Natural skincare: a beginner's guide
In the coming months I really want to talk more about natural skincare. I have been slowly making the switch to natural where I have found good alternatives and I would love to share some of the gems I have found, as well as the products that really didn't work at all.
Choosing what you put on your skin is very personal, and I don't want to try to persuade you to do what I am doing. I also want to point out that although I always research every product before I buy it and check their ingredients, I am not an expert. If reading this inspires you to consider filling your bathroom cabinet with more natural products, I would recommend you also do some research before you buy anything. In fact, I would recommend you look at the ingredients list whatever you buy!
WHY I CHOOSE NATURAL
Since my early twenties I have always been drawn to natural skincare. My love affair started when I read about the German brand Dr Hauschka at a moment when I was struggling with terrible acne. Their Clarifying Daily Oil was the only thing that worked on my blemished face. That was also the beginning of my love for oils. Later on I worked as a skincare buyer for a department store and attended several training workshops by brands. I always found that the more conventional ones always talked about targeting problems and seemed to fight what your skin naturally did. Others like Dr Hauschka or Weleda were all about supporting your skin, and that approach really resonated with me much more.
More recently I had some health problems due to my hormones being out of whack, which resulted in me having major surgery to remove two very large fibroids. I started reading more about hormonal health and learnt about things that can disrupt it, including beauty products.
Another reason why I love natural skincare is because I adore its smell. I love essential oils and they are often key ingredients in some of my favourite products. I love a good fragrant bath or body oil, or a nutty body butter. Some people are sensitive to these strong fragrances, but I can't get enough of them, so they are another reason for me to choose natural.
However, I am by no means an absolutist and although I gravitate towards the more natural end of the spectrum, I also know that there are many more conventional products that are perfectly safe to use, and I do use them as well.
DECONSTRUCTING A FEW MYTHS
- Natural doesn't automatically mean best. There are some products that aren't natural and are still fantastic and very safe to use, so don't make the assumption that just because something has a natural or organic label on, it means it is great or that it will work for you.
- Some natural products can be incredibly harsh. I find this is the case especially with cheaper products. There are exceptions, but as a rule of thumb, I have found mid range brands to be the best place to start, as they invest in good quality ingredients and in research.
- If you're prone to allergies, you may need to be careful. Many natural products use essential oils for their properties and their fragrance, which can cause allergic reactions. If your skin tends to react badly, perhaps you're better off using non natural brands that are incredibly gentle and created specifically for sensitive skin. Avene is one of my favourites.
- There are actually very few products that are 100% natural. Balms and solid products tend to be, but as soon as there is water in a product, whether it is a moisturiser or shampoo, they need to have a preservative to stabilise the formula. Otherwise, they would go off very quickly and would not be safe to use.
WHERE TO START?
If this is resonating with you, you might want to start ditching some of your usual skincare and make up and switch to more natural alternatives. I have been slowly making the transition and still have a long way to go, as sometimes it isn't easy to find good alternatives.
Products that have the biggest impact
That is the biggest impact on your health, since the reason why I do this now more consciously is to maintain hormonal balance and certain chemicals in beauty products can disrupt it:
- Toothpaste, as you always end up swallowing some of it when you're brushing your teeth and it goes through your digestive system.
- Deodorant. We have many lymph glands near the armpit area, and whatever we put on our pits could interfere with our lymphatic system which helps us eliminate toxins.
- Lip balms, for similar reasons to the toothpaste, especially the ones that taste really good!
- Body butters and lotions. Although we tend to think of our facial care first when thinking about skincare, we apply much more product when we moisturise our limbs after a shower than we do on ur face, so you may want to consider changing your body lotion first.
- Cleanser. One of the easiest things you can do is stop using a face wash and change to a cleansing balm or even plain old coconut oil. If you use a muslin or face cloth to remove it you don't even need to bother with facial scrubs, as the cloth will exfoliate your skin in a much more gentle way.
- Facial moisturiser. There are so many in the market, in every price point and available from most shops.
- Facial serum, which you can replace with an oil. My favourite is Trilogy's Rosehip Oil, which is a brilliant all rounder, but most brands now make an oil, and they're suitable even for oily skins.
- Body oils. Again, there are so many in the market and they don't have to be very expensive at all. You can even make your own blend if you want to experiment mixing things up.
- Body butters/lotions. I personally love The Body Shop body butters, and they're often on offer.
The most challenging
I'm still on the quest for some alternatives to my every day essentials.
- Haircare. This is a tricky one, because there are good products out there, but they tend to be more expensive, or at least I have not found a budget friendly product that doesn't dry out my scalp yet! The two brands I would highly recommend are Pureology and Aveda. These are examples of products that are not completely natural, but both try to use more natural ingredients and I am happy with that!
- Deodorant. I need to be perfectly honest here. The quest for natural deodorant is a hard, challenging and smelly one. I have tried numerous products that left me stinking of B.O. mid afternoon, and I am not even a sweaty person! I have finally found two that I am happy with but I have to admit they don't have the power of conventional deodorants. Because it was such a quest, I have decided to write a full blog post in the future with some recommendations and some big fails as well.
- Sun care. I know that there are quite a few brands out there, but this is the category where I make the exception and I go for brands like La Roche Posay, Avene or Vichy, which have fantastic products that keep your skin safe under the fiercest sun. I also remember seeing some horrid photos of people's burns after using Jessica Alba's range of natural skincare, so it makes me scared to use anything other than what I already know to be safe.
If this has inspired you to introduce a few more natural products in your bathroom, next month I will share with you the best natural brands I have found so you can make the best choices for you.