When I started my foray into natural beauty products nearly six years ago, I’d already been a lifetime skincare and makeup fanatic (in middle and high school, I had lip glosses and eyeshadows to match every outfit I owned—and that included purple gloss and lime green eyeliner). But it wasn’t until some health problems arose in my early 20s and I started to pay more attention to what I was putting IN my body, that I also began to wonder if what I was putting ON my body was important.
I’ve always had super sensitive, blemish-prone skin that reacts to just about everything: environment, diet, products, altitude, mood, time of the month. You name it, my skin finds a way to freak out about it. So when I became interested in clean beauty products, it was with the motivation that skincare without toxic chemicals would ultimately be better for my complexion.
The first part of my natural beauty education came in the form of the book and blog for which I now work, No More Dirty Looks. It’s a comprehensive look at the cosmetics industry as a whole, and it debunks the idea that the products we use on our skin, hair, nails and body don’t impact what’s going on inside our bodies.
The quick and dirty of it is that about 60 percent of what we put ON our skin (including makeup, lotions, fragrances, oils and balms) makes its way into our bodies. In the largely unregulated cosmetics industry, there hasn’t been federal legislation regarding beauty and personal care products since 1938, meaning that the ingredients in conventional cosmetics don’t have to pass any tests to ensure they’re safe for long-term public use.
This, unfortunately, has resulted in many toxic chemicals making their way into our lipsticks, face creams and deodorants—and eventually into our bodies, where they can contribute to a slew of health issues from skin reactions and rashes to birth defects and cancer. Here in the United States, we’re also a tad behind on banning harmful ingredients: We only ban or restrict 11 ingredients while the European Union has restrictions on 1,328.
Thankfully, there has been a recent trend towards healthy beauty. In the wake of the emergence of clean eating trends, knowledge about clean beauty is starting to surface. Between 2012 and 2013, sales of natural and organic beauty products at department stores or specialty retailers increased by 16 percent, according to findings from the NPD group, a market-research firm based in New York.
But, if you want to make the switch to healthier beauty products, how do you know where to start? We’ve got you covered—and we want you to start with face oils.
If you’ve paid any attention to the marketing of big-name cosmetics companies, you’re likely a little scared of oil as a moisturizer. Every skincare commercial I bring to mind touts the oil-free-ness of its product as a high-ranking benefit. Avoiding oil, they say, means avoiding breakouts and oily skin.
I hate to burst your conventional-skincare bubble but it’s a totally false claim. In fact, stripping your skin of its natural oils with tons of drying, oil-free products can actually cause breakouts and oily skin. Blows your mind, right?
The way our skin works is actually pretty smart—in order to keep itself balanced, it reacts to the products we use. When we slather on harsh, toxic products that remove too much of the skin’s natural sebum, our skin tries to get itself back in balance by producing more oil, and discouraging skin cell turnover. That excess oil and lack of skin cell turnover leads directly to that slick-by-10 a.m. forehead look and clogged pores.
Using an organic, clean face oil on your skin can combat all of that. Yes, you heard me right: Acneic and oily skin can actually benefit from a facial oil. So can normal, sensitive or dry skin.
Let’s start with the basics: Facial oils mimic the oils that your skin naturally produces, encouraging balanced, healthy skin that glows. When you’re hydrating your face with organic, healthy oils, your skin feels calmed and doesn’t have to work as hard to stay clear and uncongested.
But, just like the oils you use in cooking, it matters what kinds of oils you use on your skin. Here’s a rundown of what to look for when you’re choosing a face oil:
- Organic: The way your face oils were cultivated make a difference in their performance. If you’re trying to avoid toxic chemicals in your products, why would you choose a product that could harbor residual pesticides and GMOs?
- No fillers: If you follow any fashion or beauty blogs, you’ll have noticed that even mainstream brands have tried to capitalize on the clean, healthy beauty trend by releasing their own facial oils. The problem with many of these is that they contain low-quality oils or ingredients that are just fillers, like mineral oil, preservatives (phenoxyethanol is a big one), parabens, alcohol, colors and fragrances—and they can clog pores, cause dullness or just make the product less potent. Look instead for oils where each ingredient is contributing to improving your skin.
- Tailored to your skin type: Just like conventional moisturizers, facial oils mixes are designed to help support different skin types. All skin types can benefit from jojoba oil, which has a molecular structure closest to your skin’s natural sebum. Rosehip seed oil works great for sensitive, redness-prone skin, while grapeseed oil helps heal acne-prone skin. Dry skin benefits from richer oils like prickly pear seed oil.
Feeling a little more confident about venturing into the facial oil realm? I hope so! In the coming weeks, we’ll be chatting more about how to apply face oils, what ingredients are most beneficial for different skin types and how you can also use hydrating oils on your body.
Have you tried face oils before? If you haven’t, what’s been holding you back? We’d love to hear from you!