Can Natural Skincare Really Be Effective?

The short answer? Absolutely, yes!

The long answer—which you’ll love if you’re a skincare geek—involves diving a little deeper into the world of natural beauty.

As you probably know, natural skincare continues to boom in popularity, as people are becoming more and more conscious of what goes in—and on—their bodies. Seeking alternatives to synthetic ingredients is no longer a “hippie dippie” move since there’s a growing body of research that shows certain skincare ingredients may be harmful, toxic or even potentially cancer-causing. (And even if research hasn’t substantiated some of these claims, the mere controversy turns people off.) There’s also growing body of research showing the extraordinary benefits of plants, minerals and other elements of our Earth.

There’s no doubt natural skincare has come a long way. Even only a short five years ago, the jury was out on the efficacy of natural ingredients. Could they really work? Were they as effective as man-made ingredients?

An increasing number of plant-derived ingredients proving to be highly effective in skincare. Over time, these natural ingredients may even eclipse synthetic ones and take center stage in the beauty industry.

Now let’s dig deeper.

First: What “Natural” Really Means

One of the most important facts to bear in mind is that “natural” is an unregulated term. The U.S. government doesn’t regulate whether a product that’s dubbed “natural” actually contains mostly plant-based ingredients. This is why it’s totally possible to buy a “natural” product that had good marketing behind it—but can’t deliver on its promise.

The term “organic,” however, is somewhat regulated. If you see organic on a product label, then the product may have been certified by the USDA. Look for the USDA-certified logo to be doubly sure. If you do see the label, that means the ingredient or ingredients in the product have been grown and processed strictly without fertilizers or pesticides. It also means there are no genetically modified organisms in the product. So remember: Organic is regulated, natural is not.

Nonetheless, when people say “natural,” they typically mean ingredients that are botanically derived, such as extracts and oils. Ingredients like Licorice, Aloe Vera, Feverfew, Acai Berry, Green tea, Soy and Turmeric have been found effective in the treatments of a variety of skin conditions.[1] Colloidal Oatmeal and Aloe Vera, for example, have been clinically proven to work against psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, respectively, because they both exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Oatmeal has also been found to have antioxidant properties that make it ideal in the treatment of skin issues like pruritus, atopic dermatitis, acne eruptions and viral infections.[2] Sometimes you might see natural on a product label and be intrigued, but it’s always best to actually check the ingredients label yourself to make sure that they do in fact contain what’s promised.

The Efficacy of Plant-Derived Ingredients

Plant oils are essentially what fuel plants and keep them protected. Think of them as nutrients that feed and nourish the plant, helping them grow and flourish. Plants also have the ability to protect themselves from UV radiation, which make them beneficial since you can apply these same effects to people.[3]

There are quite a few natural, plant-derived ingredients that provide a variety of skin health benefits. From treating acne to reducing redness and hyperpigmentation, these ingredients can be just as effective as manmade ingredients, and sometimes even more so. Here are some prime examples:

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is so effective as a treatment that it’s commonly used in hospitals to soothe and calm damaged skin. A species of the aloe plant that grows in tropical areas throughout the globe, aloe vera has moisturizing, anti-aging and anti-acne benefits. Aloe is moisturizing and anti-aging because it stimulates fibroblasts (cells in connective tissue that produce collagen), which then produce collagen and the elastin fibers necessary to make skin more supple. The increased collagen production also softens and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. As for its anti-acne properties, Aloe Vera boasts six anti-septic agents, including salicylic acid, cinnamonic acid, urea nitrogen and sulfur, all of which inhibit the growth of fungi, viruses and bacteria.[4]

Products containing Aloe Vera:


Licorice extract is a natural ingredient excellent in the fight against photoaging and hyperpigmentation. It works by inhibiting melanin (pigment) production, thereby reducing age spots and hyperpigmentation left over from acne scars. It is also a great natural alternative to hydroquinone, a powerful skin-lightening chemical that’s known to have carcinogenic properties. Licorice extract is considered the safest natural skin lightener with the fewest side effects. It contains several compounds that inhibit tyrosinase, the enzyme that controls melanin production. Another ingredient in licorice, liquiritin, helps induce skin lightening by dispersing melanin.[5]

Green Tea

Studies show that the epicatechin derivatives of green tea, commonly called polyphenols, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Clinical trials in humans have shown green tea polyphenols to be particularly effective in the prevention of solar UVB light-induced skin disorders. These disorders include photoaging, melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers.[6] Cosmetically, the polyphenols in green tea help reduce discoloration caused by acne scars or sun exposure. The antioxidants in green tea are also quite potent against free radicals, molecules that cause damage to cells. The antioxidants are able to ward off the damage before it’s done.

Products containing Green Tea:

Colloidal Oatmeal

Colloidal Oatmeal has a wide range of benefits for the skin. It has protective and water-holding functions that make it ideal as a moisturizer. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that soothe redness and fight free radical damage, making for smoother, softer and more radiant skin. Some of its phenols have also been found to be highly protective against ultraviolet damage. It can even be used as a cleanser due to saponins. This is why you can find it as an ingredient in moisturizers, cleansers, buffers and in anti-inflammatory creams.[7]

Products containing Oatmeal:


As long as you find a brand that sources the highest-quality ingredients, commits to transparency and truly knows how to concoct synergistic formulas, natural skincare can definitely transform your skin. Stay smart and do your research—and watch where the earth’s bounty can take your complexion!