The Grooming Journal
A Guide To Natural Skincare Ingredients
- What is a natural skincare ingredient?
- Are natural products better for your skin?
- What are the most common natural skincare ingredients?
More and more consumers are inclined to go down the ‘natural’ route when it comes to skincare. There has been a massive increase in interest in ingredients, with more people taking note of what is going into their skin. This increased interest, particularly in natural ingredients, has made natural skincare somewhat ‘trendy’ and has inturn caused a boom in the industry. (source). Brands are increasingly looking to naturally-sourced ingredients to extract the power from plants and botanicals in order to avoid synthetic alternatives.
There is a continual ping-pong battle as to whether natural ingredients are better than synthetic ingredients. The fact is, both synthetic and natural ingredients can work, and when it comes down to their efficacy it can completely depend on our skin type. All of our skin is different, and the same goes for how our skin reacts to different ingredients. Development processes have come so far in the grooming and beauty industry that some synthetic/lab-made ingredients are created to be exact replicas of natural ingredients (nature-identical).
The world of ‘natural’ skincare can be quite confusing as the standards of what makes natural skincare ‘natural’ vary from country to country. There are a huge amount of natural ingredients out there, and to be transparent some brands do use ‘natural’ as a buzz word in order to ride the marketing wave. However, there’s no denying that some of the best natural ingredients contain some incredible powers and do amazing things for our skin.
What is a natural skincare ingredient?
A purely natural skincare ingredient is derived from plants (both marine and terrestrial), fruits and other organic sources, including animal by-products.
Natural ingredients are often rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can nourish and protect the skin from environmental damage. They tend to consist of anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which also help with skin concerns such as acne and eczema.
Natural ingredients can often provide more broad and unintended, but beneficial results beyond their intended use-cases, whereas synthetic ingredients are often laser focused on a specific benefit. For example, beeswax is great for barrier protection, but it also contains triacontanol, octacosanol, hexacosanol, and tetracosanol - components that are wonderful for their anti-inflammatory benefits.
What is the difference between natural and organic ingredients?
All organic ingredients are natural. The main difference is that organic ingredients are grown without the addition of chemicals, such as pesticides , artificial fertilizers or antibiotics.
Organic skincare products have stricter standards and for it to be certificated as organic (regulated by certification programs such as COSMOS), it needs to contain around 95% of natural ingredients and at least 20% of the ingredients have to be derived from organic produce. (If products are certificated as being organic, you will find a logo on the packaging.)
The standards for natural skincare products are less strict, and unless a brand states their product is 100% natural, they are allowed to use plant-based ingredients which have been exposed to chemicals, and they are also allowed to mix their natural ingredients with synthetic ingredients.
What are ‘naturally-derived’ ingredients?
Naturally-derived ingredients differ from natural ingredients. Some skincare products call for natural ingredients to be altered and chemically modified in order for the ingredient to perform at its best, and therefore the molecular structure is changed from its original raw form and is classified as a naturally-derived ingredient. An example of a naturally-derived ingredient is a fatty acid, found in specific fruits and plants - the original raw ingredient (i.e the fruit/plant) is adjusted in order to have access to this effective ingredient.
What are synthetic ingredients and are they bad for you?
Synthetic ingredients are organic chemicals and naturally-derived ingredients which are replicated in a laboratory. This is a cheaper alternative to extracting a raw natural ingredient and intends to replicate the original ingredient, molecule for moleclue, in order to recreate its effectivity.
When we hear that something has been created in a lab, we are quick to thinking this is a negative process - Jurassic Park springs to mind! When actually, synthetic ingredients can be just as effective as natural ingredients, and sometimes even more so. Even hyaluronic acid, retinol, and vitamin C are created in a lab these days. They are formulated using naturally-occuring compounds found in plants etc. Also, in the case of hyaluronic acid, because it needs to be extracted from animal tissues, there have been questions of how the process is achieved and so it is cheaper, and less invasive, for it to be created in a lab using microorganisms. (source)
There are a lot of misconceptions about synthetic ingredients but a lot of the time they are used to prolong and preserve our skincare products. Imagine leaving a piece of fruit in a jar on it’s on for a few months…you can probably imagine that it won't look so pleasant after a while! So synthetic ingredients help to prevent decomposition. Unfortunately, the most well-intended 100% natural products will have a short expiry date as mother nature can’t control the natural breakdown of organisms.
