According to the FDA, there is no legal definition for the word "natural." Anyone who wants to purchase beauty or food products based on the manufacturer's use of the word "natural" is being misled to believe the product's ingredients are somehow superior to others that use a variety of chemicals and synthetics.
The truth is, just because something is "natural," it doesn't always translate to being healthier or safer in any way. Consider lemon juice—it's a natural liquid originating from fruit. Even if the lemon tree was grown organically and the juice was extracted and contained without any other additives, it's still not a great idea to use it as eye drops or a face wash.
As "natural" products become more and more popular, professional beauty technicians and doctors are getting more verbal to help keep people from harming themselves with what they are led to believe are safer products.
If consumers aren't able to determine whether a product is safe or not based on keywords like "natural," then where are they to turn for the truth? Here are a few "natural" products the pros say are safe, and a few products everyone should absolutely stay away from:
20 Embrace: ACURE Brightening Cleansing Gel
Rated one of the best skin cleansers on the market, ACURE Brightening Cleansing Gel receives praise for being vegan, never tested on animals and free of the following chemicals and concerning ingredients:
- Mineral Oil
ACURE Brightening Cleanser was created to work as a gentle cleanser rich in antioxidants, is safe for skin and can wash away oils and makeup.
Professionals love it due to its truly safe ingredients and lack of the aforementioned chemicals, many of which have been scientifically proven to cause damage both in those who have experience with long and short-term use.
19 Avoid: Parley Herbal Beauty Cream With Avocado
Avocado has been all the rage for the past few years, whether it comes on toast for breakfast, is churned into ice cream, or is the main ingredient in a high-end DIY face mask. While there's nothing wrong with avocados themselves, this particular product just so happens to contain a very concerning ingredient: mercury.
While the extremely toxic chemical used to be used in everything from thermometers to antique beauty and entertainment pieces, today it is being phased out from products that allow it to be absorbed into the body. Avoid mercury poisoning and stay away from Parley Herbal Beauty Cream with Avocado, which is still on the market.
18 Embrace: Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol-Free Toner
Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol-Free Toner is getting more and more attention with its certified organic label and animal-friendly disclaimer complete with the statement that the product was made "by ethical means."
This toner does not contain gluten, artificial preservatives or parabens and is considered a "natural remedy."
Though there is still no legal definition for the word "natural" by the FDA, Thayers continues to gain momentum with its label reading, "Ideal for sensitive skin, this product will protect your skin and leave it feeling refreshed after each use, while also tightening pores for a clean look. Its alcohol-free formula prevents unnecessary drying out and will soothe with its certified organic aloe vera ingredient."
17 Avoid: e.l.f. Mineral Foundation
Truth be told, it isn't just e.l.f.'s Mineral Foundation people should avoid—it's anything containing mineral oil. For those of you who are curious, mineral oil is a byproduct of petroleum as it is turned into gasoline. Sounds great to put on your face, right? Well, it isn't. Mineral oil can be graded differently, meaning some contain more toxins than others. While cosmetics have their own acceptable grade, there are still studies claiming mineral oil is potentially dangerous. The oil is also quite thick, meaning it can and will clog pores, which is bad news for plenty of us already, but add to the mix that mineral oil has no overall benefit whatsoever and the debate is over—no dermatologist will ever tell you to use products containing mineral oil.
16 Embrace: Eminence Rosehip Triple C + E Firming Oil
Eminence Rosehip Triple C + E Firming Oil is an anti-aging facial serum. It is vegan, certified organic, certified animal-friendly, and has gained popularity for its refusal to contain the following ingredients:
This product's key ingredients are listed clearly as jojoba, essential oils, vitamin E, antioxidants, and vitamin C.
Users have also rated it five of five stars with rave reviews. Business Insider, which conducted a survey to include the general public as well as dermatologists and practicing professionals, lists Eminence Rosehip Triple C + E Firming Oil as one of its top ten best skincare products of 2018.
15 Avoid: Lemon Juice As Acne Treatment
Lemons are fruit and organic lemons have to be natural, right? Well, sure, but again— there is no legal definition for the word "natural." The pros all agree—using lemons as acne treatment is not advisable. The high acid levels can lead to several issues, including:
- Dry skin
- Removal of healthy bacteria
For those who have darker skin tones, the acids from lemon juice and other strong citrus fruits can leave serious damage. All skin tones can also experience sun sensitivity in the areas where the lemon juice was applied, and can also leave sunspots.
