Striving to incorporate natural products into our everyday routines has gone mainstream, so it's no surprise that the trend would also work its way into skincare routines. "Key ingredients in many natural products have powerful properties," Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, a Beverly Hills dermatologist, says. "This includes squelching damaging oxidants, fighting pigmentation, and aiding in exfoliation."
But much like the food we eat and the clothes we wear and the homes we live in, Jennifer notes that it's tough to go completely natural—and for good reason. "Just because something is natural doesn't mean that it's gentler or safer for the skin. Poison ivy is natural, but almost everyone who comes in contact with it develops an allergic reaction."
Instead of relying on a strict regimen of all-natural products to keep your skin clear and smooth, Jennifer recommends pairing them with other synthesized ingredients that have been modified to complement their benefits. Doing so will help natural ingredients "penetrate the skin more effectively and make them more cosmetically pleasing," she says. "Don't categorically be afraid of synthetic products. Many of these are derived from natural ingredients but have been formulated to be more pleasing on the skin. Science is being used to help you get more out of natural ingredients!"
Below, Jennifer describes the eight natural ingredients you should look for to complete an anti-aging skincare routine. These items will brighten, calm, and perfect your skin over time so that you could go au naturale if you please.
"Yes, light sugar scrubs are a great way to gently remove dead skin cells without over doing it," Jennifer says. "Because sugar dissolves, it's much safer and gentler than sandy-type scrubs."
"This ingredient is often in masks and can help draw out impurities while cleansing," she notes.
"These are fruit-derived acids that help break the chemical bonds between dead skin cells in the stratum corneum (outer most layer of skin)," Jennifer says. "Using a cleanser with AHAs one to three times weekly helps keep skin glowing and bright."
"Antioxidants are the powerhouse products in this category and are found in many plant products," she says. "A few of the most powerful? Coffee berry is one, which contains very high levels of antioxidants that help neutralize the free radicals behind collagen and DNA damage (otherwise known as wrinkles and aging). Pomegranate seeds are another, which are powerful antioxidants that fight and repair free-radical damage from the sun. Lastly, seeds are also rich in anti-inflammatories that help combat sunburn redness (but please try not to get one)."
"Vitamin C helps stop pigmentation synthesis, which gradually lightens unwanted brown discoloration," Jennifer continues. "It's also a powerful antioxidant that prevents sun damage and stimulates collagen and elastin. But unfortunately, Vitamin C is also very unstable. Synthetic products often have an advantage because the molecule has been modified to increase its stability and ability to penetrate the skin more effectively."
"Kojic acid is derived from mushrooms and stops pigment synthesis in the skin," she explains. "But, like vitamin C, it is also quite unstable and sunlight and oxygen tend to break it down. If this or a Vitamin C product has turned orange or brown, then they've used up their antioxidant power. It's time for a new bottle!"
"As a humectant that can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water, this naturally occurring sugar keeps skin plump and dewy without adding excess oil, which can cause breakouts," Jennifer notes.
"This helps promote ceramide synthesis, which ensures a healthy supple skin barrier," she says. "But this form of vitamin B 3 has so many more benefits, too. It reduces skin redness, lightens pigmentation, aids in DNA repair, regulates skin's oil flow, and supports collagen synthesis."