These days, being green is more popular than ever. We recycle, buy organic foods and drive hybrid cars to benefit our environment. So, it's only natural to extend those benefits to your skin, especially if it's easily irritated. Toss out the harsh chemicals and switch to natural products. It just might save your skin.
Skip the strong stuff
Your skincare products can include potentially irritating ingredients with some critics even questioning their safety. Find out which ones might be cause for concern.
- Harsh chemicals. Although technically speaking, everything in our beauty cabinet contains chemicals, some are harsher than others.
An especially irritating chemical component is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), commonly added to products like shampoo and soap to increase lather and make foamy suds, writes Marisa Belger for MSNBC. Unfortunately, it also affects skin by "disrupting the structure of the skin to allow deeper penetration of other toxins," she explains.
- Artificial colorants. Chances are that your lavender-scented body wash is lavender-colored, too — the result of unnecessary dyes and colorants that can aggravate skin. Don't expect natural products to be brightly colored; many don't contain these colors and dyes, so they cause less irritation.
- Chemical preservatives. Preservatives increase products' shelf life and staying power. Parabens — commonly used preservatives that include methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben — stop bacteria from growing and prevent products from spoiling, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
However, parabens have been associated with health risks. Belger writes that "Parabens have been linked to breast cancer, impaired fertility and skin irritation — from mild itching to scaling and blistering."
But there's differing opinions on the potential harm of parabens. In an article for The Washington Post, Rachel Herschenfeld, M.D., refers to the 2002 study that incited controversy over the potential connection of parabens and breast cancer. Debunking any link, she writes, "The study did not show that parabens are harmful or that they cause breast cancer."
Perhaps additional research will illuminate this preservative's impact. Thus far, Dr. Herschenfeld explains that the FDA considers cosmetics with parabens to be safe for the majority of us. But those with eczema should avoid these products, she suggests.
- Synthetic fragrance. Despite their appealing scents and smells, the perfumes and fragrances in some skincare products can cause skin irritation — such as itchiness, dryness and rash. Instead, opt for unscented or fragrance-free products. Many people find this helps their sensitive or easily-irritated skin.
- Chemical sunscreens. We all know that wearing sunscreen is a necessary step in every skincare regimen, but some products can irritate your skin more than others. For instance, physical sunblock formulas — reflect UV rays and include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — typically cause less irritation than their chemical counterparts — absorb UV rays and prevent them from entering the epidermis. Though rarely used today, the chemical ingredient PABA, or para-aminobenzoic acid, is known for causing irritation and staining fabrics and clothes.
Switching to natural ingredients
In many cases, natural ingredients are gentler than synthetic ones. However, keep in mind that some natural ingredients like essential oils can cause irritation or allergic reactions. Choose a natural brand like CAUDALIE Paris Skincare that avoids artificial colorants and fragrances whenever possible, and enjoy the benefits of naturally beautiful skin.
- Non-drying cleansers. Many people mistakenly assume they have oily skin and use harsh cleansers to achieve a deep clean. However, this dries out the skin, causing an overproduction in oil that leads to breakouts.
Instead, help your skin retain its natural oils while removing the daily build-up of dirt and grime. Try Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser, which removes impurities for a natural clean. This cleanser uses botanical ingredients like grape water and sage leaf extract.
- Alcohol-free toners. Choose gentle formulas that use botanicals and natural extracts instead of harsh alcohols that strip the skin. Plant-based toners are soothing and refreshing. Caudalie Grape Water Harvest uses 100 percent plant-based grape water and mineral salt.
- Gentle facial scrubs. To get soft, smooth skin, it's important to exfoliate and remove dead, dry skin. But, harsh exfoliating scrubs can cause cuts in the skin, leading to blemishes and inflammation.
Choose a finer-textured scrub that pampers the skin without scratching or irritating. Try Caudalie Sauvignon Scrub, formulated with honey, menthol, licorice and grape seed oil.
- Sulfate-free shower gels. Because some body washes and shower gels contain SLS and thereby might irritate your skin, switch to sulfate-free skin care. Caudalie Vine Peach Shower Gel is free from harsh sulfates and soaps. The formula is designed to soothe, soften and restore skin's natural pH balance.
- Sulfate-free shampoos. Many people dry out their scalp with a harsh shampoo, and then use a heavy conditioner to return the moisture their harsh shampoo strips away. Break this cycle by cleansing gently with natural options.
Choose plant-based formulas that contain strengthening agents like wheat proteins and pro-vitamin B5, such as Caudalie Gentle Conditioning Shampoo.
Learn everything you need to know about a natural skincare and beauty routine in our Natural Beauty Handbook.