The 3 Most Common Natural Skin Care Mistakes (And How To Fix Them)

Photo: Jordi Rulló

So you want to make the switch to naturals, or you're thinking about it—go, you! But where do you begin? To do an overhaul of your personal care routine would take hours of review-reading, Instagram-stalking, and/or YouTube tutorial-watching to find and vet the right products for your skin type. Plus, replacing all products at the same time would rack up a hefty bill. The truth is that natural beauty is having a Wild Wild West moment. Every brand, retailer, and influencer wants in because naturals are trending up, which is helpful for getting the message out. But all that information at once can be pretty confusing. How will naturals change the skin? What should be switched first? Is there a wallet-friendly way to go about it?

Here's the secret: It's better to make the switch one product at a time than it is to switch everything at once. Not only will this tactic keep your wallet happy, but you'll have a chance to see how your skin reacts to each product, which is near impossible to figure out if you're trying multiple products at once. Learn from these three common mistakes so you can start (or continue) your natural beauty journey on the right foot:

1. Starting a face oil regime without using a toner.

Face oils are all the rage, it's true. But unless your face oil salesperson is top-notch, chances are they may have let you purchase the oil without telling you about the importance of toner. The reality is, until recently, toner was composed of mostly alcohol, which is drying and harsh on the skin. But these days, plenty of toner excellent options sans alcohol and hydrosols—distilled plant essences in purified water—are available.

Applying toner before an oil allows the skin to absorb moisture before "locking" it in with oil. Once you apply an oil, the skin's barrier is sealed: Nothing comes in, and nothing goes out. So often people start using a face oil without using a toner and wonder why their skin feels dry and deflated, or they have more fine lines than usual. It's counterintuitive, but oil doesn't actually hydrate! Water does. So using a hydrating, water-based toner before your face oil can make all the difference.

2. Assuming that anything "natural" is also safe.

Natural and safe are not synonymous. "Safety is a completely admirable (and necessary!) quality to look for in our beauty products but in recent years there's been this default thinking that naturals are safe which is not always the case," said Bee Shapiro, founder of natural fragrance company Ellis Brooklyn. "For example, citrus oils smell fresh and wonderful but in skincare they can be a major hazard. Citrus oils are phototoxic (they make your skin sensitive to the sun and can make you burn) at even very, very low levels," she said.

Along these lines, it's important to understand the role of certain ingredients in a product more than it is to seek products that are labeled "natural." There's a wide range of quality variability within the category of essential oils, for example, making it tough to differentiate and find the best ones. This isn't to pick on essentials oils (we love them), but the safety of a product or an ingredient goes beyond the "natural" label.

Another reason natural can raise safety concerns? Preservatives, or a lack thereof. Although many natural beauty purists avoid nearly all preservatives, it's important to monitor the expiration date on your products or consider being a little more forgiving when it comes to preservatives in formulas. They keep active ingredients safe while fending off harmful bacteria and mold. Sometimes there's a real need for preservatives—safe ones, of course—depending on the product composition.

Holistic beauty expert Jessa Blades always recommends reaching out to a brand if you're uncertain about their ingredients, sourcing, or processing. It's the best way to let brands know consumers are reading labels while getting the information directly.

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3. Switching skin products before body products.

Skin care products are front and center of the natural beauty scene because there are more brands that cater to facial skin concerns than body ones. But your face represents approximately 4.5 percent of your skin's surface area—and while no one's denying its importance, you'll get more bang for your buck by switching over your body products like soap, deodorant, body wash, body oils, and moisturizers first.

If you're ready to make the switch, check out our comprehensive guide to the best natural and organic skin care by skin type.

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