Natural skin care products may be appealing if you want to limit artificial ingredients and chemicals in and on your body. But are natural ingredients, which tend to increase prices, really better for your skin?
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
You can’t hide your skin, so you want to take care of it. You want to put your best face forward — with clear, glowing, smooth, natural skin. You may even be willing to spend more for skin care products that boast better results because contain natural ingredients or are labeled “organic.”
But what do those terms really mean? Is the “natural” or “organic” label worth the extra weight of the price tag — is it really any better for your skin and for the environment?
It all comes down to what you want from your skin products and what your particular skin type needs.
Is Natural Better?
“When choosing between a natural or organic product and one that’s not, it’s helpful to think about what is important to you,” says Kelly C. Nelson, MD, a dermatologist and assistant professor at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina.
Decide what you want to get out of your skin care products. Are you looking for something that won’t irritate your skin, gives you better results and healthier skin, or has less impact on the environment? Do you want a combination of all those elements?
“If you’re in the market for a product that’s fragrance- or preservative-free, or presented with minimal or recycled packaging, it may be easier to meet those criteria with a natural or organic product,” says Dr. Nelson.
But don’t read too much into the labels or make assumptions that may not be true. Natural doesn’t always mean better, and natural ingredients aren’t necessarily safer or more likely to provide better results.
“People with sensitive skin may opt for natural or organic products in an attempt to avoid skin allergic reactions, which may work, but sometimes doesn’t,” Nelson says.
If you’re going to try a natural or organic product, allow some time to see if it really is compatible with your skin and if it’s worth the additional price.
“Give any product at least a month to determine if it meets your needs, or less if your skin complains,” says Nelson.
Specific Skin Products for Specific Skin Types
If you’re curious about whether a particular natural ingredient is better for your skin, Nelson also suggests just figuring out what your skin needs. It’s also important to understand that you don’t have to choose natural (or more expensive) to get a good skin care product that works well with your skin.
“While oatmeal-containing products do help moisturize the skin, there are many products that don’t contain oatmeal that do a wonderful job, too,” says Nelson. Soy has been found in studies to improve elasticity and firmness of skin. “Soy-containing products can help improve pigment irregularities that are associated with an aged appearance, but there are several prescription and over-the-counter products that can do an even better job,” she says.
Many natural ingredients that are marketed as better for skin, including acai berry, green tea, olive oil, chamomile, pomegranate, and many more, need to be better studied and investigated in regard to their benefits to skin. Studies also need to explore any possible negative effects before these products can be said to work as well or better than non-natural products.
Results from a less expensive non-natural product can be just as good as from a natural product, and vice versa. And you could still experience an allergic reaction from an ingredient in a natural skin care product, while a non-natural product for sensitive skin may not trigger any reaction.
Natural products can be both very effective in promoting healthy skin and more environmentally friendly. But you don’t have to choose natural, organic, or expensive skin care products to find something that works well. What matters is finding skin care products that keep your skin moisturized, glowing, and blemish-free, whether they’re natural or not.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Skin and Beauty Center.