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Organic Beauty Stripped Bare

Skincare and make-up brands are casting aside the chemicals and going back to basics, using natural and organic ingredients. We may identify goji berries, honey and saffron as edible, but they’re doing wonders for our skin too

For years, health devotees have been downing green juice before slathering on a chemical-rich moisturiser or a bronzer full of unpronounceable ingredients. Now, with more conscious and demanding consumers, skincare brands are wising up and producing products that are free from commonly found nasties such as parabens, phthalates and petrochemicals. Natural, organic (using natural ingredients grown with no chemicals) and even vegan skincare is experiencing a serious upswing. Earlier this year, the Soil Association stated that sales of organic health and beauty products have increased by more than 20 per cent, and the UK market is now worth around £61m. 

“[It] has evolved quite dramatically,” says Margaret Mitchell, group buying director at Space.NK. “The customer who buys into ‘green’ brands has diversified – they are no longer a smaller, targeted group of customers.”

Why? Firstly, vanity. Quite simply, chemicals and pesticides can cause redness and breakouts. Alice Leeburn, senior editor of beauty at Stylus, explains, “Choosing beauty products that do not contain synthetic chemicals and fragrances can help minimise skin irritation.” 

The customer who buys into ‘green’ brands has diversified – they are no longer a smaller, targeted group of customers

The second issue, she tells me, is health concerns. “The problem with all these chemicals is the unknown: the potential harm these toxins could be causing.”  

Thirdly, many believe that ethically, not testing on animals and improving soil condition should be a priority. Sewage systems cannot always cope with microbeads found in many face scrubs, and the particles pollute bodies of water and their wildlife. “Organic products have usually been produced using more sustainable methods… and will be more biodegradable than their non-organic counterparts due to pesticide-free farming,” finishes Leeburn.

But savvy consumers are demanding that natural ingredients do not come at the expense of results. “Product efficacy also needs to be high and proven,” affirms Leeburn. Mitchell agrees. “Game-changing innovation... from brands such as Tata Harper, Kat Burki and REN stand up confidently within high-tech skincare, not just green skincare.” 

Romilly Wilde’s oils and serums contain cells taken from plants (saffron, turmeric, jasmine and osmanthus) that are able to survive in extreme environments. These hold on to a ‘mother cell’ that, once removed, gives energy to each skin cell, boosting cellular function. Beauty brand Kjær Weis’s make-up brushes are all vegan (made with high-tech synthetic fibres rather than animal hair) and its eyeshadows involve no animal testing or by-products. Crucially, packaging is chic and products weighty, in the understanding that women want their luxury items to look and feel lovely. 

Cult Beauty, the curated online beauty store and editorial site, has seen sales in its natural beauty category grow by 103 per cent in the past 12 months. Many of its brands use ingredients grown on their own farms, made up in small batches to ensure freshness and deliver natural actives at their most potent and bioavailable. One such brand is Farmacy: its Honey Potion mask contains honey, propolis, royal jelly and echinacea purpurea. 

Packaging is chic and products weighty, in the understanding that women want their luxury items to look and feel lovely

As for where natural skincare and beauty is going: “It will get more scientific,” says Leeland, as “advances in biotechnology will offer more sustainable alternatives to traditional raw materials and mass-produced chemical-laden synthetics.”

For now, the trend is even extending to nails. Nails Inc launched its new acai bowl collection last month, available in shades such as Eaton Row (lilac) and James Street (nude), containing the ingredients acai, chia, goji and moringa. The future, it seems, is glowing green.