With all the natural products available today, why put unnecessary chemicals and toxins in the body when there are perfectly good alternatives? Consumers are becoming more attuned to this idea and the demand for all-natural health and beauty products is on the rise. A recent study by Label Insight revealed American women will pay more for personal care products with recognizable ingredients, as opposed to an ingredient label they don’t understand.

In fact, 68% of the 1,000 shoppers surveyed claimed it is extremely important to consider ingredients when buying a product (1). Having difficult-to-read labels affects how the brand is viewed and lowers consumer trust. Out of those surveyed, 45% said they trust a brand less when they include ingredients they don’t recognize, and 61% said they would rather buy a product with recognizable ingredients, according to the study (1).

For example, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, the liquid form of vitamin C, was rejected by 49% of the survey respondents. When listed as vitamin C, there was a 43% increase in people who would be very comfortable buying it. This ingredient transparency began in the food aisle and now extends to everyday personal care items as well. Here we’ll look at ingredients that should be included and those that shouldn’t be used.

TrendsUsing superfoods in products is a growing trend within the industry. Jenna Thomas, brand manager for Aubrey Organics, Tampa, FL, says the anti-inflammatory herb turmeric, as well as beets, are used in the company’s products. “We use beet root extract in our facial toners for its refreshing properties and its ability to help keep the skin hydrated for several hours after application,” she explains.

Probiotics have also emerged as a relevant ingredient in skin and hair care, as they bring healthy bacteria to skin. Thomas says probiotics likeLactobacillusare great for the scalp. Tim Schaeffer, senior vice president of Mineral Fusion, Denver, CO, has noticed some other ingredient trends — rosehip oil, which hydrates skin and boosts elasticity, and licorice root to soothe and treat redness in skin.

When it comes to products to stay away from, Thomas talks about the role of parabens and how they “have been linked in the news as potentially contributing to health problems with long-term use. Yet you’ll often see two or three paraben preservatives listed on a label.” Consumers have become more mindful of this ingredient over the years, and even products that aren’t all-natural are straying away from parabens.

Essential OilsEssential oils are concentrated fragrant extracts from plants and can be used for a multitude of reasons on a daily basis. They can be used in cooking, cleaning, as perfume and even in daily spiritual or therapeutic rituals (2). Lavender has calming properties and can be used with a diffuser in the evening to relax, while oils like peppermint or lemon have invigorating properties perfect for cleaning or to boost energy. Light oils like jojoba mixed with other oils can improve the skin’s texture and combat signs of aging (3).

Oils also can be used through inhalation or topical application. There are various methods in which people use them; however, caution must be practiced. Ingesting orally can be dangerous and should only be done under the care of a healthcare professional. Similarly, when applying topically, oils must be diluted properly to be safe. Using essential oils as part of a daily routine can be extremely beneficial if used correctly.

SunscreenSunscreen should undoubtedly be part of everyone’s daily routine. Exposure to ultraviolet light leads to premature aging and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation in skin and more dangerous effects like melanoma (4). Now with more lightweight and improved formulas, people should be using sunblock daily to protect themselves and their skin. Schaeffer says sun exposure is the number one cause of premature aging skin, and to be mindful of sun exposure even when driving to and from work. “We recommend mineral sunscreen because it reflects the sun rays instead of absorbing them like chemical sunscreens,” says Schaeffer.

Feminine ProductsThe actual amount of time that women spend menstruating (from puberty to menopause) totals seven years or so, says Susie Hewson, owner and founder of Natracare, Greeley, CO. So it’s important to consider the benefits of using natural feminine products for health and well-being as well as the environment.

“Using all-natural pads, panty liners and certified organic cotton tampons ensures that you are not putting harmful ingredients in contact with very delicate, intimate skin,” explains Hewson. She lists just some of the possible irritants in conventional feminine products as synthetics, chemical additives, perfumes, lubricants, foams and petroleum plastics. Brands like Natracare help avoid exposure to these harsh ingredients, and protect against toxic residue buildup. With all-natural brands consumers can have the security and confidence that they are only coming in contact with chlorine-free, 100% certified organic cotton and only plant-based ingredients. According to Hewson, “Gynecologists recommend using all-natural period protection to restrict your contact with synthetic materials and reduce the chances of irritation.”

In addition to being good for personal health, natural brands are environmentally conscious by using biodegradable materials. “On average a woman uses 17,000 pads in her lifetime, the average conventional pad is made from 90% plastic. That’s a huge amount of plastic!” says Hewson. Hewson’s tip when looking for natural products: “Look out for the asterisk, disclaimers and greenwashing claims. A product might claim to be natural* but when you follow the asterisk you may discover only a small part of the product is natural and still may contain ingredients you’d rather avoid.” Consumers can experience a smooth transition into these products since they are widely available; the only difference is recycling packaging rather than tossing it in the trash.

Menstrual cups are another feminine product growing in visibility. Sophie Zivku, communications manager for Diva International Inc, Ontario, Canada, says, “There is a growing trend among consumers for products that are both eco-conscious and health conscious.” Reusable cups are another natural alternative that can save consumers money, and be more health and environmentally conscious. For instance, the DivaCup can be replaced once a year, and is made of safe material — 100% healthcare grade silicone. Zivku also cautions about traditional pads/tampons that can contain dioxin and rayon. To consumers wanting to make a switch from conventional feminine products to natural, Zivku advises, “When trying anything new, it is important to have an open mind, and to remember, self-care is well worth the change.”

