Take the guesswork out of clean beauty. These expert-approved plant-powered serums, all-natural hydrators, and oh-so-soothing creams are some of the best on the market.
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Lately, it seems like "all-natural" is all the rage. It's printed on our bottled juices, our packaged foods, and our kids' snacks, and you've probably seen it printed on a few different labels for cleaning products and household items. One other place you've been seeing it more and more frequently? In the beauty world. What's not to love about skincare products made from nature's best ingredients, developed without those pesky chemicals and additives, and crafted to nourish, soothe, and hydrate you from head to toe? Sorting through the noise of it all can be tough, however. If every facial toner, moisturizer, mask, and cream is claiming to be the best "all-natural" option on the market, it can be tricky to truly find the best ones.
That's why we asked a board of skin experts and dermatologists to break down botanical-based beauty once and for all. For instance, what extracts and oils are actually going to achieve that glow we're all after without leaving you feeling greasy? (Hello, babchi-seed extract!) Is seaweed really the next super-charged beauty ingredient? And what should we make of the whole green tea craze? Our experts also reveal the true powers of vitamin C when used in a daily skincare routine, and let's just say, it's more than a punch of citrus in your morning juice.
From the ingredients that have been scientifically proven to soften lines, brighten dark spots, and calm flare-ups to the products that will actually help you reap those benefits, read on to learn more about plant-powered beauty.
Photography: Courtesy of REN2 of 10
The Wrinkle Releaser
Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, bakuchiol (babchi-seed extract) was shown in a 2018 British Journal of Dermatology study to be as effective at refining skin as retinol, with one big advantage: "It's believed to have similar collagen-stimulating properties, without the irritation," says Michelle Henry, a dermatologist in New York City.
REN Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Oil, $69, sephora.com.
Photography: Courtesy of Murad3 of 10
A clinically-proven antioxidant powerhouse, vitamin C (which also peps up your morning OJ) guards your face against damage from UV rays and pollution, and it helps treat any damage that's already been done: "It inhibits melanin production, so it's great for lightening dark spots and evening out skin tone," says Henry.
Murad Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $29.99, amazon.com.
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Sensitive types, this one's for you: Evening-primrose oil, from the seeds of the yellow wildflower, brims with omega-6 and gamma-omega fatty acids. It's emollient, supremely calming, and ideal for "a range of issues, from dry skin and eczema to acne," says Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York City.
Aēsop "Primrose Facial Hydrating Cream," $49, nordstrom.com.
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Pomegranate seeds are packed with punicic acid, a unique omega-5 fatty acid that stimulates turn-over of the epidermis's outermost cells (hello, glow). They also contain ellagic acid, which boosts SPF's protective effects. Layer on a serum or cream under your daily sunscreen.
Lavido Replenishing Facial Serum, $59, lavido.com.
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Think of algae as a green salad for your skin. Varieties such as brown seaweed pack a range of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that plump and fortify, says Kavita Mariwalla, a dermatologist in West Islip, New York. In a concentrated dose (as in a face or eye mask), it also depuffs and deeply hydrates.
Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Instant Eye Lift Algae Mask, $10, ulta.com.
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Royal jelly, the food that turns a honeybee larva into a queen, satiates all skin types. "Its unique makeup of proteins, fatty acids, and B vitamins, like B6 and niacin, are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and improve skin-barrier health," says California-based dermatologist, Annie Chiu. For maximum moisture, reach for a night cream.
Burt’s Bees Skin Nourishment Night Cream, $9, target.com.
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The Redness Reducer
Green tea is a comforting topical, adept at subduing breakouts and irritation and preventing sun damage. "It has high levels of epigallo-catechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, a polyphenol that neutralizes harmful free radicals," says Zeichner. "It also promotes healthy collagen production."
Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner, $39, sephora.com.
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"There's a long history of using willow bark to treat conditions associated with pain and inflammation," says Mariwalla. Salicin, the gently exfoliating form of salicylic acid it contains, whisks away dead cells and opens up clogged pores, so it's "particularly helpful for oily or acne-prone skin."
Boscia Clear Complexion Willow Bark Spot Treatment, $18, amazon.com.
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To soften lines, tap into rosehip oil. "Its vitamin C content provides antioxidant benefits, and that means less inflammation and more youthful skin," says New York dermatologist, Robert Anolik. "It also contains linoleic acid, which reduces hyper-pigmentation after UV-light exposure."
Trilogy Rosehip Oil Light Blend, $44, trilogyproducts.com.
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