9 Natural Ingredients Taking Over Beauty Routines

The average American woman uses 12 personal care products a day, and she comes in contact with 168 unique ingredients. That’s fine when the ingredients are natural, like honey or olive oil, but it’s alarming (and sometimes dangerous!) when the ingredient lists are full of unpronounceable names and even more obscure functions.

The good news is that, as the green beauty movement takes off, beauty start-ups are embracing natural ingredients in a big way. Now, walk into any green beauty boutique and flip over that bottle or moisturizer or stick of deodorant, and you’re likely to see ingredients that look like they came from a kitchen cupboard—not a chemist’s lab. Natural doesn’t have to mean compromise, either. Here’s the inside scoop on some of the top natural ingredients used by beauty start-ups. Think of it as a primer for picking your perfect product.

1. Turmeric: This Indian spice contains a bioactive component called curcumin that has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. That means turmeric can be helpful in calming breakouts and reducing acne scarring, and it can even brighten your skin for a healthy, natural glow. Try It In: Fitglow Beauty Vita-Active Serum

2. Sea Buckthorn: The orange fruits — which are high in fatty acids and vitamin content – have been used as a restorative moisturizer in folk medicine for eons. Now, modern beauty brands are jumping on the bandwagon, lauding the high-moisture, no-irritant effects of this lesser-known oil. Try It In: Apoterra Night Regenerative Balm

3. Honey: Raw honey is packed with nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, zinc, potassium, and iron, as well as antioxidants, which may slow the effects of aging. Plus, it’s moisturizing and soothing to the touch, making it a perfect, feel-good addition to a face mask. Try It In: Live Botanical Luna Glowing Honey Mask

4. Charcoal: Because charcoal attracts and absorbs substances, it’s been used medically for decades to neutralize and remove toxins. The idea is that it might do the same for skin, drawing all the oil and dead skin cells from your pores, as well as zapping stinky smells. Try It In: Fitglow Beauty Detox Gel Cleanser

5. Oats: The FDA approved colloidal oatmeal — aka finely ground oats —as a skin-protective substance back in 2003. But the first commercially available version hit the market in 1945, and the practice of applying ground grains to the skin actually stretches back centuries. Oats have a variety of phenols that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, with saponins provide a cleansing effect. In practice, this means that oat-based products are a go-to for many folks dealing with dry, itchy or irritated skin. Colloidal oatmeal can even help with some eczema. Try It In: Apoterra Hibiscus Exfoliating Mask

6. Avocado: With nutrients like vitamin E, potassium and lecithin, as well as antioxidants, avocado oil is super nourishing for your skin and can help moisturize and soothe irritated and dry epidermis. A 2011 study also found that avocado oil can promote collagen synthesis, meaning it could help regenerate new connective tissue. And if you spend too long in the sun, research shows that avocado oil can soothe the burn and promote skin healing. Try It In: Osmia Organics Black Clay Facial Soap

7. Matcha: This popular powder is made from ground up green tea leaves, which contain caffeine and can brighten and depuff your face while being gentle on your skin. Matcha is also known for its antioxidants (specifically, catechin polyphenols), which are great for battling dark spots and evening skin tone. And the amino acid L-Theanine is thought to boost the health and function of your amygdala, the part of the brain that deals with stress. Try It In: Laka Living Matcha Green Tea

8. Quinoa: Forget the formaldehyde (blech!) that some beauty pros may suggest for hair treatments. More natural beauty brands are getting behind quinoa, a protein packed seed that helps to strengthen and fortify the hair shaft.  You’ll likely see it listed as “hydrolyzed quinoa,” which just means that the seed has been chemically cut into smaller pieces so the shampoo and conditioner is easier to use—and easier for your hair to absorb. Try It In: Innersense Pure Harmony Hair Bath

9. Castor Oil: Pressed from the seeds of the ricinus communis plant, castor oil has long had a starring role in digestive health. But natural beauty experts know that it can also work wonders for the face, and it’s been used to treat everything from psoriasis and acne to dry skin and eczema. The antioxidant-rich oil is also thought to promote hair growth, including eyelashes and eyebrows. Try It In: Province Apothecary Full Brow Serum

Ready to try a new ingredient? You can get your fix at Lena Rose Natural Beauty, where you’ll also find a trained team of green beauty experts to answer any questions you may have about which ingredients to run toward (and which to run from!) in your beauty routine.

How Do I Find a Beauty Routine I Can Believe In?

Lena Rose Natural Beauty founder Jenny Duranski tackles questions, big and small. This month: how to make sure your hard-earned green isn’t getting wasted on greenwashed nonsense.

Q: I want to make my beauty routine more natural, but I feel stuck. How much can I trust the label, when every brand calls itself natural or non-toxic or organic? And how can I tell if that $18 hand cream is really better for me than the $8 one already in my bag? I feel like I need an advanced chemistry degree to be able to cut through the hype and shop for shampoo!

A: First, take a big, deep breath with me. You want to use more natural products, and that’s something to celebrate—better for your health, better for your skin, better for the planet, better all around. But you’re not crazy: There’s a whole lot of greenwashing that goes on any time there’s money to be had in marketing something as natural. So you can’t grab just anything off the shelf, trust the label, and call it a day. You have to be a discerning beauty shopper. Here’s what I suggest, when people are feeling stuck:

First, don’t make perfection the enemy of progress. It’s noble to decide you’re going to green your beauty routine, but if you set out to replace your whole make-up bag or swap every product in your bathroom you might just overwhelm yourself. (And you don’t want to toss everything and then quit—you won’t have deodorant or toothpaste for tomorrow!) Instead, take it one category or even one product at a time. If it takes you three months to find the replacements you love, so what? You’ll have methodically picked and tested those alternatives, so you’re more likely to stick with them.

