As new technologies and synthetic ingredients for skincare rapidly emerge, we also discover that for some of the most common skin care problems, newer isn’t always better. In fact, many natural options can be as effective treating our skin as technologically developed solutions. Below, we gather the opinions of experts on skincare that share the ingredients that are the best of both worlds: natural and scientifically proven. Learn how each ingredient can help the wellbeing of our skin, and how to use them to reap the most benefits.
Note: As is the case when trying any new treatment, it's a good idea to consult your dermatologist to make sure you’re using a natural therapy the right way. The ingredients below are not to be taken as medical advice.
1. Rose water
The main benefits of coconut oil for skincare are hydration and anti-inflammatory purposes. There's growing science supporting the use of this plant’s oil as a topical skin soother. Recent research shows that extra virgin coconut oil suppresses some of the body's natural inflammatory agents while making the skin a better barrier. "Many people love coconut oil products to help fight dry, itchy skin, and skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis," says Laurel Naversen Geraghty, MD, a dermatologist in Medford, OR. "Some of my psoriasis patients swear by overnight coconut oil scalp treatments worn under a plastic shower cap." But Geraghty warns against putting coconut oil on blemish-prone areas because it may worsen acne.
How to Use Coconut Oil For Skin
For your own use of coconut oil, look for organic extra virgin coconut oil. You could apply it on your face much like you would use any night cream. For this purpose, follow the next steps:
- Liquefy one tablespoon of coconut oil by rubbing it gently between your hands. The liquefied oil will have a silky, light texture.
- Smooth onto your face and neck. You can also use coconut oil on your chest and on other dry areas of your body.
- Gently remove any thick residue with a soft tissue. Don’t use cotton balls, as they will stick to the oil on your face
- Leave a light layer of coconut oil on your skin overnight
- Avoid getting coconut oil into your eyes, as it may make your vision temporarily blurry.
- If you’re pinched for time, coconut oil can also do double duty as a makeup remover prior to using as a night cream. Simply follow these same steps twice. Use once to gently remove makeup, and once to leave a light coating on your skin.
Some people prefer to use coconut oil as an occasional or once-a-week emollient overnight treatment. If your skin is oily or you have combination skin, you may wish to experiment with using coconut oil as a spot treatment around your eyes or on dry skin patches.
3. Tea Tree Oil
The main benefits of the great tea tree oil are anti-microbial and blemish-fighting effects. This herbal remedy derived from tea tree leaves, helps combat a range of germs, fungus, and bacteria, Geraghty says. "The fact that tea tree oil helps combat bacteria-driven acne means it may help reduce the inflammatory type of blemishes -- the tender pustules or inflamed pink papules," she says. But the topical treatment doesn't have much effect against deep cystic acne or comedones. Geraghty also warns about the potential for irritation when using tea tree oil on the skin. She suggests monitoring areas for signs of redness and a rash.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Skin
Use tea tree oil with a few precautions:
- You should not apply tea tree oil directly to skin. It’s important to dilute the oil with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil.
- For every 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil, add 12 drops of a carrier oil.
- Be careful when using tea tree oil around the eye area. Exposure can cause redness and irritation.
- Before you use tea tree oil, do a patch test to make sure your skin doesn’t react to the tea tree oil.
4. Green Tea
The main effects of green tea on the skin are sun protection and anti-ageing. The connection between drinking green tea and improved health has been suggested for years, but it may also help to use the plant on the skin. "Green tea has good results in terms of photo-protection and anti-aging benefits," says Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist in Montclair, NJ. The polyphenols in green tea, have antioxidant properties as well as soothing abilities that help treat sun-damaged skin and offer a way to address the signs of sun damage, she says.
How to Use Green Tea for skin
One of the ways of using green tea is preparing a green tea face mask. To get started, you’ll need the following:
- 1 tbsp. of green tea
- 1 tbsp. baking soda
- 1 tbsp. honey
- water (optional)
- a mixing bowl
- a measuring spoon
Once you have all the items you need, follow these steps:
- Brew a cup of green tea, allowing the tea bag to soak for about an hour. Let the tea bag cool, and then break the tea bag open and separate the green tea leaves.
- Place the leaves in a mixing bowl, and add the baking soda and honey to create a paste. If the mixture is too thick, add a few drops of water.
- To help the mask penetrate your pores, cleanse your face before applying.
- Once your face is clean, apply the mask evenly over your face, and gently massage to remove dead skin cells and dirt from your pores.
