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What You Need to Know About Natural Skincare
Natural ingredients can do amazing things for your skin, but knowing which ones to use makes all the difference in the world. Depending on the natural ingredient and its form, it can supply skin-saving or environmental stress-defending antioxidants, it can hydrate, soothe, smooth, and brighten, or can de-wrinkle and even visibly firm skin. Some are better at one thing than another, just as different foods offer the body different health benefits.
But, just as all foods aren’t good for you (too much sugar or alcohol is bad), not all natural skincare ingredients are good for you, either. Which ones you put on your skin really does matter. We only want you to use the skincare ingredients that deliver great results without any negative impact on your skin, and we know that’s what you want, too. Following is the truth in beauty covering what you must know before buying skincare products with natural ingredients.
The Best Types of Natural Ingredients for Skin
Just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients, there are good and bad natural ingredients. Finding the good ones—those with research showing they do something positive for your skin—means knowing these facts:
- Non-fragrant plant oils are a beautifully rich source of essential fatty acids, micronutrients, and antioxidants for all skin types (especially for dry skin).
- Natural vitamins, including ascorbic acid (vitamin C), niacinamide (vitamin B3), and tocopherol (vitamin E) are powerful antioxidants to boost skin’s environmental defenses.
- Amino acids, most types of algae, aloe, and dozens of other non-fragrant plant extracts, ranging from green tea to grape extract, can hydrate, protect against moisture loss, soften discolorations, and help shield skin from the visible effects of pollution.
- Food ingredients, from fruits to grains to omega fatty acids and vegetables, are also great for hydrating and defending skin, not to mention the additional soothing and replenishing benefits from omega acids.
The basic fact is: The best natural ingredients for skin are the ones that don’t produce a fragrance of any kind. Whether natural or synthetic, fragrance is a problem for everyone’s skin.
Nature Natural vs. Skin Natural
Some of the most effective anti-aging ingredients (like hyaluronic acid, retinol, and ceramides) are naturally present in healthy skin, but they aren’t found very many, if any, other places in nature. We refer to these as “skin natural.” These ingredients work quickly to diminish signs of wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and dullness, and to restore a more resilient feel to skin that’s lost its bounce.
How do they do this? By interacting with, improving, and replenishing the same naturally occurring substances in skin’s uppermost layers to restore how it looks and feels, and to interrupt external aggressors just like younger skin does. Most often, these ingredients are synthetically derived, so you don’t have to worry about animals suffering so you can benefit from these great ingredients.
The Important, Vital Role of Synthetic Skincare Ingredients
To be most effective and to be stable during use (trust us, you want stable natural ingredients—think how long salad greens last in your refrigerator), natural ingredients need friends. Those friends are synthetic ingredients that are more stable and are more bio-available than their natural counterparts. The synthetic ingredients aren’t scary; in fact, the majority of synthetic ingredients used along with natural ingredients are not only perfectly safe for skin, but also ultimately the best way to balance and take care of your skin.
The right synthetic ingredients make natural ingredients even more effective by:
- Keeping products blended together (so the oil and water parts don’t separate).
- Creating product textures that feel fantastic (which would be impossible using natural ingredients alone).
- Including advanced delivery systems that help natural ingredients reach their target areas of skin or, as with retinol, offer controlled release for gentleness without losing any anti-aging power.
- Allowing for better delivery of ingredients, such as leave-on exfoliants and potent antioxidants; for example, the relationship between green tea extract and its lab-derived potent form, epigallocatechin gallate.
- Because skin can’t make use of all of an extract, usually needing only one aspect of it, primarily the antioxidant component, the synthetic version often works far better for skin.
The synergy between natural and synthetic ingredients gives your skin the best of what nature and science offer.
Consider this: Lots of skincare concerns require synthetic ingredients to work. For example, no natural ingredients have proven as effective on acne as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Lab-engineered synthetic peptides can precisely target key skin concerns to steadily improve them so you’ll see fewer wrinkles and skin tone issues.
Is Natural Sun Protection Possible?
Contrary to what you might have read, there’s no such thing as an all-natural sunscreen. This especially includes coconut oil, as there’s no research proving it works in any way like a real sunscreen labeled with an SPF rating—not even close.
Even the natural mineral sunscreen ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are almost always altered, so they no longer resemble their natural state. That’s actually good, because in their altered state these ingredients are better for skin and much more pleasant to use. They’re also safer, because naturally occurring undesirables (like lead) are removed.
Natural Skincare Claims
The labels for most natural skincare products list several claims about the level of naturalness and, in some cases, their organic content or certification. The number of overlapping claims is confusing, but the fundamental problem is the lack of global agreement on what all of those various claims actually mean, or should mean.
Even more confusing, we see lots of product lines claiming to be “all natural,” yet they contain synthetic ingredients. We don’t think that’s bad; rather, it’s disingenuous and misleading to the consumer.
The basic fact is: Few skincare products really qualify as “all natural.” For example, any water-based product requires preservatives to keep it safe from contaminants that could cause problems for your skin. Some brands use natural preservatives (like grapefruit seed extract), but, to date, no natural preservatives have proven as effective as synthetic preservatives like phenoxyethanol, to name just one.
How Paula’s Choice Skincare Defines Natural
Paula’s Choice Skincare includes natural ingredients in the majority of our products, based on the essential aspects of what makes a great natural ingredient. In addition, every natural ingredient we use must have research proving its value for your skin. We never include natural ingredients just for show or marketing; each one must improve your skin and be compatible with the other ingredients in each product.
Our approach to natural ingredients enables us to create a full line of exceptionally effective, safe skincare products that offer solutions for all skin types and concerns, from acne to wrinkles. Nature has a lot to offer your skin, but we’re pretty impressed by science, too!
References for this information:
Anais Brasileiros de Dermotologia, May-June 2017, pages 356–362
Environmental Science Europe, March 2016, ePublication
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, September 2014, pages 1019–1026
Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, July-August 2014, issue 4, pages 295–307
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, January 2013, ePublication
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About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!