Start with a high-impact swap. When you’re prioritizing products, think about how often they touch your body. That party lipstick you wear once or twice a month is probably less pressing to upgrade, for instance, than an antiperspirant you rub onto your armpits daily. Antiperspirants and deodorants are one of the first things I suggest people scrutinize, as many conventional brands contain ingredients that may be carcinogens or endocrine disruptors—and there are super-effective natural brands available that will keep you stink free without putting you at risk for cancer!

Sunscreens and lotions are another category I typically encourage people to look at. You probably use one or both of these daily—and over a good portion of your body. So taking the time to find a more-natural sunscreen or body lotion can have a big impact, even though you’re only technically making one product swap.

Once you’ve narrowed down the type of product you’re going to shop for, you can cut down the clutter even more if you look for an official label. Truth is, the word “natural” is unregulated in the beauty industry—anyone can claim that word on their cream or scrub. If that’s giving you grief (and it sounds like it is), look for a third-party seal. The most common you’ll see on natural beauty shelves are:

  • Natural Products Association: means at least 95 percent of the ingredients come from a renewable source in nature (like plants and minerals—not petroleum) and the remaining 5 percent cannot be suspected of any health risk. Managed by a trade group for the beauty and home-care industry.
  • USDA Organic: means grown and processes without certain synthetic pesticides. Managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Ecocert: means at least 95 percent of ingredients come from natural origins. If the designation is “natural cosmetic” at least 5 percent of all ingredients by weight produced through organic farming; if the designation is “organic cosmetic” it’s 10 percent. Managed by an independent European-based group.
  • Demeter: means at least 90 percent of ingredients are sourced from farms that are both organic and sustainable. Managed by the U.S. branch of a global non-profit.
  • Leaping Bunny: means that no new animal testing has been conducted at any stage of the product’s development. Managed by an independent coalition.

Keep in mind, of course, that many, many fabulous products are using only the best ingredients but simply don’t have the deep pockets or spare time to pursue certifications or seals. You can also look up nearly 75,000 individual ingredients in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep ingredient database, which gives ratings based on scientific studies and commissions.

I’m sharing my tips on where to start and what to look for, because I do think you can dig into the details and shop on your own. But I have to say: You don’t have to go it alone. You can find a friend who will cut through the crap for you. The team at Lena Rose Beauty loves to talk almost as much as we love natural beauty. We will seriously geek out on your science questions and product advice, and there is no question too “newbie” to ask. There is so much to love about the natural-beauty movement, but the idea that it’s some elite club only for diehard purists who are born knowing the difference between paraben and phenoxyethanol? We call bullshit. Pull up a chair, and let us teach you what we know—or at least help you pick out a new blush you feel good about.

Finally, remember that you only have to do the homework once. Think about it: How often do you really switch lotion brands or face creams? Spending a half-hour to make a new pick is worth it, if you’ll be slathering on a better-for-you selection for the next few years. And the same holds true even with cosmetics. Once you dig into a company’s practices and ingredients stance, you can test new colors all you want, knowing every time you shop you’re making the best choice possible for yourself, your health, and the plant. As we say at Lena Rose: look good, feel good, do good.

Xo, Jenny

The Best Serums to Soothe Your Skin

Anoint your skin and senses all summer long with some of our most magnificent serum elixirs for all skin types to keep you glowing through some of the hottest days of the year. These balancing, nourishing bottles of pure magic are filled with beautiful botanicals chosen for their skin-loving abilities. Whether winter has created dryness in your cheeks or spring has sent your skin swimming in redness, these curated serums are a sure thing to help revive and replenish your skin. Of course, serums are spectacular for all seasons as a deep drink for complete skin harmony.

The incredible Balancing Serum from Osmia Organics is a light, herbal treatment that was formulated to help your skin balance its own sebum production. Black cumin seed oil is the superstar ingredient: a powerful compound called thymoquinone in the oil is extremely calming for overactive or problem skin. Acai, schisandra fruit, and rosehip seed provide essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and healing carotenoids to improve the skin’s tone and texture. With regular use, your skin should start to smooth and settle, with fewer breakouts and a less oily appearance throughout the day.

Nectar Vital Rose Drops is beautiful serum designed to bring a luxurious boost to your favorite skincare products like Osmia’s other star product the Purely Simple Face Cream. Comprised of only eight ingredients, this 99.6% certified organic elixir will bring uncomplicated – and unparalleled – nourishment to your skin. By adding 3-4 drops of Nectar to your usual face cream or serum, you will notice that your skin is finally able retain moisture throughout the day. Organic oils of safflower, argan, prickly pear, and pumpkin seed work together to create a powerfully softening blend with a smooth, silky texture. Gorgeous rosehip seed oil helps diminish the appearance of chronic sun damage. Organic rose otto essential oil combines with wild, Australian sandalwood essential oil, and a touch of jasmine extract to create a heaven-meets-earth scent. The aromatherapy effect is profound, as well, easing negative feelings and opening the heart to healing, grounding, and self-love.

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