Once you realize that your skin really is your body’s largest organ, it becomes easy to understand the desire for natural, organic, and unprocessed skincare products.
Just as “we are what we eat,” we are what we slather on ourselves. Before you apply your next coat of sunscreen, pause a moment to let that idea sink in.
The next thing to realize is that not all natural and organic products are created equal. Much like the spiritual quest, what matters is the journey: in this case the journey from the farm to your skin. To make astute choices, it is vital to know what happens along the way. There are three basic questions to consider:
1. How are natural and organic ingredients grown and harvested?
Think of the best extra-virgin olive oil from a protected region in Italy, where the olives are cold-pressed and respectfully seduced to give up their precious juices to maintain nutritional content and flavor. You pay attention because you know the oil tastes delicious, but the same oil is equally delicious for your skin. What about the other skincare products you apply?
2. How are personal care products manufactured?
When you buy or grow organic vegetables, you try and eat them as raw as possible or lightly steam them to maintain their nutrients. Likewise, it is relevant to ask what happens when the plants come out of the ground to be made into skincare products. Are the plants percolated or macerated to force the natural content? Are chemicals used to extract the ingredients? Or are the plant’s natural properties gently coaxed from them as essences, extracts, and elixirs that maintain the vitality of the plant in the process? As with food, when it comes to natural and organic personal care products, the less water, heat, chemicals, and human manipulation the better.
3. How are they preserved?
Preservatives are additives put into products to prolong their shelf life and keep them from being broken down by microorganisms. Yet, what does a longer shelf life have to do with health? Absolutely nothing. Preservatives exist solely for the convenience of companies seeking to maximize sales and profitability through scalability, mass production, and logistics. Imagine buying food items that would last in your refrigerator for five years. You wouldn’t. Instead, subscribe to the belief “the longer the shelf life, the lower yours.”
In my experience, I have found few cosmetic chemists who see and treat the natural and organic ingredients in personal-care products like a raw food chef does when preparing a meal. But that’s changing. In the meantime, it pays to read labels to know the ingredients and processes that take the plant from farm to skin. Taking note of certifications for purity and clinical studies for efficacy are two parts of the three-legged stool of understanding. The third is transparency. Rating natural and organic products according to certification, efficacy, and transparency will aid tremendously in helping one to navigate the growing number of choices among products that are marketed as natural and organic.