- Leave the mask on your skin for 10 to 15 minutes, and then rinse off with warm water.
- For best results, you can apply the mask one to three times a week.
You can use other variations of the mask, too. For example, you can use:
- 1 tbsp. of granulated sugar instead of baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice instead of honey
- 1 tsp. of green tea powder instead of green tea leaves
5. Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
Among the main benefits of Gotu Kola, also known as Centella Asiatica, are its wound-healing properties. This ancient herb often used in Asian cuisine is now a part of modern skin care due to its wound-healing benefits, says Michelle Wong, PhD, cosmetics chemist and creator of the Lab Muffin Beauty Science blog. Chemicals in the plant boost blood supply to injury sites and strengthen the skin. The combination of amino acids, beta carotene, fatty acids, and phytochemicals help speed healing time, making it a helpful way to treat injuries.
How to Use Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica) for skin
For your own use of Centella Asiatica for wound healing, look for creams that include it as an ingredient. Dr. Wong appreciates La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 Soothing Repairing Balm, and Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream.
6. Grape seed oil
Grape seed oil is a familiar ingredient for skincare products that are all natural. It is a common food ingredient as well. It is squeezed out of grape seeds after the wine ingredient has been extracted. Just like the all-time favorite natural skin care ingredient coconut, grape seed oil also contains a lot of antioxidants, and is rich in linoleic acid. Linoleic acid reduces acne and retains skin moisture.
Grape seed oil, unlike coconut oil, is non-comedogenic, thus it does not clog pores and can be used even on sensitive skins. It can also be used as an eye cream alternative to lighten dark circles. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties. It is a widely used moisturizer for skin that is prone to acne. The best thing about grape seed oil is, it does not leave any residue on the skin. When applied it easily dries up thus it is a good make-up base.
Grape seed oil contains powerful antioxidants and PTOs (proanthocyanidin) that control free radicals working to prevent damage that may be caused by the sun and the lightning of age spots. PTOs also enhance the production of collagen to reducing the fine lines as well as stretch marks.
How to Use Grape Seed Oil for Skin
Using grapeseed oil for your skin can be as simple or as labor-intensive as you’d like. You can purchase pure grapeseed oil and use it in its pure form as a serum on your face, applying it before bed.Mixing a drop of grapeseed oil in your favorite moisturizing face and body creams helps to seal the moisture into your skin.
If you’d prefer, you can heat grapeseed oil slightly by putting some in your palms and rubbing your hands together. Apply a generous amount to your skin as a moisturizing mask.
Mixing grapeseed oil with essential oils, like frankincense or lavender, might make your skin extra soft. Put a few drops of juniper, frankincense, and lavender together in an ounce of grapeseed oil for a mask and leave it on for 10 minutes for a relaxing, spa-like treatment.
You can also purchase grapeseed oil extract in a liquid or capsule form. Taking grapeseed oil orally may improve your skin’s appearance if you take it consistently for a period of several weeks.
7. Shea Butter
The main benefits of Shea butter for the skin are anti-inflammatory and itch relief effects. Derived from the nut of a shea tree, shea butter is an ingredient in many moisturizers. "It seems to hydrate skin effectively because it's loaded with fatty acids," Geraghty says. These nutrients have a calming and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. She says shea butter might be most useful for treating and soothing eczema. Clinical studies using shea butter as a treatment for eczema in children showed less itching within 4 weeks, and another study with adults showed improvement in 2 weeks. Geraghty points out another plus of the natural moisturizer: Shea butter doesn't seem to produce skin allergies often, which makes it right even for the most sensitive skin types.
The easiest way to use shea butter for your face is to purchase a cream that includes shea butter from a health food store or pharmacy. Shea butter can be applied directly to your face before you go to sleep. Applying cream with shea butter as part of your skincare routine in the morning might take some getting used to. The fatty acids and oils in shea butter may make applying makeup on top of it difficult.
How to Use Shea Butter for Skin
You can also make a facial mask using shea butter and several other ingredients. Wash your face first with a cream cleanser or warm water.
To make your own mask, mix together:
- 1 tbsp of raw honey
- 3 to 4 drops of grapeseed oil
- 1 tbsp of pure shea butter
- Mix well and spread out over your face. Leave the mask on for 10 to 12 minutes before gently cleansing your face with warm water and a soft washcloth for best results.
Take care with these facial masks as it may promote acne if you are prone to it.
