by guest blogger Ava Anderson, natural-beauty expert and safe-cosmetics advocate
Typically when writing about beauty and personal care products, I’m explaining which harmful ingredients to avoid—such as fragrances, phthalates, and parabens. But today, I’ve decided to change things up and discuss to the other side of the coin: ingredients you want.
Natural beauty isn’t just about avoiding dangerous and toxic chemicals; it’s also about supporting products using real, safe, natural, and organic ingredients. Therefore, I’m going to share some of my personal favorite botanical ingredients that you actually WANT to see listed on ingredient labels…
1. Organic aloe vera leaf juice. For skin, aloe is a natural moisturizer that’s helpful in removing dead cells and promoting a healthier, younger appearance. It acts as a natural barrier and shields skin from toxins. It helps cuts, bruises, and burns heal faster, and it minimizes scarring. It can be used to relieve heat on the skin caused by sunburn, reduce inflammation and redness, and soothe itching and dryness. In a study reported in Archives of Dermatology, more than 80 percent of psoriasis that patients treated with aloe vera showed improvement.
For hair, aloe contains enzymes that directly promote healthy hair growth by ridding the scalp of dead skin cells that can clog the hair follicle and not allow for the proper penetration of nutrients in the hair.
Aloe can also be useful for treating dandruff. Some physicians attribute dandruff to Malassezia, a fat-eating fungus that can live on the scalp. The fungus thrives in an acidic environment, and the alkalizing attributes of aloe vera counteract these fungus-friendly conditions.
2. Organic red rooibos leaf tea. Native to South Africa, rooibos has been used by indigenous South Africans for hundreds of years. A Japanese study found that rooibos contains an enzyme called super oxide dismutase, an antioxidant that attacks free radicals and limits their damaging effects.
Rooibos can also be applied topically to help relieve itchy dry skin conditions (like eczema), sunburns, and diaper rash. Alpha hydroxy acid and zinc are both found naturally in the plant; both promote healthy, smooth skin. And studies have also shown that the plant is beneficial in treating acne.
3. Organic calendula. Calendula has been used for centuries as a medicinal, culinary, and magical herb. It has a long history of use as a wound-healing and skin-soothing botanical, too. Calendula has impressive healing powers, and can clear up many types of skin problems.
The herb has anti-inflammatory qualities that can prevent infection in minor skin wounds when applied topically. It can help reduce the itching, redness, pain, and swelling of insect bites and rashes. Calendula is soothing for sunburns, cuts, scrapes, and dry and chapped hands, as well as minor burns. A study of breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy suggested that calendula ointment might be helpful in preventing skin dermatitis.
4. Organic apricot kernel oil. Apricot kernel oil is a natural expeller-pressed oil made from raw apricot kernels; it has rehydrating properties that make it an excellent natural moisturizer for all skin types. It’s high in vitamins and contains exceptionally rich essential fatty acids. Well-known for its ability to soften, soothe, and condition skin, apricot kernel oil is readily absorbed and doesn’t leave a greasy coat.
It’s very effective for sensitive and dry skin; the oil’s high gamma linoleic acid content enables skin to maintain its moisture balance. This acid also helps tone and firm skin. Apricot kernel oil also has anti-inflammatory properties and is helpful in soothing minor skin conditions, such as eczema.
5. Organic neem. Neem is harvested from the tree known in India as “heal all” or “village pharmacy.” Products made from neem tree leaves and bark have been used for their medicinal properties for over two millennia. They’ve been observed to be antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and useful for many types of skin care, ranging from treating acne to maintaining skin elasticity. Neem oil has also been found to be an effective mosquito repellent.
6. Organic witch hazel. This is an aromatic oil extracted from the bark of the witch hazel shrub, a plant whose healing properties Native Americans have taken advantage of since at least the 16th century. The oil works as a natural astringent that’s still one of the gentlest ways to cleanse and tone any type of skin.
As an acne fighter, witch hazel reduces the swelling of minor pimples and blemishes. Plus its anti-inflammatory properties assist in healing damaged skin and can help to prevent skin from peeling in the days following a sunburn. Witch hazel can also be used to ease pain and itching from poison ivy, bug bites, and stings.
At the age of 15, Ava Anderson launched her safe line of personal care and home-cleaning products, Ava Anderson Non Toxic. Now 21, Ava is educating hundreds of thousands of American families annually on the issue of toxic chemicals in products through her line, which now includes baby, skin, hair, body, cosmetics, men’s, candles, bug, home, sun, and pet products. An undergrad at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Ava actively helps run her large company with 60-plus employees and thousands of Ava Consultants in every state in the nation. Her goal is to force a paradigm shift on the issue of toxic chemicals in products—with your help.