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Not All Natural Beauty Products Are Made Equal

03/16/2016 04:26 EDT | Updated 03/17/2017 05:12 EDT
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As the old adage goes, beauty is more than skin deep. This is true for both the reason that there's more to a person than what we see on the outside and because when it comes to maintaining our looks, we must take care of our body from within in order for our beauty to radiate on the outside.

As a woman (and even for men today) there is constant pressure to be beautiful and remain appealing by looking youthful, and while there's been a trend in recent years of moving away from Botox and filler products that use harsh or unnatural methods to make you look younger, there is still a lot of pressure to "age gracefully."

While the fashion industry continuously evolves, so to does the world of beauty and the ever-growing debate about the merits of "natural beauty." As a consumer it is often hard to understand what that means, so I sat down with skincare expert and owner of Canadian skincare clinic Skin Science, Marie Bertrand, to gain better insight into the world of natural beauty.

What is "natural beauty?"

"Over the years, I've found that 'natural beauty' means different things to different people.

From my experience, it can either mean aging gracefully using topical skincare combined with non-surgical and non-invasive facial procedures, or using topical skincare products that are natural and non-toxic. Sometimes clients want both. You have to specifically ask them what 'natural beauty' means to them, and then design a skincare plan that will answer their skin concerns while respecting their request for a 'natural beauty' approach."

Are all-natural products better for my skin?

While the global concern to take better care of the environment grows, the marketing world continues to find clever ways to sell us "natural" products that somehow make people feel like they're doing what's best for the environment, but that is not to say it's what's best for your skin or for your body.

Is every natural product good for your skin?

In short, no! Marie puts this in terms that are quite easy to understand: "Poison ivy is natural. You don't want to have it on your skin." She continues with some equally poignant examples: "Lavender oil contains known allergens such a linalool, geraniol and linalylacetate, which are well recognized to cause allergic contact dermatitis. The juice and oil in limes contain light-sensitive chemicals called furocoumarins (psoralens). On their own, furocoumarins are harmless, but when they come in contact with UV rays from the sun, they chemically transform into something very unpleasant for the skin. The resultant rash -- which is much larger than just the point of exposure -- is as red, blistery, itchy and uncomfortable as poison ivy. Celery and parsley also contain psoralens that can react with UV rays and lead to a similar skin rash."

Another factor to consider is that the "natural" sector of the beauty product industry remains unregulated so companies can get away with calling things "natural" even though they are not good for you. There are paraben-free products that contain formaldehyde, Marie notes. "Who wants to have formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) on their skin? People are misled by a lot of information found on the web, along with misleading marketing from cosmetic companies."

Are 'natural ingredients' always effective?

Marie points out that it depends on what treatment outcome you're looking for. "If you want to moisturize your dry skin, coconut oil could work. But you cannot expect it to increase firmness, reduce brown spots and shrink pores -- because that's not what coconut oil does," she says. "Aloe vera gel is actually a decent, oil-free moisturizer and can improve hydration, as well as help reduce redness and inflammation. But it is unreasonable to expect aloe vera gel to work on deep wrinkles, firmness and brown spots if nothing else is added to it."

Which are better, natural or 'pure' ingredients?

"Salicylic acid, a well-known exfoliate for acne-prone skin, can be sourced from willow bark. It can also be synthesized from the lab. It's the same molecule, no matter the source. Which will you trust? Which one is purer? Personally, I would use salicylic acid that's been lab-synthesized anytime, because I know it's ultra-pure. And it does the same thing as the one sourced naturally without harming the environment."

Marie feels that the ultimate in skincare products are ones that have the best of both worlds: natural ingredients, when possible, combined with active, pure ingredients from the lab.

"This is what I appreciate about product lines like DermaQuest, they offer the best of both worlds: some ingredients that are naturally sourced, and others are made in a lab, balanced and formulated to ensure safe, pure and sustainable skincare products that yield effective results," she says.

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