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Are Natural Skin Care Products Really Worth the Extra Cost?

Are Natural Skin Care Products Really Worth the Extra Cost?

The Growing Popularity of Natural Skin Care

In recent years, there has been a major rise in consumer demand for natural skin care products. More and more people are seeking out alternatives to conventional skincare items that are made with synthetic ingredients.

Several factors are driving this growth in natural skin care:

  • Dissatisfaction with synthetic ingredients - Many consumers have grown wary of the chemical ingredients found in typical drugstore skincare items. There is increasing concern about the potential health and environmental impacts of these synthesized components.

  • Desire for simpler, 'cleaner' products - Today's shoppers want beauty products made with ingredients they recognize and can pronounce. The simplicity and minimalism of natural skincare aligns with this preference for products with shorter, cleaner ingredient lists.

  • Rise in consumer demand - With the clean beauty movement in full swing, demand for natural skincare products has exploded. More consumers are actively seeking out natural options across all beauty categories, driving growth in this market segment. Major retailers have expanded their selections in response to this interest.

The bottom line is that more people want their skincare routine to rely on natural ingredients derived from plants, minerals, and other natural sources. There is a growing realization that natural products can be just as effective, if not more so, for nourishing and rejuvenating skin.

What makes a product 'natural'?

For a product to be considered truly natural, it should be made from plant, mineral or other natural ingredients without any synthetic chemicals. Here are some things to look for:

  • Plant-based ingredients: Natural skin care tends to rely on ingredients like oils, extracts, butters and waxes from sources such as coconut, olive, jojoba, shea, aloe vera and essential oils.

  • Free of synthetic chemicals: Natural products avoid ingredients like parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, formaldehyde and more. These can be irritating or harmful.

  • USDA Organic certification: Products certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture contain a minimum 95% organic ingredients. They avoid GMOs and most synthetic additives.

  • EWG Verified mark: The Environmental Working Group has a strict standard for the EWG Verified label. Products must be made with ingredients that pose minimal health concerns.

The more natural ingredients and fewer synthetic chemicals, the more "natural" the product can be considered. Trustworthy certifications help verify products meet certain standards. But it's still important to examine the full ingredient list.

Potential Benefits of Natural Skin Care

Natural skin care products often contain plant oils, herbs, and other naturally-derived ingredients that can potentially be gentler on sensitive skin compared to products made with synthetic chemicals. Many consumers with sensitive skin find that natural products reduce redness, irritation, and other signs of sensitivity.

Studies have shown natural oils like coconut oil, sunflower oil, and aloe vera can have soothing properties for sensitive skin, while staying gentle enough for daily use. The active compounds in medicinal herbs like chamomile, calendula, and green tea can also help calm and condition sensitive skin prone to flushing or rashes.

By avoiding the harsh detergents, preservatives, and fragrances found in many conventional skin care products, natural alternatives often pose less risk of allergic reactions or contact dermatitis. Natural moisturizers like shea butter and glycerin are less likely to cause stinging, burning, or itching compared to alcohol-based or heavily fragranced moisturizers.

Those prone to skin allergies or conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis may tolerate natural products better since they avoid common chemical irritants and allergens. However, natural products are not always hypoallergenic, so checking with your dermatologist is still important if you have very sensitive skin.

Downsides of natural skin care

While natural skin care products offer many benefits, they also have some potential downsides to consider:

Shorter shelf life - Preservatives help extend the shelf life of conventional skin care products. Natural products often have fewer or no preservatives, so they tend to expire more quickly. This means you may need to replace them more frequently.

May need to reapply more frequently - Similarly, natural moisturizers and cleansers often aren't as long-lasting on your skin compared to products with chemical thickeners and emulsifiers. You may find you need to reapply natural lotions and creams more often throughout the day.

Limited scientific testing - Large cosmetic companies rigorously test their products for safety and efficacy. Natural and organic brands generally don't have the same resources for extensive clinical trials and laboratory testing. So there may be less peer-reviewed evidence available about how well many natural ingredients work.

