08/02/2012 04:56 EDT | Updated 09/06/2012 05:01 EDT

Natural Skincare Products: Unexpected Things You Need To Know Before Going Green


Increasingly, people are looking for natural ways to add some oomph to their skin.

In fact, says Bill Baker, the owner of Consonant Skincare, growth in the natural and organic beauty product sector is outpacing growth in the category overall (at a compound rate of 13 per cent annually).

It's a welcome trend, says the natural skincare guru. "It's a fact our skin absorbs over 60 per cent of what we put on it, so choosing natural skin care is choosing healthier skincare."

The problem, says Baker, is the proliferation of products labelled "natural" isn't actually making it easy for consumers to make healthier skincare choices.

"With no regulatory oversight of the term as it applies to beauty products, manufacturers can -- and often do -- call their products "natural" when they're actually anything but."

To help you make more effective choices when navigating beauty counters, Baker shared with us his top 10 things to look out for when buying healthier skincare products.

"Natural" Doesn’t Necessarily Mean "All-Natural"

To some manufacturers, "natural" means "naturally inspired," where "naturally inspired" means, "our synthetic fragrance, loaded with dangerous phthalates, smells vaguely like a scent you might find in nature." I recently came across a global brand marketing a line of "naturals" that contains methylparaben, sodium laureth sulfate, triethanolomine and other toxic chemicals. Buyer beware, indeed!

Preservatives Play A Part

It’s not realistic for most of us to keep our skincare products in the fridge, so an effective preservative is important. Until recently, most manufacturers have used synthetic preservatives in their natural products arguing the benefits outweigh the risks. But new, more natural preservatives are coming on the market all the time; don’t settle for a synthetic preservative if you don’t have to.

It’s Not About The Bottle, It’s About What’s In The Bottle

Too often natural beauty products are categorized as "green" or "eco." Sustainable business practices are important, but when it comes to natural beauty products, it is a health issue, not an environmental issue. If a manufacturer is trying to get you to focus on packaging as an issue, take a close look at what’s inside the packaging; they may be trying to distract you from the real issue.

What Has Your Skincare Done For You Lately?

Good beauty products should do more than just make your skin look and feel healthy, they should actually help to make your skin be healthy. Avoid natural products with mineral oil and dimethicone, two ingredients that sit on the surface of your skin to make it feel better, but do very little to actually make it better.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

This is the answer to the question, "What are the three most important things you can do to keep your skin looking young and healthy?" Choose natural products that have olive oil, shea butter or other botanically derived hydrating ingredients close to the top of the list. Effective moisturization doesn’t just occur at the surface where most synthetic ingredients operate, it occurs deep down where these natural botanicals operate.

Beware Fragrance

As one skincare specialist I know likes to say, "It shouldn’t be about what your skincare smells like; it should be about what it does." Avoid choosing products based on scent, which typically has little or no therapeutic benefit and may cause skin sensitivity or irritation.

Expect Performance

Gone are the days when choosing a natural product meant you had to sacrifice enjoyment-of-use and results. Today’s better natural skincare brands deliver results that rival the leading cosmeceutical and global department store brands. Ask for clinically proven results, and expect nothing less from natural products than you would from conventional products.

Get A Beauty Advisor

Life is busy and complex, and learning everything you need to know to make healthier choices at the beauty counter can be overwhelming. But natural skincare is as important to a healthy lifestyle as a balanced diet and regular exercise. You count on a nutritionist and a personal trainer to help you lead a wellness lifestyle, consider adding a natural skincare specialist to your stable of consultants.

Practice Balance

Like everything in life, balance is important. There is room in your diet for the occasional bacon double cheeseburger; and there is room in your beauty routine for the occasional conventional skincare product. But in moderation.

Protect Yourself

We can’t count on government or industry oversight to protect us from false or misleading claims, so learning how to read labels and how to decipher ingredients is an important first step in making healthier choices.