Natural Beauty

PART 2 of 5: NATURAL BEAUTY

(Read Part 1: Clean Beauty)

Gone are the days when natural beauty and skincare were confined to the aisles of health and wellness stores. Natural beauty, particularly skincare, is now ubiquitous. But just like the ‘clean’ in clean beauty, ‘natural’ is not a regulated term and can be used to market products that are barely natural. 

Natural beauty differs to clean beauty in that clean beauty formulas can still consist largely of synthetically derived ingredients, provided that they are not toxic to the human body. Natural beauty should consist of true-to-nature or naturally derived ingredients and assure formulations that are 100%, or as close to 100% natural as possible. 

Natural beauty is usually used as an umbrella-term to encompass other descriptors such as botanical, plant-based and plant-derived skincare. While some skincare that form part of this category may not contain animal derivatives, it is important to note that natural does not always equate to vegan. Honey and beeswax, for example, are common natural ingredients used in skincare. 

The upside of the growing phenomenon of natural skincare is that it has become more accessible to conscious beauty consumers. The drawback is that it has led to a myriad of new marketing descriptors, misinformation and myths, three of which we will unpack here. 

MYTH 01: NATURAL MEANS HEALTHIER & BETTER FOR YOUR SKIN. 

The concept of ‘natural’ in skincare is often compared to the concept of ‘synthetic’ which has caused discord in the skincare community as to which is better for your skin. ‘Natural’ is often equated with ‘safer’. However, just as not all synthetically derived ingredients are harmful to your skin, not all natural ingredients are harmless. 

To make their point many people in the beauty industry reference plants that cause irritation when they come in contact with the skin, such as poison ivy. Just as there are many natural ingredients that prove beneficial to the skin, there are likely many that may cause skin irritation and/or skin sensitivity and will aggravate your skin concerns rather than treat them. 

With the assumption that we are unlikely to use poison ivy in our skincare, pure coconut oil offers a more realistic example. Although not harmful, pure coconut oil is comedogenic meaning that it has a propensity to clog pores and therefore may not be the best choice for acne-prone skin. It is important to consider what your skin concerns are and therefore which ingredients would be best to treat those concerns. 

MYTH 02: NATURAL SKINCARE IS NOT AS EFFECTIVE.   

Many believe that natural ingredients simply cannot compete with lab-derived synthetics when it comes to performance and efficacy. However, there have been tremendous advancements in natural skincare with a strong focus on identifying and utilising natural ingredients that go toe-to-toe with synthetics to effectively treat specific skin concerns. An example of this is the natural ingredient bakuchiol. 

Dubbed nature’s retinol, bakuchiol is a potent antioxidant found in the seeds and leaves of the plant Psoralea Corylifolia. Just like retinol, bakuchiol effectively stimulates collagen production and diminishes the signs of ageing. Studies have revealed that bakuchiol can be as effective as retinol when applied to the skin twice a day, with some added benefits:

  1. It is far less irritating to the skin than retinol which makes it suitable for sensitive skin. 
  2. It is not a retinoid derivative which means pregnant women and breastfeeding moms can use it without any risk to their babies.  
  3. Unlike retinol, It is photostable which means it won’t become unstable and consequently harmful when exposed to the sun.

The advantage of using natural ingredients over synthetic ingredients, as all-natural skincare brand NUORI explains, is that “compounds that are organically found in nature (opposed to man-made compounds), tend to have a much greater affinity to our skin. This means that the skin cells more readily receive and utilise these compounds”.

MYTH 3: NATURAL SKINCARE HAS A SHORTER SHELF-LIFE 

One of the objections we have witnessed from beauty industry experts concerning natural skincare is that natural products tend to have a shorter shelf-life. While many legacy beauty brands boast shelf-lives of more than 2.5 years, the reality is that active ingredients in skincare lose their efficacy over a far shorter period.

Founder of NUORI Jasmi Bonnén began to investigate the effects of time on cosmetics and uncovered several studies that revealed that “commonly used active ingredients, such as vitamins, start losing their beneficial properties in just a matter of months after blending because of oxidation”.

Despite these studies, long shelf-lives are an industry norm, and the added downside is that skincare and cosmetics are packed with unnecessary preservatives and other additives to keep the formulations as stable as possible in those timeframes. The myth here is that a longer shelf-life is considered advantageous, when in reality our skincare products are no longer performing at peak efficacy.  

The decision to either go ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ with your beauty routine usually comes down to your personal feelings towards synthetics in your beauty and skincare products. If you’re choosing to go au naturel, which comes with its own added benefits, remember to focus on natural skincare brands with proven efficacy and that make use of high-quality, active ingredients that are known to treat your specific skin concerns.

A NOTE ON PRESERVATIVES:

If you’re in pursuit of a pure skincare routine, it is important to note that preservatives are a vital component in skincare formulations. Personal care products that contain water need preservatives to ensure that the products don’t go bad. Beware of preservative-free claims. There is nothing more risky than using a product that has expired. If you are concerned about the safety of preservatives, find out which ingredients your beauty brand uses to preserve their products.