Demand for organic and natural beauty products has taken off in recent years, with new trends constantly developing as research reveals the additional benefits of various ingredients. Here are some top picks of the latest trends in natural and organic beauty.
Do you still believe there is no way to defy gravity? Think again. Kigelia Africana has long been used by the women of Southern Africa to firm their skin and bust. The fruit contains powerful skin firming constituents, including kigelione and powerful plant sterols. Apply the gel to your face daily, and watch how it effects your skin by seemingly defying age and gravity. In a base of pure aloe juice, Kigelia gel makes a great daily moisturizer, too.
This unusual fruit grows on trees in Africa and looks like huge sausages hanging from ropes. The oil from it has been used for generations for a variety of potent remedies, namely as a powerful anti-inflammatory with firming properties—African women have used it a natural breast firmer for generations, and the fruit's antibacterial properties also help with blemish-prone skin.
Turmeric has been used as a beauty product for centuries by Indian cultures because it does a tremendous amount for brightening, while evening out the complexion and giving skin a healthy glow. It also provides powerful anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant protection from free radicals that can damage skin.
“Turmeric is definitely a favorite of mine,” says May Lindstrom, the natural beauty guru behind the cult-fave eponymous skincare line. For skin, specifically, she says, it’s an anti-inflammatory powerhouse: “Turmeric is rich in curcumin, a natural active ingredient that promotes the healing and brightening of skin.”
There is a great deal of research that speaks to this. One 2001 study found that thanks to its exceedingly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin can help speed up the healing of wounds. Another conducted in 2007 found that the compound aids in skin regeneration in a variety of respects, from boosting collagen production and diminishing psoriasis to protecting against free radicals.
Researchers have found that, when taken internally, curcumin can help relieve symptoms of arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and digestive inflammation. Many scientists are even excited at the prospect of its abilities to fight skin cancer.
This is all modern science, but “women have been applying turmeric topically for hundreds of years,” says Lindstrom. And, while those struggling with inflammatory skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea will likely find a lot of relief with this pantry staple, anyone can see their complexion benefit from it. “It’s gorgeous for softening the symptoms of acne, rosacea, and to lessen fine lines and wrinkles,” she says.
If you happen to have turmeric lying around, it’s pretty easy to whip up a skin-perfecting mask. Because curcumin is like dynamite to acne, you can also use it to target blemishes and clogged pores, especially in conjunction with detoxifying clay powder.
Chamomile, meaning “ground apple,” has been imbibed for centuries in the Roman Empire, during Egyptian rule, and in ancient Greece. Prized for its special flavonoids, chrysin, or chamomile (Matricaria recutita, or Matricaria chamomilla) offers numerous health-boosting benefits. With its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties, chamomile helps in clearing up skin irritations such as eczema, acne, and allergies.
This herb is also full of flavonoids and essential oils. These penetrate the skin, going into the skin layers. Chamomile is known as a “tisane,” which is any non-caffeinated herbal concoction made by pouring hot water over the leaves, stems, and roots of plants. You can make your own chamomile tea with other plants like lavender or tulsi to vary the flavor, or drink it alone.
There are many applications for dried chamomile, including tinctures and essential oils, though the easiest and most often used is an infusion or tea. For stomach ailments, muscle spasms, and help in falling asleep, use about one tablespoon of dried herb per cup of water. Pour boiling water over the herbs and allow them to steep for about 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
Where once beauty products were loaded down with toxic chemicals (albeit in small doses), the pigments of natural makeup products are becoming really bright and beautiful, not to mention cruelty-free.
From lead, to petroleum, to endocrine-disrupting plastics, the chemicals that conventional makeup expose us to seem beyond not-worth-it for a slightly darker mascara or a brighter shade of lipstick. But the math can look different when you’re about to go on a date with someone you really like, or a job interview, or you’re about to be photographed: The product that makes you look the best—and not necessarily the most made-up—is the one you want.
On the red carpet, movie sets, or magazine shoots, synthetic beauty products have been the go-to choice. Natural pigments have traditionally not been terribly vibrant, bright, or dark, and the textures rarely rivaled those of the really luxurious conventional brands.
