When I first started looking at the ingredients in my food and skin care eight years ago, I quickly switched from commercial skin care products to “natural” products I could buy on Amazon or at Wholefoods. For the most part, I looked for products that scored well on the EWG’s skin deep database. But beyond the EWG scores, I didn’t question why the ingredients were in there. I figured that long list of ingredients was necessary.
Jingo Lewis, the co-founder of Neitra Body Botanicals, helped me understand that most skin care ingredients, even in natural and organic products, are just preservatives, emulsifiers, and fillers.
Why Is It In There?
I had never questioned the first ingredient in almost all my products. Water. I assumed water was necessary. It’s usually not. Some ingredients do need water to be effective, but it’s often just a filler used to make lotion feel like lotion and cream feel like cream. But what’s the purpose of moisturizers feeling creamy and shaving creams feeling foamy?
From an environmental standpoint, water makes the product need larger packaging than necessary, leading to more junk and wasted energy. The larger packaging requires additional shipping space as well. We all know that paper and plastic waste is a problem, but shipping all our stuff is an environmental issue in itself. Shipping emissions need to reach zero by 2050 if the world wants to hit the Paris Agreement goals according to The Shipping Industry Needs to Clean Up It’s Act by Grist.
Water may not seem like that big of a deal, but in a world full of unnecessary waste, we have to question everything. When I stopped expecting lotiony, foamy, and creamy textures I opened myself up to a whole new world of options.
The Other Ingredients
Another common additive is preservatives. We’re used to buying products that have no expiration dates, but it might be time to change our expectations. Most truly natural products can’t sit on a shelf for years waiting to be purchased and used. They have a shelf life of around 6 to 12 months. If I haven’t used a product within a year of purchase, it probably wasn’t that great to begin with.
Then there are emulsifiers. They keep the oil and water from separating. But if you’re using pure oils, there’s nothing to emulsify because there’s no water for the oil to separate from. Revolutionary, right? You’re welcome.
Let’s not forget about the artificial fragrances that are ubiquitous in most skin and cleaning products. Don’t get me started on air fresheners. Between the phthalates and other secret skin care ingredients that don’t need to be listed on the label, industrial fragrances remind me of second-hand smoke.
Last but not least, petroleum and industrial chemicals are the foundation for most traditional skin care and cleaning products. Ever wonder why it’s called Petroleum Jelly? Hint, it’s made from petroleum, sort of like British Petroleum (BP). These chemicals not only act as estrogen interrupters in the body but they also contaminate our water and fish.
The All Natural Skin Care Ingredients
Avoiding all that is easy when you zero in on the all natural ingredients that are working in your products. When you look at your favorite products, pick out the natural oils and essential oils. If it’s a natural product, the common name is usually in parenthesis. Once you figure out what you like, the raw ingredients are easy to find at most natural health food stores and Amazon of course. If you’re willing to experiment, search Sephora for skin care oils and serums and read the ingredients. Then cross reference those ingredients on Amazon. Boom. Buy the raw ingredients and skip the pricey brands and fillers.
I like argan oil, borage oil, camellia seed oil, and squalane oil but the options are endless. I mix them with frankincense (a splurge, I know!) but that bottle lasts forever if you only add a few drops to a bottle of oil.
Buying just raw ingredients might seem crazy, but my conversations with Jingo made this click for me. I’ve always tried to buy and cook food with real ingredients that I recognize and can pronounce, thanks to books like Food Rules by Michael Pollan. Jingo showed me I need to look at skin care the same way. To focus on what’s clean and natural and to eliminate the preservatives, fillers, and artificial ingredients whenever possible, even when they are from natural brands.
Q & A with Jingo Lewis
Below is a snapshot of my conversation with Jingo, co-founder of Neitra Body Botanicals and an advocate for natural ingredients in skin care.
Rebecca: It took a while to get used to putting oil straight on my face, but now that I’m used to it I don’t see the point to using a face cream. Beyond your products, I like Neitra’s approach of “good enough to eat” because I recognize most of the ingredients. Rosehip oil, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, argan oil, jojoba oil and essential oils. The ingredients I didn’t recognize I quickly looked up.
Jingo: They truly are “good enough to eat” – and when you’re raising your awareness about what you put IN your body…the same applies to what you put ON your body. Your skin is a protective barrier, but it also absorbs things directly into your bloodstream. When you take a moment and really read the label of the products you’re using, you see there really isn’t anything beneficial in there.
Truly natural ingredients actually work with your body, they allow your skin to recalibrate and start working in ways you never knew they would. So instead of your body and skin being in reaction to the products you’re putting on it, your skin actually starts doing what it naturally wants to do!
Rebecca: Since we started this conversation I’ve started using more of the natural ingredients I already have at home and testing what works for me. Fractionated coconut oil plus witch hazel on a cotton ball to remove mascara. Jojoba oil to shave my legs. Borage oil with a few drops of lavender essential oil instead of lotion. Some recipes I got online, others I’ve experimented with myself. I still love my Mac lipstick and Maybelline mascara though. Some things don’t change.
Jingo: There is a layer of attachment to our products. Especially when related to women and how products make them feel about themselves. Unfortunately, a lot of that is tied to the external factors that are hyped and pushed by the media & celebrity endorsements and societal perceptions in general.
The layers go so deep it’s incredible – and a lot of people aren’t really even conscious about those connections. And don’t think it’s just women – we’re finding more and more men have these same attachments.
Rebecca: Absolutely. My husband is just as attached to his products as I am.
I think our idea of what beauty products are supposed to look and feel like have a lot to do with why we buy what we buy. Even though there is a lot of information out there about toxic ingredients in skin care, we’re used to products being in large containers and having creamy textures. It feels risky to try something different.
However, I’ve been shifting things in my life for a long time. Now that I’ve seen first hand that truly natural products can be just as effective as commercial products, and in my case more effective, I’m a believer.
Jingo: Once you start looking and learning you’ll see it’s pretty simple and so incredibly fascinating how all these “natural” things work together. And then it kinds of dawns on you, as if you make the connection and are reminded again – oh yeah, I’m a part of nature too!
Rebecca: Yes! I get that now. Thanks for sharing what you know Jingo. I appreciate it.
If you’re interested in trying Neitra, Jingo is giving all EarthyB readers a 20% discount on Neitra Body Botanicals. Use coupon code EarthyB at checkout.
Readers: Tell me what you think. What are your favorite skin care ingredients? What do they do for you?