The actual meaning of ‘natural’ needs to be clarified.
The idea of ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ beauty has been around for many years, tagged onto the front of different products for the sake of promotion. Industry-wise, the two terms refer to two different things: ‘natural’ means plant, mineral or animal-based, while ‘organic’ refers to the farming method, where ingredients grown naturally, without pesticides, chemical fertilisers or antibiotics. What’s important, however, is to understand that neither of these terms or ‘certifications’ are formally regulated in Singapore.
So what does that mean for us consumers? As the ones who are actually using these products, we need to make sure that they are actually good for us. ‘Natural’ or ‘organic’ may not necessarily be the best, or healthier, for everyone. Some people can have an allergic reaction to something natural or organic, and people with sensitive skin may react negatively towards natural or organic products too. Essential oils, for example: bergamot oil contains high amounts of limonene, which is known to trigger bad skin reactions.
Why, then, do people care so much about natural or organic skincare? And what should we look out for in stores if we really are trying to seek out these kinds of products?
Rise of Natural Skincare
While cosmetics and skincare have been around for hundreds of years, the trend of “natural skincare” is a more recent phenomenon. The reasons? There are a couple: first is the demand for safety — or more specifically, a fear of chemicals; secondly, the demand for transparency and environmentally-friendly products. Research has shown that the rising demand for natural skincare is mostly headed by the younger consumers, who are more environmentally and health conscious. This, coupled with the views of popular celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow with her line of “all-natural” beauty products, Goop, has also prompted a wave of interest in this growing market.
“Natural is best” seems to be the new mantra when it comes to natural skincare, even though, as established at the beginning of this post, that may not necessarily be the case. The main concern stems from the chemicals that exist in skincare products: in 2010, a popular hair straightening treatment from the brand Brazilian Blowout was found to turn into formaldehyde gas when it gets heated, posing as a hazard for salon workers and customers; then in 2012, the FDA discovered lead in 400 types of lipsticks, though its effects on humans are unknown.
The demand for sustainable products, on the other hand, comes from a growing concern for the environment. The beauty industry generates a giant amount of plastic waste, as well as toxic chemicals and ingredients that are washed down the sewage and into water bodies; these chemicals later evaporate into clouds and fall back down to earth as rain (chemicals related to cosmetics have been found in agricultural soil and household dust particles). While there are many companies that tout their lines of products as “natural”, some of them merely add natural ingredients and don’t remove the chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
With all these in mind, should we still be concerned about buying natural products?
Choosing and Purchasing Natural Skincare
While there are concerns about the toxicity of certain skincare chemicals, according to experts, the main concern should be the dosage. Anything, with a given amount of dosage, can be toxic.
When it comes to buying natural products, especially skincare, pay extra attention to the ingredients list. While some companies do not list out all the ingredients used, a quick gander at the list is enough to present an idea about how ‘natural’ the product truly is.
Another thing to look out for is also the suitability of the product. As mentioned, not all natural products are suitable for use. Here are some items that shouldn’t be in skincare products:
● Almond extract
● Balm mint oil
● Citrus juices or oils
● Clover blossom
● Coriander oil
● Cottonseed oil
● Fir needle
● Geranium oil
● Ground up nuts
● Lavender oil
● Lemon balm
● Oak bark
● Witch hazel
● Ylang ylang
In general, there are two classes of natural products. The best option, perhaps, might be purchasing items such as 100% pure oils, that contain nothing else besides the product itself—which could then be diluted for any need
NOW Solutions has a few of such items, such as Rosehip Seed Oil (good for healing scars, hydration, and boosting immunity, as well as a personal favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge), Grapeseed Oil (makes the skin more bouncy, moisturised, and evens out the skin tone), Tamanu Oil (helps reduce sun damage on the skin), Neem Oil (good for aging skin, and helps wounds heal better), Vitamin E Oil (rich in antioxidants and good for moisturising) and Sweet Almond Oil (reduces under-eye circles and stretch marks), all of which are great for the skin. When it comes to skincare, it is critical to find oils that have molecules small enough to penetrate the skin, as most oils may be too large. Carrier oils, which are used to dilute the relatively harsher essential oils to be used on skin, are such oils, and in the list provided, most of them are considered useful carrier oils as well.
Hear from the famous actress Drew Barrymore swearing by our E-Oil in her #BeautyJunkieWeek series, where she recommendations beauty products on Instagram.
On the other hand, there are products that include natural ingredients, but may also contain a combination of other harmless and non-toxic chemicals. For example, NOW Solutions has Rosewater Rejuvenating Mist, which contains a mixture of other harmless, moisturising chemicals, and Hyaluronic Acid Firming Serum, which contains chemicals extracted from plants, other plant extracts, on top of the naturally occurring acid that is its main selling point. For such products, it would greatly help to read the ingredients list at least once or twice, and with NOW Solutions, we assure that the ingredients list is accurate and transparent.
Creating Homemade Natural Skin Products
The best way to ensure an all-natural line of products is to make them at home. Using some of the oils listed above, along with some other household items and other oils, anyone can try out the following recipes for themselves!
32 g Green Tea
1 tbsp Rosehip Seed Oil
1 tbsp Sweet Almond Oil
¼ tsp Vitamin E Oil
1 tsp Emulsifying Wax
1 drop Carrot Seed Essential Oil
3 drop Lavender Essential Oil
- Brew a cup of green tea.
- Fill two medium saucepans about half-full with water.
- Place a glass bowl with a spout in each pot and turn the stove to medium heat.
- Add wax, rosehip seed oil, vitamin E oil and sweet almond oil to one pot.
- Add green tea to the other pot.
- Heat both mixtures until the emulsifying wax has totally melted.
- Check temperatures of both pots with a thermometer like this one (both mixtures need to be at the same temperature or the mixture won't set).
- When both the oil mixture and water mixture reach around 54 degrees Celsius, pour the water mixture into the oil mixture.
- Use a handheld blender to mix the cream.
- Continue to mix periodically (every 10 minutes or so) until the water is no longer separating on the bottom. This tends to take about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Once fully mixed, add essential oils then pour into containers.
2 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 tbsp Sweet Almond Oil
1½ tbsp Beeswax
10 drops Essential Oil of choice
- Use a double boiler on low heat to melt all ingredients (except essential oils). Stir with a metal spoon until the beeswax is fully melted.
- Remove from heat once melted and add the essential oil.
- Fill lip balm tubes or tins, and let it cool for a couple of hours to firm up.
180 g Chamomile Tea, Cooled (or Filtered/Distilled Water)
60 g Liquid Castile Soap
0.5 tsp Sweet Almond Oil
3 drops Vitamin E Oil
8 drops Frankincense Essential Oil
8 drops Lavender Essential Oil
- In a soap bottle, add liquid Castile soap, organic almond oil and vitamin E oil.
- Add essential oils as needed.
- Fill with chamomile tea or water to the top of the bottle.
- Shake well and use as needed.
Natural products have been one of the fastest growing in the beauty industry, and experts believe that the numbers will continue to rise, despite these products being significantly more expensive than their traditional, more common counterparts. But it is also due to this growing abundance of products that, as consumers, we need to be more critical about them. Checking their ingredients list and finding out details about the manufacturing process are just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually, with the rise in demand, some companies will begin to overlook some parts of the process to favour lower costs. As there is no regulation for these products, it is up to us consumers to regulate the items that we purchase for ourselves.
Want to find out more about other beauty and health-related topics? Feel free to explore the rest of the website for more natural and organic products!