The Skin Care Trend You're Going To See Everywhere This Fall

Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor By Lindsay Kellner
Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor
Lindsay is a freelance writer and certified yoga instructor based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a journalism and psychology degree from New York University. Kellner is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” with mbg Sustainability Editor Emma Loewe.

Photo by Megan Doty / mbg Creative

Essential oils have been a mainstay in natural beauty for many years, and for good reason—it's way easier to make "clean" products from oils of all kinds—nut oils, essential oils, seed oils, and even cold-pressed fruit and vegetable oils. Green beauty is saturated with oil-based products because oils and butters don't require a preservative to stay shelf-stable and bacteria-free for a long time, which significantly simplifies the process of making products.

While there's no doubt that essential oils can be hugely beneficial when used for aromatherapeutics (hello insomnia, allergies, and anxiety), and even in skin care at times, they can be troublesome for people with sensitive skin. For one, the quality of essential oils isn't monitored by a third party—so the "lavender essential oil" that's listed on the back of your hydrosol may not be the same quality as another lavender essential oil in your face oil. Essential oil concentrations are also often not disclosed on packaging, so it's impossible to tell how potent the product is, not only for each individual oil but for the overall essential oil concentration. These two variables alone could wreak havoc on sensitive skin.

Until recently, the road to a natural beauty and personal care regimen was clearly bifurcated for people with sensitive skin: You'd choose natural products with essential oils and deal with the consequences or you were out of luck. Not anymore. Now there's a small-but-mighty growing category of naturals that are loud and proud about their EO-free status.

Millennial favorite, perennial Sephora best-seller, and beauty-editor-lauded Drunk Elephant is a brand that's leading the charge. "My skin changed when I removed 'sensitizers' from my products, the ones I was using on a daily basis, and gave it room to rebound," said founder Tiffany Masterson. "I call them the suspicious six: essential oils, chemical screens, silicones, fragrance, dyes, and alcohols. In my opinion, essential oils can create sensitized skin. And the effect is cumulative—after using them for a while, people say 'I have sensitive skin.'" DE's 287,000 followers on Instagram, endorsement (and investment) from Manrepeller's Leandra Medine, and countless user-generated Instagram selfies and shelfies are all proof that Masterson is on to something.

Forward-thinking green beauty vets like Marie Veronique Nadeau, founder of Marie Veronique products, are making EO-free a part of their offering, too. Her collaboration range in partnership with Kristina Holey is entirely free of essential oils and other irritants like "microcidal preservatives" that can be problematic for some.

Peet Rivko, a newer brand, has built its entire brand on being essential-oil-free and sensitive-skin-friendly without all of the additives that often come with non-natural drugstore products. "Just because something is fragrance-free doesn't mean it's unscented," said founder Johanna Peet. The products do have smell—Peet explained many brands will add chemicals and additives to neutralize any natural scents—which can take some getting used to. The moisturizer has a decidedly earthy scent—"That's the shea butter," said Peet.

Into a minimal beauty routine? Check out mbg's take on the only three products you need when traveling.

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