Forget about sulfates and surfactants that foam or strip the skin. A clean feeling comes from a clean formulation. These facial cleansers add to your skin’s health and clarity.
Teens: A soap-free cleanser made for skin that’s oily or prone to pimples, Elemental Herbology Cool and Clear ($44, www.spacenk.com) uses olive oil, tea tree, lavender, and other homeopathic ingredients to clean, clear, and calm moody skin. Instead of tightening the pores (a common instinct), this cleanser keeps them open and free-flowing. All the better to not further clog them.
20 to 30s: The combination-skin years can often benefit from multi-faceted cleansers that do more than one duty. John Masters Bearberry Oily Skin Balancing Face Wash ($22, www.johnmasters.com) with willow bark extract and exfoliating AHAs from sugar might be all you need to get skin in order: bearberry is both a pimple fighter and natural skin brightener, so it should improve radiance while diminishing excess shine and occasional flare-ups.
40-Plus: Red Flower Nature Lymphatic Phytopower Sea Cleanser and Masque ($38, www.redflower.com) is a holistic homerun: It’s actively exfoliating thanks to organic mushrooms, white peat, and algae extracts and palpably nourishing. When used in the shower as a mask with a few facial acupressure steps, it’s a four-minute facial.
Water-based moisturizers are on their way out, since they require preservative systems and chemical stabilizers to keep them from separating with oils and other ingredients. These natural moisturizers have healthy ways of keeping skin hydrated.
Teens: One of the biggest beauty myths? The idea that oil-free products are better for skin that breaks out. It’s just not the case when whole plant oils are used, like in Amala Purifying Gel Moisturizer ($68, www.amalabeauty.com). Oil balances oil, which is the job of jojoba and organic tea-tree. Rice germ absorbs shine, and willow bark helps keep pores clear. As a skin-friendly form of hydration, oils can also help tame redness and irritation due to acne.
20 to 30s: Light yet nourishing. That’s the ideal combination for skin that needs protective and supportive ingredients like antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. That’s why She Essential Beauty Night Serum ($60, www.sheessentialbeauty.com) contains green tea, frankincense, and a blend of nourishing evening primrose, carrot root, and rosehip oils. It works at night while your skin is in repair mode.
40-Plus: Your moisturizers should perform a one-two punch of preventing and correcting. To that end, Malie Anti-Aging Firming Elasticity Cream ($56, www.malie.com), which is 70 percent organic, taps the ripe fruit of the coffee plant, grown on Kona, for its powerful antioxidants. These help defend the skin against free-radical damage to skin proteins collagen and elastin, and can provide a firming, smoothing, and brightening effect.
SCRUBS & EXFOLIATORS
Exfoliating is a secret skin-care weapon when used weekly. The rate at which skin cells naturally slough slows with age—and some experts attribute acne to skin that’s sluggish about exfoliation. This indispensable class of products improves tone, texture, and clarity, and makes skin better able to absorb your other skin-care products.
Teens: Scrubs with large or jagged particles (crushed pits and shells, for example) are the wrong way to go if you’ve got breakouts, since they can irritate pimples even more. Save these for body scrubs and instead choose something with fruit acids like Kiss My Face Potent & Pure Exfoliating Face Wash ($15, www.kissmyface.com), which will provide a deep cleanse and help keep pores from becoming plugged. It’s gentle enough for daily use.
20 to 30s: Bioelements All Things Pure Scrub ($43, www.bioelements.com), from the spa brand’s new natural line, is a great T-zone tackler. Silica and a blend of finely ground Chinese roots, herbs, and berries whisk away blackheads and dead skin cells, then melt away into the almost honey-like base, so dry or sensitive areas like cheeks aren’t left tight or dry.
40-Plus: Jurlique Pure Enyzme Exfoliator ($45, www.jurlique.com) contains alpha-hydroxy acids from sugar, workhorse enzymes from pumpkin, and active Australian fruit extracts quandong and wattle seed. The peel-like mechanism means instant brightening and smoothing results, and it’ll make your serums and moisturizers more effective.
The skin around the eyes is the thinnest on the face—dark circles are most often just the visible blood vessels below. And because the eye area has very few oil glands, fine lines show up here first. Most eye creams offer hydration, so choose one that tackles a second issue, too.
Teens: First Aid Beauty Detox Eye Roller ($24, www.firstaidbeauty.com), thanks to the metal roller-ball dispenser, feels especially cool on eyes suffering from morning puffiness or exam-time dark circles. Caffeine makes quick work of these, while peptides help lessen these under-eye evils over time.
