The Best Natural Skin Care Ingredients for Your Beauty Routine
Although most people don’t realize it, their favorite skin care products can be significant contributors to their expose to harmful ingredients, toxins and chemicals. That’s “the real price of beauty,” but you can avoid the chemical options for natural skin care ingredients instead.
Fact is the majority of store-bought, commercially produced beauty products come packed with artificial colors, fragrances, preservatives and stabilizers. These can easily be absorbed through the skin’s pores, potentially causing a range of negative health effects.
Chemicals found in beauty products can be damaging throughout their entire life cycles, from the way they are produced and used by consumers to the methods of their disposal, plus their negative impact on the environment.
What does this mean for your beauty routine? The good news is that there are plenty “clean beauty” products available for skin, not to mention your hair, teeth and nails. Most natural skin care ingredients are inexpensive and not harmful to your overall health, unlike some commercial products.
Women all over the world have been using natural skin care products for centuries — and many have admirable skin to show for it.
What Is Natural Skin Care?
Natural skin care utilizes ingredients found in nature, such as certain herbs, flowers, roots, fruits and other plants.
There are more natural skin care products available now than ever, and their long list of benefits extend beyond even great-looking skin. When you use natural products like this regularly, not only do you beautify your skin, but you also absorb antioxidants, enhance your skin’s UV resistance and stimulate your immune system, too.
According to one study published in the journal Biogerontology, “Natural anti-aging ingredients, which basically follow hormetic pathways, are potentially useful as moisturizing agents; barrier repair agents; antioxidants, vitamins, hydroxy acids, skin lightening agents, anti-inflammatory ingredients, and sunblock ingredients.”
Research shows that a variety of plants contain phytomolecules, amino acids and fatty acids that are protective of our skin, including compounds like polyphenols, triterpenes and sterols, carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid, polyunsaturated fats, and many others.
Applying unprocessed, whole-food ingredients onto your skin — many that you likely even have already and cook with in your own kitchen — will make you love your skin, even if you are someone who has sensitive skin or has struggled in the past with clearing up difficult skin-related problems.
The Hidden Toxicity of Most Beauty Products
Store-bought skin care products typically contain irritating ingredients and chemical fragrances that are linked to all sorts of potential issues − from hormonal problems, irregular periods and infertility to allergies and even cancer.
One of the most significant consequences of built-up toxin exposure from artificial skin care products is hormone imbalance, since many products contain hormone disruptors.
These external, or exogenous, hormones found in commercial products are substances produced outside the body that may act like or affect hormones inside the body. They include synthetic, patentable hormones that negatively affect the endocrine system and can impact a woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility and even hormone levels in men.
Often called endocrine disruptors, some of these chemicals’ molecular structures resemble natural estrogen so closely that they fit into the same receptors in the body. They either bind to these receptors — so your own hormones don’t work like they’re supposed to — and turn genes on and off, amplify the negative aspects of estrogen, or travel to the cells’ nucleus, where they exert a negative effect on chromosomes or DNA.
How is all this allowed? To put things into perspective for you, here’s a few noteworthy facts on store-bought beauty products:
- The regulation of cosmetic and personal-care products is slim. Only an easy approval process exists in order for a product to be approved for commercial use.
- Most store-bought skin care ingredient labels can be downright scary! There are thousands of chemicals in your products, and make no mistake about it, they are usually directly absorbed into your body. There is little government review or approval because the skin care industry is highly unregulated, even in the U.S.
- The majority of skin care and beauty products, including cleaners, moisturizers, anti-aging serums and scrubs, use inorganic compounds and petroleum-based gels as their foundation. Mineral oils are not naturally harvested from plants. When an ingredient is made with chemicals, it actually clogs your pores. Your skin loses its natural ability to expel toxins, which leads to increased acne and signs of aging.
- A few harmful chemicals that are used in store-bought products include parabens (used for preservation), synthetic colors (derived from petroleum or coal tar sources), fragrance (which is associated with allergies and respiratory distress), toluene (which is also used to dissolve paint) and sodium lauryl sulfate (which can cause kidney and respiratory damage).
- Putting chemicals on your body limits your skin’s natural healing processes. Your body’s immune system, the health of your eyes and your respiratory system can be damaged by unhealthy chemicals and additives. Also, many of these chemicals are skin irritants, leading to red, dry, flaky skin.