8. Apple cider vinegar
Another commonly known natural skin care product is apple cider vinegar. This substance contains a potent acetic acid, making it brilliant at skin cleansing, killing off fungi, bacteria, and other pathogens in the skin and is a capable stopper for acne. Apple cider vinegar’s beneficial effects even extend internally for when ingested, it promotes a healthy level of bacteria in the digestive tract and even optimises liver function.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) for Skin
Before you jump right in and add an apple cider vinegar toner or soak to your skin care regimen, know this: ACV is not a cure-all, and might not be for everyone. “While it may be helpful for some people’s skin issues, it’s important to know there haven’t been any good studies to support the claims people make about using ACV as a skin treatment.” says Raechele Cochran Gathers, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of MDhairmixtress.com. Always check with your dermatologist first. ACV is acidic, and there are reported cases of people having severe skin irritation and even burns on the skin using it.” If you do get the go-ahead from a doctor, here’s how to apply apple cider vinegar gently and safely to your skin, according to Dr. Gathers.
- Test It First: Always do a spot test first on a discreet area (think: under your jawline) before swiping it onto your entire face.
- ACV Facial Toner: To help clear excess oil or relieve acne-prone skin, try this toner solution. Dilute 1 tablespoon ACV in 2 cups of water. Using a cotton ball or round, swab the mixture gently over your skin, then rinse. “Don’t go all in right away,” Gathers suggests. “Start by using it two to three days a week to see how you react.”
- ACV for Eczema: Mix 1 cup ACV into a tub of lukewarm bath water. Soak the affected areas for 15 to 20 minutes then rinse off with cool water. Follow with a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer.
Among the main benefits of soy for the skin are that it inhibits pigmentation, and improves collagen production. Soybeans contain a variety of plant-based chemicals that impact the skin. Among them are antioxidants, fatty acids, and isoflavones. The legume also produces estrogens or phytoestrogens that address skin conditions related to menopause.
"One of the reasons we believe that a woman's skin turgor and brightness decreases after menopause is because of decreased estrogen," says Papri Sarkar, MD, a dermatologist in Brookline, MA. "Topical estrogens have been shown to help decrease UV-induced pigmentation and can improve collagen synthesis." She says soy won't offer as robust results as retinoids, but it’s another option for patients looking to address these conditions. The isoflavones in soy also offer sun protection that can help address pigmentation to keep skin even, according to research.
How to Use Soy for Skin
You can find soy as an ingredient in different cosmetic products available or make your own treatment with soy milk. For example, with a surge of Vitamin E, soy milk helps renew dead skin cells and moisturises the skin. To truly reap its benefits, give yourself a soy facial by leaving it on your face and neck area for 20 minutes. Do this thrice a week for unbeatable results.
Oatmeal has anti-inflammatory and eczema relief properties. It also has moisturizing beta glucans and starches. It's the reason why oatmeal baths are so effective for conditions like eczema and rashes." But not all oatmeal is created equal, Geraghty says. "Colloidal oatmeal is powder that's derived from grinding and preparing oats into very tiny, specific sizes," she says. This size and quality of oats is what makes the ingredient so therapeutic and able to blend with water to form a soothing paste. "I like colloidal oatmeal products because they're gentle and safe, and studies show they don't tend to cause allergies or irritation," Geraghty says. "I've found that if my eczema patients develop gentle skin care habits and regularly slather on a thick moisturiser containing colloidal oatmeal, they don't need topical steroids as much or as often."
How to Use Oatmeal for Skin
To prepare a simple face mask with oatmeal, take five tablespoons of oatmeal and add water to make a smooth paste. Apply the mixture onto your face evenly and wait for 20 minutes. Rinse it off with lukewarm water. Note that milk can be used instead of water to make your skin even more supple and soft. In addition, Dr. Wong recommends the range by Aveeno, Soothing Oatmeal Bath.
11. Argan oil
Many regard Argan oil as a super skincare ingredient. This is so because it is rich in natural Vitamin E, essential fatty acids and antioxidants. It is effective in reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines as well as scarring and stretch marks. It also works well in fighting the early signs of sun damage and aging as well as enhancing the elasticity of the skin.
Argan oil is often an important natural ingredient in facial moisturisers, facial cleansers, eye creams, anti-aging skincare and make-up products.