20 to 30s: Naturopathica Vitamin K Brightening Eye Serum ($72, www.naturopathica.com) feels slightly thicker than most eye creams, no doubt because of its homeopathic formula: Vitamin K can help disperse under-eye fluids that contribute to dark circles, calming cape chamomile oil is a boon for dry and itchy eyes, and light-reflecting minerals like mica boost radiance. Every eye cream should contain it.
40-Plus: Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Cream ($65, www.kahina-givingbeauty.com) comforts eye-corner crinkles with argan oil—the brand’s hero ingredient, which is culled by women’s co-operatives in Morocco that get a sizable amount of the product profits. It also uses collagen-boosting peptides and yeast extract, which has an almost instant effect on reducing puffiness.
PORES & PIMPLES
Acne isn’t caused by surface dirt. It’s a problem in the pore—or a hormonal flare-up. So targeted treatment products can manage breakouts better than over-washing.
Teens: Some of the most chemically laden products are for teen acne. Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Targeted Spot Treatment ($10, www.burtsbees.com), part of the company’s new nature blemish-busting range, is meant to shrink spots fast. It uses a low but effective form of salicylic acid from willow bark, and calming borage and calendula to quell redness.
20 to 30s: While cleansers and exfoliants help skin clear, often a moisturizer doesn’t do its share of the work. Pangea Organics Moroccan Argan with Willow & Rosemary Facial Cream ($36, www.pangeaorganics.com) has a mattefying effect, meaning it absorbs oil and shine with rice bran and antiseptic, antioxidant herbs like rosemary. It also keeps skin oils flowing with argan oil to help prevent pimples from forming.
40-Plus: Not the Clearasil demographic, but grappling with hormonal flare-ups? Living Tree Botanicals Restorative Seaherb Mask ($45, www.livingtreebotanicals.com), an artisanal line, uses gorgeous, recognizable ingredients—including clay, zinc, honey, and Rescue Remedy! It makes a great spot treatment or calming treatment mask. Plus the formula feels mortal-and-pestle fresh.
DARK SPOTS & UNEVEN SKIN TONE
The number-one product to prevent spots is sunscreen. These are the brightening products that can help add luminosity back to lackluster skin.
Teens: Ava Anderson Non-Toxic Moisturizer ($18.95, www.avaandersonnontoxic.com), was created by 15-year-old Ava (and her parents), who was shocked to discover how many products marketed as natural still contained dubious ingredients. Her daily moisturizer earns a zero rating on the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database (on a toxicity scale of zero to 10, 10 being most toxic), and contains antioxidant vitamins A and E to hold onto or to help achieve glowing skin.
20 to 30s: Sircuit Weapon 10% Vitamin C Therapy Serum ($85, www.sircuitskin.com) uses a serious skin-brightening formula of stabilized vitamin C, a stalwart in this category, with potent antioxidants from grapes like resveratrol. It’s also loaded with intense hydrators like hyaluronic acid and black currant oil, a rarity in scientific skin care, which fortifies your skin while making it work hard.
40-Plus: The skin-boosting Ila Rainforest Renew Face Serum for Radiant Skin ($110, www.spiritbeautylounge.com) is made up of gorgeous fatty acid-rich oils and South American botanicals. Acmella extract softens fine lines and wrinkles and brightens; Brazilian ginseng works on blotchy sun spots to improve skin tone; and babassu helps skin hold onto its own moisture.
New Natural Skin-Firming Treatments
Plump cheeks are a sign of youth. As are high brows and a taut jaw line. But as skin proteins like collagen break down and cells lose their shape and buoyancy and become more compact, the face follows. Keeping skin well hydrated and protected from the sun are two healthy ways to maintain firm facial features, and these are the best new, natural products that can help give you a lift.
All the short-term tricks for getting firmer, plumper skin are in REN Keep Young and Beautiful SH2C Serum ($75, www.spacenk.com), like yeast and wheat proteins and hyaluronic acid, which draws water to the skin. But so are collagen-boosting peptides and vitamin C, which help skin over time.
Skin loses its ability to snap-back when its elastin breaks down. Korres Quercetin & Oak Antiageing & Antiwrinkle Day Cream ($48, www.korresusa.com) helps protect this skin protein with Quercetin, an antioxidant found in plants like green tea, and a skin-renewing extract tapped from oak trees.
Aubrey Organics Lumessence Lift Firming Renewal Cream with CoQ10 Liposomes ($32.50, www.aubrey-organics.com) contains antioxidant CoQ10 and oats for wrinkles, and algae extract for a fast firming-and-tightening effect.
100 Percent Pure Potent Mushroom & Peptide Antioxidant Concentrate ($35, www.100percentpure.com) is a concentrated antioxidant-rich serum—it’s loaded with everything from acai to blueberry-skin extracts and resveratrol. But it gets top marks for its skin-smoothing and brightening mushroom extracts and firming plant-based peptides.