14 Embrace: Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen
Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen is another product that made its way to the top of Business Insider's top skincare products. Dermatologists have long been calling for the routine application of sunblock but not all sunscreens are created equal.
While some "natural" products claim to be superior, Suntegrity's Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen has been proven to be better than other, similar, sunblocks.
This product's claim to fame is based on its feature in the “Best Sunscreens” Category in the EWG’s 2012 Sunscreen Guide but to add to its positive notes, it is made in the United States, and is also a vegan product.
13 Avoid: Cosmetics Containing Parabens
Parabens are chemicals used to preserve everything from food to cosmetics. They discourage the growth of bacteria and mold, which may sound like a great addition to any product, but they have been linked to breast cancer in women. The presence of parabens is also believed to disrupt routine hormone functionality by mimicking estrogen.
Bodily harm aside, parabens have also been found in the stomachs of marine life. The studies on the effects of parabens on the environment have yet to yield much information, but the main consensus is there are several other, safer, preservatives on the market that leave a smaller impact on both people and the environment.
12 Embrace: Farmacy Sleep Tight Firming Night Balm
Famacy Sleep Tight Firming Night Balm is great for all skin types and is a great solution for dryness, fine lines, and wrinkles as well as uneven skin tones.
The ingredients list is impressive, leaving out the top chemicals dermatologists and cosmetics lovers around the world absolutely dislike.
The formula contains no Sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens,formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, Triclosan, and Triclocarban. Though the company admits there is a little added fragrance, it is less than one percent.
11 Avoid: Phthalates - Which Can Be Tricky
Phthalates have been mentioned several times throughout this list—but what are they? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains phthalates are clusters of chemicals used to help make plastic more flexible without breaking. Sometimes they can be used to help dissolve other materials and are often used in plastic-containing products such as raincoats, vinyl flooring, automotive plastics, and some cosmetics, though they aren't always clearly displayed on the ingredients list.
Phthalate particles in the body have shown adverse effects in the reproductive systems of animals, and in humans, there have been large amounts of exposure but the adverse effects remain unknown. It is believed to be safe, rather than sorry, and most are encouraged to avoid phthalates if possible.
10 Embrace: Jane Iredale Longest Lash Thickening And Lengthening Mascara
Not only does Jane Iredale Longest Lash Thickening And Lengthening Mascara actually do what it claims, but it is also considered a safe product for commercial use. All of their products are wheat-free but it is important to remember they are not vegan as this particular mascara does contain beeswax.
All of the ingredients are clearly listed on their website—note there are no dangerous ingredients and the user reviews offer high praise for this product.
The mascara is currently available in three colors: Slate Grey, Espresso, and Black Ice. To top it all off, the product reduces breakage and splitting!
9 Avoid: Soaps Containing Triclosan, AKA Microban
Triclosan, which also goes by the name Microban, is an antimicrobial ingredient added to products that are monitored by the FDS, such as soaps, body washes, toothpastes, and cosmetics. This chemical can also be found in items not monitored, such as clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and toys. Studies remain ongoing, however in the short term too much Triclosan in the system of an animal showed abnormalities in thyroid hormone production. In humans, one study found that increased levels could have led to skin cancer. While studies are ongoing, more and more have called for products without Triclosan—especially cosmetics, as the chemical can be absorbed through the skin.
8 Embrace: Wild With Desire Lipstick
If you'd like a "clean" lipstick, reach for Wild With Desire lipstick. Sephora states this lipstick has their "Clean" seal, which ensures it does not include ingredients such as formaldehyde, formaldehyde-releasing agents, pthalates, mineral oil, parabens, triclosan, or other known and suspected dangerous ingredients.
It also contains less than one percent of synthetic fragrances.
The product boasts a "luxurious satin-finish" which is enriched with "beauty oil that offers ultimate hydration and maximum color payoff." It is part of Rose-Marie Swift's non-toxic makeup collection that offers "wellness and beauty in one" and is "made with raw, food grade, and organic anti-aging ingredients."
