Organic and natural brands are proving that they’ve got the goods to truly help smooth, brighten, and firm women’s faces with powerful botanicals, amino acid peptides, and vitamins. Here are 12 picks that that can actually do something for your skin—without piling on a lot of junky ingredients on it in the process. —Ann Abel
This high-potency cream, which can be used in the morning and at night, contains concentrated firming actives and antioxidant-rich seed oils. It’s full of cocoa beans (rich in collagen-boosting plant peptides), soy (which fortifies skin’s structural matrix), natural hyaluronic acid (draws moisture and combats the appearance of wrinkles), and the Inca Inchi seed (which has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids to fight free radical damage). “The skin fully recognizes all of the plant actives as the nutritive building blocks of its own structure,” explains Joi Ruud, global marketing director for Amala—which makes it super easy for it to repair itself.
The celebrity facialist’s lightweight elixir, packed with antioxidants and vitamins, takes its skin-nutrition cues from the wellness world. “Daily Serum is based on my love of green juices,” says Joanna Vargas. “It contains oat grass juice, which boosts your lymphatic system, chlorophyll to oxygenate cells, as well as an ingredient called galactoarabinan, which is derived from the larch tree and causes more cell turnover than a glycolic.” Only galactoarabinan, in addition to being a total mouthful, is also anti-inflammatory, so it won’t cause irritation—even in sensitive skin, Vargas says.
(Photo: Joanna Vargas)
Super-advanced vitamin C meets acai, passion fruit, meadowfoam, carrot, raspberry, pomegranate, and rosehip oil in this powerful collagen and radiance booster. Odacité founder Valérie Grandury created it for her “most fascinating private client,” who lives aboard The World, that cruise ship that constantly sails around the globe, and asked for a product that would “capture the luminosity and eternal youth of the angels.” Grandury explains why it works: “Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate safely penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin, where it can stimulate collagen production.” Ahoy, radiant skin!
With vitamin A (one of the most researched skin-care ingredients), Indian ginseng, shea butter, and coconut juice, this cream from Upper East Side aesthetician and skin-care formulator Jillian Wright was designed to revitalize dull and tired skin by stimulating collagen (a protein in your skin that contributes to its texture, structure, and appearance). By taking good care of your skin and using ingredients that have “integrity,” meaning they’re made well, your body’s better able to ward off free radical damage, says Wright. “The suppleness, texture, tone, and brightness of your skin will improve,” she promises.
(Photo: Jillian Wright Skincare)
In this repair treatment, a proprietary blend of apple, lemon, and grape stem cells, and vitamin C is infused into certified organic, antioxidant-rich juices. The combo helps improve elasticity (that awesome snap-back) and density as well as dark circles and fine lines around the eyes, where skin on the face is the thinnest and lacks oil glands. The company also recently released a red-carpet-ready Stem Cellular Instant Eye Lift, that plumps and firms in 15 minutes.
(Photo: Juice Beauty)
“This is my favorite serum in the S5 line,” raves Dara Kennedy, owner of the online beauty boutique Ayla, which was the first American retailer to stock the hot cosmeceutical line made in the UK. It’s a brightening serum for hyper-pigmentation, but unlike others in this category that can sometimes be “one benefit wonders,” its other ingredients work hard, too—like a marine enzyme derived from salmon caviar that gently exfoliates, a blend of seven Alpine herbs that reduce the intensity of dark spots, and Tibetan kombucha, which enhances radiance and clarity. “Even sensitive-skin types, who normally can’t tolerate heavy-duty brightening products, can use it,” Kennedy says.
“It’s currently my favorite skin-care product,” gushes Ayla’s Kennedy. “This oil is made by a family in Sweden that grows and sustainably harvests their own sea buckthorn berries, and makes batches of products featuring sea buckthorn oil for us—fresh to order.” Sea buckthorn is packed with vitamins A, C, and E, she says, and a suite of essential fatty acids (omegas 3, 6, 7, 9) that nourish skin. “They blend it with avocado and argan oils for the perfect consistency and a more well-rounded product. It is particularly fabulous on rosacea- and eczema-prone skin.”
(Photo: Ayla Beauty)
Designed for all skin types, ages, and stages (preventive medicine in your 20s, or a fast-acting, effective, active treatment in your 40s), Kahina’s gel-cream can actually be used morning and night. It combines the much buzzed-about grapeseed extract resveratrol—an effective antioxidant that Kahina founder Katharine L’Heureux has a fondness for, having grown up on a California vineyard—and nutrient-packed argan from Morocco, where she found the women’s cooperatives who produce the beautiful oil. Combined they help even out skin tone, repair moisture balance, reduce fine lines, and even decrease the appearance of redness.
(Photo: Kahina Giving Beauty)
Dermatologist Gary Goldfaden, MD, created this cult-favorite line and highly concentrated “super serum,” which works skin-rejuvenating wonders—without a prescription. Its antioxidant red tea and vitamin C-loaded cherry extracts help reduce redness and to brighten the skin. Wonder-ingredient hyaluronic acid maintains natural moisture retention, firming and plumping skin, while creating a protective barrier. “It’s particularly good for sensitive or reactive skin types because it helps with inflammation, and even works very well post sunburn,” says Dr. Goldfaden. “It’s also a terrific radiance booster.”
(Photo: Goldfaden MD)
Contouring serums address skin that needs firming. And this “supercharged, nano-weight anti-gravity treatment” acts as a daily face-lift, explains Tata Harper publicist Nicole Solino. It delivers instant lifting, tightening, and smoothing effects, with starch proteins and plumping plant oils and algaes. Meanwhile, natural ingredients sourced from around the world—or Harper’s Vermont farm—help reinforce the skin’s structural integrity over time, such as orange blossom peptides and pomegranate hydrospheres. This way you get both instant gratification and, with use, lasting results.
You’ll find this skin-care staple in the homes of a trillion savvy women who know that exfoliation is the name of the game. Like a facial in a jar, this mask removes dead skin cells to renew your complexion, brighten skin tone, combat congestion and blackheads, and help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s powered by papain, an awesome enzyme from papaya that exfoliates, along with natural fruit acids from passion fruit, lemon, grape, and pineapple. Using this weekly will make all your other products work better.
There really aren’t that many “hero ingredients” in skin-care, but one of the most clinically studied active naturals is L-Ascorbic Acid (a form of vitamin C), which can brighten and smooth skin. Combined here with soothing and hydrating hyaluronic acid (which draws 1,000 times its weight in water) and oat beta-glucans, it’s non-irritating, explains Naturopathica founder Barbara Close. “Our approach to skin care has always been to avoid harmful synthetics or skin irritants, and to add only ingredients that are proven to provide real benefits to the skin,” she says. Which makes this both a healthy and high-performance anti-aging serum.
(Photo: Tata Harper via Facebook)
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