In today’s world of eco-conscious living, being good to the environment is a high priority, whether you’re buying light bulbs or a cream for dry skin andwrinkles. And cosmetics companies take advantage of that by offering natural skin care products with ingredients that are touted as being better for your skinand environmentally friendly.
“Natural skin care is more of a marketing term than a scientific one,” says Dee Anna Glaser, MD, a dermatologist and professor of dermatology at St. Louis University and president of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation.
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“Products that have botanical ingredients that come from plants or nature — think honey or beeswax — tend to be labeled as natural,”’ says Dr. Glaser. They may or may not have the same ingredients that other products do. And you can find them everywhere, from drugstores to department store makeup counters to boutiques and even at dermatologists’ and plastic surgeons’ offices. In fact, so-called natural skin care products are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to tell whether they’re any better for you than other products.
“‘Natural’ really doesn’t tell you anything,” Glaser says. “It’s a way of marketing [a product] to make you feel good about its use when people are trying to be green and think environmentally.”
In some cases, natural skin care products may be the way to go, but not always. “Poison ivy is natural, but that doesn’t mean you want to rub it against your skin,” Glaser says.
The Benefits of Natural Skin Care Products
There are some ingredients in natural products that are soothing and calming to the skin, even if your skin is sensitive. Glaser notes the benefits of these ingredients:
- Soy. Products that contain soy can soothe the skin while fading dark discolorations.
- Feverfew. This herb can calm irritated, dry skin that’s prone toeczema.
- Antioxidants. Vitamins C and E have real benefits for the skin. They scavenge for free radicals, which damage cell DNA, leading to wrinkles and skin aging. Unfortunately, many over-the-counter products don’t have a high enough concentration of antioxidants for them to be effective. But you can buy products such as CE Ferulic (which contains vitamins C and E) and Revaléskin (made from coffeeBerry extract) from a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon, Glazer says.
Natural Skin Care Concerns
Sometimes natural skin care products aren’t the best choice when you’re shopping for a moisturizer for dry skin or a cream to treat your wrinkles, Glaser says. Among the drawbacks are:
- Sensitive skin irritation. Your skin type should dictate the type of products you can use, Glaser says. Someone with rosacea or sensitive skin — and about half of all women think they have sensitive skin — can be irritated by alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid, which are natural ingredients.
- Allergic reaction. Allergens in natural skin care products can cause problems for some people.
- Breakouts. Someone who’s acne-prone may not be able to tolerate natural lotions that contain oils because they may clog pores and lead to breakouts.
- High cost. You can find expensive traditional and natural skin care products, but in general, natural skin care products tend to be a bit more costly. An oil-free traditional face cleanser is about $5 for 5.5 ounces, while a natural cleanser that contains bark, chamomile, rosemary, and echinacea costs about $9 for 6 ounces at the drugstore.
What to Look For in Natural Skin Care Products
The key to choosing natural skin care products is to choose wisely. When you’re shopping for skin care and you’re considering natural products, keep these things in mind:
- The fewer ingredients, the better. When you’re buying any type of skin care product, including natural products, look for one with few ingredients, Glaser says. Natural skin care products tend to have extra ingredients added to them, but the more that’s in it, the more likely it is to cause irritation or an allergic reaction, she says.
- Big brands tend to be better. Big companies such as Neutrogena, Dove, Oil of Olay, Aveeno, Cetaphil, and others test their products before putting them out on the market, so they’re unlikely to cause skin problems, notes Glaser.
- Try retinol or retinoids. Retinol, sold over the counter in various products, and retinoids, which are available by prescription as tretinoin (Vesanoid) and tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), are derivatives of vitamin A that help reduce wrinkles. They’re natural products that really work, Glaser says.
The bottom line is that you should choose products that work for your skin, gives you results, and have the feel and fragrance that you enjoy.
It’s a matter of trial and error, says Glaser “Part of the challenge is to find ingredients that work for you.”