How to Create a Natural Skincare Routine for Day and Night
With nearly every new skincare brand on the market using words like clean, natural and nontoxic, it’s hard to determine which products you should spend your money on and which are best for you and your skin. I personally follow a clean, natural skincare routine, because after finding out that what you put on your face enters your blood stream, I prefer not to mess with toxins.
I also have fairly resilient combination skin and have never suffered immensely with acne, eczema or psoriasis, and therefore haven’t had to turn to harsher, more potent ingredients that may not be natural. And while I am definitely no dermatologist or skincare expert, as a beauty editor who plays around with a lot of new products, I do know what works for my skin. If you have combination skin and are looking for some new product recommendations or even a whole new natural skincare routine, you’ve come to the right place.
But before I get into my personal natural skincare routine, I want to set the record straight about some of the terms I mentioned above. I reached out to Hillary Peterson, founder of True Botanicals, a MADE SAFE–certified skincare line that uses only the safest, cleanest ingredients found in nature. Here’s what she had to say.
WHAT DOES “NATURAL SKINCARE” MEAN?
“While the term natural may indicate something harvested in nature, its use in all beauty products—including skincare—actually means nothing because it’s not regulated,” says Peterson.
IS THERE ANY REGULATION OF NATURAL SKINCARE PRODUCTS?
“No government body in the United States regulates natural skincare products, but there are various independent, international organizations that companies can enlist to verify their level of ‘natural.’ Take Ecocert in the European Union or the Soil Association in the U.K., for example,” says Peterson. “The issue is that focusing on how natural a product is fails to consider how safe a product is. If a face serum is 95 percent natural, that’s great—but what’s in that other 5 percent?”
OK, SO HOW IS NATURAL SKINCARE DIFFERENT FROM CLEAN SKINCARE?
“Well, this is sort of tricky too. In the same way there isn’t regulation of natural skincare, there isn’t regulation of clean skincare either. Generally, clean skincare refers to products made without potentially harmful ingredients, as opposed to natural skincare, which is made with some level of natural ingredients,” explains Peterson. “Why does this distinction matter? Plenty of natural ingredients are hazardous to human health, like talc, for example, which can contain asbestos. And plenty of synthetic ingredients are perfectly safe for humans and the environment, like hyaluronic acid (yep, it’s typically synthetic).
“This lack of regulation is why we at True Botanicals rely on third-party certification from an organization called MADE SAFE. Their scientists review the latest research and examine the full safety profile of a product—every ingredient and every ingredient within that ingredient—to ensure it poses no threat to human or environmental health. And they also consider whether a particular natural ingredient is a truly sustainable choice. It’s the strictest, most thorough certification process available.”
SO IS ALL CLEAN SKINCARE NATURAL?
“There’s a lot of crossover. For example, we prioritize natural ingredients in our formulas because I believe that, for most things, the answer can indeed be found in nature. But typically, ‘clean skincare’ mixes safe synthetics with safe naturals,” Peterson says.
IS THERE A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF NATURAL INGREDIENTS THAT CLASSIFY A PRODUCT AS “NATURAL”?
“No! In fact, you could plaster the word natural all over your product’s label and your ingredient list could be chock-full of only petrochemicals. That’s why it’s so important to work with a third-party, nonprofit organization like MADE SAFE and to focus on the classification that’s ultimately impacting the current and future well-being of people, wildlife, our soil, our oceans and more,” Peterson explains.
OK, SO LET’S RECAP.
The term natural, as it relates to skincare, isn’t regulated. This means any brand can use the term on its products regardless of whether they are made with 100 percent natural or 1 percent natural ingredients. It’s more beneficial to look to brands that have a level of certification that does the vetting for you (like True Botanicals does). I personally use this method when choosing my own skincare products. It’s great if the products are natural, but that’s not all I look for.
