Sustainability is more than a buzzword—it has evolved into a way of life. Today’s consumer is more health-conscious than ever. From the food we eat to the products we put on our face and body, pure ingredients not only help us feel and look better—they have become part of our identity.
“Having a closeness to nature brings us closer to purity—or back to our true selves. Consumers now gravitate and feel better toward ingredients being green, sustainable, nontoxic, chemical-free, and fairly traded,” explains Richard Pietz, beauty industry ingredient and trend expert, and former global director of product development at Jurlique, a natural skincare brand.
For Nicole Rechelbacher, co-founder of Intelligent Nutrients, a certified organic natural health and beauty company, natural ingredients are simply part of her DNA. The daughter of the late organic pioneer Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients, Nicole was brought up in the beauty industry. “I always tell people not to look at the front of the packaging, but to turn it over and read the ingredients on the label. If it’s hard to pronounce, then that’s a big question mark,” she says, stressing that there is no difference between internal and external. “Your external skin is your biggest organ. What you put on your skin goes in.”
A good rule of thumb: keep it simple and keep it clean. “I’m a true believer in very clean, simple ingredients, and staying away from anything that you don’t understand or is incredibly synthetic. I don’t see how it can work with your own body chemistry if it can’t work with the Earth,” says Rechelbacher.
Look at the key ingredients and really get to know what works with your body, and what your body responds well to. “Everybody has their own footprint,” she explains, “Everybody has their own code. It’s not one thing fits all, you have to figure out the code that works best for you.”
One cautionary note is to be careful of the word fragrance. “Anything that says ‘fragrance’ is a trade secret in the beauty industry, so they can hide anything in there,” explains Rechelbacher. So, if anybody has any concerns about their chemical exposure, something to turn away from is anything that says fragrance.
The Ones to Watch
Here are some top natural skincare ingredients that can help ground you to Earth and all it has to offer.
Algae bioactives: These powerful marine ingredients help combat hyperpigmentation, dullness, and the slowdown of collagen formation, which can rear its ugly head as bags and wrinkles. It also provides pollution protection. Brown algae calms redness and helps boost the repair process; coralline red algae boosts circulation and cell oxygenation; chlorella green and brown algae provide long-term moisture; and golden algae protects against pollution. These are key ingredients in Intelligent Nutrients products, as well as in Spa Technologies products.
Coneflower: Echinacea angustifolia, or coneflower, is known to boost elasticity, moisturize, and soothe the skin. It can stimulate cellular regeneration, and help regulate inflammation. Its root extract is often used for its hydrating and firming properties. You’ll find it in Intelligent Nutrients Plant Stem Cell Science Renewal Complex Eye Gel.
Encapsulated Lavender Beads: Encapsulated lavender beads are plant- derived capsules that completely dissolve once broken on the skin’s surface. They are not exfoliant particles and are not damaging to the environment like microbeads—they break and deliver the lavender essential oils to the skin. Overnight Hydration Therapy from ESPA features these unique, scented beads.
Grapeseed oil: Derived from its very name, grapes, grapeseed oil is rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), vitamins, and other key nutrients that benefit the skin in a myriad of ways, including controlling skin’s moisture. It also can help tighten skin and relieve dark circles under the eyes. To balance the skin, try Jurlique Balancing Day Care Cream. You can also find this in Caudalie’s Vinosource Nourishing Concentrate, good for oily skin.
Kakadu Plum: Considered a super-fruit for its antioxidant properties, this Australian fruit is a great source of natural vitamin C and is 50 times more concentrated than an orange. According to Pietz it holds compounds proven to help reduce dark spots, fine lines, and protect against ultraviolet (UV) damage. You can find this ingredient in Jurlique’s Purely Bright Treatment Serum with VitaBright KX and in Nourishing Facial Cream from Mukti Naturally Organic Skin Care.
Pennywort: Pennywort, or centella asiatica, is a member of the parsley family. This green plant can help boost blood circulation, improve the collagen foundation of the skin, and also fight oxidation. In addition, it has regenerating properties. Balanced Guru Moisturizing Masque keeps skin hydrated and helps restore elasticity.
Pine Bark: A pine bark extract called oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) comes from the bark of pine trees in the Landes Forest in France, and has strong antioxidant power. This stabilized natural extract is intended specifically for cosmetic use. IXXI, a cosmetic brand with a focus on anti-aging skincare, has identified pine bark as a powerful antioxidant action that neutralizes the free radicals that are responsible for skin aging; its skin protection effect allows the skin to retain the elasticity and firmness; and a reparative effect that helps synthesize collagen, restoring tone and density. Elixir Fine Emulsion SPF 15 from the IXXI line contains this ingredient.
Prickly Pear: Wild crafted from the deserts of Arizona, prickly pear is known for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. It also has hydrating properties (it is a desert plant, after all), and is often recommended for sensitive skin. The Kypris Body Elixirs help blemished skin and fight the environmental elements, while MyChelle Hydrating Cactus Mask helps revive and soothe skin.
Turmeric: Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, has anti-bacterial properties, and can help control the production of sebum. Eminence Bright Skin Targeted Treatment also includes turmeric, and helps brighten the complexion. Andalou Naturals Turmeric +C Enlighten Serum also contains vitamin C to improve uneven skin tone and dark spots.
5 Natural Allergens to Watch Out For
All natural ingredients contain some sort of allergen that will probably effect someone adversely. Here are five common ingredients that may cause reaction in people with sensitive skin.
- Citrus-based fruits: These ingredients have a lot of compounds in them, and not only are they acidic, but the compounds themselves can tend to be a little more irritant or drying on the skin.
- Chamomile: While chamomile can soothe, diminish ruddiness, puffiness, and inflammation, those with allergies to daisies and ragweed, among others, could experience a reaction.
- Jasmine oil: Many people have a hypersensitivity to this fragrant ingredient that can help congested skin and dry complexions.
- Lavender: This popular ingredient balances sebum production and helps with relaxation, but an allergy could be formed by linalool, a compound within lavender that produces its fragrance.
- Peppermint: Widely used peppermint is a known ingredient in skincare products for its antibacterial properties, but is a common allergen.
Melinda Taschetta-Millane is an award-winning writer and was the editor in chief of Skin Inc. magazine for 18 years.