The truth about natural, green and clean skincare may surprise you

Want to adopt a more natural skincare routine but worried about its efficacy? Kelsey Ferencak explains why you should give green a go.

We’re becoming increasingly health conscious, and more environmentally savvy and focused. So it’s no surprise that the natural-beauty movement is gaining more traction. Green beauty no longer sits at the back of the health-food store or at a stall at your local Sunday market. Instead, it’s front and centre at major retailers, being adopted by the big brand names and flying off the shelves. But the question remains: do these products work as well as their cosmeceutical counterparts? The experts say yes – you just need to be a bit more patient.

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Yes, they work

Jurlique has been at the forefront of the natural-beauty category since its inception more than 30 years ago. Over the years, it’s seen major shifts in popularity and perception, both in Australia and globally. “There is still the perception that synthetic skin care works better than natural skin care. We have worked very hard to change this by showing our consumers that natural products are just as good,” says Jurlique R&D manager Valérie Laviolette. “We conduct clinical trials on most of our products using a third-party facility. They will perform consumer-perception tests and skin measurements, including wrinkle depth, moisturisation, firmness and radiance to prove that our products deliver visible results.”

However, when comparing natural and cosmeceutical skin care, there will be limitations, but that’s not to say that plant-based doesn’t do its job. “If a brand limits itself to ingredients that come from nature, then there are going to be some potent ingredients that they won’t be able to access, compared to a brand that uses both natural and synthetic ingredients,” explains the founder of Lab Muffin Beauty Science, Dr Michelle Wong. “For products like moisturisers, though, there are natural ingredients that will hydrate most skin.”

When it comes to results, skin-clinic owner Belinda Hughes believes the long-term benefits far outweigh the faster fix, and that just because you don’t feel the satisfying tingle of an exfoliant or the sting of an active acid, doesn’t mean it’s not working. “I think it’s important to remember they work differently, depending on the skin’s needs,” she says. “Plant-based ingredients definitely do just as well on the skin as cosmeceuticals, but as they’re more gentle on the body, the benefits need to be earned, meaning you’ll see the best results from three months plus, rather than a ‘quick fix’.”


Jurlique Nutri-Define Supreme Eye Contour Balm ($105, at Jurlique) and The Jojoba Company Ultimate Night Cream ($69.95, at Nourished Life)


An insight into the ingredients and innovation

As the category evolves, so too does the research, innovation and technology behind the ingredients and formulations. “The past five years has seen the biggest acceleration. In this time, we’ve seen the discovery and embracing of Australian native ingredients. More powerful and sophisticated ingredients are being discovered all the time,” explains Hughes. “The formulas themselves are also getting better, using bases like aloe vera to enhance product penetration and performance. I am really loving how companies are putting their actives into liposome capsules, which ensures more effective product penetration as well as a timed release, where the skin gets a steady dose of ingredients all day instead of just a big initial hit, and making plant ingredients behave more like cosmeceuticals.”

At Jurlique, all of its botanicals and herbs are grown and picked according to the lunar calendar on its farm in the Adelaide Hills. Biodynamic farming not only supports the health of the land, but also the purity of the ingredients. “We use a unique extraction process called the Bio-Intrinsic method,” says Laviolette. This involves three extraction stages, each with its own end product that are then recombined to create a new substance with even greater potency.


Biologi Luminosity Face Serum ($108, at Adore Beauty) and A’kin Age-Defy Sheet Mask ($7.95, at A’kin)

Hybrid and hero products

But it’s not all boutique, small-batch brands. You can find the big beauty companies following suit, too. Clarins has just launched a line of skin care made with 88 percent natural ingredients, vegan, and free from phthalates, parabens and sulfates. Even the packaging is eco-friendly. “I’m seeing lots of ‘hybrid’ products with a blend of cosmeceutical and plant-based ingredients in a natural base.

Companies are putting money into research for their own products, too,” says Hughes. Meanwhile, key players continue to lead the way in solution-focused skin care with alternative options for synthetic skincare heroes.


My Clarins RE-MOVE Radiance Exfoliating Powder ($29, at Clarins) and Trilogy Bakuchiol+ Booster Treatment ($27.99, at Chemist Warehouse)

What’s next?

Keep your eyes peeled for ingredients like bearberry extract – which is said to help brighten and even skin tone and pigmentation – as well as prickly pear, for its antioxidant content and hydrating properties. Dr Wong is also excited about centella extract and what it can do to support wound healing.

“Naturopathic ingredients [are great] in skin care: ingredients such as magnesium, echinacea and sage, for example. Often these are concentrated or therapeutic-strength and really pack a punch for amazing results,” explains Hughes.

There’s also a new buzz phrase in the category, “safe beauty”, where there’s more of a focus on proper stability testing and preservatives to prevent spoiling and skin irritation.


Natio Replenishing Neck & Décolletage Cream ($19.95, at Catch) and Emma Lewisham Skin Reset ($138, at Emma Lewisham)

All products featured in this article are selected by our editors, who don’t play favourites. If you buy something, we may get a cut of the sale.