Overall, natural skin care does come with some potential drawbacks. But many people find the benefits worthwhile, as long as you know what to expect. Managing a shorter shelf life and reapplying more often may be an acceptable trade-off if you prefer using plant-based and non-toxic ingredients on your skin.

Examining common natural ingredients

Many natural skin care products contain plant-derived oils, vitamins, and other naturally-occurring ingredients that can benefit skin health. Here are some of the most common.

Plant oils

  • Coconut oil - Has antioxidant properties and fatty acids that help hydrate skin. Also contains antibacterial and antimicrobial compounds.

  • Olive oil - High in antioxidants and fatty acids. Softens and conditions skin. Also has anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Jojoba oil - Mimics skin's natural oils. Helps balance oil production and soothe irritation. Rich in vitamin E.

Essential oils

Essential oils like lavender, tea tree, rosemary, and chamomile can have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and skin-soothing properties when used properly.

Vitamins C and E

These antioxidants help protect against damage from UV exposure and pollution. Help build collagen and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Honey

Has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Helps hydrate and heal skin.

Aloe vera

Soothes irritated skin. Hydrates and promotes healing. Rich in antioxidants and nutrients. May help reduce signs of aging.

How Natural Stacks Up Against Conventional

When evaluating natural skin care products versus conventional ones, there are a few key factors to consider:

Ingredients

Natural products use ingredients derived from plants, minerals, and other natural sources. Conventional products often contain synthetic chemicals. Some chemical ingredients like parabens, sulfates, and phthalates have faced scrutiny over potential health concerns. Though the FDA deems many as safe in low doses, some consumers seek to minimize exposure. Natural products provide an alternative.

However, "natural" doesn't automatically mean "gentle" or "safe". Natural ingredients can still cause allergies or irritation for some people. And they're not necessarily more effective than lab-developed ingredients at treating skin. For example, some synthetic vitamin C derivatives have been optimized for better absorption and stability compared to natural vitamin C extracts.

Safety

Both natural and conventional products must meet certain safety regulations outlined by the FDA, EPA, etc. While natural ingredients are perceived as safer, allergic reactions or sensitivity can still occur. Preservatives help prevent microbial contamination in both kinds of products. Conventional preservatives can be problematic for some, but natural preservative systems also carry risks. Overall, there's no definitive evidence that natural products are safer or healthier than well-formulated conventional options.

Efficacy

Few comparative studies exist examining the efficacy of natural versus synthetic ingredients. However, natural options appear capable of delivering similar results to conventional ones for common needs like moisturization and acne treatment. Conventional products sometimes use very high strength acids that natural brands do not. Ultimately, efficacy depends more on the formulation as a whole than just natural versus synthetic ingredients. With quality ingredients and formulations, natural and conventional products can be similarly effective.

Tips for Choosing Natural Products

When selecting natural skin care products, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Check the label for certifications - Look for seals from organizations like the USDA, which certifies organic products, or the Environmental Working Group, which has stringent standards for assessing product safety and health impacts. These certifications indicate that the product contains primarily natural ingredients grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

  • Look for fragrance-free options - Fragrances, even natural ones, can still cause irritation or allergic reactions for some people. Opting for fragrance-free products reduces this risk.

  • Buy from trusted brands - Do some research to find natural skincare companies with a reputation for high quality, ethically-sourced ingredients and transparency about their practices. Brands dedicated to natural products often perform extra vetting of their supply chains.

Sticking to these simple guidelines can help you identify truly natural options that are less likely to cause adverse effects. And be sure to patch test any new products before applying them all over your face. Finding natural products that work well for your individual skin takes some trial and error.

Product recommendations

When shopping for natural skincare products, it's important to find options that work for your specific skin type. Here are some of the top picks for natural cleansers, moisturizers and serums:

Cleansers

Dry skin: For a gentle, hydrating cleanser, try Acure Brilliantly Brightening Facial Scrub. It contains fine walnut shell powder to exfoliate and oils like argan, jojoba, and olive to moisturize as it cleanses.

Oily/combination skin: Mad Hippie Cream Cleanser balances and purifies without over-drying. It contains konjac root, chamomile flower extract, and clary sage oil.