- It is also better for the environment to make your own homemade scrubs and lotions. Petroleum-based oils are made from unsustainable fossil fuel. Also, the plastic packaging is a huge waste. Think of all those plastic jars and bottles that later need to be disposed of, many of which are not recycled by customers.
To be fair, not all skin care ingredients that are somewhat processed or refined are bad. For example, ingredients like hyaluronic acid (found in moisturizers and serums) and salicylic acid (an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent found in acne products) can both support skin health if they are used in products that are free of other irritants.
Related: What Is an Esthetician? Training, Benefits, Treatments & More
Best Skin Care Ingredients
Buying skin care products can be tricky these days, with so many different options available and endless, hard-to-pronounce ingredient lists on every face wash, serum, moisturizer and eye cream.
When looking for skin care products, follow the same rules that you follow for a healthy diet: Hunt for unprocessed ingredients without any harsh chemicals or anything artificial. Basically, the closer to nature the natural skin product is, the more your skin will know what to do with its beneficial ingredients.
Start making over your beauty routine by trying these 13 natural skin care products:
1. Coconut Oil
One of the most versatile skin (and food) ingredients there is, coconut oil’s skin benefits include:
- strengthening underlying epidermal tissue
- removing dead skin cells
- protecting us from sunburns
- containing antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antioxidant properties
Research even shows that it’s strong enough to fight certain chronic skin diseases characterized by defects in the epidermal barrier function and cutaneous inflammation, including atopic dermatitis.
Use coconut oil on both your skin and hair as a natural moisturizer. It works best for dry or or combination skin types, as opposed to oily skin. It also helps cleanse skin and can remove makeup, help heal wounds or scars quicker, and prevents razor burn.
Coconut oil used internally is also beneficial for your looks. It contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, plus loads of healthy fats that help nourish your gut and increase immune function.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) has been used for hundreds of years in Australia, where this plant is native to, to fight breakouts, redness and inflammation on the skin.
While many people react harshly to typical acne treatment ingredients like acids, tea tree is usually well-tolerated and comes with few, if any, side effects.
Tea tree oil uses include working as a natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal, and its phytochemicals make it one of the most versatile and popular natural skin care products around.
Tea tree’s volatile essential oils come from approximately 230 different plant species, almost all of which are native to Australia. The primary active ingredients responsible for its ability to reduce harmful bacteria include terpene hydrocarbons, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.
If your skin type is prone to breakouts, tea tree can be an effective home remedy for acne.
Researches have observed more than 100 different chemical components and volatile hydrocarbons that are considered aromatic and capable of traveling through air, pores of the skin and mucus membranes to provide healing benefits.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
An extremely versatile and inexpensive natural skin care product, apple cider vinegar benefits include helping kill pathogens (like bacteria), clearing skin problems caused by gut issues, cleansing the skin and helping stop acne — plus providing antifungal properties.
The use of ACV for skin problems dates all the way back to Hippocrates (460–377 BC), considered “the father of modern medicine” and a believer in the use of antifungal ACV and raw honey for cleaning ulcerations and treating skin sores.
It also contains highly beneficial acetic acid and certain vitamins like potassium and magnesium that make it a detoxifying agent when consumed internally, since it boosts liver function and helps balance bacteria in the gut.
4. Raw Honey
Raw honey is one of the best natural sources of nutrients, enzymes, vitamins and skin-boosting acids. Benefits of raw honey include:
- reducing breakouts
- providing moisturizing properties
- containing antiseptic qualities
- encouraging wound healing
- fighting allergies or rashes
- helping reduce scars
Raw honey is unheated, unprocessed and unpasteurized unlike most honeys available in grocery stores. Therefore, it is able to keep all of its nutrients intact, as they’re not destroyed by processing.
As an antimicrobial, honey is particularly suitable as a dressing for wounds and burns. It’s also been included in treatments used to treat bacterial infections, dandruff, diaper dermatitis, psoriasis and more.
Honey also makes a great homemade natural skin care product for acne because it can be used in facial cleansers, even on sensitive or mixed skin types.
5. Sea Salt
Sea salt comes loaded with tons of minerals and nutrients, like magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium, that it absorbs from the seawater where it’s produced. Many of these minerals are the same ones found in our skin cells and within our bodies, which is exactly why real sea salt can help balance, protect and restore the skin.
