As an indie skin care business owner (or if you aspire to be one), it’s crucial that you understand the power you have.
Your product line is about so much more than a hobby or income.
By choosing and using ingredients intentionally with long-term health and vitality in mind, you have the opportunity to introduce your customers to concepts that they will NEVER HEAR in a typical doctor’s office.
Through your business, you can demonstrate how a more natural approach to skin care products that include unrefined carriers and essential oils can not only reduce your customer’s toxic load but also improve their health via immune system support.
You can be the bridge to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
It is pretty reasonable to assume that:
- Rare is the person who purposely puts harmful chemicals on their body.
- Human beings as a whole want to look good and feel good for as long as they can.
So why is it that the average woman introduces over five hundred chemicals to her body every day from skin care and beauty products alone?
Why is it that only 9% of woman are aware of the ingredients in their personal care products and that only one out of ten women purposely shop for chemical-free versions? (Casciato, 2009)
The missing link: sought-after education about what synthetic chemicals do to an individual’s health and wellness.
Simply put, you can’t look for information that you don’t know you don’t have.
Rising popularity of indie skin care businesses on marketplaces (such as Etsy) and website builders (such as Shopify) provides a personable opportunity to introduce a large population of people to the importance of all-natural skin care and its direct impact on overall wellness.
By harnessing the energy behind the ‘Shop Small’ movement, handmade entrepreneurs can successfully sell preservative-free products while simultaneously educating their customers about the power of unrefined ingredients and essential oils for long-term health.
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links (at no cost to you). Please read the disclosure for more information.
Advertising and Labeling ‘Clarification’
To be fair in any judgements cast upon the uninformed shopper, the rules for marketing and naming skin care products leave much to be desired in terms of transparency for the average consumer.
The FTC doesn’t have regulations for using the words ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ in cosmetic product advertising, which includes skin care and aromatherapy items, unless you are claiming that something is 100% or all-natural (Fair, L. 2016).
While businesses are directed to be truthful in their advertising claims, there is no guidance as to exactly how natural a formula needs to be to market it as such.
Does it contain fifty percent natural ingredients?
Only the formulators know.
Ingredient lists can also leave holes in our understanding of what is in a product.
Per current FDA stipulations, any scent or taste in a recipe can simply be referenced on a label as ‘fragrance’ or ‘flavor’ as these are determined as any given company’s “trade secret” additions.
What is required, however, is clear labeling of other ingredients in the product, including water.
Since formulas that contain water only last a few weeks before they go rancid (when no preservatives are added), you can be sure that any water-based skin care product sold at a large retailer is not 100% natural – whether you’re familiar with the other listed ingredients or not.
Common preservatives and additives, such as parabens, phthalates, fragrances and Triclosan are on countless green beauty blogs and natural living websites as disrupting hormone balance or causing cancers, reproductive defects, skin irritations, and allergies.
Alternatively, there are other sources that defend the use of parabens in cosmetic products, claiming that they “contribute directly to the quality of the products by extending their shelf life, making them safe for the families that use them” and studies that argue there is no connection between skin care products and certain cancers.
Even with the confusion of these conflicting claims and cohort studies, it can be stated with confidence that using preservative-free skin care products is still the safer option for long-term health.
Let’s dive in to the science of WHY and how synthetic chemicals impact our immune systems.
Chemicals & Your Immune System
As there is no such thing as a ‘natural’ preservative, we can more widely label products that use them as ‘synthetic-chemical-based’.
When synthetic-chemical-based products are introduced to the body, they put a heavy load on our immune systems, making it difficult for our bodies to do their jobs.
After application to the human body, the fat-soluble molecules of a skin care product go through four layers of skin:
- Stratum corneum
- Stratum granulosum
- Stratum spinosum
- Stratum germinativum
- (and an extra layer, the stratum lucidum, if applied to palms or feet)
Working their way through the skin cells, sliding down with the assistance of hair follicles or sweat glands if available, the newly introduced molecules arrive at the tissues of the dermis and subcutaneous layer.
The molecules are either:
- ‘Accepted’ by the body (in our topic at hand, molecules from natural ingredients in a skin care product), or
- Seen as an invader (synthetic chemicals in the product).
It is the job of a body’s white blood cells that are waiting in the tissues to identify and eliminate the invaders, working quickly to keep the insides for our bodies as clean as possible.
White blood cells immediately start working to rid the body of anything foreign.
