In honor of our recently celebrated Earth Day, I wanted to tackle a question that seems to come up every now and then: “if I use all-natural bath and beauty products, then I’ll be healthier, right”? Well, if you are a severe allergy sufferer, then that may not be the case. While there is a significant amount of solid research that shows skin and hair absolutely utilize naturally-based products better, I caution everyone to do their research on what’s INSIDE the product first rather than just buying into the marketing that makes you feel the “need” to get it. For example, if you suffer from allergic reactions to bee stings (like carrying around an Epi-pen just in case), then you should most likely avoid any bee-based products that feature royal jelly, beeswax and honey. It’s not that those products are bad in any way, but it’s more of a personal responsibility to ensure that you don’t end up in the emergency room for a reaction because you had to try the latest bee-sting beauty trend. Same for those with shellfish allergies – it’s best to avoid marine or ocean-based beauty and bath products, as iodine naturally found in algae (a common antioxidant ingredient) could trigger reactions. Similarly for products containing herbal extracts. I feel bad for my family members and friends who feel that the first few days of Spring come with a bit of anxiety – swollen eyes, itchy skin and constant sneezing is not a fun way to spend a bright sunny day outdoors when the pollen count is high. My advice is to research and balance your approach if you want to use more natural beauty products, but don’t want to add additional suffering from allergies and hyper-sensitive skin reactions.
There are plenty of great brands out that offer deeply researched and effective formulas, and have Earth-friendly business practices. But unfortunately many of the “natural” brands are charging a premium for commonly known natural ingredients, which can make it difficult to use regularly. Case in point, some of the very best natural ingredients for beauty (coconut oil, witch hazel, olive oil, Epsom salts) can come right from your pantry or grocery store, without crazy price tags attached to them.
Why are allergies such a concern in beauty products? Because your skin absorbs what is put on top of it. Plain and simple. And your allergies can be dramatically affected based on what products you choose to use, as your skin cells react with and utilize a product’s ingredients. You’ll notice that many products recommended by dermatologists or skincare clinics don’t tout “natural” claims. Estée Lauder, for instance, figured that out decades ago when she founded Clinique as a means to help women with allergies still achieve their beauty goals by being conscious of allergy-tested formulations.
But how do you figure out what to use, and start using more natural-based beauty in your daily regimen? Best thing is to write down what you know you are allergic to or have had reaction to. This will help you weed out the brands, simply by understanding their product claims. (Bees and marine ingredients, for example) The other advice I have is to look at the brands that have trusted formulas, and are sold at retailers that have dedicated categories for natural products. ULTA, Whole Foods, and Amazon all have categories you can search through to find brands and products you want to try. My last piece of advice is NOT to worry about getting natural-based products because they simply smell good. Synthetic fragrances are the first allergen I avoid in a product, and sadly are used in some “natural” brands to make the scent even more noticeable or potent. If you want a naturally-scented product, look for those that have essential oil blends as their fragrance – these oils will provide more benefit to you in addition to smelling great.
I’ll admit I don’t have a bee or a shellfish allergy, but I have a lot of pollen allergies. Plus, I have hyper-sensitive skin that easily reacts to extremely active essential oils, like peppermint. Below are a just a few of my favorite natural-based products (clockwise), based on my known allergies and product-selecting criteria:
1) Witch Hazel – This natural extract is a key ingredient in a ton of beauty products, and often makes up the main ingredient in toners. But the best thing is the real stuff, without any added oils or scents. Used daily after cleansing, this extract is known for soothing and combating everything from irritation, bug bites, acne, inflammation, sores, and blisters. Plus, it removes any remaining traces of cleanser, makeup, dirt and oil. For around $5 and under, it’s one of the best products to use for sensitive skin.
