Chemical vs natural facial masks and your favourites?
July 12, 2016 3:18 AM   Subscribe

Tell me your favourite 'natural' skincare recipes and why, and share your experiences of chemical vs natural skincare. Can natural ever match up to today's modern formulations?

For a few reasons, I'm thinking of going as 'natural' as I can with skincare once my current products have worked out. I know natural is a difficult to define, but I mean cleansing with coconut oil (I already do this and it's way better than any shop-bought cleanser) and also using natural ingredients for facial masks like egg, lemon, honey, avocado etc. Then using a 'nasties' etc free moisturiser.

Can you tell me your experiences with going down this route and any favourite recipes? And, do you think you're missing out on anything? I mean, new chemicals are being formulated all the time, often from 'natural' ingredients and I don't want to push away their benefits just because they don't come straight from the tree or whatever.

And, if you're a real chemical advocate (maybe you think the 'natural' route is just bunkum and the 'nasties' aren't really that nasty) then please share your thoughts as to why. I'm open to chemicals, but the more I look into the more I think they might be an unnecessary risk to take. However, if they're more effective than natural products, then.....
posted by starstarstar to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Everything is a 'chemical.'

The distinction between 'natural skincare' and 'chemical skincare' is marketing. This is not to discount concerns about the effects of things we put on our skin, but, honestly, 'natural' is just a feel-good term with little explanatory power. Poison ivy is 'natural', but that doesn't mean you should put it on your skin.

Personally? I'm wildly sensitive to fragrances, and experienced awful, awful reactions from 'natural' products containing aromatic oils. Also, coconut oil makes me break out like crazy. I don't experience such responses from well-formulated, WELL-PRESERVED (YES this deserves all caps - cosmetic products need to be well stabilized by preservatives! I don't want to be putting rancid products on my skin!) cosmetic products, products that might fall into the bracket of 'chemical' for some people.

Also, one of *the* most important skincare products you will ever use is sunscreen, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a truly effective 'natural' sunscreen. Physical sunscreens - those that contain minerals like titanium dioxide to physically reflect UVA/UVB radiation - are often marketed as 'natural', but these sunscreens frequently feel greasy and heavy on the skin (feel free to chime in if you've found a physical sunscreen that doesn't feel like that!). Chemical sunscreens - those that contain ingredients like avobenzone to absorb the radiation - often feel lighter and more pleasant to use. Using an adequate amount of sunscreen every single day is the best thing you will ever do for your skin.

What are your skincare goals? Do you need to alleviate dryness, combat breakouts, blot oiliness? What does your skincare routine look like now? What kinds of products do you want to try or add?

Whatever route you go down, don't just buy products and start using them. Everyone's skin is different, and you never know how you might react. Start introducing products slowly, and patch test for a week or two before you use a product all over your face to make sure you don't break out or have an allergic reaction.

Good luck.
posted by nerdfish at 3:47 AM on July 12, 2016 [15 favorites]

I have combination skin. I love using raw honey as a mask. Nothing else in it, just a layer of honey, not too thick, on dry skin. I leave it on for ten minutes or so, then give myself a mini face massage and rinse off. It makes my skin feel softer, and I think it looks brighter and clearer. I used to use Origin's Out of Trouble mask, but I stopped buying their products a few years ago when I found out their parent company still does (or did) animal testing. I liked that mask too and it was effective for clearing up small breakouts, but the honey is gentle, cheaper, and smells better. Worth a try if you have a jar in your kitchen!
posted by prewar lemonade at 4:08 AM on July 12, 2016

There really is no more inherent risk in "chemical" products versus "natural" products (or foods such as egg); it all comes down to the actual ingredients. I recommend looking up specific ingredients that interest you in Paula Begoun's ingredient dictionary to see some of the research and risks. For example, you mentioned lemon, which is a potential skin irritant because of its high acidity. There is also a short list of problematic "natural" ingredients in this article.

I agree with nerdfish that you should start by understanding what your skin care routine should look like and what skin issues you want to address (if any). Then you can choose your ingredients and products in a systematic way, which is important for determining whether the changes you make have an effect. /r/SkincareAddiction also has some resources for getting started.
posted by neushoorn at 5:11 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Split the difference and get a tested, glowingly reviewed, effective, no frills, minimal ingredient product like this clay mask. Don't smear brunch on your face.
posted by phunniemee at 7:21 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a total naturalist. I clean with water. Apply warm water to face. Massage with fingertips. Rinse. Pat dry.