Natural beauty experts today agree that synthetic dyes and colors should be avoided completely, and advise looking hard at ingredient lists. Synthetic dyes and colors have names on the ingredient list that include FD&C, or D&C, usually with a number and letter following. The Breast Cancer Research Fund has published numerous studies with top universities on this topic.
When conventional cosmetics companies don’t resort to chemical dyes, they often use animal ingredients – primarily ground-up insects – for color. (This is a decidedly more natural and less-harmful-to-humans approach, but is unacceptable to most vegetarians, vegans, and animal rights activists, for obvious reasons.) If you see “carmine” on a label, that’s ground-up beetles; “cochineal extracts” are also insect-derived, as are “Natural Red 4” and “E120.”
To create what’s called “carbon black”—used in mascara and eyeliner—companies combust heavy-duty petroleum products or coal; used in tires, inks, films, and plastics, carbon black is classified as possibly carcinogenic in humans and has been shown to be carcinogenic in animals, yet many women expose their eyes to this compound on a near-daily basis.
The good news is that years of research have yielded new options for dying cosmetics, through plant pigments and minerals.
When you walk down any drug store beauty aisle, you’re most likely browsing through products that contain a large amount of toxins, especially if you’re on the hunt for mascara. Heightened awareness of this issue has led to a higher demand for natural mascara. Here are just some of the toxic ingredients you’ll find in typical mascara:
These preservatives in cosmetics are used in mainstream beauty products to prevent bacteria from growing in mascara. The hygienic preservatives have been linked to mimic or disrupt estrogen in the body, also known as an endocrine disrupter, says the Breast Cancer Fund. High concentrations of parabens have been found in human breast tumors by Dr. Philippa Darbre, a research scientist at the University of Reading in the UK.
In a study that mimics Dr. Darbre’s original 2004 study, Darbre and her research team found one or more types of parabens in 99% of the tissue samples, and all five were measurable in 60% of the samples. Parabens found in foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics are getting into the breast at high rates.
Mascaras with Parabens: L’Oréal, Cover Girl, Avon, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Maybelline, Neutrogena, Revlon, Chanel, Lancôme
This metallic substance is used as a cosmetic colorant and is a neurotoxin, rated as a high concern by the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. This neurotoxin is considered to be far worse than mercury, because it has been linked to interfere with a variety of cellular and metabolic processes in the nervous system and other tissues, says a study published in the journal of Pediatrics.
If there is long-term exposure of aluminum powder, it can impair the body’s ability to excrete mercury and, as a result, can make whatever amount of mercury that is in your system more toxic.
Mascaras with Aluminum Powder: Cover Girl and Estee Lauder
This mascara ingredient, although deemed safe by the FDA, appears to cause severe skin irritation and sensitization in people. Individuals who may be sensitive to this product can be exposed to a special form of irritation – allergic contact dermatitis, an allergic skin reaction caused by direct contact with an allergen.
According to Dermapproved.com, this allergic reaction will show up as a red, inflamed rash that is accompanied by itching and minor pain. In severe cases, painful blisters may form on the skin and could potentially spread to other areas of the body.
Mascaras with Propylene Glycol: L’Oréal, Mineral Fusion, Rimmel, Avon, and Maybelline
RETINYL ACETATE (VITAMIN A ACETATE)
This harmful mascara ingredient is ranked as a high concern by the EWG because it can cause biochemical or cellular level changes. Retinyl acetate can produce excess reactive oxygen species that interfere with cellular signaling and can even cause mutations in your genes. While there is restricted use in cosmetics, where beauty companies must meet recommendations or requirements in the U.S., the use of this toxic ingredient is prohibited and restricted in Canadian cosmetics.
Mascaras with Retinyl Acetate: Elizabeth Arden, Almay, and Revlon
NATURAL MASCARA: THE SAFE ALTERNATIVE
To have fuller, longer looking lashes without exposing your skin to commercial mascara’s harmful chemicals, natural mascara like Dr. Hauschka’s Volume Mascara provides a safe and healthy alternative for your skin. Sarah Oechsil, blogger from The Naked Label, affirms that the ingredients found in this type of mascara are not only natural, they also have a wide range of antioxidants derived fruits and vegetables that give the same beautifying effect as commercial mascara without the harmful chemicals.