Let’s revisit the fact that the average woman (we’ll call her ‘Tina’) introduces 500 chemicals into her bloodstream every single day just from personal care products.
What happens when Tina’s body is also working to eliminate other invaders at the same time, such as parasites, abnormal cells, bacteria, viruses, etc.?
Quite simply, it just can’t do as good of a job when given too much work to handle.
- Tina feels lethargic.
- Or she is constantly fighting allergies.
- Or she manages to always pick up the latest ‘bug’ that is going around.
- Or her injuries take an incredibly long time to heal.
- Or abnormal cells (aka cancer cells) in her system are not eliminated efficiently…which has disastrous effects over time.
Tina has a consistent morning routine, so the same products are applied, the same extra-heavy load on the immune system is repeated…daily…without knowing what is going on beneath the surface.
Even with this very brief overview, it’s easy to see that synthetic-chemical-based skin care products CAN be a reason for imbalances and cancers to develop, but perhaps not in the way that is commonly discussed.
Our bodies are overworked from all of this ‘extra’ that is being absorbed and can’t keep up with its most basic and necessary functions – it is constantly fighting for homeostatic balance, day after day after day.
This ‘extra’ is (very, very) avoidable.
Using skin care formulas that are preservative-free are one easy way that we can put less stress on our immune systems.
Waterless Formulas Backed By Science
For big-box stores that order inventory in bulk and need extra on hand (sitting in a warehouse for undetermined amounts of time), stocking 100% natural products is just not possible.
Enter the absolute necessity for indie skin care businesses that can produce in small batches or even make-to-order for individuals directly, bypassing the need for a long shelf life.
Handmade skin care entrepreneurs have the opportunity to make anhydrous products (recipes made without water), eliminating the need for preservatives.
Cold-pressed, unrefined carrier oils and fats contain antioxidants which help to slow down the rancidity of a formula naturally.
These ingredients are incredibly nourishing and can help to:
- Moisturize the top layers of skin
- Regenerate epithelial tissue
- Go deeper down into the body to help address pain and healing in muscle and ligament injuries.
The use of natural vegetable oils and fats is finally being recognized in dermatology and scientific research (Vaugh et al., 2018) as effective treatments for skin-barrier disruption such as dry skin, psoriasis, aged skin, acne, etc.
This science-backed evidence is very welcome in a world where it is common to see labels filled with chemicals such as dimethicone, petrolatum, and alpha hydroxy acids (Eberting et al., 2014).
Indie skin care businesses can use this more modern support as a rebuttal for claims that all-natural formulas aren’t as effective as those made in a commercial lab.
Notable Unrefined Butters and Carrier Oils
Shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa) is a staple to any skin care maker’s ingredient list and has a shelf life of about a year. It is an excellent moisturizer that can be used for a variety of products such as lip balm, body butters, and facial creams.
Shea is unique in that it can be used for many different types of skin and for a variety of reasons: daily skin care, dermatitis and eczema, sun-damaged skin, and supports long-term skin health.
Baobab oil (Adansonia digitata) has a bit longer shelf life of two years and is especially effective for regenerating cells and tissue.
This makes it highly useful in blends for scarring, burns, and any formula that needs focus on the health of the cell membrane due to its high fatty acid content.
Tamanu oil (Calophyllum inophyllum) is a lesser-known carrier oil with a four year shelf life.
This oil goes beyond skin care due to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It is highly effective in healing severe cuts, infection, and promoting skin growth.
Jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinensis) doesn’t go rancid and can even help to increase the shelf life of an entire blend. This oil is very similar to our skin’s sebum (the oil that our bodies naturally produce), and therefore highly penetrating.
The antioxidant properties and lack of shelf life of jojoba oil help it to contend with the usage time of synthetic-chemical-based products.
Essential Oils for Dermatological Use
Handmade skin care entrepreneurs can provide even greater results and therapeutic properties by adding pure essential oils to their formulations.
Essential oils (highly aromatic substances found in certain plants) are beginning to gain popularity as a natural way to deodorize a space or products.
But their usage goes far beyond just pleasant aroma.
Medical journals are advocating their use with evidence-based articles that state “at least 90 essential oils can be identified as being recommended for dermatological use, with at least 1500 combinations” (Orchard and vanVuuren, 2017).
Essential oils can have 200 or more components (aka organic compounds), making them incredibly versatile for naturally managing skin conditions when safely added to carriers.
