There’s no shortage of skincare brands, marketing, advertising and claims on the shelves in your local pharmacy, health food store or where ever it is you go to buy your beauty products. Underneath all the hype there are some fundamental guidelines you can follow when purchasing your skincare to ensure your ‘Natural’ or ‘Organic’ product is everything the label says it is.
Several Environmentally and Health conscious skincare companies have spent a fortune in research and development to make safe products that are full of Active Natural ingredients and no Chemical Nasties. Many of these are just as, and often more effective than products sold over the counter in Department Stores everyday. Nature has provided us with everything we need to nurture our skin: maybe we should let it get on with it.
Here are some of the best natural ingredients for skincare to effectively heal, nurture, moisturise and slow down the ageing process. It’s also important to note the order the ingredients are listed on the label. The more there is of an ingredient, the closer to the top of the list it is.
With properties similar to the skin’s own sebrum, jojoba oil is easily absorbed for maximum moisturising. With strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, it can destroy skin bacteria and fungi making it useful in the treatment of acne, psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. It’s also known as nature’s wrinkle fighter – when applied, it holds water in the skin and it even absorbs UV rays before they can penetrate the skin. It can also act as a natural preservative with its antioxidant properties.
Best renowned for its anti-aging benefits, rosehip oil is extracted from the fruit of the rose bush. The oil is extracted in order to get the high essential fatty acids, which make it such a beneficial oil for anti-aging and regeneration of the skin. Along with the essential fatty acids, rosehip oil is also rich in Vitamin C, A, D and E and antioxidants. The vitamin C in rosehip oil is responsible for producing collagen and improving skin elasticity. Used at night, it acts as a skin multi-vitamin, replacing nutrients lost during the day and repairs the skin while you sleep. Can be used for dry skins, as it can balance the skin.
Noted as one of the best ingredients for healthy hair and used in India, coconut oil helps to condition and repair hair and help with dandruff. The different acids and antioxidants and antibacterial properties are the reasons for its benefits. Good for cooking and the face, coconut oil is nourishing and moisturising without being too heavy on the face. It’s great for dry, flaky skin in winter and for helping to improve those wrinkles or sagging.
Lavender oil is best known for its fabulous smell. Used regularly in natural perfumes or aromatherapy blends, it also has antiseptic and antifungal properties. It helps to soothe sunburn and heal wounds. Combined with chamomile, lavender oil helps with eczema treatment.
Aloe is found in many skincare products, especially products designed for oily skin. But it’s also a great healer – it is absorbed into the skin tissues below the surface. It’s rich in vitamins as well as being an effective wetting agent to help with cleansing.
This plant derived pro vitamin B5 is a effective aid to irritated or damaged skin.
Organic green tea (Camellia sinensis): A potent anti-oxidant known to fight free radicals helps rejuvenate the skin and prevents sun damage. Promotes elasticity as well as being high in vitamins including B complex.
Included in facial creams to treat acne due to antibacterial properties and also contains Lactic Acid and helps remove dead skin cells in facial cleansers.
Included for it’s antibacterial and soothing properties. Many creams for babies skin also contain Calendula, it’s also great in Haircare to sooth sensitive scalps.
Unrefined Shea Butter
Shea butter is a common ingredient in body butters, lip balms and moisturisers – creamy yellow in colour; it has a lovely nutty fragrance. This unrefined version retains many of the remarkable properties for which shea butter is renowned – deeply moisturising, anti-scarring, anti-inflammatory, rich in vitamins A and E and other phytonutrients, and even provides mild UV radiation protection.
Preserving Natural and Organic skincare products has been one of the major sticking points. Certified Organic skincare can have no chemical interference, this means water based products that are prone to bacteria growth once opened must contain a natural preservative. Many products labelled Organic, as opposed to Certified Organic (and yes, there is a BIG difference) contain safer chemical preservatives such as phenoxyethanol or benzyl alcohol.
The Chemical Nasties you’re looking for when it comes to Preservatives include;
Parabens (Propyl, Methyl, Butyl, or Ethyl): Parabens are used as preservatives in numerous skin care and hair care products. They are highly toxic as they release Formaldehyde when exposed to the air and cause allergic and skin reactions.
OTHER CHEMICAL NASTIES
There’s a whole host of other Chemical Nasties to avoid if you’re concerned about your health and the health of your family. Several of these ingredients are now considered a Cancer risk, especially Breast Cancer. More and more research is being done so that in the future they can have them banned from skincare.
Propylene Glycol: Propylene glycol is obtained from petrochemicals and is added in numerous skin care creams and lotions as an emulsifying agent. It makes the skin look smooth; however, it speeds up aging of the skin. It also causes irritation and contact dermatitis.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): SLS acts as a surfactant, degreaser, and emulsifier and is used in numerous foaming personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, body wash products, face cleansers, shaving cream, etc. This detergent affects the eyes and delays their healing time. It can be absorbed by the skin surface and gets accumulated in your body organs. When used in products containing nitrogen-based raw materials, it forms carcinogenic nitrates, which are known to cause irritation to the eye and skin.
Fragrance/Parfum: Artificial fragrance can cause numerous health problems including headaches, lung problems, skin irritation and dizziness.
Mineral Oil: Mineral oils are obtained from petroleum products and can cause skin irritations. They block skin pores, which restricts movement of nutrients and waste matter from the cells.
Imidazolidinyl and Diazolidinyl Urea: These are also used as preservatives and are known for causing contact dermatitis.
Ingredients with PEG in the name: Polyethylene Glycol is their extended name; they should be avoided in cleansers for your skin and hair as independent testing has shown they can be contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane; a petroleum-derived carcinogenic compound that is also used in dry cleaning solvents, lacquers and automotive coolant.
Synthetic Colours: Synthetic colours can cause allergic skin reactions.
Triethanolamine (TEA): TEA is used to adjust the pH of the cosmetics. It causes various allergic reactions including eye problems, and dryness of hair and skin. Also look out for MEA and DEA for the same reasons.
Packaging is the final element for consideration for Natural and Organic skincare. Certified Organic skincare can contain only natural ingredients so it’s incredibly important to stop bacteria growth by keeping air from getting into the packaging. Some skincare companies have again spent a fortune in research and development to ensure that their super effective ingredients maintain their integrity for the life of the product. It should also be noted here that the time between starting and discarding most Organic and Natural skincare should only be about 9 to 12 months. A product you love to use probably wouldn’t last you that long anyway.
What to look for in Packaging.
Recycleable or Reusable: just makes good sense.
Positive Packaging: Opening and dispenser is at the bottom of the packaging allowing gravity to make it airtight.
Dark coloured glass: To maintain the integrity of active ingredients and Essential Oils.
As wonderful as it would be to live in a world where all products were labelled with 100% honesty and claims had to be proven without a doubt before they could be made; we’re not there yet. We can all help move a step closer though by making the hugely profitable skincare industry conscious of the new paradigm by voting with our wallets and supporting skincare companies that have embraced nature in word and action by creating super effective products that have a positive impact on the future of our planet and our health.
Written by Lesley-Ann Trow & Published in September 2008 in Eco Living Magazine