2) Goddess Garden Organics Baby Sunscreen Stick – It’s very important to replace your sunscreen to ensure it hasn’t expired. And it’s even more important to not use synthetic sunscreens, as those often cause reactions or rashes. What I really like about this is that it’s waterproof, broad-spectrum SPF 30, and is scent-free. Plus, it uses micronized physical sunscreens of Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, so it goes on sheer, not chalky white. Use on ears, noses, cheeks, forehead and chests – or also on the lips in a pinch.
3) Eco Lips Zinc Sunscreen SPF 15 Lip Balm – natural zinc is a much safer alternative to chemically-based sunscreens. You are much less likely to develop a reaction by using a physical sunscreen, such as zinc or titanium dioxide. This formula is awesome, since I like and can tolerate the natural mint flavoring, but also love the hydrating blend of cocoa butter and coconut oil. It’s great for men and women, since skin cancer is a concern for all ages and genders. I keep this in my bag year round, and especially in the summer months when my sailing season starts up.
4) Burt’s Bees lip gloss and lip stick – not only are these beauty-award winning (2016 Allure Best of Beauty for the lipstick) and feature a beautiful range of shades, but the formulas are amazing. My favorite shades are Blush Basin (lipstick) and Rosy Dawn (lipgloss), as they are great everyday pinky-peach neutrals. I love how the gloss glides on with a hint of shimmer but is not sticky, and the lipstick gives an opaque, satin finish while still hydrating. Both are 100% natural, feature a blend of beeswax and other oils, plus are long-wearing. If you are looking for high performance yet natural-based ingredient formulas, then make these your go-to.
5) Aveeno Ultra-calming nourishing night cream – for a drugstore brand, Aveeno delivers great formulas that utilize oats, which is a fantastic ingredient for hyper-sensitive skin. This night cream also contains feverfew, which calms redness. I really like this product when my skin feels overstressed and delicate.
6) Shea Moisture African Black Soap Body Wash and Sacha Inchi Oil Omega 3, 6, 9 Rescue Body Lotion – these two products are my absolute favorite from this brand. Shea Moisture is an impressive company, by providing naturally-based formulas that are high-performing, and yet very reasonably priced. I’ve raved about their African Black Soap formula before, which is fantastic for men and women, especially coming into summer. African Black Soap uses charcoal to naturally deodorize, and oats to soothe and calm irritated skin. Have a sunburn? Then use this body wash to care for skin, while not using irritating detergents and fragrances found in most commercial body washes. The Omega 3,6,9 lotion is also fantastic for soothing raw or dry, cracked skin. The scent is subtle, and comes from natural blends of essential oils. Omega 3, 6, 9 are essential fatty acids that help with skin health, by repairing and protecting the moisture barrier naturally found in skin cells. What I liked about this brand is that they don’t heavily scent their products, and deliver value through powerfully effective products.
7) Burt’s Bees Rosewater Toner – with a formula that is 99.9% natural, this is one of the original products in the Burt’s Bees skincare lineup, and is a great option for very dry and sensitive skin types. Rosewater has been used for centuries in skincare and bath products, due to it’s mildly astringent and soothing properties. It’s great for skin that is stressed, showing early signs of aging, or in need of extra-special soothing care. Both men and women can benefit, especially men who suffer from razor-burn. Use daily after cleansing, and prior to moisturizing.
8) Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value fragrance-free hand soap – this is a great alternative to harsh and anti-bacterial hand soaps for use in your home. Contrary to popular belief, anti-bacterial ingredients aren’t the best for your daily use, and can often cause rash and irritation. Also, with the amount of hand-washing that you normally do, it’s best to choose something that truly deep cleans gently, rather than creates potential reactions. This product is free of parabens, lanolin, preservatives and other ingredients that be irritating.
These are just a few of my favorites, and the reasons why behind them due to their benefits and formulas. Biggest tip is to check the ingredients of any product, and also research the brand’s business practices if you are conscious about Earth-friendly practices. I’m in process of testing some other brands, so I’ll check back with my reviews of those soon. Cheers!
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