It's dark. Like pitch black, back alley adorned with only a flickering vintage lamppost and jagged pathways, dark.
"Natural" "Organic" "Pure" "99.9%" "No Parabens" "Dermatologist tested"
They light up your mind don't they. These assuring, shoulder patting words imprinted on packaging as if they were written by an all supportive Uncle who always had your back. "Go on, you can trust me." As he pushed you down the bungee jumping spot without a cord. You chuckled on your way down.
Don't be that guy. Falling face flat marred with lethal damage is fairly avoidable.
In 2012 I was a happy teenage hotshot with youthful, undamaged skin. I didn't know about skincare then because I didn't see a need. At most I would "borrow" my elder sister's sheet masks I see lying in the refrigerator on midnights I can't fall asleep and realise they're for one time use only.
Fast forward to 2014 my skin was ruined. Between the years, I spent a large part of my time indulging in an unhealthy lifestyle. Without too much detail, it was full of stress, lack of sleep and hydration, and gluttoning on an unwholesome diet. And bad skincare. I went from poreless, blemish-free youthful skin (basically undamaged) to visible pores with daily breakouts and lacklustre skin. A nightmare and a real esteem vacuum.
Skincare became a pillar that I cling to that'll hopefully keep me afloat the waves of daily acne and fine lines (once your skin reaches a certain level of damage, it's almost like your skin is handicapped and is now a stressed out, unregulated, mental patient who gets triggered and affected effortlessly) Raid the drawers in the room and Pure Pumpkin Enzyme Masks from iHerb will greet you, Organic Manuka Honey and Vitamin C Facial Cleansers will lure you, and Natural Rosehip + AloeVera night creams inch up every corner.
I fell face flat with "natural" products stinging, stripping and worsening my already moody, barely breathing skin. I was that guy. Walking down department stores purchasing expensive french brands that incorporates some technology you have no idea about but sounds interesting. Something like “Hydra-py™” (i just made that up) or hoping some green herbaceous formula lying in the shelf of some drugstore will heal my skin magically because it contains Centella and Tea Tree Oil, right?
No one's looking out for you
But the truth is: Words like "Natural" "Organic" "Pure" are not regulated by beauty and health authorities. There's no inspection going on behind the scenes. No government with magnifying glasses marching into laboratories to instigate the "Natural" claim.
If I feel like it - could create an entirely synthetic, harsh facial cleanser + some Glycerin and add the word “Natural” forefront with a green background and I wouldn’t get into trouble honestly.
I spy with my little eye
And that's when sneaky, profit driven companies start taking advantage. These are 3 common patterns I spotted over the years:
1. Stingily dripping a few drops of well liked botanical extracts (probably refined till impotent) like say aloe vera and green tea, happily making it's billboard at the end of ingredient lists and stamping 99.9% Natural Aloe Vera Green Tea Gel on packaging front. If anyone exposes them at all, they'll say it means that the individual ingredients are Natural, not the entire formulation. Witty
2. Then there's the luxe higher end brands. Bottles with added mass, usually flaunts gold-plated something and French substitutes for English words - taking center stage on packaging. Formulations looking pretty darn good actually, even though the first ingredient may be "Aqua", another term for "Water". But due to the lack of innovative technology, isopropyl alcohol, parabens or other additives are added to increase absorptivity or shelve life. Be savvy, high prices and luxurious packaging should never replace rationality.
3. Cornering the drugstore shelf is a never-heard-before brand with the word "Organic" front and center. But without a USDA stamp you rotate the product with a curious frown, where lab created synthetic chemicals line up side by side greeting you through the ingredient list. Like the one Friend who is all talks and no substance. *tosses back
In conclusion: Take an extra second to check the ingredient lists or purchase skincare only from a vendor you trust, like Evening Island. Do not take assuring words as a free pass. They are words thrown around without much thought. "awesome" "literally" and "like" are no different. The ratio to remember is: if there are a thousand extraordinary products there’s a million mediocre products. So do your due diligence and make sure you always know what you’re trying to achieve with your skin and how a product can help, formula wise, before all else.