Here we outline the 3 main ingredients that you won't find in truly natural skincare products. If you are interested in supporting the most resilient, balanced skin possible for yourself you need to understand these differences. Getting a grasp on these things will help you navigate the selection of natural skincare products on the market, some of which are not actually 'truly natural' because they are still cheapened with water fillers and therefore also contain other associated chemicals that can harm your skin.
Have you ever read the ingredients on big-box skincare products? Well if you had, you would know that the first ingredient listed is water! This is great news for the companies that produce them because water is very inexpensive - thereby making the products very profitable. The active ingredient is actually the oils in these products - and the concentration of these oils is often lower than 10%.
It is the oils in skincare that nourishes our skin. And the types of oils that we apply to our skin is important because these oils need to mimic the oily matrix that surrounds healthy skin cells, holding them together like little bricks in an oily mortar. If these oils are not too sticky, they won't clog our pores, and if they contain anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative properties - this is also helpful for preventing acne and promoting repair. In general if these oils mimic healthy skin's natural oils, it signals to skin cells that times are good - and skin responds by looking and feeling it's best.
But because oils constitute such a low portion of conventional skin care, it is arguable that the quality of the oils are not the highest priority, and that rather, the skin feel and texture of the cream is given a higher priority, which we discuss now...
So if conventional skincare is made of water and a little bit of oil - how is it that the cream is so light and fluffy? To achieve this, the oil and water is heated and blended together along with another ingredient, an emulsifier, usually a synthetic chemical from petrochemical origin. Emulsifiers are described as 'detergent like'. It has an 'oil attracting' end and a 'water attracting' end. And this little chemical works to keep the cream stable as a light fluffy cream rather than a runny oil and water mess. One problem with emulsifiers, when applied regularly to skin is that any spare emulsifier molecules can grab onto the oils that helps keep our skin healthy, and these natural oils can be pulled from the skin as we bathe. As a result our natural skin barrier (the oily mortar between the water-filled skin cells that acts to keep the water and 'plumpness' inside the cells) gets disrupted, and our skin can begin to feel lackluster, dry in patches, irritated, and thin.
This can start a vicious cycle, where we feel so dry that we apply more cream, to try to satiate our skin cells thirst for water which acts to temporarily plump up our disrupted skin cells and make us feel 'hydrated'. The only problem being that when the skin dries out in the elements, we want to reapply and reapply to plump back up our skin!
A more sustainable solution to this problem is to begin to nourish skin with a well-balanced blend of oils that mimic the oily 'mortar' in healthy skin. Whilst the skin barrier is being repaired, a gentle toner, like our rose hydrosol, can be applied to satiate the skin's thirst for water. Although most of us find that this measure becomes less and less necessary as the skin barrier is restored and our skin cells do not 'dry out' so easily.
Another big difference between conventional skin care and truly natural skin care is the presence of toxins. These are added to conventional skin care because when oil and water are mixed into an emulsion, this mixture provides a great environment for pathogenic micro-organisms to grow. Because skin care companies do not want to be responsible for nasty skin infections they need to preserve the creams - and the most common and effective way to do this is by adding parabens - a synthetic toxin of petrochemical origin that kills micro-organisms. Whilst parabens are the go to choice in most of these products, some products tout 'natural preservatives' and contain toxins that are sourced from nature, not from petrochemicals. However the problem with any type of toxins (preservative) in your skincare is that it can kill off the healthy microbial flora that is resident on healthy skin - impairing the action of the skin's natural flora to naturally crowd out any infection-causing microbes that land on our skin. Further, parabens, the most effective preservatives have been shown to pass the skin barrier and are suspected of interfering with our hormones and playing a part in disease.
A great benefit of truly natural skincare is that it is only made of oil! This absence of water means there is no need for damaging emulsifier chemicals. And because micro-organisms are no more likely to thrive in truly natural skin care products than they are in your bottle of olive oil in the pantry, these products have no need for added toxins, so your skin microbiome can become healthy. Also truly natural skin care is made of 100% active ingredients - so you really don't need much, and if you feel oily after applying a good trick is to spray your face with toner or water before applying to help you to evenly apply only the slightest amount. Your skin will be healthier and you will use less product than you ever thought possible.