Plant Oils: the best natural, cruelty-free beauty product

essential oils - we are nature blog

Is it just me or has selecting the right beauty products become like solving a puzzle? There is so much variety on offer but which one is the right one for you? Aside from your skin type there are so many other things to consider,

especially if you’re concerned about the environment. As an animal lover, ensuring  my skin care products are cruelty-free has always been my highest priority.

But even when you’ve gotten the issue of animal testing out of the way, there are still many other things to consider when choosing what you will put on your skin. What ingredients do they contain? Are these ingredients natural? Are they organic? Are they good for you in the long run? Unless you’re a chemist it’s very difficult to determine all of this just by reading the product label.

In my previous post I drew the conclusion that the only way to know for sure whether your food is organic is to grow it yourself. Fortunately, in this case, the solution is far less labor-intensive.

Avoid the headache and choose oils

I find that in most cases the answer to finding the healthiest and most sustainable solution is to get as close to the source as possible. This means looking at what was used before the availability of  complex creams and lotions. The answer is often plants. Plant extracts and oils have been used for centuries in healthcare. Certain oils were consumed internally for health benefits, and others were used topically for skin care. Essential oils were (and still are) also often used as perfumes and mood enhancers. Often, I would argue, living a more conscious lifestyle is as simple as going back to basics.

The great news is that plant-based oils can replace many of your skin care products and you can use the same oils you use for cooking. Just make sure they are the highest quality you can find, preferably cold-pressed.

As I’ve recently discovered, oils make great moisturisers and even cleansers. Ayurveda encourages the practice of rubbing the body with oils to moisturise. What oil is used depends on your skin type and body-mind constitution. About a year ago I discovered the amazing moisturising properties of avocado oil. This was after a disappointing attempt as using coconut oil all over my body. It left me feeling greasy and no more moisturised than I did to begin with. Avocado oil absorbs quickly and really feels nourishing – minus the layer of grease. It’s a god-send for dry skin.

That oils can be used as a moisturiser is probably no major revelation, but have you ever thought about cleansing with oil? Last year, while reading up on the use of oils as moisturisers, I discovered the oil cleansing method. Before that it would never have occurred to me to cleanse my face with oil but, if you apply the logic that like dissolves like, it makes sense. I decided to give it a try. I searched for the most organic sunflower oil I could find, bought castor oil for the first time in my life, and got some really cute flamingo print flip-top bottles in which to keep my oil blends – armed and ready!

I started with a blend of 80% sunflower oil and 20% castor oil. At the end of my shower I poured out a bit of oil into my palm (after shaking the bottle well). I massaged the oil into my face for a few minutes and then removed it by placing a steaming cloth over my face a few times. I skipped my usual moisturiser and just massaged a few drops of the cleansing oil into my face instead.

Apparently the steam helps lift the oil from your face along with any dirt that’s dissolved in it. It also softens and opens pores. Maybe it’s my imagination but I can sort of feel this happening. I’ve also noticed that stubborn pimples get reduced over time until they eventually fade away. Castor oil is a good purifying agent so it is an essential ingredient here, although it should be used in small quantities as it is quite drying.

After a few days I noticed an improvement in the appearance of my skin. It looked smoother and healthier. However, the dry spots I’d been suffering from were still there. I decided to change up the solution. As castor oil is quite drying, I reduced the amount of castor oil to 10%. This helped a bit, but in the deep of winter my skin started feeling dry again. This time I added some avocado oil to my oil blend. For extra hydration I used avocado oil after cleansing as a moisturiser.

Since every skin is different, you’ll need to experiment a bit to find the perfect blend for your skin. These recipes are a useful guide. It is a process and I’m still figuring out what works best for my skin. In winter the avocado oil was a great help, but now that it’s warmer I find that my skin feels a little greasy so I’ve switched to jojoba oil as a moisturiser. I’ve struggled with acne for most of my 20s and while it’s improved a lot I still get breakouts sometimes. I’ve read that jojoba is great for preventing breakouts as it’s naturally antibacterial and mimics sebum.