How to Use Argan Oil for Skin
To use Argan oil, keep in mind that it is a potent product, so a little bit is all you need. Pour 1-2 drops of the oil on your palm and massage the product onto your face, dabbing and rubbing it lightly all over. Let the oil air-dry. The skin will absorb the oil fast and it will feel smooth and hydrated.
12. East Indian sandalwood (Sandalwood album oil)
Sandalwood album oil (SAO), also known as East Indian sandalwood oil (EISO), is an essential oil distilled from the Santalum album tree and has demonstrated biological activity as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antiproliferative agent. This essential oil effectively quells the proliferation of bacteria on the skin, and it calms down inflammation as quickly as any commercially available pimple cream out there. Sandalwood album oil has also shown promise in clinical trials for treatment of acne, psoriasis, eczema, common warts, and molluscum contagiosum. The favourable safety profile, ease of topical use, and recent availability of pharmaceutical-grade sandalwood album oil support its broader use as the basis of novel therapies in dermatology.
How to Use Sandalwood Album Oil for Skin
East Indian Sandalwood is perfect for treating a particularly rebellious breakout. It’s best applied by mixing it with almond oil, as just slathering it all over your face outright can make you end up feeling quite irritated. About two or three drops of East Indian Sandalwood in 180 mL of almond oil should be enough.
13. Sea salt
Salt absorbs dirt, grime, and toxins and cleanses your skin's pores deeply. Salt's mineral content helps restore the protective barrier in skin and helps it hold hydration.
“Board-certified dermatologists are recommending sea salt baths for patients with psoriasis, eczema, and other dry skin conditions,” explains Dr. Sapna Palep, a board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology. This comes as no surprise, especially when you consider that sea salt baths can help calm the symptoms of certain skin conditions. “Salt baths can help remove scales and decrease the bothersome itching caused by psoriasis,” explains board-certified dermatopathologist, Dr. Gretchen Frieling. She also points out that sea salts may help people dealing with acne and atopic dermatitis.
How to Use Sea Salt for Skin
To try a bath of sea salt, add one-third cup of epsom salt to a tub filled with warm water, and swish to dissolve the salt. Soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Additionally, sea salts should be applied topically, and they work best when mixed into a facial scrub with raw honey and avocado, which are also fantastic antioxidants. A good mix would be one part sea salt for every two parts of honey and avocado, though you can experiment with mixture ratios to find the best one for you.
14. Coffee beans
Caffeic acid, a component in coffee beans, is an antioxidant, that may boost collagen levels and reduce the premature ageing of cells. Caffeic acid also has antimicrobial properties, which means that it may help protect the skin against germs, however, confirming these findings will require more studies. In testing, it was proven that coffee bean products caused dramatic improvements in people who have developed wrinkles and pigmentation.
How to Use Coffee Beans for SkinTo make a simple exfoliating scrub, combine:
- one-quarter cup fresh coffee grounds
- one-quarter cup brown sugar
- enough lemon juice for the desired consistency
- Scrub the mixture into the skin once every few days after washing the body.
- Let the scrub sit on the skin for a few minutes, then rinse it off.
Coffee may also help treat stubborn dark circles under the eyes, according to Beverly Hills MD Cosmeceuticals. This is because the caffeine content in coffee is thought to help dilate blood vessels that contribute to dark circles.
To use coffee for dark under-eye circles:
- Combine ½ tsp each of coffee grounds and olive oil. Add in a couple drops of water to make a small paste in your hand.
- Gently pat underneath your eyes without rubbing.
- Leave the mixture on for five to ten minutes.
- Rinse off with water or gently wipe the mask with a soft cloth. Repeat as often as needed
These little fruits are well-regarded by dermatologists to be one of the most efficacious natural skin brighteners. The chief selling point of bearberry extract is its abundant levels of arbutin, which is a powerful deterrent for the development of dark spots on your skin. Still, bearberry extract isn’t as potent as the more common hydroquinone, but due to its natural, unadulterated nature, it’s considered to be much safer. Unlike hydroquinone, bearberry extract is safe to use during pregnancy or when nursing.
How to Use Bearberry for Skin
To include Bearberries on your skincare routine, you may look among the wide range of skincare brands that contain either bearberry extract or arbuting, which both bring the brightening effects to our skin.
16. Raw Honey
Raw honey is one of the best natural sources of nutrients, enzymes, vitamins and skin-boosting acids. Benefits of raw honey include reducing breakouts, providing moisturizing properties, containing antiseptic qualities, encouraging wound healing, fighting allergies or rashes, and helping to reduce scars. Raw honey is unheated, unprocessed and unpasteurised unlike most honeys available in grocery stores. Therefore, it is able to keep all of its nutrients intact as they’re not destroyed by processing.