My face doesn't need moisturizing or toning or whatever else all those products are supposed to do. My skin tone is the clearest and most even it has ever been.

If I feel like doing something special, I mix raw honey with warm water and apply like a mask. Let it sit for.... I dunno, as long as it pleases me, then rinse with warm water. It does make my skin feel tighter, but mostly it makes me feel pampered when I need to feel pampered.

If I experience any dryness (which is rare, but like if I've been exposed to the elements too long in winter), I use a little jojoba oil to soothe.
posted by slipthought at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2016

I came here to say that everything is a chemical and to point you to Paula's site and Skincareaddiction, so you have what you need. I'd encourage you to think more about establishing your goals for your skincare and trying things slowly so you can see how you react to them. Everyone is sensitive to different things and, as pointed out above, many favorites of "natural" skincare lines (peppermint oil! lavender oil! lemon!) can be very rough on skin.
posted by oblique red at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it honestly depends on your skin, mostly. I spent the last 9 years on Diane, which is a high-estrogen birth control pill, to manage my completely unmanageable disfiguring acne, which morphed my skin into a beautiful angel face. I was moisturizing with coconut oil, and washing with warm water, and making honey-cinnamon egg masques, and everything made my skin look lovely and earth goddessy. I honestly chalked up a lot of my beautiful skin to my natural skincare routine, semi-forgetting that your skin loves estrogen, and I was giving it a ton.

And then I switched to an IUD because all this estrogen isn't good for me long term, and hopefully my acne has lessened now that I'm 30. But! It hasn't! Hello problematic skin my old friend. So now I've broken out the salicylic acids, the benzoate peroxides, the acid peels, the drying lotions containing caffeine and who knows what else.

My answer is: if you already have great skin, you can probably have a beautiful natural skin routine and it will be wonderful. I really liked mine and it made me feel good to put less preservatives and stuff on my face.

If you have terrible skin, you might need to stick to what science has made for us!
posted by euphoria066 at 12:48 PM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

Like nerdfish, stuff that has overdone it on the "natural" tends to make me itch, but stuff straight from a big pharmaceutical company neatly does what it says on the tin. (And much as I like coconut oil for other things, on my face it is a big zit party.) I just do not understand why somebody would use something harsh and not designed to do anything useful to skin like lemon juice instead of going with something with an appropriate Ph level, appropriate preservatives, and product and ingredient testing behind it.

That said, I do like simple and frugal. I bought retinyl palmitate from here, and mix it with jojoba oil; it brightens and moisturises wonderfully and costs a fraction of what a dept store equivalent retinol product would. I bought a big quantity of lactic acid and tip a bit into my lotions. I read people rambling on about how great coconut oil plus baking soda and/or cornstarch was as a deodorant. I prefer antiperspirants; I bought aluminum on-line, mixed it all up, find it far superior to store-bought antiperspirants -- not because of the "natural" ingredients, but because it doesn't require a ridiculous amount of scrubbing to remove. Also turned out I needed a very small % of aluminum, so the one small bit I bought will take years to use up; with the cheapest grade of coconut oil going, it's a very frugal product.
posted by kmennie at 6:02 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't mind "chemicals" (to me most fearmongering about chemicals feels like pseudoscience), so I use lots of drugstore products. But I do have two natural face care procedures that I love better than any storebought product:

Sometimes I exfoliate my face with 2 teaspoons of baking soda and a few drops of water- make a paste and gently rub it around on your clean wet face, go easy on your cheekbones and avoid eye area. After that, I use oil-free drugstore face moisturizer. The baking soda is an amazing exfoliant- I get compliments on my skin after using it.

In the winter, if my skin is really dry I wash and then moisturize with coconut or grapeseed oil. I like oil as a moisturizer but I wouldn't use it after exfoliating, I feel like it would clog my pores. Sometimes I use it as body moisturizer too (be careful of getting it on your clothes or furniture though- it doesn't soak in as fast as commercial moisturizer would).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:56 PM on July 12, 2016

PSA: baking soda seriously messes with your skin's pH and is not the best option for a physical exfoliant. If you're after a physical exfoliant to use sparingly, try rice flour - with the emphasis on *used sparingly.*
posted by nerdfish at 2:39 AM on July 13, 2016

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