Synthetic ingredients can be both bad and good for your skin, just a natural ingredients can be! What’s most important is that a skincare product works for you, and if you find your skin starts to react to a product, it might be it is being irritated by a chemical ingredient. A plus side to synthetic ingredients is that they can replicate natural ingredients which, if not farmed correctly, can cause more damage to environment.
Are natural products better for your skin?
Natural skincare products can offer your skin a variety of benefits but not all natural skincare products are necessarily ‘better’ for your skin. As we’ve mentioned, the construction of our skin differs from person to person and therefore our skin will react differently with natural ingredients.
Although you might associate the word ‘natural’ with it being more friendly to our skin, some natural products can still cause irritation to the skin. And synthetic products can still be just as beneficial for certain skin types and concerns.
Natural skincare products have been found to be particularly effective and beneficial on sensitive skin due to anti-inflammatory properties. They also serve as gentle and non-toxic alternatives to synthetic chemicals, which can be harsh on the skin.
Generally, natural ingredients help with hydration, antioxidant protection and soothing for the skin. They produce essential oils and contain proteins, vitamins, and hydrocolloids (associated with skin healing), which can all boost our skin’s health.
The most beneficial skincare routine will depend on your skin type, concern, and preference for a certain type of product. So, if you are looking to test out some natural ingredients it’s best to do your research and find which will suit your skin type and needs in order for you to gain the most out of your products.
What are the most common natural skincare ingredients?
• Shea Butter - This comes from the nut of a shea tree. You’ll generally find shea butter in moisturisers as it is full of fatty acids which help to hydrate the skin, as well as offering anti-inflammatory properties.
• Argan Oil - It contains vitamin E, ferulic acid (helps with premature ageing), and carotenoids (associated with the production of collagen and elastin). Vitamin E is used in skincare for it’s antioxidant properties, as well as acting as a humectant and emollient which helps your skin to absorb water. You’ve probably noticed argan oil being used a lot in haircare too.
• Green Tea - A botanical derived from the leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. When it come to its benefits in skincare, green tea is multi-faceted! It’s being used more and more due to the anti-ageing, antioxidant, and soothing properties. It can work wonders in suncream as it helps to protect the skin from sun damage, and it’s also commonly found in eye cream as it contains caffeine which assists in reducing the appearance of fine lines.
•Jojoba Oil - This is extracted from the seeds of the Simmondsia chinensis shrub found in dry regions of northern Mexico, Arizona and California. It is a humectant which attracts water to the skin, it also balances natural oil production and contains antibacterial properties which can reduce spots and acne.
•Baobab - The Baobab (found in Australia and Africa) is also known as the “tree of life”. In the wild it is a huge resource of water for birds and insects, and in skincare it’s known to be great at hydration. Baobab is ideal for anyone who suffers from dry or sensitive skin.
•Soy - Soy extract (from soy beans) in skincare contains an antioxidant, called isoflavone, which has been associated with reducing the signs of ageing. It’s also known to help brighten skin and even out the skin tone.
• Ginseng - This is a powerful herbal ingredient which comes from a root. Ginseng has been used in East Asian skincare products for many years due to its anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains vitamins D and B12 which help to increase blood circulation around the body and boosts collagen production. It’s known to brighten and ‘energise’ your complexion too.
• Tea Tree Oil - One of the most commonly known benefits of tea tree oil on the skin is the soothing and healing of acne. Tea tree contains terpenoids which work to balance sebum levels in the skin (source).
• Chamomile and Lavender - Both chamomile and lavender are calming for our skin. Chamomile is great for sensitive skin, and lavender is ideal for acne-prone skin.