7 Avoid: Moisturizers Containing Propylene Glycol
There are several natural chemicals that can cause quite a bit of harm to the human body, so why play around with products that contain them? Propylene glycol is a popular organic alcohol that is most often found in moisturizers, sun block, cosmetics, shampoo, conditioner and hair spray. Though it is used in several products, it is officially classified as a skin irritant and perpetrator, meaning you can absorb it through your skin—which makes most of the products pretty dangerous. It can cause everything from dermatitis— which is an inflammation of the skin that can cause rashes, swelling or a reddening of the skin—to hives. When looking through your cosmetics, make sure they do not contain propylene glycol.
6 Embrace: Natulique Organic Hair Color
When it's time to dye hair, there are literally thousands of products to choose from, many of which claim they are "natural." Again, there is no legal definition, so which brand is trustworthy? According to the pros, Natulique Organic Hair Color is trustworthy.
The ingredients are all certified organic and "provide a more natural hair colour, extra conditioning and superior comfort."
It is free of ammonia, parabens, PPD, Resorcinel and was created to provide "lots of shine and 100% grey hair coverage." Unfortunately, this product is not sold commercially—you'll have to seek a professional dye job to get your hands on this safe, organic, "natural" product.
5 Avoid: DIY Cinnamon Mask (Or Anything Else Containing Cinnamon)
Cinnamon is a natural spice, so it should be fine when ground up and used in products, right? We can already find it in everything from candles to birthday cakes, so if it's safe to consume, there should be no problem putting it on our faces in a great DIY face mask, right? Well, not really. Cinnamon can alter your skin's pH, knocking it off-balance. While that might not sound like such a bad thing, the professionals explain it can cause "water to evaporate out and irritants to migrate in." In other words, it will dry out your face and will make it more susceptible to irritation. Just don't use cinnamon on your skin!
4 Embrace: Nubian Heritage Body Lotion Mango Butter With Shea & Cocoa Butters
This body wash is fair trade and contains certified organic ingredients. There are none of the concerning ingredients listed above and just listening to the name of the product makes us all wish we were washing with it right now!
We all love mango, but this rejuvenating and firming body wash promises an "ultra-moisturizing," "[s]oothing," and rejuvenation effect, resulting in healthier looking skin.
All you have to do is apply some product to a washcloth or your own hands and clean your body. Daily use is encouraged and, with ingredients such as cocoa seed butter and shea butter, it's difficult to find a fault in this product!
3 Avoid: Nail Polish Containing Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas you can find in anything from plywood to insulation. Though the chemical is present in many products, The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry explains it breaks down into other chemicals once it's in your body. Most of the chemicals are passed in urine, however, it can also convert to carbon dioxide and can leave the body through exhalation. Though it can leave the body, some studies revealed a link to cancer when inhaled and stomach damage to those who ingest it. If you purchase nail polish and have a tendency to bite your nails, you could be ingesting formaldehyde, which can irritate and damage the lining of your throat.
2 Embrace: Honest Organic All-Purpose Balm
Honest Organic All-Purpose Balm is certified USDA Organic, is hypoallergenic and was designed "to help moisturize baby's delicate skin." To top it off, it is made without petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, parabens, synthetic fragrances, or dyes.
Yes, marketing does play a huge role in Honest Co's success—after all, everyone wants to believe a company claiming to be honest would really stand by its brand.
Though that may not always be the case, it certainly is for this product. It is popular among parents for use with their children and for their own skin as well! If you have severely sensitive skin, consider this all-purpose balm.
1 Avoid: Harsh Chemicals, Which Includes Most Fragrances
It might sound obvious to avoid harsh chemicals, but companies know you're looking for them. In an attempt to be sneaky, companies will try to hide what's in their products by slapping the entire chemical name on the ingredients list, but there's actually a really simple way to see if there is a harsh chemical in your favorite products—look for fragrances. The higher up on the list it is, the more they've added to the product. Many people are allergic to fragrances and can break out in rashes, welts, experience trouble breathing and other, equally uncomfortable side effects. It's also important to keep in mind that even if you do not suffer ill effects, those around you absolutely can and will, so if you insist on strong fragrances, remember to use it sparingly.
Sources: FDA, Business Insider, Forbes, Elle, WebMD