The answers to all your natural skin care questions

Natural skin care has come a long way, but are you still a little hesitant?

Want natural skin care that really delivers? Then you’re in luck. Clever companies are now combining science with nature –and the results are amazing. 

A decade ago, skin potions labelled natural were often overlooked as alternative, ‘herbal’ and certainly not results-driven. But not anymore. A new, eco-skin care revolution is starting to take hold as consumers seek out kinder, gentler solutions, for themselves and the planet.

“Consumers used to think organic skin care products didn’t treat ageing concerns,” says Helen Robb Lacey, Education Manager for Endota Spa. According to The Innovation Group, rising anxieties about environmental toxins combined with digitally-driven days, means we’re seeking naturally-based products for comfort and escape from our hyper-digital worlds. And thanks to advances in science we’re enjoying some positive rewards. “Heading forward in natural skin care, it’s all about results,” adds Robb Lacey. “We can’t stop the ageing process, but we can support the skin.”

To dive deeper into the growing trend and clear a few more misconceptions, we asked top experts about green technology, bio-actives and how to spot the best natural ingredients. Think hi-tech, low-tox, bigger results. 

#1 / Why is natural skin care growing in popularity?

For a few reasons. Increasingly, we’re becoming more and more conscious of what we’re putting in and on our bodies, according to holistic health expert, Lee Holmes. “From the ingredients in our food, to the chemicals in our cleaning products. It’s only natural that the next step is to scrutinise what we’re putting on our skin,” she explains. But rather than the hippy holistic, almost anti-consumerist brands of decades past, the natural renaissance has big brands and consumerism front and centre. From food to beauty, new products are combining natural claims with new science and technology. “With the increase of skin care manufacturers formulating natural and organic products, we now have access to higher quality,” says dermatologist Dr Bryan Mendelson. “Higher demand, and also competition, mean natural skin care products have improved. Technology now allows us to extract the active ingredients from nature that targets specific skin concerns.” With hi-tech natural ingredients and even clinical trials, many natural brands are now competing with the mainstream on results. And if you ask us, that’s got to be a good thing!

#2 / But how many chemicals go into my skin? 

The small amount we absorb through the skin is far less significant than what we inhale or eat. “The skin’s primary function is to act as an efficient biological barrier keeping the bad things out and good things in,” shares dermatologist Dr Adam Sheridan. “Very little of what’s applied is actually absorbed to a meaningful extent into the deeper layers and bloodstream.” In fact, scientists devote much energy trying to overcome this. “For example, when they’re designing therapeutic medicines intended for topical application, such as quit-smoking patches.” Naturopath Grace Barnes agrees that generally, the skin is there to ‘hold back the tide’. “Our body’s largest organ protects us from the daily onslaught and can stop certain chemicals from getting into our bodies. But while skin isn’t a sponge, it is taking in ingredients and transporting them into the body,” she says. Good to know for the health-conscious among us.

#3 / What are the new natural anti-agers and do they work?

New ‘green’ technologies are about merging fresh bio-actives with cosmeceutical advancements says Guy Kareau, spokesperson for high-tech US beauty brand, YÜLI. “Technology gives more opportunity to express the usefulness of natural actives. For example, we can now extract a form of vitamin C that’s five times more potent than common forms but without the irritating side effects.” The latest natural heroes are exceptionally advanced. “[YÜLI’s] ‘green’ beauty formulas feature plant-driven peptides, bio-retinol, liposomal vitamin C and many other advanced processes.” They also use chiral correction –a process where ingredients are purified so skin receives enhanced benefits. Other processes such as cold-pressing and distillation mean ingredients retain their complete nutrient profile. Which means it’s better for your skin. Keen to switch? Low-tox living expert and founder of natural beauty site Nourished Life, Irene Falcone suggests starting slow. “When something runs out, simply replace it with an organic version.”

Natural skin care products to try

Trilogy Age Proof Active Enzyme Cleansing Cream – A creamy cleanser brimming with fruit enzymes for brighter skin.

YÜLI Liquid Courage – A chirally correct serum with grapeseed, pomegranate and raspberry.

Endota Spa Balance Me Mist – A certified organic spritz with a bioactive plant complex of indigenous plants like lilly pilly. 

Trilogy Age Proof Active Enzyme Cleansing Cream

YÜLI Liquid Courage

Endota Spa Balance Me Mist

Sukin Antioxidant Eye Serum – Deeply rehydrate the delicate eye area with soothing aloe vera, cucumber and burdock plant proteins.

Natural Instinct Nourishing Facial Moisturiser – Treat your skin to 12 hours of moisturisation with the help of natural oils, antioxidants and vitamins including sweet almond oil and rosehip oil.

Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask – Banish blemish-building bacteria with antimicrobial manuka honey.

Sukin Antioxidant Eye Serum

Natural Instinct Nourishing Facial Moisturiser

Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask

#4 / Organic vs. natural – what’s the difference?

Glad you asked. Natural products are derived from natural sources but can be made with synthetic ingredients, explains Mendelson. “Organic products are also natural products, however they should only contain natural ingredients, without the use of synthetic chemicals or pesticides,” he adds. For a product to be classified organic, it must meet strict guidelines, but it’s not that easy to pick. “A company can label something as organic if it contains only one natural ingredient, yet still contains thousands of chemicals,” says Therese Kerr, founder of organic skin care brand, The Divine Company. The best choice is certified organic. “There’s traceability from pre-planting of the soil –up to seven years prior to planting seeds.” Biodynamic farming takes accountability to the next level. “While an organic farm may buy organic seeds, a biodynamic farm must produce absolutely everything on the premises,” says Kerr. That said, how can you make the best choice? Simple. Look for a certified organic stamp from a reputable organisation such as ACO (Australian Certified Organic) or check for ‘made with certified organic ingredients’. But does it really matter if a botanical ingredient isn’t organic? “An ounce of rose oil may incorporate thousands of roses, which means that harmful chemicals can be exponentially amplified,” says Kareau. In short, it’s all about being informed and making the best choice for you, and your body.

#5 / I want to go eco but the labels are confusing – what do I need to know?

We hear you. Luckily, there’s a surprisingly easy way to navigate the maze. “If the ingredient list is long, impossible to pronounce and gives you high school chemistry flashbacks, chances are it’s loaded with toxins,” says Barnes. “Rather than looking for [organic] certifications, look for an indication that the product has been dermatologically tested,” says Sheridan. “This lets you know it’s been tested on people before it was marketed.” Because, remember, even naturals can cause a reaction. Next, check out the ingredients list, remembering they’re listed in order of highest to lowest concentration. “Look for short lists with naturally occurring ingredients such as vitamins and plant oils,” adds Barnes. “Test the product on a 20-cent piece sized area of skin for two weeks before applying more widely,” says Sheridan. Healthier, more glowing skin could soon be yours.

Want to start experimenting with natural products? These are our favourite Australian natural skin care brands.

Main image credit: @yuliskincare

Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.