Read the Label on All Natural Skin Care Products

From the drugstore to chic department stores to online boutiques, all natural skin care products are everywhere you look. How do you know what's good and what's not, and are they really better for your skin?

What are natural skin care products?
Natural skin care products typically contain one or more botanical extracts, essential oils and plant-based oils such as olive, avocado or almond. Scientific studies have confirmed what herbalists have known all along: that many herbs have astringent, anti-inflammatory or healing properties. Cosmetic companies have taken advantage of this scientific proof by adding herbs and other botanicals to everything from face cleansers to moisturizers.

Read the label
Unfortunately the amounts of herbal extracts in most natural skin care products are often so minute that they have little effect. In addition, although many natural skin care products are made without petroleum-based ingredients or artificial colors and fragrances, some are not, so it pays to read product labels.

The product label contains a list of all the ingredients in a particular product. Although the exact percentage of each ingredient is not given, the rule of thumb is that about 90% of the skin care product is made from the top 33% of the ingredients. Let's take a look at a name-brand "natural" (but not certified organic) face cleanser found at the drugstore.

In this particular example there are 25 ingredients, at least half of which are botanical extracts or essential oils. Using the rule of thumb, at least 90% of the "natural" product is made up of the first eight ingredients, which contain only two botanical ingredients (lime oil and sesame oil). Most of the botanical extracts make up the remaining 17 ingredients and probably have little impact on how the product works.

1. Purified Water
2. Isopropyl Palmitate
3. Sesame Oil
4. Cetyl Alcohol
5. Propylene Glycol
6. Stearic Acid
7. Glyceryl Stearate
8. Lime Oil
9. Sodium Borate
10. Vitamins A & D
11. Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)
12. Olive Oil
13. Aloe Vera
14. Chamomile Extract
15. Marigold Extract
16. Sage Extract
17. Yarrow Extract
18. Orange Blossom Extract
19. Lavender Extract
20. Elder Flower Extract
21. Fennel Extract
22. Rose Petal Extract
23. Methylparaben
24. Propylparaben
25. Lemon Oil

Despite what cosmetic companies tell us, it is anyone's guess as to whether natural skin care products are more effective than any other skin care product. The only certainty is that natural does not always mean what you-the consumer-think it does. More than likely, if the majority of ingredients are botanical extracts and essential oils, then the skin care product is probably good for your skin. If you like the way natural skin care products make your skin feel, then by all means use them. Just remember that they are not miracle cures and healthy radiant skin begins with a healthy lifestyle.

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