Use real Himalayan or Celtic sea salts in homemade facial masks, toners and scrubs with other skin-boosting ingredients, like coconut oil, lavender essential oil and raw honey. The salt contains anti-inflammatory properties to soothe skin and calm breakouts, remove dead skin cells and irritation, balance oil production, and help the skin retain moisture levels.
If you have dry skin, avocado is definitely your friend. An ultra-moisturizing fatty fruit, the benefits of avocados include providing healthy fatty acids plus vitamins A, D and E that are able to penetrate the skin.
It helps soothe sunburned skin and can boost collagen production and treat age spots. It also works to reduce inflammation of the skin when applied topically and can do the same internally when eaten.
For anti-aging benefits, try it in homemade face masks followed by hydrating eye cream.
7. Lemon Essential Oil
With its strong antibacterial constituents capable of reducing even fatally dangerous bacteria strains, lemon essential oil can be used to diminish acne breakouts caused by high levels of bacteria stuck in pores. It’s also useful for dull skin types, as it helps with fading scars and age spots, can exfoliate skin, brighten and lighten skin, tone oily skin, and fight wrinkles.
Additionally, lemon oil is one of the most versatile essential oils to have on hand because it can be used as a teeth whitener, laundry freshener, cellulite cream, face wash and household cleaner. Mix it with a carrier oil like jojoba oil, and massage into troubled areas of the skin. You can also use it on your hair to boost shine and remove residue.
8. Argan Oil
Native to Morocco and used there for generations, argan oil is so healing because it’s rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, various antioxidants, omega-6 fatty acids and linoleic acid. These give it natural anti-aging properties — plus it’s not only great for gently moisturizing skin, but it also boosts the shine and health of your hair.
Apply a small amount of pure argan oil directly to normal or troubled skin twice daily to help treat irritations, such as acne, bug bites, eczema, dryness and psoriasis.
9. Aloe Vera
Most people associate aloe vera benefits with healing sunburns, but did you know that aloe also contains bacteria-fighting, soothing ingredients that fight inflammation, redness and itching? For hundreds of years aloe has been used to treat skin diseases, infections and as a natural treatment for fungal diseases in traditional Chinese medicine.
Aloe vera is considered to be the most biologically active form of the Aloe barbadensis miller species and holds more than 75 potentially active ingredients, including anti-inflammatories, vitamins, minerals, saccharides, amino acids, fatty acids, enzymes, lignin and salicylic acids. These are what gives aloe its signature antimicrobial and antifungal properties that make it a “photodynamic therapy” for supporting skin — plus it may have anti-aging effects due to its ability to support a healthy skin barrier.
Research results suggest that aloe vera is effective for burns and wound healing, but surprisingly it also detoxifies you from the inside out — so much so that, when taken orally, aloe can even decrease the number and size of tumors and parasites in the liver, spleen and bone marrow.
Aloe vera plants produce two substances used for medicine: the gel found in the cells in the center of the leaf and the latex that’s obtained from the cells just beneath the leaves’ skin. These can be used as a natural skin care remedy for burns, frostbite, psoriasis and cold sores.
10. Jojoba Oil
One of the most widely used carrier oils, jojoba oil is extremely moisturizing and can help treat burns, sores, scars, dermatitis, acne psoriasis and wrinkles. Native to the southern U.S. and Mexico, it’s also used to reduce balding because it encourages hair regrowth, soothes the skin and unclogs hair follicles.
When it comes to the chemical structure of jojoba oil, it’s unique in that it’s a polyunsaturated wax. As a wax, jojoba is especially useful for protecting the skin, acting as a natural moisturizer and soothing the scalp.
11. Almond Oil
You probably already know about the many nutrition benefits of almonds, but maybe you’re new to using almond oil on your skin. Not only does it smell great, but it has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
It makes a great serum ingredient or carrier oil for essential oils that naturally treat skin rashes, acne or dryness. It also blends easily with many different smells, so try in it homemade washes, masks or lotions.
12. Shea Butter
Shea butter has been used as a natural skin care product in Africa for hundreds of years, where it is still largely cultivated and shipped around the world today. It makes an excellent moisturizer for dry skin types and is inexpensive yet effective at reducing flaking, redness or peeling.
It’s safe to use around your eyes and makes a good addition to natural eye creams and overnight, hydrating lotions.
13. Castor Oil
Used to cleanse skin, castor oil is actually a “drying oil,” even though that might seem counterintuitive. For facial cleansing, you only need to use a very small amount to reduce built-up bacteria that can contribute to breakouts and dull skin.