- Oils high in sesquiterpene components tend to be skin nourishing,
- Oils high in monoterpenol components have anti-inflammatory properties, and
- Oils high in sesquiterpenol components are skin healing.
German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a popular example of a sesquiterpene-rich essential oil and promotes skin health with its antifungal, anti-inflammatory, cicastrisant (healing with scar tissue), and cooling properties.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) is another oil high in sesquiterpenes that boasts incredibly healing cicatrisant and antibacterial components.
Oils high in sesquiterpene components are large in molecular size (three isoprene units, for a total of fifteen carbon atoms), sitting on the surface of the skin for longer than most compounds, absorbing slowly – which greatly aids in healing.
Monoterpenol-rich oils are generally very mild and easy on the skin, Lavender and Thyme being two of the most well-known in this chemical family.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, cicatrisant, and skin healing, due to its average linalool content of 27.43%.
Thyme ct. linalool (Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool) is a fantastic antiseptic and anti-inflammatory oil, also very high in linalool at an average 37.33%.
These linalool-rich oils are especially effective for common skin conditions such as acne and rashes.
Monoterpenols are lighter molecules with only ten carbons; oils high in this chemical family penetrate the skin more quickly and can be paired effectively with the aforementioned sesquiterpene-rich oils.
Sandalwood (Santalum album) and Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoids) are two examples of essential oils rich in sesquiterpenols and are incredibly healing; their grounding, anti-inflammatory properties are safe for most skin types.
To illustrate, Sandalwood has an impressive cis-alpha santalol content of 43.3%, which is antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial; a fantastic choice for long-term skin care.
Perhaps the most notable statement above is that essential oils can have hundreds of components; many of which go far beyond skin care.
Essential Oils for Vitality and Health
Essential oils effect the body as a whole, supporting our overall vitality and health.
To demonstrate, we’ll take another look at Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) which was described above as being rich in monoterpenols, lending it to be a helpful essential oil for inflammation and cleansing.
However, Lavender also has high ester content (46.98% linalyl acetate on average), which provides sedative (calming), immunostimulant (stimulates the immune system), analgesic (helps relieve pain), and vasorelaxant (reduces tension in the walls of blood vessels) properties.
As another example, Thyme ct. linalool (Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool), noted above for having high linalool content, is also high in terpinen-4-ol (11.22% on average), which activates white blood cells, is hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), antihistaminic (manages allergies), and is a central nervous system depressant (helpful for anxiety, panic, and stress reactions).
The wide variety of support shown in these two illustrations is true for the chemical makeup of all essential oils.
An essential oil (such as Sweet Basil, Ocimum basilicum ct. linalool) can help with skin inflammation while ALSO addressing overwhelm, stress, mental and emotional burnout.
An essential oil (such as Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea) can be great for an anti-acne blend while ALSO easing anxiety and other emotional issues.
An essential oil (such as Jasmine absolute, Jasminum grandiflorum) can be perfect for protection against sun damage while ALSO regulating mood and enhancing alertness.
So what does this mean for indie skin care businesses?
Formulas can be made that serve a variety of health and wellness purposes.
If a facial serum is being made for nightly use to help a customer manage their acne, it is beneficial to include an essential oil such as Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) that is cell regenerative, has astringent and antiseptic properties, and is also a relaxing sedative to calm stress before bed.
If a morning facial cleanser is being made for an individual with oily skin, it is a wonderful choice to include an essential oil such as Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) that reduces sebum production, is active against acne bacteria, and also improves cognitive performance and concentration for that early meeting.
Combining two or more essential oils together to work synergistically has an even wider range of benefits.
Case Study: Hormonal Acne + Anxiety
In a personal case study, a 38-year-old woman who had been using an online dermatology provider to receive custom skincare formulations (for hormonal acne) volunteered to try a carrier oil plus essential oil serum for six weeks.
A blend was created with astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety therapeutic properties and chemical components.
Within ten days, she reported that her skin texture had greatly improved, her redness was gone, and would officially be ditching the chemical-based formula that she had been using for months.
Case Study: Adult Acne & Scarring + Stress
In another case study, a 52-year-old woman who had been battling dryness, acne scarring, and hyperpigmentation also volunteered to try a carrier and essential oil facial serum.
A blend was created with cell regeneration, oil regulation, and stress reduction in mind.
Within two weeks, she reported that her acne scarring and dryness had improved significantly, she had less breakouts, and her skin felt and looked better.
