You can reconnect with nature by incorporating one of its many wonders into your daily routine. Many of them come with a lot of benefits (like the power to soothe irritation and provide moisture, to name just a few), but there are a few things to consider.
Some earthly delights are more delightful for your hair and skin than others: "Just because an ingredient is botanical or all-natural doesn't necessarily mean it's beneficial," says Melanie Palm, a dermatologist in San Diego. "I think a lot of dermatologists use the example of poison ivy, which is obviously a natural plant — but for a lot of people it can really be problematic."
Naturally occurring ingredients also come with a giant warning: They will cease to exist if suppliers don't play the long game. "In most cases, nature isn’t replicable. Once it’s gone, that’s it," says Juliette Crepin, who advises companies on responsible sourcing at Conservation International. "Sustainable sourcing helps create a supply chain that better guarantees the resilience of ecosystems where valued plants are grown, and at the same time creates an equitable environment for local communities."
To encourage responsible practices, seek out brands that are closely aligned with environmental-protection organizations like Conservation International (which works with Costa Brazil and Biolage), Green America (which has certified Derma E and Aveda), and the Forest Stewardship Council (look for the FSC certification on the packaging).
And with all that in mind, we've identified five ingredients — from the mountainsides of Japan, the flowering highlands of Colombia, and beyond — proven to enrich your routine.
The stuff you put on sunburns and scrapes is also good for your hair and scalp. And after seven years of growing in arid climates like those found in Mexico, aloe’s active compounds are at ideal levels. And the same compounds that calm skin (polysaccharide sugars) can also coat and hydrate hair and soothe tight, itchy scalps, says Melanie Palm, a dermatologist in San Diego.
Try something like the Herbal Essences Bio: Renew Potent Aloe + Bamboo Shampoo, which contains conditioning aloe from an organic farm in Mexico.
Southwestern Colombia is dotted with red and orange flowering plants, the harvested seeds of which are quinoa—and they're not just collected for salads and bowls. "Quinoa contains tyrosinase inhibitors, which reduce pigmentation in the skin [when applied topically]," says Morgan Rabach, a dermatologist in New York City. "It works similarly to pigment-inhibiting prescription products, like hydroquinone, that are used to treat hyperpigmentation."
Zue Botanicals has trained and equipped members of Colombia's indigenous Páez community to help harvest their land's centuries-old super crop, quinoa. The Restoring Night Cream pairs quinoa-seed extract with astringent tea tree oil to brighten and clarify.
It takes 18 steps for a single shea nut to become shea butter at the Tungteiya Women’s Association in northern Ghana, which churns out at least 390 tons of the finished product each year. As Ghanaian women have known for generations, the dense butter makes for a rich, occlusive moisturizer. "It has fatty acids that restore the skin’s barrier and prevent water from escaping," says Palm. For the same reason, cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski suggests applying shea butter immediately after a moisturizing oil to lock in hydration. Just one caveat: Palm recommends avoiding this rich ingredient on acne, as it’s likely to worsen breakouts.
Each packet of The Body Shop 100% Natural Shea Butter contains 192 Ghanaian shea nuts. Squeeze out a little, rub it between your hands, and it melts into a rich, spreadable moisturizer — ideal for rough skin on elbows and feet.
"The benefits of seaweed can range from providing antioxidant protection to increasing skin elasticity and building collagen," says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, noting that seaweed has different concentrations of nutrients depending on where it’s from. Seaweed from Japan, for example, is often used in skin- firming products, and seaweed from the North Atlantic is packed with nutrients, like copper, that help boost collagen production. "Certain biological processes, like building elastin and collagen in the skin, require minerals like the ones in seaweed," says Wilson. "They help skin operate at maximum efficiency." Seaweed is also rich in antioxidant polyphenols and some fatty acids, says Palm.
More than a decade after launching, La Mer The Regenerating Serum contains more Miracle Broth with sea kelp than ever; the seaweed is sourced off the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada.
Zoom in on a shot of the mountainsides of Kyoto, Japan, and you'll see that all that green is acres of leaves. Green tea leaves, to be exact. From these leaves, matcha is ground into an antioxidant powder that helps protect skin from environmental stressors, like pollution, says Rabach. "Many of those antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory properties, so matcha could help soothe redness and blotchiness." That's why Palm suggests patients with sensitive skin consider using it topically. And if you've already got a morning matcha latte habit, keep sipping, adds Wilson. Its high levels of antiinflammatory epigallocatechin gallate are good for the body and skin.
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