As an antimicrobial honey is particularly suitable as a dressing for wounds and burns. It’s also been included in treatments used to heal bacterial infections, dandruff, diaper dermatitis, psoriasis and more.
Honey also makes a great homemade natural skin care product as an acne cure because it can be used in facial cleansers even on sensitive or mixed skin types.
How to Use Honey for Skin
To use, take half a teaspoon, warm between hands and spread on face gently, leave on for 10 minutes then rinse with warm water and pat dry. To use it as an exfoliator for dry winter skin, try adding two cups of honey to a bath, soak for 15 minutes, then add one cup of baking soda for the final 15 minutes.
An ultra-moisturising fatty fruit, the benefits of avocados include containing vitamins A, D and E that are able to penetrate the skin. It helps soothe sunburned skin, can boost collagen production and treat age spots. It also works to reduce inflammation of the skin when applies topically and can do the same internally when eaten. Dermatologist Nina Roos adds that avocado can be responsible for ensuring effective cell repair.
How to Use Avocado for Skin
Somewhat surprisingly, applying avocado oil directly onto skin can help reduce the outward signs of ageing thanks to its regenerating properties. Whip up a Homemade Avocado Face Mask with fresh avocado combined with essential oils, honey or a carrier oil to replenish hydration and leave skin feeling dewy
18. Lemon Essential Oil
With its strong antibacterial constituents capable of reducing even fatally dangerous bacteria strains, lemon essential oil can be used to diminish acne breakouts caused by high levels of bacteria stuck in pores. (4) It’s also useful for fading scars and age spots, can exfoliate skin, brighten and lighten skin, tone oily skin and fight wrinkles.
Lemon oil is one of the most versatile essential oils to have on hand because it can be used as a teeth whitener, laundry freshener, cellulite cream, face wash and household cleaner! Mix it with a carrier oil like jojoba oil and massage into troubled areas of the skin. You can also use it on your hair to boost shine and remove residue.
How to Use Lemon Essential Oil for Skin
Test the mixture on a small, inconspicuous area of your skin before you apply it somewhere sensitive, like your face. If after 24 hours you see redness or irritation, don’t use the mixture. To avoid skin damage, make sure you wash off lemon oil before exposing your skin to sunlight.
19. Aloe Vera
Most people associate aloe vera benefits with healing sunburns, but did you know that aloe also contains bacteria-fighting, soothing ingredients that fight inflammation, redness and itching? For hundreds of years aloe has been used to treat skin diseases, infections and as a natural treatment for fungal diseases in traditional Chinese medicine.
Recent research results suggest that aloe vera is effective for burns and wound healing, but surprisingly it also detoxifies you from the inside out. So much so that when taken orally, aloe can even decrease the number and size of tumours and parasites in the liver, spleen and bone marrow.
Aloe vera plants produce two substances used for medicine: the gel found in the cells in the centre of the leaf, and the latex that’s obtained from the cells just beneath the leaves’ skin. These can be used as a natural skin care remedy for burns, frostbite, psoriasis and cold sores.
Aloe vera is considered to be the most biologically active form of the Aloe barbadensis miller species and holds more than 75 potentially active ingredients including anti-inflammatories, vitamins, minerals, saccharides, amino acids, fatty acids, enzymes, lignin and salicylic acids. There are what gives aloe its signature anti-microbial and antifungal properties that make it a “photodynamic therapy” for healing skin.
How to Use Aloe Vera for Skin
To use aloe vera on you face, cut a piece of aloe vera leaf, cut out thorns and rub it from gel-side on the face. You can also scrape some sap from the leaves of aloe vera plant using a knife to extract fresh aloe vera gel. Gel from two leaves would be enough. Take out more if you need.
Aloe is generally safe for most people, but if you have an underlying health condition or take medicines or use herbs, talk to your doctor before using aloe as it could react with other medications and substances.
These natural ingredients above described can help battle breakouts, soothe irritation, fight skin oxidation, treat uneven pigmentation, and even prevent sun damage, in some cases. However, most of us think that "natural" is code for better. Unfortunately, just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients, there are good and bad natural ones. To help you with your selection, consult your preferred skin-care expert to assess the natural ingredients that could prove to be the most effective to your own particular case.