Now that the nitty-gritty is out of the way, it’s finally time to get into the good stuff: my recommendations. Because it’s my job to test and vet beauty products based on their results, I’m pretty discerning with my own skincare routine. I only use the products that are the most natural and clean, because that’s what I personally care about. Like I said, I’m not a doctor or dermatologist, so I can only recommend products that have worked for my combination skin. Let’s get to it.
Step 1: Mara Chia & Moringa Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil
As someone who used to use Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub on a daily basis, you can imagine my surprise when I found out my naturally oily T-zone didn’t actually benefit from oil-free products (they can cause your skin to overcompensate and produce more oil). Nor did my dry cheeks love those plastic microbeads further stripping them of natural oils, twice a day every day. Enter this game-changing, slightly gritty oil cleanser. It’s made with natural chia and moringa oils to nourish and hydrate skin, plus four fruit enzymes that lend a bit of a gritty texture, which helps slough off makeup, dirt, grime and even dead skin cells in the gentlest way possible. In the morning, I wet my face with a bit of water before massaging two pumps of this cleanser all over, then I rinse and pat dry. No double cleanse necessary for clean, radiant skin without any harsh chemicals.
Step 2: Isla Tone Balance Elixir
Next up is a new product from Isla, a beauty brand that focuses on transparency. This toner/essence combo is part of its core product line, which sources natural ingredients from all over the world based on where they’re most abundant. This particular toner is made with 100 percent natural ingredients from Australia (like vitamins A, C and E plus an antioxidant-packed wild berry complex), as clearly stated right on the box. As someone who also previously used astringents daily to clear blemishes, I was surprised by the gentleness of this toner and the extreme lack of stinging. It helps remove any excess oils from my cleanser and also preps my skin to better absorb the rest of my skincare products.
Step 3: Goopglow 20% Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid Glow Serum
Goop has high standards when it comes to nontoxic beauty, so I’m never hesitant to buy anything on the site, especially when it’s the brand’s own product line. This new serum has an extremely potent 20 percent vitamin C to target hyperpigmentation and brighten skin, plus hyaluronic acid to add hydration. Unlike most vitamin C serums, it comes with a powder and a liquid activator, which you combine just before use to ensure potency. I also love that the consistency is super liquidy, so it sinks right in and I don’t get any of that stickiness that usually results from HA-based serums.
Step 4a: Grown Alchemist Hydra-Repair Day Cream: Camellia, Geranium Blossom
Moisturizer is my favorite skincare product, but I’m always trying new formulas. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with this hydrating and repairing day cream from Grown Alchemist for its natural ingredients, fresh scent and matte finish. Many natural products don’t actually smell amazing, because there isn’t any addition of arbitrary fragrance, but I love that this product uses essential oils and plant extracts to deliver an uplifting aroma in the morning. Another thing to note is the aluminum tube, which can be fully recycled for less waste.
Step 4b: True Botanicals Clear Pure Radiance Oil
As mentioned, I’ve fortunately never struggled immensely with acne, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never had blemishes—I’ve had many and I still continue to get them in my 30s. That’s why I love a clarifying face oil for daytime that hydrates my skin while also helping to clear my pores and fend off breakouts. This product is beloved by many for its natural ingredients like algae extract and hemp, pumpkin and grape-seed oils. On days when I need a lighter moisturizer or feel a bit congested, I’ll use this oil instead of my moisturizer.
Step 5: Alpyn Beauty Plantgenius Line-Filling Eye Balm
This whole beauty line is made of wildcrafted extracts, antioxidants and brighteners from high-altitude plants in Wyoming, which gives it a natural light pink hue. It has a thicker consistency than most eye creams, which feels super nourishing and hydrating, and it actually smooths and plumps the delicate under-eye skin, immediately filling in lines and creases.
Step 6: Supergoop! Zincscreen 100% Mineral Lotion SPF 40
Last, but certainly not least, is sunscreen. I prefer mineral SPF to chemical formulas for its natural UV-blocking abilities. Mineral (also called physical) sunscreen works like a shield, physically blocking the sun from burning your skin, while chemical sunscreen absorbs sunlight and scatters it. This product is made with 100 percent zinc but doesn’t leave the slightest white cast, thanks to its slight pinky tint. I use this in place of makeup in the summer on my good skin days, and under makeup year-round.
