We know that superfoods are good for your health. Did you know they’re also good for your skin and overall appearance? We’re not talking about home remedies like beet blush or turmeric facials here, although these are much better than artificial chemicals sold in beauty products.To get the most long-lasting benefits out of plants, we should be ingesting them - wholly. And if we truly want that healthy glow, it’s time to start thinking about plants as part of our daily beauty regimen, not just a side dish with dinner.
Purity - Don’t let dirty tactics influence you
Consumers want transparency. We hear about organic and natural ingredients in our daily products and figure that’s enough, right? Don’t be fooled. Many “natural” brands contain some type of synthetic replacement for nutrients that mimic natural plant properties - like vitamins C and E, amino acids, and others. Unfortunately, they’re not the real deal and made by an industrial process. Consuming whole foods is more efficient at delivering nutrients to your body (and skin). To be fair, some replacements are designed to be absorbed and used as nutrients. However, there is no conclusive evidence that our bodies absorb synthetic nutrients in the same manner as their plant-based counterparts. In fact, the scientific community publishes research on this and deserves some attention. An excerpt below by doctor and scientist, RJ Theil.
“There appears to be a tendency to label those who profess that natural vitamins are better than synthetic ones as quacks. This broad-brush label may be stifling legitimate nutrition research…It concludes that lessons of history as well as modern science support the view that natural vitamins are nutritionally superior to synthetic ones.”
Chemicals, such as fragrances in the cosmetics industry are shown to be harmful. In fact, according to evidence-based findings from advocacy groups like Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, regulators do not know which chemicals are contained in which products. Unfortunately for women, there is a greater chance for harm.
“While virtually all Americans are exposed to fragrance chemicals on a daily basis, women have a greater body burden, largely from beauty and cosmetics products absorbed through the skin. The average American woman uses 12-16 products a day, many containing fragrance...Three-quarters of the toxic chemicals detected in a test of 140 products came from fragrance.”
-Janet Nudelman, policy director for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) and co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Companies use preservatives to increase a product’s shelf life or safeguard against bacteria. Some examples include synthetic antioxidants, sulfur dioxide or benzoates. Whatever the motive, it’s best to get the facts before buying the next hot-selling, expensive facial cream or trendy shade of lipstick.
The personal care and cosmetics industry, unlike the food industry, have loose guidelines and little to no oversight to protect us as do other regulatory agencies. In fact, the FDA does not approve or recall products before they are on the market. They can recall only if it has done some harm. It’s even harder to enforce with ingredients that are deemed “safe” due to their limited exposure. Watchdog groups like Environmental Working Group (EWG) take to task the beauty and personal care industry for misleading labels and false advertising – which is a step in the right direction. Get the skinny on hidden ingredients. If you’re in the mood for good reading, check out The Guardian’s series on Toxic America.
Proportions– Size matters
How much of these natural ingredients are used is a separate issue. Natural product claims can be made even if they make up the smallest fraction of the whole, and companies can take advantage of proclaiming that their products are cleaner than others - even if it just a negligible amount. Read the label, the whole label and nothing but the label. All labels list ingredients in descending order- the first few tell you a lot about the overall composition. But don’t gloss over the bottom ones. To get deep insights into the labeling of products in the US and Europe, check out the - INCI list. (INCI stands for “International Nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients” and is a naming system for ingredients based on scientific nomenclature.). The FDA has some helpful info on cosmetic labeling.
Pricing– Save your pretty pennies
We work hard and regardless of our spending habits, no one wants to squander hard-earned income. Brands will charge more, and consumers will typically pay more for products, if they contain organic or natural ingredients. According to Nielson, a global data analytics firm, people will pay more for products that use the word natural – in the ballpark of $1.3B more!
When it comes to the beauty industry, it’s not so easy to silence the noise and get the facts about what we put on our bodies. Unless you have an allergic reaction to a food or herb, many of us will not spend the time it takes to truly understand how inferior and harmful synthetic ingredients are to our bodies and to our health. The sad truth is that we will pay more for products if they promise to make us look younger regardless of harm. And you can thank the beauty industry for that, because we’ve been trained to do so by decades of marketing and advertising.
If you haven’t considered that what you put in your body is reflected on the outside, you might want to look closer at labels to be happier with what you see in the mirror.
Imagine a way to look better and ageless without paying a hefty price tag. It’s a reality some of us haven’t realized yet. But it’s never too late. It surrounds us every day- in our gardens, our refrigerators and in the produce section of our supermarkets and farmer markets. The best part is that the benefits from the whole plants we consume will last a lot longer than a bottle of expensive cream that promises to make us look like we’re 25 at 50 in 4 weeks.
If you’re interested in learning more about plants for health and beauty, check out some of these products.