As most of us are aware, ‘free from’ doesn’t always equate to healthy , and in the same way, just because a product is labelled ‘organic’ doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily better for our skin or hair than the synthetic alternative. That being said, there are some incredibly effective, top notch ‘free from’ beauty products on the market that combine results-driven performance with impressive eco credentials, stringent ethical standards and often to compliment dietary and lifestyle needs and preferences. Holistic is seriously hot right now.
The Soil Association, the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use, offers one the most respected organic certification programmes around for health and beauty products, and can confirm that consumers are applying the same kinds of wellness and provenance paradigms to their beauty cupboards as they are to their kitchen cupboards. The charity’s 2016 Organic Market Report reveals that the sales of certified organic health and beauty products increased by 21.6% in 2015, to a whopping £54.2 million. In total, us beauty nuts spent an extra £800,000 on organic products in 2015, and the team at The Soil Association put much of this down to an increased interest in healthy living, across the board:
“The sustained interest in organic health and beauty is partly driven by a general interest in wellness and wellbeing, along with an increase in young and socially conscious consumers who have strong social, ethical and environmental values. Consumers are also more aware of the misleading organic labelling practices of many beauty companies. Figures from Organic Monitor show that 31% of consumers first decided to buy a natural or organic beauty product because of increased awareness.”
Trend forecasters also predict that our clean living priorities will increasingly come to shape our beauty buying habits. JWT Intelligence sees purity as a big player, with beauty companies not only focusing on more natural formulations, but also stripping products down to ‘a single active ingredient that will provide the same beauty benefits as a product containing multiple ingredients’ (see below for a very slick example). Another key ‘health’ slant on the beauty market is the inclusion of superfoods and food terminology in both product formulations themselves and marketing (watch out for that old marketing machine). ‘New natural’ beauty combines traditional ‘natural values’ with potency and serious cosmetic payoff, according to BeautyMART co-founder Anna-Marie Solowij:
“Nearly every one of these brands is able to lay claim to the majority of the following: superfood ingredients, cold-pressed or raw processing, small-batch manufacturing, preservative-free or bacteria-rich formulas and traceability from seed to skin—with science helping to do all of this better.”
Extreme chemical enhancement (although even ‘natural’ products are in their essence, chemical) and mass production are out; choice, sustainability and in line with our dietary habits are in. Just be prepared to get your wallet out…
If you’re a die hard makeup fan like I am, you may have niggling doubts about the performance of a ‘natural’ brand, but leave any hesitance at home in this case; Ilia is the bomb. Everything from the recycled packaging (founder Sasha has her roots in design and branding) to the chic colour palettes and radiance enhancing, skin soothing complexion line is well thought out, polished and transparent in terms of ingredients, sources and brand ethics. Each and every product is vegan and made with at least 85% bioactive organic ingredients, but the proof is in the flattering, luminous finish; from the jewel-like Silken Shadow Sticks to the bang on nude lip tones on offer, au naturel has never looked so good. It was no surprise to me that Ilia was one of the first six brands to launch with Net-a-Porter Beauty; Sasha and co are pushing the beauty envelope in the most stylish way possible. Head down to Fenwick Bond Street if you can to have a dabble in the new SPF collection (from £22) this spring and you’ll see what I mean.
Another example that vegan needn’t equate to ‘frumpy’, Spectrum ’s cruelty free brush range has a tagline stating ‘No Unicorns Were Harmed In The Making’, and thankfully non-fictional creatures are clearly safe too. Also safe is your street cred; from mermaid inspired sets to the elegant new marble handled collection (launching 24th March), Spectrum ensures that style is in line with substance. Substantial the brush options are too; from eight variations on a highlighting brush to soft blenders and precise fine liners, the brand has a tool to suit almost every taste and necessity. Prices start from £3.99, which makes Spectrum a total steal.
The Makeup Remover
Seeing as synthetic wipes are the spawn of satan from both an environmental and dermatological point of view, swapping to a ‘healthy’ alternative is the way forward. Enter the RMS Ultimate Makeup Remover Wipe , £15 for 20. Harnessing the powers of mighty coconut oil (and nothing else), the moisturising, makeup melting wipes are as ‘pure’ as natural beauty comes, but don’t underestimate their power. Eye makeup pretty much dissolves on contact (warm the packaged wipes in your hands first), they’re handy if you’ve put your skin through the ringer in terms of sun, sea or excessive air con, and they’re gentle enough for use on little ones. In addition to their competency, they’re eco-friendly, certified organic, anti-fungal and antibacterial. Basically, superheroes, but be prepared for your skin to feel a bit slickafterwards. If you love that, all the better, but just a heads up.