Step 1: Mara Chia & Moringa Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil
What can I say, I love this oil cleanser. As mentioned, I use it on damp skin in the morning to create more of a creamy lather. But at night, I use it on dry skin to help remove my makeup, then I add water to rinse it all away.
Step 2: Mara Algae Retinol Face Oil
Another one of my favorites from Mara is the Algae Retinol Face Oil. Unlike most retinol products, this one is suspended in natural oils (like meadowfoam and cannabis sativa seed) so it’s not as drying on my skin. I don’t get any of that telltale redness or peeling like I have seen with other retinol products, which allows me to use it nearly every single night without irritation. It’s hard to skip a day when I’ve seen an amazing increase in glowiness and a reduction in fine lines and blemishes from using it. Even though it’s made with natural sources of retinol (vitamin A), it’s still pretty potent, so I do suggest starting with one or two days per week before working your way up.
Step 3: Weleda skin food Original Ultra Rich Cream
Oh, Weleda, how I love thee. This Swiss brand has been around since the 1920s and has been a leader in organic, natural skincare ever since. This super rich face cream is probably its most popular product for its extremely hydrating formula that’s so thick, it almost feels like glue. Don’t let that scare you, though—once it warms up on your skin, it melts right in and turns to an oily finish. Ingredients like essential fatty acids, vitamin E, organic pansy and organic calendula flower extract have even helped repair my skin after an over-exfoliation incident. When I saw just how healing it was, I started adding it to my nightly skincare routine to help with general moisturizing.
Step 4: Dr. Roebuck’s Down Under Collagen Boosting Eye Treatment
This Australian skincare brand is one of my go-tos for truly natural products, and I’ve been a fan of its eye cream for years. It has a super thick texture, but the medley of oils and butters sinks easily into delicate skin. Plus, the addition of plant-based collagen helps smooth away fine lines and crow’s-feet, two of my main concerns these days.
Step 5: Uma Oils Ultimate Brightening Face Oil
Last up is one of my favorite products of all time: Uma Oils Ultimate Brightening Face Oil. I was introduced to this brand about a year ago, and I’ve already gone through three bottles of the stuff. It smells amazing thanks to sandalwood and rose essential oils, which also deeply hydrate skin for a lit-from-within glow. Before pressing four to five drops into my skin, I rub my palms together and breathe in the scent for aromatherapeutic benefits. Then I pat it into my skin as the last step of my routine until it’s absorbed. Because oil is thicker than water, it will act as a protective barrier to seal in all the moisture and nutrients from the rest of your routine. (If you put oil on before moisturizer, your creams won’t actually be able to penetrate your skin.) I seriously can tell if I don’t use this for a day or two—my skin is duller, drier and seriously unhappy.
1. True Botanicals Pacific Glacial Clay Detoxifying Mask
Sometimes I need something a little outside of my everyday products. For example, when my skin is feeling congested, I apply this surprisingly hydrating mask. Unlike most clay formulas, this one doesn’t suck every ounce of oil from my skin. Rather, ultrafine glacial clay gently clears away dirt, pollutants and impurities while restoring essential moisture. Plus, I love its slightly floral scent and lightweight texture that make it a dream to apply and sit with for 20 minutes while it dries.
2. Indie Lee Blemish Lotion
When I need to dry out a blemish fast, I turn to Indie Lee’s Blemish Lotion. Thanks to a mixture of clay, salicylic acid and zinc oxide, this stuff doesn’t mess around and usually sucks up any gunk overnight, helping to heal pimples at lightning speed. You need only a very small amount, so I shake the bottle, dip a Q-tip inside and dab it onto blemishes that need extra love. By morning, they’re visibly smaller and less angry—it’s pretty amazing.