14. Vitamin C Extract
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that acts like an anti-aging antioxidant, helping defend against oxidative stress and free radical damage that can lead to dark spots and fine lines. You’ll find this extract in facial serums and moisturizers that are intended to brighten and tone dull or uneven skin tones.
Vitamin C can also help regulate sebum (oil) production to prevent acne and decrease inflammation.
15. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel comes from the Hamamelis plant and is used to make a toning solution. It’s been a staple of natural skin care and home remedies for various skin issues for centuries, such as blemishes and bug bites.
It helps control oil and normalize skin’s hydration while fighting bacteria. It may also help reduce irritation, swelling and redness associated with acne.
Real, unprocessed cocoa powder is full of antioxidants, minerals and healthy fats. It can help replenish skin’s moisture and fight dryness while offering protection against free radical damage that can age skin. Use it in face masks for a boost in your skin’s glow.
Pure beeswax is a substance that comes from worker honeybees, which make honeycomb. It’s commonly used for lowering cholesterol and also relieving pain, swelling and inflammation.
It acts as a humectant, meaning it helps create a protective layer on the skin that keeps moisture in and locks out irritants. Studies have found that it can be used with other natural skin care products, such as botanical oils and witch hazel, to treat rosacea as well as some prescriptions, often without any further irritation.
Cucumber contains active enzymes and compounds that help decrease puffiness and fight allergies. Sliced cucumbers can be placed under the eyes to soothe delicate skin and help with hydration.
Related: What Is Stearic Acid? Top Uses for Skin & Beyond
Terms to Know
When shopping to find new clean skin care products, it helps to know what different terms mean. For starters, the word “natural” does not really tell you much, since this is a marketing term more than anything. It’s not a regulated term and won’t tell you exactly what’s in a product, so be sure to read ingredient labels.
Here are some natural skin care terms to familiarize yourself with so you can better understand your options:
- Hypoallergenic — Signifies that a product contains fewer ingredients that are known to cause an allergic reaction, but this is not a medical term that’s regulated by the FDA.
- Fragrance-free — Free from added fragrances, which can be irritating. However, products may still have a scent due to the smell of some ingredients, such as essential oils.
- Non-comedogenic — Typically won’t clog pores.
- Non-irritating — Typically paraben-free, fragrance-free, soap-free, non-comedogenic, non-drying.
- 100% pure — Typically made with only one ingredient and free from fillers or additives.
- Vegan — Does not contain any animal products, such as honey, dairy, egg, collagen, etc.
- Cruelty-free — Made without harming animals, which often includes not testing on animals.
- Organic —Products that use ingredients that have been naturally grown and not contaminated with pesticides and chemicals.
Related: Micellar Water: The Do-It-All Skin Care Ingredient
Natural Skin Care Routine
While using these natural ingredients can be very effective for treating skin issues, what you put into your body, of course, also plays an enormous role in your outer appearance. You’ve probably noticed firsthand how a healthy diet, good sleep, regular exercise and drinking plenty of water can help improve someone’s looks.
For the best results, try these strategies for helping improve skin, hair or other beauty issues:
1. Take Probiotics
Healthy skin is just like any other organ in your body: It continuously needs oxygen and nutrients to be brought to the cells, and toxins need to be washed away. Therefore, hormonal balance and healthy digestive function are both crucial for optimal skin health.
Probiotics, the “good bacteria” that help balance the gut environment, are tied to improved immunity, hormonal control, appetite regulation and energy levels. They can help your immune and nervous system deal with toxins like bad bacteria, yeast, viruses, fungi and parasites that can all show up on your skin.
2. Take a Quality Omega-3 Supplement Cod Liver Oil
Omega-3s are loaded with healthy fatty acids that help keep dry skin moisturized and elastic. They also help regulate hormone function, nervous system health and immune function, while also promoting a normal inflammation response.
Cod liver oil is also a great source of skin-loving vitamins A, D and K; omega-3s; and antioxidants.
3. Consider Using Collagen Protein
Collagen protein is growing in popularity as one of the best natural skin care supplements available today. Collagen helps build healthy skin cells and is partially responsible for skin’s youthful elasticity, softness and firmness.
While many topical products add collagen to their formulas to boost their appeal, it’s actually much more effective when taken internally. Collagen is actually too large to absorb through the skin and must be produced internally for the best results.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
There are many reasons you should drink enough water, including it being one of the best things you can do to take care of your skin. Most experts recommend getting at least eight glasses of plain water every single day and probably even more if you suffer from dry, troublesome skin or puffy/swollen eyes.
