As I discussed in Natural Body Care, mainstream beauty products are laced with toxins that are harmful to both ourselves and the environment. These chemicals include phthalates, parabens, synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and other substances that have been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Though they may not have an immediate effect on our health, these toxins bioaccumulate over time, potentially leading to major health problems down the line.
In the process of executing their grand chemical experiments, mainstream companies also rely on animal testing, in which animals such as rabbits are subjected to painful skin and eye irritation tests, and force-fed toxic chemicals without anesthetization, only to be later killed.
Natural cosmetic companies, on the other hand, have simple ingredients and tend to have greater moral integrity, so animal testing doesn’t even enter the picture.
When looking for natural skincare products, look for “Natural” or “Organic,” as well as labels saying that it’s phthalate and paraben-free. Check the ingredients to see if it has “parfum” or fragrance, as well as any super-complicated chemical names. Generally speaking, the simpler the ingredient list, the better.
Wake up and smell the toxicity
Aside from reading the ingredients, one of the best ways to detect the toxicity in the product is to smell it. Once I started using only natural cleaning and beauty products, my sense of smell became laser-sharp when it came to detecting toxic chemicals. Natural cosmetic products usually either don’t have a smell or they are infused with essential oils. If it has un-natural or chemical odor, this indicates that it contains phthalates, parabens, synthetic fragrances and / or other sketchy chemicals.
Our skin absorbs whatever we put on it. So why should we be putting toxic chemicals on it, especially when there are natural alternatives?
As I said in Natural Body Care, be sure to check out the body and hair section of your local health food store or Whole Foods. This can actually be a lot of fun. I find the ambience in these stores to be much more welcoming than mainstream pharmacies with their sterile interior design, harsh lighting, and the contrived packaging of the products they sell. Here are the products that I’ve found to work best on my skin:
In general, I use Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap as a facial cleanser. It does a great job of cleaning my skin without drying it out. Castile soap can also be used as a body wash and shampoo.
When my skin is oily, I switch to Body Merry’s Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser. It has 2.5% glycolic acid, as well as willow bark and jojoba beads, which work together to deeply cleanse the skin. I use this in the morning before I apply serum and moisturizer.
Exfoliation helps get rid of dead skin cells, which is a crucial step in keeping your skin looking healthy and young. I normally scrub my face once a day in the shower with an exfoliation mitt made from natural hemp fibers.
When I need something deeper, I’ll use Dermafresh Microdermabrasion Scrub, which contains crystals that really help to slough off dead skin. It also has nourishing ingredients like avocado oil and shea butter.
Witch hazel is an amazing natural toner that helps clean your pores and remove residue without drying out your skin. You can get these in 24 oz bottles that last a long time. I use this when my skin’s been feeling oily and clogged.
I’ve found aloe vera, vitamin c, and hyaluronic acid to be particularly effective anti-aging serums. I’ll use one of them after I’ve washed my face and before I apply a moisturizer. Here are their benefits:
Referred to by the Ancient Egyptians as the “plant of immortality,” Aloe vera is the the gel-like substance found inside aloe plant leaves. It’s rich in antioxidants, enzymes, and trace minerals. Aloe helps to soothe and hydrate the skin, as well as repair collagen.
Green Leaf Naturals’ Aloe Vera Gel is the closest thing you can get to slicing open an aloe leaf. It’s 99.7% aloe, and doesn’t contain any of unnecessary thickeners that can make it thick and sticky. It absorbs very quickly and leaves my skin feeling hydrated and smooth.
Vitamin C helps to produce collagen and repair UV damage. In addition to potent levels of vitamin C, Kriama Vitamin C Serum also contains hyaluronic acid, aloe, and vitamin E.
Hyaluronic acid is a watery substance that enables our skin to retain moisture. Our bodies naturally produce it, but the amount decreases as we age. Using hyaluronic acid as a serum helps to keep your skin looking full, refreshed, and hydrated.
Hyaluronic acid is particularly helpful when you’re traveling, as our skin tends to dry out during long flights.
I use vegan hyaluronic acid when I’m feeling tired and like my skin needs an extra boost. I also add a few drops to my eyes a few times a week to keep them hydrated.
Argan, Tamanu, Rosehip, and Moringa oils are great to experiment with as you try out natural skincare products. They all have similar effects because they’re full of Vitamins A and C, as well as unsaturated fatty acids and omega 3’s and 6’s. These properties work synergistically together to reduce discoloration and rejuvenate your skin. Despite their similarities, however, the oils do have distinct textures and smells, so it’s definitely worth trying them all out before you settle on a favorite.
After I apply serum in the morning, I usually add a thin layer argan oil.
When I want a thicker and richer moisturizer, I’ll use Pure Shea Butter. Shea butter rich in vitamins A, E, and fatty acids, which help to nourish the skin and protect against free radicals.
I’ve been using MyChelle Sunshield, which has an SPF of 28. It’s one of the few natural sunscreen formulas I’ve found that actually works and doesn’t make my skin look white. I also appreciate the fact that it doesn’t have a smell, and it doesn’t irritate my eyes.
For more serious sun exposure, I use the stick version which has an SPF of 50.
Masks and peels
Dead sea mud mask
Dead sea mud mask help to draw out impurities, increase circulation, and nourish the skin with minerals such as sodium, chloride, and magnesium. I use Pure Body Naturals’ Sead Sea Mud Mask about once every week.
Glycolic acid combats wrinkles and discoloration, and minimizes pores. It also helps to dry out the skin and prevent acne. It’s great for aging or acne-prone skin.
Depending on how oily or dry my skin is, I’ll do a Glycolic Acid Peel about twice a month. I put it on for 5 minutes, rinse my hands thoroughly while it’s on, and then wash my face thoroughly (eyes closed) with a mild soap such as African Black Soap. I then follow by applying Argan, Moringa, or Rosehip Oil. The age-defying properties of these oils are especially potent and effective after a peel.
What about retinol?
Retinol has become a very popular ingredient in anti-aging formulas because it helps to dry out the skin and increase cell turnover rate, leading to younger-looking skin in the short term. However, the active ingredient in retinol – Vitamin A – is usually animal derived, meaning it’s not vegan. Instead of using retinol, I use natural glycolic acid skincare products, which have essentially the same effect.
Once you switch to skin care products using pure ingredients you will have the opportunity to see for yourself how powerful natural solutions really can be. You will also enjoy using your skin care products more, because you’ll know that you’re nourishing your skin with potent natural formulas, from companies with a greater level of integrity than those pushing hazardous chemicals.