Dental HealthConventional toothpastes, rinses and teeth whiteners can have harsh chemical ingredients like fluoride and detergents. These natural, active ingredients can be just as beneficial as conventional products:Baking Soda.This ingredient is typically used as a teeth whitening agent and can be found on the label of many toothpastes. Being a mild abrasive, it can work to remove surface stains naturally (4).

Cranberry.Prevents plaque from building up on the surface of teeth and can be effective if used in dental hygiene products. However, consuming large amounts on its own isn’t ideal for teeth because of the sugar content which can cause tooth decay and other dental issues (4). Green Tea. Studies suggest the antioxidants in green tea can prevent against gum disease and inflammation (4).

Xylitol.Used as a sugar substitute, xylitol causes less tooth damage than regular sugar and is used as an ingredient in many different toothpastes (4).

Hair CareDifferent ingredients work best for different hair types, so the daily products used depend on whether someone’s hair is thick, oily, dry, etc. Thomas explains that dry hair benefits more from rich oils to lightly coat the hair, which in turn brings out shine and vibrancy. Jojoba oil and keratin are ingredients commonly used in anti-frizz formulas. Rose hip seed and argan oils provide moisture, and avocado oils, shea butter and mango butter work to soften and help curl definition.

Chia seeds have proven to be extremely beneficial for hair care — they add moisture, and nourish to control frizz. Thomas from Aubrey Organics notes, “While chia seed oil, rich in omega-3, helps add softness and elasticity, quinoa protein [can] help smooth the hair cuticle.”

To help damaged hair, Thomas says moisturizing oils are not enough. Weak hair needs clean proteins for revival and strength. Ingredients like glycoprotein and milk protein are beneficial and used in Aubrey Organic’s GPB Shampoo and Conditioner.

Oily hair and scalp benefit most from a good clarifying shampoo that won’t strip hair, says Thomas. “Choose a light, hydrating formula that won’t build up in the hair, and that contains beneficial ingredients like Matcha green tea, tea tree oil, and ginseng and nettle extracts to help tone and balance an oily scalp.”

For thin or fine hair, ingredients to look for are B vitamins (panthenol) and biotin, which give body and life to hair. Thomas states, “We have a three-step Biotin Repair hair system, which includes a leave-in scalp tonic, and also offer a Ginseng Biotin hair care line, formulated especially for men.”

Skin CareBy using natural products, the consumer eliminates ingredients that can clog pores and harm skin. “We formulate all of our skin care with performance in mind first, so each of our products can stand up to a conventional skin care brand, then we infuse them with powerful natural actives and nourishing botanicals making each product effective and healthy, in turn improving the condition of your skin,” says Schaeffer from Mineral Fusion.

Each skin type has specific needs at different stages in life. Annemarie Börlind, a brand of Bioforce USA, based in Ghent, NY, keeps this in mind with its six product ranges that deal with different skin types with various aging concerns. Jodie L. Moore, chief operating officer at Bioforce USA, lists some skin types and common key ingredients to meet their needs: • Maturing combination skin for 30+ should be looking for concentrations of papyrus stem cells and algae that helps to matte and refine skin. • Maturing dry skin for 30+ should be looking for high levels of moisture from shea butter and jojoba that helps to stimulate and strengthen the skin’s resistance to aging. • Demanding combination skin for 40+ should be looking for concentrated stimulating ingredients like the seeds from the tara tree that help to lift the upper eye lid and counteract the effects of gravity. • Oily skin for teens should be looking for purifying ingredients like clays and algae that help to whisk away excess oil without over-drying skin.

Helping Consumers Make a ChangeAre your customers or people you know trying to switch up their routines and incorporate more all-natural products in their day? Here are some tips and words of advice to encourage consumers to make a change.

Hilary McMahon, founder of Honestly pHresh, based in Huntington Beach, CA says, “There are so many amazing natural body products on the market making it easy for the consumer to choose better options that can be beneficial on physical, social and environmental levels.” She says our skin is our largest organ and easily absorbs what is put onto it — so why risk putting toxins into the body? “I believe that switching to an all-natural routine makes the natural consumer a conscious consumer,” she adds.

Thomas suggests reading labels, “The goal is to make anything you put into or onto your body, or come in close contact with, be as clean and pure as possible.” Even swapping out one product at a time — shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc., will teach consumers what to be conscious of and which ingredients to be wary of. Common ingredients in products to avoid are petrolatum and mineral oil because they are less expensive to use than plant oils and natural products. Thomas says, “Botanical oils and extracts are not only gentler on your body, they offer a long list of beneficial nutrients to help support and protect your hair and skin.”

Annemarie Börlind tackles the issue of making a switch that may seem overwhelming to consumers by offering “Beauty Essentials,” which are standalone items designed to be incorporated into an existing skin care routine. This can help consumers slowly integrate new all-natural products into their routine.WF

References1. Karapetian, Kira, Label Insight Blog, “Consumers Demand Transparency from Personal Care Products,” August 1, 2017http://blog.labelinsight.com/consumers-demand-transparency-from-personal-care-products2. Kaufman, Corinna, WholeFoods Magazine, “Essential Oils: Centuries Old Yet a Modern Mainstay"https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/haba/features-haba/essential-oils-centuries-old-yet-a-modern-mainstay/3. Chiarello-Ebner, Kaylynn, WholeFoods Magazine, “In Pursuit of Beauty,” August 16, 2016https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/haba/features-haba/in-pursuit-of-beauty/4. Smith, Margaret, WholeFoods Magazine, “Brightening Smiles the Natural Way,” November 16, 2016

Published in WholeFoods Magazine September 2017