Natural skin care products typically contain one or more botanical extracts, essential oils and plant-based oils such as olive, jojoba, or almond. Scientific studies have confirmed what herbalists have known all along, that many herbs have astringent, anti-inflammatory, or healing properties. Cosmetic companies have taken advantage of this by adding herbs and other botanicals to everything from face cleansers to moisturizers.
Unfortunately the amounts of herbal extracts in most natural skin care products are often so minute-less than 1% according to Arthur Vallejo, a chemist at D'Arcy Skincare in Pompano Beach, Florida--that they have little effect. In fact, due to the lack of national standards for the manufacturing of cosmetics, many skin care products that are labeled "natural" are made with petroleum-based or synthetic ingredients or artificial colors and fragrances. Therefore, it is in your best interest to read product labels.
Read the Label
The product label contains a list of all the ingredients in a particular product. Although the exact percentage of each ingredient is not given, the rule of thumb is that if water is at the top of the ingredient list, it's safe to assume the products primary ingredient is water with the ingredients listed in descending order. Let's take a look at a name brand "natural" (but not certified organic) face cleanser found at the drugstore.
In this particular example there are 25 ingredients, at least half of which are botanical extracts, essential oils, or plant-based oils. Once we eliminate the water, which chemist Vallejo says may be 60% or more of a product, nearly one-quarter of the ingredients are not so "natural" according to the Environmental Working Group Report: Skin Deep: A Safety Assessment of Ingredients in Personal Care Products. These include methylparaben and propylparaben.
The Bottom Line
Despite what cosmetic companies tell us, it is anyone's guess as to whether natural skin care products are more effective than any other skin care product. The only certainty is that natural does not always mean what you-the consumer-thinks it does. More than likely, if the majority of ingredients are botanical extracts and essential oils then the skin care product is probably good for your skin. If you like the way natural skin care products make your skin feel then by all means use them. Just remember that they are not miracle cures and healthy radiant skin begins with a healthy lifestyle.
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