Is a natural/clean skincare routine just as "effective" as a non-natural skincare routine?
Yes and no. It depends on what you are trying to achieve. I am a big believer in clean skin care for your daily essentials. For anything that you use a lot of, you really want to limit your exposure to chemicals that could accumulate in your body and in our world with unknown consequences. Most natural skincare prioritizes ingredients that are biodegradable (meaning that they do not accumulate in our bodies and in our world) which is a good thing, however, they may include plant-based ingredients that can cause irritation or allergic reactions which is not what you want. So even when products are labeled natural, you really want to pay attention to the ingredients to ensure they don’t cause more harm than good.
Another thing to consider is that in the world of fighting the aging process or treating a medical condition, some of the more advanced ingredients are unstable and must be combined with synthetic (non-natural) ingredients to remain effective. There are a small number of products that fall into this category that I use and recommend to my patients because they have compelling, scientific data showing that they truly make a difference.
For me, there are only two reasons to not opt for a clean product: budget constraints and clinical studies showing a product is effective in treating a particular concern.
Is there anyone who should avoid using natural skin care products or are there any potential side effects/reactions people should be aware of before starting a natural skincare routine?
Those with very sensitive skin should avoid fragrance, essential oils, lanolin, and physical exfoliators like salt, sugar, nuts shells, etc. Often this group is told to use bland, hypoallergenic products like Cetaphil and CeraVe but the problem is these products often contain petroleum, propylene glycol, mineral oil, and parabens that do not biodegrade. And more often than not, the packaging cannot be recycled.
People with thicker or more oily skin can usually tolerate the more irritating and less well-formulated options because their skin is better protected. But why should they?
When creating a natural skincare routine, what ingredients/types of formulas should our readers look for? Is there anything they should avoid?
Just like standard skin care ingredients, the list of natural ingredients to avoid is long and forever being added to. In particular, you should pass on anything that contains fragrance, essential oils, lanolin, and natural dyes. When it comes to standard skin care, ingredients to avoid include drying alcohols, silicone, phthalates, formaldehyde, and parabens.
What are your favorite natural skincare brands?
I am a big fan of Necessaire and Drunk Elephant for their use of clean, effective, and high-quality ingredients your face and body can actually use. I also admire Beautycounter for the way they meticulously screen their ingredients and brought national attention to this important topic. Juice Beauty clinically validates their formulas. Tata Harper and Josh Rosebrook have some incredibly luxurious formulations. My line, Doctor Rogers RESTORE, is unique in this category because it’s clean-ical meaning that it is clean and clinical. Everything has been developed to use on the most sensitive, healing skin - particularly after dermatologic procedures as well as to maintain healthy skin on a daily basis. Unlike the rest of the brands, all my products are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic while still being natural. If your budget permits, I encourage people to go try the next new hot skin care product if that feels good to them and if their skin gets irritated they can always count on Doctor Rogers RESTORE to get their skin healthy and beautiful again.
What would your "ideal" natural skincare routine look like? (Please include morning and evening regimens, specific products, and any applicable skin or application tips.)
An ideal skincare routine should not be too complicated. Keep it simple and be consistent. In the morning, I recommend splashing some water on your face or using a clean, hypoallergenic, plant-based face wash like Doctor Rogers RESTORE Face Wash. Follow this with a clinically-studied, antioxidant such as Skinbetter Alto Defense Serum and a clean moisturizer like Doctor Rogers RESTORE Face Lotion which you can use around your eyes too. Even if you are staying indoors you should always apply sunscreen. I cannot recommend Supergoop!’s Zincscreen enough. It is clean, clinically-studied, and reef-safe. When it comes to sunscreen, always choose a mineral sunscreen, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are minerals and non-toxic. Make sure you don't undo your selective skincare routine by using makeup packed with synthetic ingredients. Some clean makeup brands I love include Westman Atelier, Ilia, and RMS Beauty.
Always wash your face before bed. I use my Doctor Rogers RESTORE Face Wash to remove makeup and oil without irritating. Follow this with a prescription like Tretinoin if you have one. Again, this has been clinically-studied to be safe and effective in the treatment of fine facial wrinkles, mottled hyperpigmentation, and skin texture. If you don’t have a prescription, opt for a treatment like Drunk Elephants T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask which is clean, non-toxic, and made with minimal ingredients. It really helps to reset your skin to a healthy state. I also like Skinbetter AlphaRet Overnight Cream and Sente Dermal Repair Cream. Follow this with a heavier moisturizer like the RESTORE Face Cream for face and eyes and the Healing Balm for lips.
If you want to learn more about clean beauty, I highly recommend reviewing the Credo Clean Beauty Standard.
Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.