Sensitive skin: One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil gently removes makeup and impurities without irritation. Sunflower, coconut, and jojoba oils moisturize as you cleanse.

Moisturizers

Dry skin: Acure Radically Rejuvenating Whipped Night Cream is a rich, hydrating formula containing sea buckthorn oil and plant stem cells. It absorbs well overnight.

Oily/combination skin: Juice Beauty STEM CELLULAR Anti-Wrinkle Moisturizer is lightweight yet nourishing, with a blend of fruit stem cells, peptides, and vitamin C.

Sensitive skin: Earth Tu Face Watermelon Seed Ultra-Hydrator moisturizer soothes and calms with watermelon seed oil, hyaluronic acid, and beta glucan.

Serums

Anti-aging: Trilogy CoQ10 Booster Serum contains antioxidants from superfoods like goji and amla berry to hydrate, brighten, and minimize fine lines.

Brightening: Andalou Naturals Turmeric & C Enlighten Serum uses turmeric, vitamin C, and fruit stem cells to even skin tone and reduce dark spots.

Hydration: Acure Radically Rejuvenating Rose Argan Oil works as a nutrient-rich serum for all skin types, with the antioxidant benefits of rosehip oil.

DIY Natural Skin Care

Making your own natural skin care products at home can be a fun and affordable way to control exactly what goes on your skin. Here are some ideas for whipping up homemade scrubs, masks, and toners using simple natural ingredients:

Scrubs

  • Sugar scrubs - Mix 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup oil like olive, coconut, or almond. Add essential oils for scent if desired. Gently scrub skin in circular motions before rinsing. Sugar exfoliates while the oil hydrates.

  • Salt scrubs - Use about 1 cup sea salt or epsom salt combined with 1/4 cup oil. Sea salt contains minerals that can be beneficial for skin.

  • Coffee grounds - Mix used coffee grounds with a little olive or coconut oil to make an antioxidant-rich scrub. The grounds help exfoliate.

Masks

  • Clay masks - Bentonite, French green, or rhassoul clay can be mixed with water or aloe vera gel to form a paste for applying to skin. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. Clay helps draw out impurities.

  • Honey mask - Raw honey has antimicrobial properties and also acts as a gentle natural exfoliant. Apply a thin layer to damp skin and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing.

  • Oatmeal mask - Grind plain oatmeal into a powder, then mix with yogurt or honey to make a soothing mask to reduce inflammation. Rinse after 15 minutes.

Toners

  • Green tea toner - Brew green tea, let cool, and apply to skin with a cotton pad. Green tea is rich in antioxidants.

  • Apple cider vinegar toner - Dilute organic apple cider vinegar with 2 parts water and apply with cotton pad. Helps restore skin's pH balance.

  • Chamomile tea toner - Steep chamomile tea bags in hot water, cool, and store in fridge to make a soothing facial toner.

Using simple natural ingredients like oils, clays, teas, and herbs can be an easy, affordable way to pamper your skin. Just be sure to do a patch test first to check for any reactions. Have fun crafting your own custom natural skin care!

The Bottom Line

When considering switching to natural skin care products, there are pros and cons to weigh.

Pros of natural skin care:

  • Tend to be gentler on sensitive skin
  • Often use plant-based ingredients
  • May contain fewer irritants
  • Appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers
  • Align with healthy/green lifestyle

Cons of natural skin care:

  • Typically more expensive than conventional
  • Results may not be as dramatic
  • Limited scientific evidence on efficacy
  • Labels like "natural" lack regulation
  • Greater risk of spoilage/contamination

Natural skin care products can be especially beneficial for people with sensitive skin or allergies. The simpler, plant-based formulas often contain fewer irritants. Those concerned about chemicals in beauty products may feel reassured by natural ingredients.

However, people with severe skin conditions like acne may get better results from conventional products containing proven active ingredients. Those simply wanting affordability and convenience may also opt for typical drugstore brands.

Overall, natural skin care is a personal choice based on your skin type, values, and preferences. Start by looking for reputable brands clearly listing ingredients. And as always, consult a dermatologist if you have any concerns.