Natural Skincare Ingredients That Work
Toss out names like vitamin C, CoQ10 and biotin and you’ll likely picture the supplement aisle. Or mention rosemary, green tea and oatmeal and it will sound like someone’s grocery list. But each of these ingredients—and a great number more—are proving to be effective additions to natural skincare products. These natural wonders are not only healthier options than synthetic skincare additives; they have shown to help battle breakouts, soothe irritation, treat uneven pigmentation, and even prevent sun damage. Here’s a look at the most common natural skincare ingredients and their potential benefits.
It’s well established that supplementing one’s diet with vitamins, minerals and enzymes can often lead to healthier looking skin; but these same compounds can also work wonders from the top down—protecting against the formation of destructive molecules known as free radicals.
Alpha-lipoic acid is often called the “universal antioxidant” because it’s soluble in both fat and water. It’s naturally made by the body and used to fight free radicals. When applied topically, alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to penetrate skin cells, where it may decrease inflammation and boost energy production within the cells.
Biotin is water-soluble and part of the B-complex vitamins. The body uses biotin in the metabolism of fatty acids, glucose and amino acids. In other words, it needs biotin to turn food into fuel, and without enough, one’s hair and nails can become weak or brittle. Similarly, adding biotin to skincare products is thought to help improve the health and strength of skin cells.
B-complex vitamins contain biotin, which as discussed above, is essential for healthy skin, hair and nails. Niacin is another component of the B complex, which may improve the look of skin by increasing moisture and reducing inflammation.
CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant produced in the body and used to fight free radicals within cells. Since the body produces less CoQ10 with age, skin cells become more vulnerable to damage over time. Skincare products that contain CoQ10 work to protect the skin’s outer layer from such oxidation and aging.
Hyaluronic acid is found in skin cells, joint fluid and connective tissue, where it works to keep everything cushioned and lubricated. Factors such as diet, lifestyle and age can decrease how much your body produces over time. When used as a skincare ingredient, hyaluronic acid is thought to help smooth and even out one’s complexion.
Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin and eyes. When taken into the body via foods like butter and eggs, it’s converted into retinoic acid, which binds to receptors in the skin, keeping them healthy and plump. Topical vitamin A is aimed at thickening the skin and keeping it firm.
Vitamin C is likely the most well-known antioxidant. Not only does it help fight free-radical damage, but vitamin C also plays a role in collagen production. As a topical agent, studies have shown vitamin C to increase skin density and decrease the appearance of aging.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that is essential for the maintenance of healthy skin. Naturally provided to skin cells via sebum, vitamin E can absorb the energy from UV light, protecting the skin from sun damage. When used in skincare products, vitamin E works to both protect the skin and improve its texture.
Vitamin K is one of the lesser-known vitamins, but it’s beginning to make a name for itself in the world of skincare. In the body, vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting; but when used topically, it has shown promise in terms of lightening dark circles and bruises.
Herbs for Healthy Skin
For centuries, herbs have been used to treat everything from anxiety to sunburn. Many exert healing properties simply via their aromatherapy, but when used topically, they can also deliver amazing results. Below are a few of the most commonly used herbs, plants and oils.
Aloe vera’s healing properties have been known for thousands of years. Traditionally used to heal cuts, wounds, sunburns and scars, it can also help moisturize the skin.
Almond oil is a favorite of many massage practitioners, as it lubricates the skin without clogging pores or causing reactions. As a skincare ingredient, it’s thought to be a mild yet potent moisturizer.
Chamomile is well known for its calming properties when used in teas. The essential oils and flavonoids contained in chamomile are thought to exert anti- inflammatory effects when used topically.
Ginger is added to skincare products for a number of different benefits. It contains anti-inflammatory and antiseptic components as well as gingerol, a powerful antioxidant. Lastly, ginger’s stimulating properties are thought to help increase circulation.
Jojoba oil closely resembles our skin’s own sebum, and therefore is a very effective moisturizing agent in skincare products.
Lavender oil is recognizable by its calming scent, but its benefits also stem from antifungal and antibacterial properties. In skincare products it is thought to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Peppermint in the form of tea and other preparations is used internally to calm the body and mind. Peppermint oil contains menthol, which can have a cooling and nourishing effect on the skin when applied externally.
Green tea’s medicinal properties are attributed to flavonoid phytochemicals called polyphenols, which exert an antioxidant effect. A number of encouraging studies suggest that green tea may help protect against sun damage as well as ease inflammation.
Sea buckthorn oil comes from the yellow berries of a shrub native to the Himalayas and Siberia. Its high content of fat-soluble vitamins A and E, as well as fatty acids, provides nourishing and healing properties.
Sea algae and kelp are rich in minerals and other nutrients that help to nourish the skin. Similar to their effects inside the body, sea vegetables are believed to help remove toxins when used topically on the skin.
Tea tree oil is most well known for its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
Treats from the Pantry
A number of natural skincare ingredients can be found in a room besides the bathroom—the kitchen. Below are a handful of foods that double as skincare ingredients, along with a couple of substances found in the ground.
Cocoa butter is an oily substance extracted from the bean of the cocoa tree. When applied topically it creates a barrier on the skin, preventing water from evaporating and sealing in moisture.
Coconut oil and coconut milk are great for moisturizing the skin, and their antioxidant properties help fight the effects of free radicals. In addition, coconut has natural antifungal compounds.
Mud and clay masks are used to help balance one’s skin as well as nourish and detoxify. Often they are full of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
Salt scrubs are helpful in loosening and removing lifeless skin cells, leaving a smoother texture and appearance. Generally used on the body not the face, salt scrubs should be used gently.
Honey is known for its powerful antimicrobial properties, as well as its ability to draw moisture into the skin.
Oatmeal is a rich emollient due to its high gluten and mucilage content. Its texture can also help remove dry, dead skin cells.
Fruits such as mango, papaya, avocado and others are great at both cleansing and nourishing the skin. Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, these foods make excellent additions to skincare products.