The Ingredients to Look for in the Best Natural Lotion
The world of natural body care and beauty products is ever-expanding. New natural skin and hair care solutions are popping up left and right. The trouble is: “Natural” doesn’t need to follow any particular guidelines by law.
The world of natural body care and beauty products is ever-expanding. Whether you’re looking for bath and body wash, body moisturizer, body oil, shampoo, conditioner, or facial products, new natural skincare solutions are popping up left and right.
The trouble is that the word itself — “natural” — doesn’t really follow any particular guidelines by law. There’s no sanctioned governing body overseeing how the term is used. There are legal standards for organic ingredients, which is great, but there are a lot of high-quality companies out there using natural ingredients that don’t spend the money on USDA organic certification. How best to find them?
There are some great resources to help you find what you’re looking for. The big two are the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Natural Ingredient Resource Center (NIRC). Using the EWG and NIRC as our gold standard, in addition to our own standards for which ingredients are best for which skin types and skin conditions, we’ve come up with a master list of ingredients to look for when searching for the best natural lotions on the market.
EWG and NIRC Standards
The EWG’s mission statement is to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, we drive consumer choice and civic action.” Their goals are both to educate and advocate for clean products and foods, offering guidance around how to shop for food, body care, household products, and even specifically products for children and babies. They offer an EWG Verified™ label and a Skin Deep® Database of Cosmetics to help you sort through all of the products they’ve approved. (There’s a lot!)
- Plant, animal, mineral, or microbial ingredients
- Present in or produced by nature
- Produced using minimal physical processing.
- Directly extracted using simple methods, simple chemical reactions or resulting from naturally occurring biological processes
The NIRC has three tiers of approval: 100% Natural, Natural, and Made with/from Natural Ingredients. Each of these has a separate set of requirements, the first being the strictest, the latter being the least. The first two allow for the NIRC’s Truth in Labeling seal to be displayed on the package, while the third tier doesn’t.
How to Read a Natural Lotion Label
It’s always important to remember that what you put on your skin is as important as what you put in your mouth. A good rule of thumb when it comes to processed foods is that if your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, don’t eat it (paraphrased from Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules”). Said another way, avoid the unpronounceables.
While natural body lotions don’t always follow this rule to a T, due to the need for some natural preservatives that might be harder to pronounce, it’s still a great rule to live by. Some exceptions include:
- Dehydroacetic acid
- Benzyl alcohol
- Sodium benzoate
Although that’s not a comprehensive list of natural preservatives, those are the big ones. And of course, there are some natural preservative ingredients that are pronounceable and recognizable for what they are. Those include:
- Essential oils (like rosemary, citrus, lemon)
- Vegetable glycerin
- Vitamin E (listed as tocopherols or mixed tocopherols)
Best Ingredients for Natural Moisturizing Lotion
Whether you’re on the hunt for facial moisturizer, body cream, hand and body lotion, whipped body butter, or even baby lotion, the best ingredients are actually pretty streamlined.
The best moisturizing ingredients for the base of your cream or lotion, also called carriers, are the oils and butters you’ve probably seen hundreds of times on labels (and sometimes in your kitchen):
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Grape seed oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Jojoba oil
- Sunflower oil
- Avocado oil
- Safflower oil
- Almond oil
While most of these base ingredients are good for all skin types, some are better than others for particular conditions. Coconut oil, for example is not the best for acne-prone or dry skin, but fine for normal skin. Jojoba oil, while incredibly moisturizing, is also not ideal for acne-prone skin. Better for acne are grape seed oil, hemp oil, safflower oil, and the slightly pricier rosehip oil, evening primrose oil, and argan oil. These oils are higher in linoleic acid, which offers better support for acne.
Feel makes Bright Daily Squalane and Facial oil, packed with acne-fighting ingredients, including rosehip and vitamin C, which is a great option for a facial moisturizer. If you’re using these ingredients as a base for body lotion and don’t get body acne, then you’re probably fine using any of these ingredients either pure or in combination with other ingredients in a natural product.
For those with sensitive skin, the most important guideline to follow is to opt for fragrance-free lotions listed as gentle and hypoallergenic. While some essential oil fragrances might be OK for your skin type, you might want to spot test any natural lotion containing essential oils as fragrances, just to be on the safe side. Even natural ingredients can be irritating for certain skin types. A great base for sensitive skin is almond oil, as it’s rich in vitamin E, which promotes healing.
Some of these ingredients absorb more quickly than others, so make sure your lotion is completely absorbed before you dress. You don’t want to get any greasy residue on your clothing.
Antioxidant ingredients help smooth skin tone, prevent the appearance of fine line and wrinkles, tighten sagging skin, and even replenish nutrients that promote collagen production. The best way to stave off the signs of aging is to combine topical antioxidants with dietary ones. Eating the rainbow (fruits and vegetables of every color) is a good way to ensure that you’re ingesting a wide array of antioxidant nutrients that will help keep your skin looking young and bright.
Another great use for antioxidants is to help prevent stretch marks. While most experts agree that there’s no fool-proof way to prevent stretch marks, there are a number of belly butter and belly balm formulas available that are packed with deep moisturizers and antioxidants to attempt to keep the skin supple as it stretches.
Some of the best and most healing antioxidant ingredients include:
- Vitamin C: promotes collagen production and cell turnover by absorbing deep into the skin matrix.
- Green Tea: works as an anti inflammatory on the skin, reducing redness and irritation, in addition helping smooth blotchy skin and clear up acne. The main active ingredient in green tea are compounds called polyphenols.
- Aloe Vera Gel: famous for sunscreen and bug bite relief, aloe is a deeply healing and moisturizing antioxidant ingredient. It helps reduce redness and inflammation in addition to offering protection against some topical bacterial infections.
- Hyaluronic acid: often used in facial moisturizers or on its own before the moisturizer, hyaluronic acid is considered an antioxidant humectant. In other words, it locks moisture into the skin, helping your skin look plumper and you look younger.
Know Your Products
We’ve outlined the most ideal ingredients to look for in a natural lotion, taking your skin type into account in addition to the EWG and NIRC standards. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to read your body care labels and how to look for the EWG or the NIRC seals of approval when shopping for your next bottle of natural lotion or moisturizer.