Onto the second cleanse, and it’s just as exotic as the first. With a grime blasting cocktail of grape seed oil, sweet almond oil and moringa extract, Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm , £38, will possibly be the most smooth, sensual wash of your life. It’s almost erotic. Rich in fatty acids and vitamin E, leave it on for an evening for an intense face mask experience, or massage away makeup and wipe off with the cleansing cloth provided. It confirms our suspicion that you don’t need heavy duty, foamy, hurty things to really get your face squeaky clean. Nb, if your face does actually feel squeaky post wash, possibly reassess your cleanser choices. Squeak face certainly ain’t natural.
Supermodels devour Weleda Skin Food , £9.95, for its rich, reparative effects. If your skin’s rough or been ravaged by the elements it’s instantly soothing, and while beeswax adds to the cream’s slightly heavy feel, it helps to defend the skin’s barrier, plus it ensures Skin Food doesn’t slip away throughout the day. A base of natural oils, calendula and chamomile extracts and an absence of preservatives, synthetic fragrance, colouring and mineral oil give it the ‘health’ halo. Do tread lightly it you’re spot prone; keep it to your elbows and dry bits to avoid an acne attack.
The Face Oil
You’ve got a feast of ‘free from’ options to choose from if you’re partial to face or body oil, and the makeup artist made, all natural Votary offering is not only easy on the eye (mmm rose gold) but also designed to address both lacklustre skin and flagging moods. Each blend smells uplifting, feels nourishing and gives skin an instant radiance, which is a godsend if you’re been feeling under the weather or are sleep deprived. As far as 360º skincare goes, Votary is up there. From £45.
‘Green’ serums are often a tricky category; it’s hard to compete with high tech developments in the synthetic arena. Go for something that delivers an immediate, health giving glow however and you’ll reap maximum rewards in terms of looking youthful and well rested. Oskia Get Up & Glow™ , £66, has been ‘nutritionally designed’ to enhance not only surface skin texture and appearance, but also cell function, with a remarkable roster of vitamins, minerals, proteins and cell cultures to provide skin with essential nutrients and support collagen production. Hyaluronic acid ensures that hydration is taken care of, while the light, iridescent cream means that’s it’s technically impossible not to look brighter after a good glowing over. This is the kind of ‘inside out’ elixir that does for your face what a green juice does for your tum.
The Body Lotion
Another cult model favourite, for legs like a gazelle without a tell tale self-tan stench or glitter glare, Prtty Peaushun, £36, is just the stuff. Gluten free and eschewing parabens and fragrance, it smoothes things over nicely without streaking (there are mineral tinted options, or plain if you’re just after some light reflective leg assistance). Both Cate Blanchett and Rihanna and reportedly fans, which says something about its skin tone adaptability, and if you’ve got rogue with your razor, avocado, jojoba and green tea extracts will provide calming, anti-inflammatory relief.
The Bath Potion
A long hot bath is on a par with reflective yoga and mindfulness art classes as far as wellbeing activities go, so it’s only right that your bath product is as conscious and serene as your state of mind. You’ll find Susanne Kaufmann Oil Bath for the Senses, £42 (seek it at Mouki Mou if you’re a Londoner) in the changing rooms at Bodyism London , which says something about its ‘clean and lean’ credentials, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s quite the looker too. Appearances aside, the blend of ylang ylang, patchouli and lavender will get your head in a zen place, while the essential oils will linger all day (or night) long to both soften skin and make you smell naturally awesome. Handmade in small batches, it’s basically art for your bath.
Think that natural, oil based hair products are bound to weigh you down? Rahua are on it; the Amazon Beauty team behind the organic, gluten free, vegan and 100% natural haircare range have fused conditioning ungurahua oil with cleansing citric juices and refreshing eucalyptus in the making of Rahua Voluminous Shampoo , £27. Strength, shine and body are the result, but don’t expect a lot of lather. There’s generally no foam party without copious additional manmade chemicals.
Quinoa and prebiotics in your pits? We say spread the superfood love if it keeps odour at bay. Green People Quinoa & Prebiotics Deodoran t, £9.50, contains none of the usual anti-perspirant deodorant dodginess (namely aluminium chlorohydrate, alcohol or MI ), is gluten-free and doesn’t smother you in synthetic fragrance if that’s not your bag. Instead, the very wholesome formula is rich in zinc to absorb stinky odours, while rosemary, orange and lemongrass bring a zesty freshness. Nutritious prebiotics apparently support good bacteria while repelling the bad (i.e, smelly), and organic aloe vera takes care of your delicate underarm skin. It might take a bit of getting used to if you’re accustomed to 48-hour dry protection, but it does the business.