils they’re made out to be!
The presence of chemicals does not necessarily make a product toxic.
It may make it more stable with a longer shelf-life, or just cheaper and therefore more accessible.
Which chemicals do you need to avoid? These are at the top of my list:
- Unidentified “fragrance”
Note that some on the list are, in fact, natural.
Some of the chemicals created synthetically in labs are actually beneficial to have in skincare products and safe because they are super effective at what they do or just can’t be produced in nature in the amounts needed.
From my perspective as an insider in this industry, the first priority is that a product is safe and non-toxic rather than 100% all natural.
And the same applies to any DIY recipes you try at home.
For many of the skin types I see often, raw apple cider vinegar, for instance, is not safe to apply to the face.
Safe DIY All-Natural Masks
When it comes to DIY natural and organic ingredients that we all have at our disposal and are relatively risk-free, coconut oil has become a go-to item for good reason.
Not only is it full of antioxidants, but it’s antimicrobial and super moisturizing, too.
Add all that to the fact that it’s been shown to work well for all skin types and improve collagen cross-linking, and you have a natural winner.
While I’m not always a fan of the DIY-kitchen-variety scrubs because they can damage the dermis or cause a reaction, here are a couple of masks which are gentle, super easy, and will give your skin a quick nutrition boost.
I’ve provided one for acne-prone skin and one for oily skin.
Coconut-Oat Mask for Acne-Prone Skin
Coconut oil can be friendly to acne prone skin because of its antibacterial properties.
This face mask has become a favorite for clients with acne-prone skin that gets irritated.
The oatmeal works to soothe inflammation and restore the skin’s natural pH balance.
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil
- 3 tbsp. cooked or well-soaked oatmeal
- Warm water
- Mix oatmeal in a bowl with enough warm water to create that face-mask consistency.
- Add the coconut oil to the oatmeal and mix well.
- Gently apply the mixture to your face, exfoliating slightly by gently rubbing in a circular motion.
- Let the mask set for 10 minutes.
- Rinse with lukewarm water and pat your face dry.
Coconut-Lemon-Yogurt Mask For Oily to Normal Skin
This mask is a nice treat for nourishing and hydrating the skin while also applying protective components that can defend against the damages of stress and pollution.
It works well with oily skin as it gently exfoliates while deeply cleansing the pores.
- ½ tbsp. coconut oil
- ½ tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. plain yogurt
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Apply liberally to your clean face.
- Let the mask set for 10 minutes.
- Rinse with lukewarm water and pat your face dry.
The Goal Is Clarity (and Clean Products)
You're now well-prepared to distinguish all-natural from safe and to distinguish synthetic from toxic.
You realize that they aren’t always the same things, and you’re ready to read labels and ignore package claims that don’t jibe with the ingredients. Right?
You’ll look for products clean and free of parabens and sulfates regardless of the jargon used.
You’ll take celebrity endorsements and campaigns into consideration, but explore them with a mindset of curiosity rather than being swept away by lifestyle dreams and emotional reactions (the younger you are, the harder this is - in my experience!).
I’ll do my part and continue my mission to find safe and effective products and to demystify ingredients and formulas for you while helping you learn the ins and outs of this exciting industry.
In the past, we may have been lulled by enormous ad campaigns and giant industry tactics into shopping unconsciously, but those days are long gone.
Continue to stay warm and take good (skin)care, beauties!
Products Great for Sensitive Skin
100% natural is not the best goal for your skincare products, but safe and non-toxic is the number 1 goal.
Start with your own skin’s unique needs and know which ingredients will serve those needs best.
Then read labels thoroughly and don’t be lulled to sleep by buzz words like "organic" and "all-natural" or by celebrity dreams and unrealistic promises.
Take care of your skin even when DIY-ing, and continue on in your search for greater health and overall wellness, even when it requires the extra effort.
You're worth it!
What are your favorite organic products? How is your ingredient checking going? Any mysteries come up that you can’t decipher? Ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to help!