With countless kinds of skincare products available on the market, it can seem impossible to know the right thing to do for your skin. Brands throw around words like “natural,” “organic,” and “clean,” but what do they actually mean? Are products with these labels on them actually better for your skin?
Clean beauty expert and makeup artist Katey Denno says that, surprisingly, there are no governmental or beauty industry standards when it comes to defining “organic,” “natural,” “green,” “clean,” “botanically-derived,” or even “non-toxic” products (Denno herself prefers to use the term “non-toxic.”) She continues, “Anyone can—and many do—imprint such words on packaging to entice the consumer into thinking they’re choosing products that have been thoroughly evaluated for safety and developed using only the best of the best ingredients.”
Her best advice is to take a look at the ingredients in and the supply chains of the products. Many brands ensure that the farmers they source their ingredients from are actually growing said ingredients. “Clean” brands also ensure that these fresh-farmed ingredients are not mixed with synthetic fragrances or toxic preservatives. Denno also places an emphasis on transparency when it comes to knowing how products are formulated and how that translates to the effectiveness and cost of the product from the consumer’s standpoint.
One great resource that’s easy to follow is Sephora’s “Clean At Sephora” label, which is applied to every product that is free of the following ingredients: sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban. The products also have to contain less than one percent synthetic fragrances.
So, with that in mind, here are a few clean and natural skincare products that you can use to replace the products in your current routine, sorted by category.
Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser
Glow Recipe’s Blueberry Bounce cleanser is the perfect everyday wet cleanser for all skin types. It can be used day or night, in the shower or at your sink. It cleanses the skin while simultaneously hydrating and plumping the skin to leave a K-beauty-worthy glow.
Micellar Cleansing Water
Micellar water doesn’t get much better than this one from Caudalie. It works well for all skin types and gently removes makeup and oil with just a swipe of a cotton pad. This solution also doubles as a toner to combat dullness and uneven texture.
Make Up-Break Up Cool Cleansing Oil
If you’re someone who likes to double or triple cleanse and want to use an oil as the first step, this one from Boscia is the best start to your routine. It’s a lightweight, refreshing oil that gently melts away makeup without greasiness. It also simultaneously moisturizes your skin while you cleanse.
Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk
REN Clean Skincaredermstore.com
For a gentle cleanser that helps with redness, inflammation, and irritation, this Ren offering is a great option for all skin types. It has a creamy, milky formula that relieves rosacea and is suitable for sensitive skin. It also doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight or squeaky after cleansing, so you can go into the rest of your routine with a face that feels refreshed.
The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder
As someone who has used this exfoliant every night for the past year, I can confidently say that this one is a total game-changer. It’s an exfoliant that turns into a foam when it’s mixed with water so that it gently exfoliates the skin without stripping its moisture.
TATA HARPER SKINCAREnordstrom.com
Formulated to benefit dry and combination skin types, this exfoliant works to combat dullness, uneven texture, enlarged pores, and dryness. Apricot microspheres gently exfoliate the skin to smooth over rough texture, while willow bark extract clears out pores, and olive oil moisturizes the skin.
If you love how your face looks after you get a peel during a facial, these exfoliating wipes from Go-To are the next best thing. The pads are soaked in an AHA serum that gently exfoliates your skin without penetrating the skin’s moisture barrier to combat acne, blemishes, dullness, and uneven texture.
Australian Pink Clay Flash Perfection Exfoliating Treatment
Sand & Skysephora.com
This exfoliating treatment is the perfect blend between a mask and exfoliant. You can use it on damp skin and leave it on for a couple minutes, or just rinse it off the way you would with a normal exfoliant. Australian clay, finger lime, and macadamia shell powder work together to help diminish the appearance of pores, blemishes, and oiliness.
Heard of the “penis facial”? This BioEffect serum promises to deliver the same results as the facial for a fraction of the cost. You’ll be left with plump, youthful-looking skin worthy of a red carpet appearance.
Strawberry-C Brightening Serum
Another vitamin C serum with a different fruit inspiration, this one from Volition is sure to leave your skin looking fresh and dewy. In addition to the strawberry extract, it also contains Kakadu plum and hyaluronic acid to make skin appear luminous and maintain the skin’s elasticity.
Golden Krocus Elixir
This serum uses the power of saffron to provide a solution for fine lines, uneven skin tone, discoloration, and loss of firmness and elasticity. It’s a lightweight formula that mixes well with other skincare, and can be used in both AM and PM routines.
Wild Dew Treatment Essence
Peach and Lilypeachandlily.com
P&L’s founder, Alicia Yoon, created this in-house line as a clean and natural skincare solution for her eczema, and this essence is a welcome addition to any routine. It’s a watery serum that works well as the first step of your regimen to soften and prep the skin for your next products. I strongly recommend using this right after you get out of the shower and/or after you wash your face at night. It’s especially effective after your pores have been opened by hot water.
Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner
If you’re acne-prone and need a toner that will help neutralize your skin, this one from Herbivore is a great match. Jasmine, willow bark, green tea, and witch hazel all work together to combat oiliness and lift impurities from the skin.
Coconut Rose Toner
This multi-tasking toner can be used as a face primer, setting spray, and a facial mist throughout the day. The coconut extract, rose extract, and witch hazel are all crucial ingredients to help minimize dryness, redness, and uneven skin tone.
Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil – Gluten-Free and Vegan Anti-Aging Skin Care and Face Moisturizer (30ml/1 fl oz)
This light facial oil from Drunk Elephant is an excellent addition to any skincare routine. It’s high in antioxidants to protect skin and enforce hydration.
Emerald CBD + Adaptogens Deep Moisture Glow Oil
Herbivore’s take on the CBD trend is a great one. Their Emerald facial oil works for combination and oily skin types to hydrate and make skin appear glowy without looking greasy.
Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil
This oil from Biossance is packed full of three super ingredients: squalane, vitamin C, and rose. Squalane is intensely hydrating, vitamin C is brightening, and rose is soothing to reveal dewy, plump skin.
Superberry Hydrate + Glow Oil
Youth To The Peoplesephora.com
This oil helps skin feel super smooth and even. Acai and goji berry protect the skin against free radicals, while squalane and prickly pear hydrate the skin and lock in moisture. Meanwhile, omega fatty acids and vitamin C brighten, and jojoba and sunflower oil illuminate.
GinZing Energy-Boosting Gel Moisturizer
This gel moisturizer plumps and hydrates skin without weighing it down. Ginseng and coffee bean help wake up your skin, making this the ideal moisturizer to add to your morning skincare routine.
The Dewy Skin Cream
This new addition to Tatcha’s Dewy product line is definitely a great one. Like other products from the line, it leaves skin glistening and glowy without feeling greasy or slick. The Dewy Skin Cream is intensely hydrating so it can be used day or night, and just a little product goes a long way.
Honey Drop Lightweight Moisturizer
Honey is well-known as a hydrating ingredient high in antioxidants, so all of Farmacy’s Honey Drop line is perfect for people looking to simultaneously moisturize and protect their skin.
Replenishing Night Cream
This all-in-one moisturizer is the ultimate nighttime treatment to hydrate, plump, brighten, and firm the skin while you sleep. It is made with sandalwood nut oil, linseed extract, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and infuse the skin with serious moisture. It’s also certified organic by the USDA.
RESTORE Healing Balm
This plant-based balm is a great natural alternative to petroleum jelly and other treatments like Aquaphor, though it has the same consistency and same results. It’s a treatment designed to seal in wounds, heal rough patches on the skin, and instantly hydrate wherever it is applied.
Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel
Whenever you get a zit and need a spot treatment to zap it away, this gel from Origins is one that you can trust. Its key ingredient is saw palmetto, which helps control oil, reduces shine, and prevents future breakouts.
SPF 37 Advanced Anti-Aging Eye Cream
The eye area has some of the most delicate skin on your whole face, especially when it comes to sun damage. This eye cream is not only hydrating and replenishing, but it also has SPF in it to provide some extra protection.
Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel
Much like its corresponding face oil, this squalane and peptide-infused eye treatment is a lightweight, hydrating, and plumping serum suitable for the delicate area around your eyes. The gel formula feels weightless on the skin and also works to reduce puffiness, discoloration, and fine lines.
Brightening Eye Cream Hydrate & Depuff
In my opinion, Sephora Collection’s skincare line is supremely underrated, especially for the price point-to-quality ratio. This eye cream is nourishing and moisturizing for the under eye to help relieve puffiness, dryness, and darkness.
Noni Radiant Eye Oil, 10ml
While formulas are usually cream, Kora created this eye oil for people who need an extra boost of moisture in the under eye region. It helps smooth, tone, and brighten, especially if you have discoloration or any rough texture in that area.
Burt’s Bees Lip Balm Blister Box
This one is a no-brainer. It’s available at every drugstore and supermarket, and is well-loved for good reason. The beeswax in the formula is hydrating and works well to soothe and repair chapped lips. With continued use, it also helps prevent further damage to the lips.
Drunk Elephant Lippe Balm
This lip balm is fitting for people who like something that feels a little slick and smooth on the lips. Though it isn’t necessarily oily, it glides across the lips with ease and fully moisturizes for a plump pout.
AcaiFusion Lip Balm Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Lips are often forgotten about when discussing sun protection, but SPF for your lips is definitely a must. Who better to turn to than everyone’s favorite sun care brand, Supergoop? The AcaiFusion Lip Balm is both sun protecting and moisturizing to help prevent sunburn—and soothe existing ones.
Agave Lip Mask
Though this product from Bite Beauty is marketed as a lip mask, it can be used everyday as a lip balm as well. The thick formula is effortlessly hydrating, and the moisturizing effects last long after the product itself has worn away. It can be worn alone as a gloss (especially in the tinted colors), or under your other lip products.
Watermelon + AHA Glow Sleeping Mask
Like the corresponding moisturizer, this mask works really well for combination, oily, and acne-prone skin. It layers over your normal nighttime skincare to seal in all of the benefits of your products, while also delivering lasting hydration and oil control that will continue working throughout the day after the product has been washed off.
Summer Fridays Overtime Mask
As far as exfoliating masks go, this is one of the best. It contains pumpkin to brighten the skin, oat kernel proteins for antioxidant power, and the apricot seed powder in it to gently exfoliate your skin as you rinse it off. After using, your skin looks fresh and bright, and is perfectly primed for your normal nighttime skincare.
Violet-C Radiance Mask
This mask is wonderful if you’re looking to totally zone out and relax with a brightening mask on. The Violet-C mask is most effective when it’s worn for around 40 minutes so that your skin can absorb the benefits from the Japanese beauty berry, vitamin C, and AHAs from seven other fruits in it. It’s a thick, creamy formula that dries down and rinses off easily with warm water.