In recent years, we have seen a shift towards a more holistic, natural approach to skincare. Although not inherently a bad concept, the demonisation of chemical formulations in favour of natural skincare, is somewhat displaced. In this blog, we will discuss why natural skincare products may not be the right option for you and how to go about understanding ingredients lists so you can make a more informed choice that is most suitable for your skin type and concerns.
Why is my skincare routine not working?
If your skin is balanced then this is an indication that your daily skincare routine is working, if it is hydrated, not too dry or oily, then this suggests that your routine is helping your skin. However, if you are experiencing sensations of tightness, acne breakouts, excessive oiliness, irritation/redness, these are all indications that something is off the balance in your skin and that it may be high time to reassess your skincare routine and the products you are using.
It could simply be that the products you are using are not suitable for your skin type and concerns, for example, someone with sensitive skin types may want to avoid skincare products that contain natural oils or fragrances which could highly irritate and damage the skin’s natural barrier. Alternatively, someone with an oily skin type may want to steer clear of natural oils as this may, from personal experience, not be able to control sebum production and cause a greasy appearance to the face, worsening the existing problem.
And, for those dealing with specific skincare concerns such as reducing the appearance of acne scarring, anti-ageing or hyperpigmentation, and your routine only contains natural products and not any scientifically-formulated actives, this may be a reason why your skincare routine is not working. Chemically formulated products such as retinol, vitamin C’s, niacinamides are just some of the ingredients which are not generally found in natural skincare products which are proven to aid the skin in fighting free radical damage, lighten scarring and hyperpigmentation and tackle fine lines, wrinkles and discolouration.
How do I know if my skin is improving?
It can take up to three weeks for your skin to get used to a product and even longer, even up to three months, to see any results with products such as vitamin A or C when treating the skin. If you are experiencing less frequent breakouts, a more balanced (not too dry or oily) complexion, more even skin tone and/or less irritation, this could very well be an indication that your skin is improving and responding well to the products and ingredients in your skincare routine.
Why natural skincare doesn’t work correctly?
Natural skincare may not be working for you for many reasons. For those who have sensitive skin, natural skincare ingredients may be aggravating any existing skincare problems. This is due to the fact that generally speaking, natural skincare can contain carrier oils and/or fragrance which can trigger the skin and cause acne breakouts and irritation. Further, for those tackling specific skin concerns such as hyperpigmentation, acne scars.
What natural ingredients are damaging to the skin?
Some natural ingredients can be great for the skin, but just like chemical ingredients, not all are created equally. Some natural ingredients to avoid, especially for those with sensitive skin types, are natural oils such as rosehip oil, lavender oil, lemon peel oil, all of which can be incredibly irritating and sensitising. Additionally, for those with oily skin types, it is advised to avoid natural oils which can aggravate and worsen the oily, greasy appearance of the skin.
The number one natural ingredient to avoid, which can sensitise and damage the skin, is lemon. This is because it is extremely acidic which can, in turn, irritate and throw off the skin’s natural pH balance. Some people may even experience redness and peeling if they have sensitive skin. This effect is only aggravated further if you are planning on going out in the sun following using lemon in your skincare routine, this is a condition known as phytophotodermatitis. This can occur when you have lemon substances on your skin which can be aggravated by UV rays and cause a red, irritated reaction to the skin. Therefore, it is advised to steer clear of products containing lemon, unless in a wash-off treatment such as a cleanser.
Is it true that Organic Products Won’t Last Long?
Yes, generally organic skincare products can last up to three months whereas chemical products sold in the drugstores can, in some cases, last up to twelve months. Additionally, within the natural skincare movement, there has tended to be a demonisation towards parabens, however, the parabens used in skincare are generally used as preservatives. This means that the parabens are used so the products can last longer, which in turn could mean being more economical, in that you need to repurchase and throw products away less and thus perhaps even buy and use less packaging in the long run. Organic products cannot always be assumed to be the most sustainable and/or the most environmentally friendly.
Understanding skincare ingredients
There is a saying which seems apt when understanding and reading skincare ingredients which is, ‘it is not the product itself but the dosage that can harm you’, this is to say that with any product, even with ingredients such as retinol or vitamin C, a higher dose does not mean a better ingredient. Skincare products are formulated by scientists who have analysed and come up with well-researched ingredients lists and percentages for the most optimum beneficial effect for the skin, they are not trying to damage or harm your skin. For example, niacinamide is most effective in a 2-10% formulation, with 5% being the ideal percentage where consumers have seen a difference in the skin without causing irritation to the skin overall.
To understand ingredients lists it is also important to understand what ingredients you are looking for and the purpose of the ingredients. So, for example, if you have a vitamin C serum, looking for names such as L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate, high up in the ingredients list, will indicate that the serum contains a high concentration of the ingredient, usually between 5-20%, for optimal results. There are websites available that can help consumers understand what ingredients the products contain, and also explain the purpose and effect of each ingredient in the formula so you can decipher whether the product is suitable for your skincare concerns and goals.
How to find ingredients in cosmetics?
There are websites available where you can check and analyse the ingredients list of cosmetic and beauty products. Incidecoder is a website that you can use, simply typing in the product you are interested in, and it will break down the ingredients list in a traffic light system. Green being safe, recommended products, orange and red being products which can cause sensitivity in the skin. This can be a useful tool, especially for those who suffer from sensitive skin and need to be particularly careful with certain ingredients such as types of alcohols like alcohol denat and fragrance etc.
Which ingredient is most beneficial for your skin?
This will depend on your skin type and your skincare goals. Additionally, if you are a newbie to skincare, reading ingredients lists can seem overwhelming, which is why brands such as The Ordinary skincare, are a great place to start. The Ordinary is a widely available brand that prides itself on simple formulas at an accessible price point. For example, hyaluronic acid is a great ingredient to look out for those who suffer from dry skin in need of moisture. The Ordinary have a hyaluronic acid serum and moisturiser, which acts as a humectant to draw moisture from the environment, to retain moisture and hydration to the skin. This can be great, especially in the wintertime, when the harsh, cold climate can cause irritation and dryness in the skin. The addition of a hyaluronic acid serum can provide that extra layer of moisture and protection to the skin, making sure the skin optimises moisture retention.
Another ingredient that is beneficial for most skin types is vitamin C, a star ingredient in any good skincare routine. Vitamin C boasts an abundance of benefits especially for those suffering from acne scars, hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, this ingredient can lighten and brighten dull complexions. Additionally, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralise free radicals. Therefore, pairing a vitamin C into your skincare routine alongside your daily sunscreen is a potent combination for protecting and fighting off environmental aggressors such as the sun, one of the main causes of premature ageing and aggravating hyperpigmentation.
Author: Katherine Nagato