We all know by now that buzzwords sell, and with the right placement of words, even snake oil can sound like the best thing since sliced bread. In recent years, the terms “natural” and “clean beauty” have certainly created a stir.
But while it’s easy to understand the desire to skip the chemicals, preservatives, and other ingredients that are bad for your skin, a shorter ingredient list and labeling something as natural isn’t necessarily the answer.
Let’s take a look at natural ingredients to see why they may not be the better choice.
What Does Natural Really Mean?
One of the issues with labeling products as “natural” is that there there is no standard definition of what the term means or no real way to quantify it. There are no guidelines, and there are no rules.
If we really break it down, the term natural refers to how the product is sourced and manufactured. Typically, manufacturers will lean toward labeling something as natural if it’s devoid of chemicals, parabens, fragrances, or dyes.
For example, if green tea extract is taken directly from green tea leaves, and used in foods, drinks, and skincare products in its pure form without the addition of synthetic chemicals, then it can be considered a “natural” ingredient.
What Natural Doesn’t Mean
Long story short, natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe. In fact, there are plenty of cautionary tales and warnings about the dangers of herbs and plant-based products used in skincare with disastrous results.
Don’t get us wrong, while plenty of great herbs and plants are gifted to us by nature like chamomile and lavender, there are plenty more that are harmful and dangerous. Remember that cherries have cyanide in the pits and castor beans contain ricin. Poison ivy is another excellent example.
Why Is There So Much Interest In Natural Skincare?
It’s hard to deny that the interest in natural skincare has reached a fever pitch. This unprecedented interest has risen sharply due to the following factors
- An increased interest in sustainability and lowering pollution
- A back to basics notion that less is more
- The belief that natural ingredients are safe and better than chemical counterparts
The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Natural Skincare Products
While natural ingredients like lemon and citrus may sound tantalizing and attractive, when you really dig into it, the truth is citrus can be irritating, particularly to those with sensitive skin, and acid in these fruits can lead to increased sun sensitivity over time.
Oils can also be particularly troublesome. Take coconut oil, for example; while this natural ingredient is often touted as one of the best-kept skincare secrets in the beauty world, the truth is if it’s not used properly, it can do more harm than good. Coconut oil is occlusive, so it doesn’t absorb easily. Truth be told, it’s more likely to sit on your skin, failing to penetrate the layers to do any good. Instead, it’s far more likely that coconut oil will clog your pores and cause acne.
That said, plant-based products are not all bad. In fact, when we look at turmeric, green tea, and chamomile, for example, there are plenty of skincare benefits to be had. In case you’re wondering, all three are excellent for reducing inflammation and reducing redness, and chamomile has been shown to slow down the signs of aging.
Just because a product is labeled as natural, it doesn’t mean it’s better for your skin. And just as there are good and bad chemicals, there are good and bad plants and herbs. While it’s absolutely fine to seek out the best ingredients for your skin, be sure to do your due diligence (aka research) and choose products that won’t leave you with more than you bargained for.