If you’re on a mission to clean up your skincare routine, you’ve come to the right place. Perhaps you have sensitive skin, want to avoid exposure to potential toxins, prefer to support brands that prioritize sustainability, or simply want to explore the world of clean, green, natural skincare.
But before we dive into some of the best natural alternatives for popular active ingredients in skincare products, it’s worth noting why it’s so essential to pay close attention to the items we buy and apply regularly.
The benefits of switching to clean skincare
Dr. Goldfaden mentions that the skin is the body’s largest organ, and research shows that it’s capable of absorbing 60 percent of the ingredients in the products we apply daily. “That’s a very large number, and we’ve become more aware of what ingredients are found in our products for this reason,” he continues. “Many synthetic ingredients have been recognized to cause irritation in some people and may have damaging effects longer-term.” In fact, certain ingredients that lurk in common skin and body care products are linked to everything from allergic reactions to endocrine disruption and even serious illnesses.
For that reason, Dr. Goldfaden explains, “All Goldfaden MD products are made without harsh synthetic ingredients.” The list includes but certainly isn’t limited to artificial fragrances and dyes, which are linked to skin allergies and even cancer (in the case of Red 04 dye). And before you think that naturally derived ingredients won’t yield the same benefits and results of their lab-made counterparts, he reminds us that the full Goldfaden MD line “couples scientific expertise and nourishing active plant cell extracts to restore and improve the appearance of aging skin.”
In short, Goldfaden MD takes care to couple both the best of the botanical world and science-backed evidence to formulate safe skincare products that yield radiant results.
5 natural (and effective) skincare swaps for active ingredients
Perhaps you’re familiar with vitamin A products such as retinol and retinoids. “Retinoids are found in and derived from animal-based foods or are chemically reproduced,” he explains. While both retinol and retinoids are known to be effective anti-aging ingredients, they’re also infamous for causing the “retinol/retinoid uglies,” or increased sensitivity and redness following their use.
Fortunately, there are different ingredients that can take their place that is naturally derived and show evidence of less scaling and stinging than retinol. First on the list is bakuchiol, an anti-aging all-star that helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. (You can find it in Goldfaden MD’s Radiance Repair Daily Renewal Serum.)
Carotenoids are another wonderful, natural swap (which you can also find in other Goldfaden MD products) to use in place of retinol and retinoids. “Carotenoids are found in plant-based foods; we use carrots,” Dr. Goldfaden explains. Aside from their anti-aging properties, a noteworthy benefit of carotenoids is that “the stabilization of the product is better and they aren’t as harsh, so they’re particularly ideal for those with sensitive skin,” he continues.
3. Alpha arbutin
Next, for those who struggle with hyperpigmentation, you may have heard of (or even use) hydroquinone. “Hydroquinone is a chemical, also called benzene-1,4-diol—and benzene is a known carcinogen,” Dr. Goldfaden shares. “It’s a type of phenol, which is a fancy name for a certain class of chemical compounds that are similar to alcohols.” However, due to its risks, phenol is illegal for OTC sale in many countries—though unfortunately, the US isn’t among them.
To combat hyperpigmentation without risking your greater health, Goldfaden MD employs alpha-arbutin instead. “Alpha arbutin is derived from the bearberry plant—specifically from the leaves,” Dr. Goldfaden explains. Alpha arbutin (such as that in Light Treatment), “suppresses the pigment in pigment-producing cells as opposed to killing the cells, as hydroquinone does.” Better yet, it’s gentle yet still highly effective in lightening unwanted dark spots.
4. Vegan hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid is famed in the skincare world for its hydrating, plumping effects. “Hyaluronic acid can be derived from rooster combs, made synthetically in a lab, or from a vegan source,” Dr. Goldfaden shares. If you’re striving to find options that use the latter source, rest assured that Goldfaden MD prioritizes the vegan alternative—derived from sweet potatoes—across several hydrating products.
Silicones (such as dimethicone) and mineral oil are commonly used in conventional skincare products. “Dimethicone is a man-made, toxic synthetic pigment and silicone-based polymer. It sits on the surface of the skin and doesn’t allow it to breathe, causing irritation,” Dr. Goldfaden warns. He also says that it forms a barrier that can end up reducing the efficacy of active ingredients. Next, mineral oil is “a petroleum-derived oil that suffocates the skin and is considered comedogenic, which means it can clog the pores and increase the risk of acne and blackheads,” he continues.
None of these side effects sound or look appealing, which is why Goldfaden MD takes care to use a natural alternative to take their place.
Enter: squalane, which is a natural emollient that mimics your skin’s natural oils. Squalane boasts anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness and swelling, and it also won’t clog your pores like silicones and mineral oil can. “Squalane is also used because it has a much longer shelf life and is more stable in formulation than the alternatives,” Dr. Goldfaden shares. You can find this natural ingredient in products like Goldfaden MD’s Vital Boost Daily Moisturizer.)
Michele Ross is a beauty and lifestyle writer based in Los Angeles. She’s passionate about clean skincare and hiking in the California sunshine (with adequate SPF, of course).