We’re conscious about what we put in our bodies. We’re conscious about the environment. We want to know that the food we eat is being produced in a sustainable and humane way. Sometimes, just seeing an “organic” or “natural” label puts us at ease. But, when it comes to skin care products, is “all-natural” necessarily better? For many consumers, the misconception is that this label means chemical-free. Or, some consumers think that this label means clean beauty. And, if you think about that, what does clean beauty mean? That if it doesn’t have this label it has dangerous or toxic stuff in it? “All-natural” is a misleading term. To be on the shelf, a skin care product must have one or more preservatives to fight against mold and bacteria.
The word “natural” means literally nothing as far as the FDA is concerned. The FDA just states that labeling can’t mislead or misrepresent. For years, critics have said the FDA needs to better regulate the ingredients cosmetic brands are using. So, how is this word affecting the skin care industry? As licensed skin care professionals, we know that this word is a marketing tool, a way to entice a group of consumers. However, the average consumer doesn’t know this. Who’s to say they’re not emptying their medicine cabinets and flushing their products down the drain?
There are also many so-called “DIY” experts on YouTube sending clients and consumers straight to the supermarket for their beauty routine – avocados to combat dehydration, tomatoes as toners, chamomile and aloe to calm irritated skin, licorice as a brightener, and the list goes on. The only natural product is one that is made of ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, or almonds in a blender, right before one applies them to the skin. Think of a cut up apple left on the counter – now squirt some lemon on top to prevent oxidation and watch them turn brown.
As aestheticians, we need to educate clients. It is our job and our responsibility. Certain ingredients in skin care products have scientific evidence to back up why they are necessary to be in the product. The ingredients are active and will get clients the results they’re looking for. Many beauty suppliers who use essential oils and natural products are not required to provide background information on where they are sourced or how they are formulated. This is why many people have reactions to natural oils. Again, not all essential oils are equal. You must know the manufacturer. Those sold in a health food store on a turning carousel at a lower price than products from spas may cause skin reactions and burns. I once read a label on an essential oil bottle that said, “not safe to ingest.” Right away, that set off a red flag to me. Not safe to ingest? The skin is our biggest organ. If I put this product on my body, it will be absorbed into my organs in about 15 minutes. No, thank you.
Do you really have time to mix your own formulas, morning and night, every day between work and home? Sounds like a lot of high maintenance, if you ask me. At the end of the day, if a client wants to go all-natural, that is their choice. But that mask they made out of an avocado might not combat the fine lines around their eyes like a glycolic peel. Their skin might incorporate the ingredients better using it as guacamole.
Annette Hanson is the founder of Atelier Esthétique Institute of Esthetics in Manhattan, a New York state licensing, NACCAS-accredited skin care school, postgraduate facility, and the first United States aesthetics college to be recognized by London’s International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC). Her professional experience spans more than 30 years as a Paris-trained aesthetician, waxing specialist, body therapist, salon manager, and spa consultant. A creator of two product lines, she is also a published author and sought-after lecturer at leading professional conferences worldwide. She was instrumental in the development of the 600-hour curriculum for the New York state aesthetics license, as well as the written and practical exam. She served as an educator on the Appearance Enhancement Advisory Committee to New York’s Secretary of State. She was inducted into the Aesthetics International Association (A.I.A.) industry legends in August 2009 by DERMASCOPE Magazine. She is on the leadership committee of the ASCP Skin Care School Council (Associated Skin Care Professionals).