SKINny Dipping: Natural Skin Care

November 24, 2009

by Alissa Marrapodi , Associate Editor



There are so many components to consider when choosing an effective skin care regimen. The most obvious question is, “Does it work?” Does this product moisturize my skin, clear my acne, reduce my wrinkles, etc.? One big factor to aging is sun care. Over exposure to the sun causes wrinkles and the appearance of aging. Consumers are aware of this, along with other potential damaging side effects of too much sun. As a result, consumers are looking for products that incorporate SPF into their foundation or moisturizer. Consumers are also looking to be the “fairest one of all” in every mirror medium, including their food. Mintel Beauty Innovation reported global food and drink product launches with a ‘beauty enhancing’ claim increased by 306 percent from 2005 to 2008. And in 2009 alone, almost 300 food and drink products with a “beauty enhancing” claim were launched.

A shift toward natural ingredients is also taking place. There is a demand for products that are paraben-free and use natural ingredients such as vitamin C, resveratrol and essential oils. “Most of the functional qualities delivered by synthetic ingredients can be derived from natural products,” said Andree Falardeau, president and founder of Canus Goat’s Milk skin care. “Benzoic acid and sorbic acid, for instance, are natural preservatives that can be used instead of parabens. We use potassium sorbate and citric acid as other natural preservatives as well. We can also get sudzing qualities from palm or coconut oil, instead of the synthetic sources for sodium lauryl sulfate.”

In Europe, natural and organic cosmetic sales continue to increase with revenues projected to increase by 13 percent to € 1.7 billion this year. Organic Monitor forecasts sales revenues to approach € 2 billion in 2010. There is an obvious demand for natural and organic alternatives in the personal care world, but it doesn’t go without its challenges. “Consumers are under the impression that natural is not as powerful,” Dr. Linda Miles, L. Ac., D.O.M., vice president of derma e® Natural Bodycare. “Utilizing skin care solutions with effective levels of scientifically proven natural ingredients offers an incredible array of active compounds that contribute to a range of healing powers that often can’t be recreated with synthetic ingredients. Natural ingredients stimulate the body’s own amazing power to restore balance and produce healthy, beautiful skin.”

Pratibha Sachdev, education and product manager at Himalaya Herbal Healthcare echoed Miles’ sentiments on natural ingredients. “Synthetic ingredients leave too much behind,” she said. “Whether it’s a chemical in contact with your skin or a residue that leaves you feeling oily, greasy or uncomfortable, when you use synthetic personal care products, you’re always leaving something behind that has no business being there. We ingest through our skin. Technically, our bodies eat what we put on our skin. Take lip balms, for example. Our lips are the doorway to our digestive system, yet people everywhere apply artificial balms, lipsticks and glosses that are literally swimming with synthetic ingredients. We need to be much more aware and much more careful of what we allow our bodies to ingest topically.”

In simple terms, “The skin is the body’s largest organ so everything put on the skin is absorbed directly into the body,” said Emma Froelich, vice president of personal care, Hain Celestial. “Why risk using potentially harmful ingredients if an effective natural alternative delivers the same, if not better, beauty result? A natural choice is always the better choice.”

It’s not just about the effect synthetic products have on skin, but also on the environment. “Synthetic ingredients take a toll on our bodies and our environments,” Falardeau added. “Think of the cumulative impact of all the soaps, shampoos, makeup, skin care products and sunscreen we use each day. And imagine what those chemicals are doing to our water sources and bio-life. And it follows that using natural ingredients is a lot easier on the environment as well. Responsible natural product producers will only source their ingredients from renewable or plentiful sources and process these in a way that creates the least amount of waste and least change to the ingredient itself. ”

Adverse reactions to skin care ingredients are a cause for concern. When formulating products, it’s essential to keep both efficacy and safety in mind. And the safety of many synthetic ingredients remains questionable to a large group of consumers. Linda Upton, president of Börlind of Germany Inc., said: “It is difficult to determine whether synthetics will penetrate below the surface of the skin. One can prevent penetration through by controlling molecule size. If a molecule is larger than 90 nanometers (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter), it will not penetrate healthy skin. Healthy skin means that it is not broken by, e.g., a rash/cut/open wound. The tricky thing about synthetics is that one does not know whether they are stable or if they react with other chemicals, creating combinations that release molecules/atoms smaller than 90 nanometers. Thus, their safety is open to question.”

Using hypo-allergenic formulations is also important, as many consumers are concerned with allergic reactions to their skin care regimen. “In terms of oils, it is imperative that whatever is put on the skin is as clean and pure as possible, which also helps the skin to be hypo-allergenic,” said Dr. Wayne C. Diamond, naturopathic physician and holistic psychotherapist, Diamond Herpanacine Associates.

Lou Paradise, president and product formulator, Topical Biomedics Inc., agreed, adding: “Natural compounds have a soothing healing effect on the skin, synthetics are harsh on the skin and can cause a number of allergic and histamine responses rashes, etc., and/or interfere with certain medications a person may be taking.”  

For those with sensitive skin, natural products may be the better route to take. “Natural products tend to be gentler on people with sensitive skin, and some natural ingredients, like goat’s milk, have extra beneficial qualities such as moisturizing, pH balancing and antibacterial properties,” Falardeau added.


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