I have a dare for you. Open your medicine cabinet – or anywhere you keep your skin care products – and try to find one item with ingredients you understand. Unless you’re a natural, organic or eco-beauty devotee, you’re probably going to be hard pressed to do so without a degree in cosmetic chemistry. Most of the cleansers, moisturizers, serums, etc., that we use on a daily basis are of the chemical-laden variety, and though they haven’t necessarily been proven unsafe, it is known that 70 (yes, seven- zero) percent of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. Just a tad scary when I think about the decades’ worth of parabens, sulphates, phthalates and beyond that have already seeped into my system.
Thankfully, now more than ever there are aptly available natural products on the beauty market. However, it’s important to be armed with the proper knowledge to delve into this realm. For instance, I’m a bit of a sucker for anything that says “all-natural” on its label, but what does that even mean? Anything followed by something-or-other -free instantly entices me to buy, buy, buy – after all, it has to be better for me and the earth if it’s free of something right? Well, yes and no. Certain chemicals common in beauty products can seriously alter the natural balance of your skin, and do more harm than good in the long run (irritation of the skin at a molecular level is known to cause aging). Here is a compact cheat-sheet of ingredients your beauty supplies should be void of and what they are and do.
Parabens: a type of preservative used in most products that has recently been linked to breast cancer in continual doses
Sulphates: a cleaning agent found in everything from shampoos to face washes to toothpaste that can be very irritating, and disrupt the moisture level in your skin.
PEGs (Polyethylene Glycols): Found in antifreeze – and your favorite toner probably – that can be chronically irritating to sensitive skin.
Phthalates: used in softer plastics, like the bottles storing your moisturizer, which can leak into the product, and has been known to cause birth defects
Mineral Oils, silicones and paraffins: create a film over your skin that prevents it from breathing or accepting moisture, which can lead to bacterial imbalances, breakouts and irritation
Now that you are armed with some vital ingredient dont’s, here’s a list of some skin care do’s we love that love our skin in return (without all the above mentioned no-nos).
Origins’ Drink Up Intensive Overnight mask is chock-full of mouth-watering ingredients like avocado oil, mango butter, pomegranate and apricot kernel oil to name a few that encourages moisture to be replaced and stored away for safe keeping while you sleep. Top the non-greasy, intensely hydrating mask off in the morning with Origins’ GinZing Refreshing eye cream to brighten, depuff and smooth with the help of chestnut seed, apple and cucumber extracts. Plus, the naturally derived caffeine provides a nice tingle to tired eyes in need of waking.
Available: Macy’s, http://www.origins.com
Originally launched in the UK, but now available stateside, Nude skin care products work with the body’s biology safely and effectively to provide maximum results, with a natural and social conscience. All their active ingredients are naturally-derived, and a quarter are preserved with natural vitamin E instead of harmful parabens. Its progressive recyclable packaging looks super sleek, but the exterior doesn’t hold a candle to what lays in these stylish bottles. Nude’s Cleansing Facial Oil originally worried me a little bit. Anything with “oil” in its name does not traditionally go anywhere near my oily complexion; but I quickly came to find that the non-traditional face wash turns from the consistency of a serum to milk with a little added water and does an unbelievable job at removing my make up and leaving my skin feeling clean, balanced and not the least bit stripped. The Miracle Mask lives up to it’s name by delivering miraculously brightening and silky-smooth results after just a handful of gently tingling 5-minute sessions, and for a super soft eye area and promising anti-wrinkle results, the Advanced Eye Complex is a must.
Available: Barneys, http://www.sephora.com
Finding gentle regimens for trouble skin prone to acne is near impossible. That’s where Nelsons – known for its natural and homeopathic products, steps in. The new, uber affordable Pure & Clear line uses antiseptics like tea tree oil and calendula, and the calming properties of arnica and hypericum to effectively battle blemishes without irritating or drying skin. When I paired the Purifying Cleansing Wash, Balancing Toner and Blemish Gel, my face felt squeaky clean, invigorated (due to the tea tree), and surprisingly, I didn’t get that super tight feeling even without a moisturizer. The Purifying Cleansing Wipes are super convenient for a mid-day pick-me-up, or to throw in your gym bag.
Available: Whole Foods
Your face isn’t the only part of your body that deserves the royal, natural treatment. Yumé Blush’s line of 100% botanical, vegan and edible whipped body cream chiffons work in whatever way you could want. The chiffons warm with your natural body heat to release essential oils that help with skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. The six flavors can be used as a massage oil, body cream, body butter, lotion or lip balm (my favorite use) for a literally delicious way of moisturizing from head to toe.
Newly launched, Duchess Marden has an entire line up of natural goodies that are crying out to be tried. The Foaming Cleanser removes makeup and impurities, stimulates collagen rebuilding and calms the face with apple amino acids, organic babussu palm fruit and rose oils. The organic shea butter and apricot oil-based Face Crème is super rich without being greasy and absorbs quickly. Mushroom extracts help fade hyper-pigmentation and even discoloration over time. To further tone the skin, the Hydrating Masque brightens and reduces the overproduction of melanin. Those that love the scent of roses will especially love the Duchess because every item in the Duchess Marden lineup is infused with soothing rose oil.
Available: Whole Foods (Bowery), http://www.duchessmarden.com