I have to admit that for a little while I became a bit disillusioned with the oil cleansing method, as my skin started breaking out again. I stopped for a while and was just using a regular cleanser. My acne got worse. I decided to give oil cleansing another try and I’m so happy I did because I’ve seen major improvement since. I’m not sure why the breakouts began in the first place, but I think they were triggered by stress.

Oil cleansing tips

oil droplets in water

There are a few things to keep in mind when using the oil cleansing method. Firstly, it is not a good idea to do this every day. It is quite intense and can dry out your skin if done too frequently. Some people use a regular cleanser in between. These are too drying for me. I oil cleanse every second day, and on in between days I just wash my face with water. I always use a bit of oil as a moisturiser afterwards, but if your skin is oily that probably won’t be necessary.

Secondly, you will need an arsenal of cotton facecloths. Either that or you’ll have to wash the few you have very frequently. The cloths also tend to become oil clogged after a while. They become discoloured and develop an oil smell. I’m trying to find the best way to tackle this and so far throwing half a cup of baking soda into the washing machine with the cloths seems to help.

Moisturising with oil is easy. First, rub some oil between your hands to warm it up (so it spreads better) and then rub it into your skin as you would lotion. To make application easier you could decant your oil into a spray bottle. As I’ve mentioned a few times by now, avocado oil is great for dry skin. There are many oils for each skin type so you can really have fun experimenting and even add essential oils to your blends if you want a nice scent or extra benefits.

Essential oils are great as they all  have different properties, smell lovely and can enhance your skin care routine. However, it is important to do your research as they are highly concentrated and can be harmful if not used correctly.

Some oils are pricey, but if you do it right you’ll be replacing two or even three products (cleanser, toner, face cream) with one. It’s also better than shelling out for expensive, chemical-laden products and when you consider the reduced carbon footprint, it’s definitely worth it! I almost forgot, oils make a great make-up remover (dab on to area and wipe off with cotton wool), and can also replace your shaving gel, so make that 5!

I hardly ever visit the drug store now, and when I do need a shampoo or deodorant I buy them online from a shop that specializes in natural, eco-friendly products. speaking of deodorant, I’m working on working on finding an oil-based solution for this too, so keep an eye out for my next post 😉

For a step by step breakdown on how to oil cleanse, check out these two awesome pages. They are my go-to when I need a little help.

Oil Cleansing method instructions

Nitty Gritty on the Oil Cleansing Method

The benefits of oils in your beauty routine are numerous, but, just in case you’re not ready to replace all your products with oils, I’d like to add a note on cruelty-free certifications.

Cruelty-free certifications

When you go shopping for your “conscious” beauty products you will probably notice a collection of interesting looking stamps on the packaging. These are all certifications from different organisations and have different implications. I can’t tell you whether all of these are legit. Personally, I don’t have time to research each and every one of these each time I need to buy something which is why I’ve opted to replace most of my products with oils. What I can tell you is that, based on some research I’ve done, the Leaping Bunny stamp seems to be the most reliable cruelty-free certification.

 

leaping bunny logoThe leaping bunny certification is currently the only reliable standard that indicates cruelty-free products

 

Of all the cruelty free stamps that appear on products, the Leaping Bunny certification is the only one that is an international standard. It is an initiative of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), which was formed by eight animal rights groups. If you’re interested you can read the standard here. Compliant companies not only make a pledge to clear animal testing from all stages of product development, but are also subjected to independent audits. The commitments are also renewed on an annual basis. On their website you can find a list of certified brands.

Even though Peta has become a well-established authority on animal welfare, their “beauty without cruelty” mark is not a standard and certification requires nothing more than a signed statement of assurance from the company in question verifying that they do not conduct, commission or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products, and that they pledge not to do so in future. Are we really willing to take the words of profit-hungry corporations on this? I think experience has taught us that this isn’t a good idea. My advice, therefore, is to choose leaping bunny certified products wherever possible. of course, there are smaller brands that can’t afford the certification but are just as good. Use your discretion and do some research.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear about your natural cosmetic alternatives in the comments below. If you’ve enjoyed this post please subscribe and follow me on social media.

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