• Coconut Oil - You’re likely to spot coconut oil in facial moisturiser as it acts as an emollient and traps water into the skin. Lauric acid, found in coconut oil, contains antibacterial properties which can help kill bacteria. Coconut oil is also made up of fatty acids which plump up the skin’s structure and smoothen out the skin’s texture. It is advised not to be used on acne-prone skin as it can sit on the surface of the skin and block pores.
• Aloe Vera - Someone may have told you to whack on some aloe vera when you've gone full lobster-mode after being in the sun too long. That is due to the healing properties in aloe vera. Aloe is rich in amino acids, polysaccarides, and phytosterols; all of which are associated with calming, soothing, and restoring the skin.
Skincare ingredients which are both naturally and synthetically sourced
• Hyaluronic Acid (HA) - It can be slightly confusing as to whether hyaluronic acid is considered as a natural ingredient in skincare. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occuring long-chain molecule made up of sugars and amino acids, which is produced in our bodies. It plays an important role in lubricating our joints and maintaing hydration in our skin. In skincare products, HA is both synthetically and naturally sourced and has become a top ingredient for helping to plump up our skin; improving the signs of ageing. As it can hold a thousand times its weight in water, it makes it extremely effective as a moisturiser. Today, HA in skincare is produced by bacterial fermentation. Whether it’s synthetic or natural, hyaluronic acid is considered safe and effective in skincare.
• Ceramides - We naturally produce ceramides in our bodies. They are a type of fat which is found in our outer layer of skin and plays an important part in maintaining our skin’s barrier function and helps hold our skin cells together. As we get older, our ceramide levels drop, due to ageing and pollution, which can cause dryness of the skin. In skincare, ceramides help to rebuild our skin’s barrier function and increase levels of hydration. Ceramides can also be created in a laboratory.
• Vitamin C - Similar to hyaluronic acid, vitamin C can be used in natural and synthetic form in skincare. Vitamin C, found in fruits, is known for its powerful antioxidant properties which help protect the skin against damage from environmental stressors such as pollution and UV radiation. It plays a role in the production of collagen which helps to keep our skin firm. In a lab, vitamin C can be produced in a more potent form. It is a popular ingredient in face serums, moisturisers, and masks.
• Vitamin A - This skin health-boosting vitamin, in its natural form, can be found in foods such as fish, eggs and dairy products. You’ve probably seen vitamin A in anti-ageing face products, as it’s used by brands for its collagen boosting properties. You will have also seen vitamin A in the form of Retinol. Retinol is the synthetic form of vitamin A and undergoes a chemical process to convert it so it can be topically used in skincare products. If you use a retinol, or a product with a high concentration of vitamin A, it is advised you use a SPF after application due to sun sensitivity.
Discover Men's Skincare With Natural Ingredients
Pelegrims Vitamin Boost Facial Cleanser
Antibacterial Formula with Kent Cherry & Pinot Noir Grape Extracts
Baz & Co Skin Food Moisturiser
Replenishing Daily Moisturiser with Basil, Shea & Mango Seed Butters
Nourishing and Protective Face Moisturiser with Hyaluronic Acid
Dr. Jackson's 07 Face Wash
Natural Cleanser with Gentle Exfoliation & Invigorating Citrus Scent
Aesop Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion
Helps Calm Irritated Post-Shave Skin
Raw Naturals The Mighty Fluffy Shave Gel | Made in Sweden
John Masters Organics Moisturising Foaming Face Wash with Bergamot & Sea Buckthorn
Mild but Effective Moisturising Face Wash
Dr. Jackson's 01 Day Cream 50 ml
Nourishing SPF Moisturiser with Kigelia Fruit & Baobab Seed Oil
John Masters Organics Volumizing Shampoo with Rosemary & Peppermint
Strengthening Formula for Healthy Growth, with Soothing Aloe
Aesop Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser
Mild Anti-Pollution Exfoliation with Clarifying Lactic Acid & Licorice
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