Clean Skin Care: A Primer
Moisturizer with kale, spinach and green tea. Coconut cleansing oil. Lipstick infused with avocado. Take a look at beauty products these days—whether on drug store shelves or in the backbar of your spa—and you’ll find natural and organic ingredients in spades. According to a recent report by Transparency Market Research, the organic segment is dominating the skincare market thanks to rising consumer awareness regarding the side effects of synthetic personal care products. And Grand View Research has predicted that the global organic beauty market is likely to reach almost $16 billion by 2020 as consumers continue to seek out clean label skin care and makeup. Even big-box stores are listening to this call for chemical-free products: CVS recently promised to remove phthalates and parabens from approximately 600 of its in-house brands, and Target announced plans to expand its natural beauty offerings due to a big boost in sales last year.
None of this surprises Shannon McLinden, founder of popular natural skincare brand FarmHouse Fresh. “People are becoming more cognizant about what they’re putting in their bodies and what’s going on their skin,” she says. “Spa-goers are willing to seek out treatments and products that are clean, effective and don’t harm the environment—a combination they can feel good about.”
Emily Sindlinger, cofounder of Sorella Apothecary, agrees. “We’re seeing more ‘green’ beauty because we’ve grown more aware of how many toxins we’re exposed to in our daily lives,” she says. “If we can minimize that exposure with cleaner skin care, we may absorb fewer harmful chemicals and ultimately keep ourselves healthier.”
While beauty trends come and go, this one looks like it’s here to stay, adds Orleans, Massachusetts-based holistic esthetician Angela Thornton. “Choosing natural and organic skin care is not a passing trend— it’s a lifestyle. My clients want to be more educated about what’s in the products I use on their skin, and I’m fielding every natural- beauty question under the sun.”
So, what does “natural” skin care or “green” beauty mean? And what should you know about it, so you can offer your clients the products that will keep them coming back for more? We asked manufacturers and spa pros for their take on this booming part of the beauty business.
Clean Beauty Benefits
For Boldijarre Koronczay, president of Éminence, green beauty products feature organic, biodynamic ingredients. “Biodynamic ingredients are grown in harmony with the seasons and the alignment of the earth,” he says. “I believe that fruits, herbs and vegetables farmed in this way are the purest form of botanical ingredients.”
McLinden also emphasizes how FarmHouse Fresh sources and cultivates its pesticide-free ingredients. “We make farm-to-face products, which means we grow many of our key ingredients and source others from local farmers,” she says. The company takes conservation seriously, using hydroponics to save water and hiring local growers for whatever it’s unable to produce. “We know who waters the plants, when they’re harvested, and when and how it all becomes an extract,” says McLinden. “This approach ensures minimal transportation needs as well, which is important considering that every truck, boat and flight affects the air we breathe. Why ship ingredients from Thailand if we can grow them here?”
In the past, natural beauty products were often considered less effective than their more synthetic counterparts, but that impression is changing. Cleaner products are becoming more effective every day, and they tend to help clients avoid irritation that they may experience when using conventional skin care, says Catherine Chamberlain, owner of Earth Pure Organics and Eden Organics Salon & Spa, with locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. “We prefer zero synthetic fragrance in our products, because it can be a big cause of skin allergies and irritation,” she continues. “Clean ingredients are typically very nourishing, and I’ve found that natural options often resolve my clients’ long-time skin issues, such as acne, redness and dehydration.”
Thornton adds that such ingredients are typically much gentler on clients’ skin, which is a big draw for those with sensitivity or who are tired of hours—and sometimes days—of irritation after spa treatments. “One of the biggest benefits of clean skin care is that spa patrons are less likely to have a bad reaction,” she says. “Many of my clients come to me with internal and external allergies, and I find that cleaner products lower the risk of breakouts or redness.”
Thornton has also noticed more millennials booking treatments with her specifically because she uses products with all-natural and organic ingredients. “A lot of my baby boomer clients are also loving natural skincare offerings, but millennials really want to help the planet, and clean beauty definitely makes a difference from an environmental perspective,” she adds.
Indeed, Chamberlain reports that although her guests may initially be drawn to green beauty for more altruistic or environmental reasons, they become even more interested when they see changes in their skin. “My guests’ skin tends to respond more readily to natural products,” she says.
Ingredients To Look For
Here are some of the most tried-and-true clean ingredients in formulations today.
Lavender: Koronczay says he loves this botanical for its soothing qualities. “Lavender calms and softens skin’s appearance by replenishing moisture, so it’s a must for a nighttime routine,” he says.
Hyaluronic acid: This popular humectant helps skin retain water and gives the complexion a more youthful appearance by plumping up skin cells. “This results in a smoother texture and fewer visible lines and wrinkles, as well as a more toned and lifted appearance,” says Chamberlain.
Aloe: Best known for its anti-inflammatory properties, aloe is also deeply hydrating—with plenty of amino acids and antioxidants. “This amazing ingredient calms and quenches dry skin,” says Chamberlain.
Superfoods: Yes, the same fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts and herbs you find at health food stores are making their way into skin care, notes McLinden. “One of our favorite superfoods is the Aronia berry, a fruit with one of the highest antioxidant contents,” she says.
Plant oils: Olive, avocado, coconut and sunflower seed oils, among others, are rich in omegas and other fatty acids, making them superb emollients that moisturize dry skin, soothe irritation, and help heal eczema and acne.
Butters: Butters can be derived from an array of natural sources. “We’re seeing crushed blends made from seeds, hulls and nuts, all of which are rich in essential fatty acids that moisturize and calm the skin,” says McLinden. Be on the lookout for hemp seed, almond, mango and kokum butters.
Licorice root: A natural alternative to hydroquinone, licorice extract contains a flavonoid that inhibits pigmentation and helps even out skin tone. Licorice’s soothing properties can also diminish irritation and redness.
Honey: This common sweetener has become a go-to for many natural skincare formulas, thanks to its moisturizing and antibacterial benefits.
Probiotics: Live bacteria and yeasts have found their way into skin care thanks to their ability to harness good bacteria and help keep skin cells healthy. In fact, Koronczay reports that some clients see a difference almost immediately after applying topical probiotic products.
On the Horizon
Chamberlain predicts an increasing focus on more complex formulations using plant-based ingredients. “It’s always exciting to see how combining different natural and organic ingredients can provide the next innovation when it comes to beautiful skin,” she says. In addition, there’s already a growing need for a holistic approach in which estheticians educate their clients about these formulations—and the many ways a healthy lifestyle can lead to glowing skin. “Spa-goers are increasingly focused on complete health, not just what they’re putting on their skin,” notes Sindlinger. “Holistic estheticians consider external and internal issues. We know that concerns like rosacea, acne and eczema can be triggered—and managed—by internal factors, so I think we’ll see more of an emphasis on estheticians informing clients about a healthy lifestyle.”
Despite certain challenges that come with producing cleaner skincare options—such as shorter shelf life due to the lack of preservatives, and
variation in color and scent because of seasonal differences when growing plants—most everyone agrees that the natural beauty movement will continue to gain momentum. “I hope we start seeing all beauty brands contribute in little ways to the ‘big green pot,’” says McLinden. “Doing even one thing—like offering a refill program so customers can reuse containers—makes a big difference.”
–by Meghan Rabbit
This story first appeared in the April issue of Dayspa magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.