When to Buy Natural Beauty Products

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Old 16-Jun-2012
When to Buy Natural Beauty Products

When to Buy Natural Beauty Products

Super Naturals
These days, the beauty aisle at your local drugstore is stocked with bottles labeled all-natural and organic. In fact, sales of these cosmetics reached $11 billion last year. And despite the abundance of options, adopting a greener routine doesn't mean pickling yourself in hemp seed oil or patchouli. "A good place to start is with your moisturizer and anything applied near your eyes and lips," says dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules. "The ingredients in these products are more likely to be absorbed into your body or ingested." For more natural know-how and some standout products to try, turn the page.

Learn the Lingo
The Label Says: Natural

These products contain a higher percentage of plants and minerals, but may not be completely free of synthetics. To make sure what you're buying is truly natural, check the ingredients. The first five should be naturally derived (think essential oils and plant extracts). If you're unsure (glyceryl stearate—who?), consult CosmeticsInfo.org for a glossary of cosmetic ingredients.

The Label Says: Organic

To put this word on their labels, a brand has to go one step further, using ingredients that are not only natural but also grown without chemicals or pesticides. Reputable companies usually authenticate their ingredients with an organic certifying agency and list these agencies right on the label. The crème de la crème display the USDA's seal, which means their products are at least 90% organic.

Some natural ingredients—rosemary, bergamot oil, cinnamon—can still cause redness and irritation. Test any new product on a small patch of skin before smearing it all over.

3 Reasons to Go Green

Most natural brands are committed to sustainability, using minimal packaging that's made of recycled paper or plastic.


The research is inconclusive, but some synthetic ingredients have been linked to health issues.


Products made up primarily of natural and organic ingredients tend to be gentler on irritation-prone complexions

Facts of the Matter
Question: I've noticed a lot of labels that say paraben-free or sulfate-free. What are these ingredients and why would I want to avoid them? - Tara Hintz, Mesa, AZ

Answer: Parabens—methylparaben or benzylparaben—are artificial preservatives added to products to keep bacteria in check and increase shelf life. Sulfates (like sodium lauryl sulfate) are typically found in cleansers to increase lather. Both can be irritating--especially to sensitive skin--so many companies are making products without these ingredients. There's also some speculation about a link between parabens and cancer, but the FDA considers them safe for cosmetics due to a lack of data on the subject.

Did you know?

Notoriously chemical-laden, many nail polishes have cleaned up their act and are now 3-free, meaning they've removed three controversial ingredients—dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene and formaldehyde—from their products. Two brands to try: Essie and OPI.

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