Water makes up about 70 percent of your body and a very large portion of your skin, too!
Water help flush toxins from the bloodstream and cells, allowing your body to experience a “detox” and remove things like bacteria and waste from affecting your skin. Of course, water plays a big role in keeping skin hydrated, so it has anti-aging effects too.
Without enough of it, we appear aged and dull and can suffer from rough, cracked skin.
To help renew the skin and remove those dead skin cells, it’s important to exfoliate occasionally. The practice will give you a fresher appearance and healthier skin, as it helps to unclog your pores that get clogged with dead skin cells, pollutants and cosmetics.
Two wonderful natural exfoliators are the pumice stone and the practice of dry brushing. In both cases, it’s important to do this gently so that you do not tear the skin. Exfoliating too much can also dehydrate the skin, which is that last thing you want to do, so limit it to once a week (and never before going out into the sun).
6. Get Good Sleep and Lower Stress
Consider if a lack of sleep and high levels of stress might be causing a hormonal imbalance that is leading to breakouts. You should know that “beauty sleep” is more than just a silly saying — a good night’s sleep is truly where the magic happens when it comes to healthy skin.
Getting enough restful sleep is key to good skin because when you’re sleeping, your “happy hormones” are at their highest and your stress hormones are at their lowest. This means your body has the energy to use to devote to things like proper digestion, muscle growth and repairing your skin — so you wake up looking refreshed.
Not getting good sleep has a similar effect on the body that stress does. Both stress and lack of sleep make your body conserve energy — therefore skin health becomes compromised.
Thus, consider implementing natural sleep strategies as well as ways to bust stress.
7. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Emphasize plenty of antioxidant-rich foods in your diet, especially fresh veggies and fruits, plus fatty fish, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. Lastly, if you still suffer from acne and frequent skin problems, eat lots of leafy greens and consider giving up gluten, sugar and dairy.
Related: Related: 5 Natural Deodorant Remedies, Plus How to Make Your Own!
To get you started on your natural skin care routine, try these DIY recipes using some of the ingredients mentioned above:
- Castor Oil Cleanser — Combine about a teaspoon of castor oil mixed into 1/4 cup of another oil like coconut or almond. Rub into your face, and massage. Then rinse with warm water to carry away impurities.
- Homemade Honey Face Wash for Clear Skin — Great for oily and acne-prone skin.
- Sea Salt Scrub — Mix two teaspoons sea salt with four teaspoons raw honey, and then apply the mix evenly to clean skin. Rub it gently, let it stand for 15 minutes and rinse. Sugar scrubs are similar, and both types are gentle enough to use several times per week to prevent clogged pores and help with cell turnover and renewal.
- DIY Vitamin C Serum for the Face or Homemade Anti-Aging Serum
- Homemade Skin Care Butter — Made with shea butter and essential oils like frankincense, eucalyptus or bergamot oil.
- Homemade Avocado Face Mask — Made with fresh avocado combined with essential oils, honey or a carrier oil to replenish hydration and leave skin feeling dewy.
- Acne Scar Removal Face Mask
- DIY Face Moisturizer with Shea Butter & Essential Oils
- Homemade Eye Cream with Frankincense & Shea Butter
- Homemade lip balm — Made with lavender oil and mint to soothe cracked skin and provide a cooling sensation.
Risks and Side Effects
When using any new product on your skin, even natural skin care products, start with a small amount, and gradually increase how much you use. This way you can test your reaction before applying to a large area of your skin. This is especially important with essential oils, which can sometimes be irritating.
If you’re allergic to an ingredient that you’d eat, such as honey or avocado, avoid applying it to your skin. Be careful when purchasing natural products in stores if you have any allergies. Read labels carefully to avoid irritating ingredients.
Related: Succinic Acid Benefits for Skin + How to Use It
- Clean beauty is all about using products that are beneficial and non-irritating. These include things like lotions, serums, toners, masks and scrubs made from plants, roots, flowers, herbs and even fruits and veggies.
- What are the best natural skin care products? Some include coconut, tea tree, almond and jojoba oils; apple cider vinegar; beeswax; vitamin C; witch hazel; honey; avocado; and others.
- These natural skin care ingredients offer benefits such as help reducing age spots, acne, dryness, scarring, eczema, lines and wrinkles.