Harsh products and acne medications were replaced with the natural face serum.
Blending with a Holistic View
The examples above were formulated with a holistic view – meaning created based on the needs of the whole person in mind – physically, emotionally, situationally.
What indie skin care entrepreneurs will find when blending holistically with natural ingredients and essentials oils is that they can very quickly attract loyal customers to their entire line of wellness products – even if ‘said customer’ wasn’t aware or particularly interested in natural brands before.
These blends work so differently than other skin care products.
They address a larger physiological picture of what is actually causing the dryness, acnes, or eczema (to name just a few).
As we know from current studies in psychoneuroimmunology, what an individual is dealing with mentally and emotionally, even if they’re not consciously aware of it, shows up throughout the body in other forms (Newman, 2016).
Stress and overwhelm can result in psoriasis.
Premature wrinkles and dryness.
Our bodies and minds are so incredibly connected and it all comes full circle.
This is life-changing information, and a relatively new way of thinking for the Western world.
The first book on essential oils written in English was only just published in 1977. (The Art of Aromatherapy: The Healing and Beautifying Properties of the Essential Oils of Flowers and Herbs by Robert Tisserand).
According to Dr. Tom O’Bryan, it takes SEVENTEEN YEARS from the time that medical research is published before it is used in the average doctor’s office (Polizzi, 2021), and most of that research is for support of pharmaceutical companies – not natural ingredients that aren’t able to be patented.
This means that the understanding of:
- The benefits of natural ingredients,
- The long-term ramifications of using synthetic chemicals on our immune system’s ability to work correctly,
- The power of essential oils to heal our skin ailments as well as provide health and vitality to so many other aspects of our lives…
…this is not common knowledge.
The average consumer does not know to go looking for this information, and it won’t be discussed in a typical medical office.
Information about natural alternatives has to be spread by word of mouth and then further investigated personally.
How Indie Skin Care Makers Can Impact Wellness
This is the bridge.
The chance for an approachable, small, handmade business to:
- Provide 100% natural skin care products that work,
- Peak the curiosity of their customers as to why they work better and differently,
- Help them gently step into a world of holistic health, stress management, and overall life enjoyment.
This is so much more than making and selling a skin care product.
This is the presentation of a lifestyle that will allow individuals to realize that they can take their health into their own hands.
Listen up, indie skin care entrepreneurs.
YOU can absolutely make an impact on this and the next generation’s wellness by choosing and using ingredients with long-term health and vitality in mind.
And it can all start with something as small as mastering the recipe for (all-natural) lip balm.
1. Casciato, P., Reuters Life (2009), Average UK Woman Wears 515 Chemicals a Day. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-cosmetics/average-uk-woman-wears-515-chemicals-a-day-idUSTRE5AI3M820091119
2. Fair, L., Federal Trade Commission (2016), Are Your “All Natural” Claims All Accurate? https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/aromatherapy
3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020). Fragrances in Cosmetics. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics
4. DeCastro, K., QC Makeup Academy (2018). 7 Dangerous Chemicals Lurking in Your Skincare Products. https://www.qcmakeupacademy.com/2018/03/7-dangerous-chemicals-lurking-skincare-products/
5. Chemical Safety Facts. Parabens. Accessed 15 June 2021. https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/parabens/
6. Rylander C, Veierød MB, Weiderpass E, Lund E, Sandanger TM. (2019) Use of Skincare Products and Risk of Cancer of the Breast and Endometrium: A Prospective Cohort Study. Environ Health 18(1):105.
7. Vaughn AR, Clark AK, Sivamani RK, Shi VY. (2018) Natural Oils for Skin-Barrier Repair: Ancient Compounds Now Backed by Modern Science. Am J Clin Dermatol 19(1):103-117.
8. Eberting, CL, Coman G, Blickenstaff N. (2014) Repairing a Compromised Skin Barrier in Dermatitis: Leveraging the Skin’s Ability to Heal Itself. J Allergy Ther 5(5): 1-8.
9. Orchard, A, vanVuuren, S. (2017) Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2017/4517971/
10. Newman, T. (2016) Psychoneuroimmunology: Laugh and Be Well. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305921#The-minds-impact-on-health
11. Polizzi, N. (2021) Proven Docuseries: Healing Breakthroughs Backed By Science. Episode 2: Reversing Autoimmune Disorders and Healing Your Gut. https://provenseries.com/
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