Five Favorite Organic & Natural Skincare Products

Happy Friday! It's time to link up with the fabulous ladies Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Mar at Mar On The Run, and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What. This week's theme is five favorites, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite organic and natural skincare products.

A couple years ago I attended a seminar by the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Center for Environmental Oncology. She said that two thirds of cancer have an environmental link. Environment is broadly defined to include lifestyle choices like smoking, food quality, eating habits, consumer products, industrial pollutants, and contaminants in air and water. I was surprised to learn that cosmetics and skincare products are not required to have any safety testing, and many include known or suspected carcinogens. Since skin is porous and cosmetics and skincare products are absorbed into the skin, I was alarmed. The solution is to read ingredients carefully and avoid those that contain questionable ingredients. Below the Five Favorite list is a list of ingredients the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests avoiding.

After the seminar I went home and looked at my cosmetics and skincare ingredients and was dismayed to find that they nearly all contained some bad ingredients. While studying ingredients, I also found that many products had ingredients that, while not harmful, were cheap fillers that weren't helping my skin. I threw them all out--or gave them away with the disclaimer of why--and set about finding replacements free of toxic ingredients that still gave me the results I wanted. You can check the ingredients of your products at the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, which analyzes the ingredients of more than 70,000 products. About 99% of my cosmetics and skincare are now organic or natural or both. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil

This is a fantastic, low-cost multitasker for skin with many benefits. Its saturated fats help smooth skin and  retain moisture. Vitamin E repairs wear and tear on skin and prevents it from cracking, and its antioxidant properties help prevent premature aging and wrinkling of the skin. It's also a great makeup remover. It easily dissolves even waterproof eye makeup so I don't have to scrub my eyes, without leaving a greasy feel on my face. After I use it on my eye makeup, I rub a small amount on my face, add a bit of warm water to create a bit of a lather, rinse, and then follow up with my regular cleanser. It not only easily removes makeup, but it leaves my skin soft, smooth, and hydrated. I also use it as an all-over body moisturizer. It keeps my skin very soft and smooth without feeling greasy. It also works great on my lips and to help moisturize the very tough or dry parts of my skin, like elbows and feet. I bought a 15-oz tub at Whole Foods for about $11.

2. Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C has been a recent hit in skincare, and with good reason. Mad Hippie's website says, "Few ingredients in skin care have as much solid evidence as to their effectiveness as Vitamin C. Proven to enhance collagen production, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and tighten the skin, this powerful antioxidant is effective at healing sun damage & discoloration, while inhibiting future damage caused by UV exposure." At just $33.99 or $27.19 on Amazon, this serum works wonders at a fraction of the cost of the many pricey Vitamin C serums out there. I've been using this serum for a year-and-a-half and can vouch that it does what it says: tightens, brightens, and smooths the skin. It's also powerful for diminishing or eliminating discoloration like sun spots. It has all natural ingredients, including Vitamin C; Vitamin E; ferulic acid, a natural antioxidant found in plants; hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin retain moisture; konjac root powder, which softens, smooths, and protects skin; antioxidant-rich grapefruit; soothing and calming chamomile extract; and clary sage, which balances the production of sebum, and eliminates over-dry or over-oily skin. Note that if you're on a budget and want to use good, natural products free of toxic ingredients, Mad Hippie offers many great products at low price points.

3. Tarte Maracuja Oil

I love facial oils and have three in my rotation. I like Tarte's maracuja oil, rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin C, for helping to tighten, firm, and smooth my skin. I use it every other night, and when I wake up my skin is glowing. I typically use it alone, without a moisturizer, and find it hydrating enough without being greasy or oily. But last winter when my skin got really dry, I did have to use an additional moisturizer after it. A 1.7-oz bottle is $46 and a .5-oz rollerball is $17.

4. Arcona Gentle Solution
Most of my skincare is from Arcona, made of natural and organic ingredients that produce great results. Gentle Solution is a nighttime exfoliating treatment for dry and sensitive skin. Exfoliation is important to slough off old skin cells and renew skin, but my skin is sensitive to harsh chemical exfoliators and scrubs. This exfoliant, made with a complex of lactic and glyocolic acid that is released slowly to be gentle, is a gorgeous complexion in a bottle. It decongests, smooths, refines, and nourishes skin. When I wake up in the morning after using it once or twice a week, my skin is glowing and smooth. Its few ingredients include antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients. A $50 bottle has lasted me for a full year, and Skinstore regularly has 20% off promotions (they have one now), making it $40.

5. Juice Beauty Hydrating Mist
Another great multitasker is Juice Beauty's Hydrating Mist. Described as "A harmonic blend of certified organic, antioxidant-rich white and red grape juices, soothing aloe vera, nutrient-rich rosehip, grapeseed oil and vitamins to hydrate and balance skin's natural moisture for a fresh complexion," I use it a few different ways. In the summer, I use it to freshen my skin whenever I feel like I need a pick-me-up. I also use it before morning runs as a light cleanser. Skin sheds old cells when it repairs itself during sleep, and there is residue from nighttime treatments and products. If I don't wash my face before working out, the sweat and dirt mix and can make me break out. So I spray some on a cotton ball and use it as a light cleanser. I also use it in the same way as a toner after I wash my face in evenings. And lastly, I spritz some on after cleansing in the morning and before I apply Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum to boost hydration. It smells lovely and is actually moisturizing for a liquid. A large, 6.75-oz bottle costs $22, but with the Skinstore 20% discount is $17.60.

Here's the list of toxic ingredients commonly used in cosmetics and skincare that EWG suggests avoiding:
There are so many other great organic and natural skincare products out there. I've tried many through Goodebox, a subscription box of organic and natural skincare and cosmetics, but my skin has clearly communicated to me that it does not like to try a lot of new things, so I've been sticking to my tried-and-true products instead of trying new ones. Have you tried others?

Can't wait to read what others chose for their favorites!

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