Beauty Skincare

Do Natural Skincare Products Work? We Tested 5 Brands

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By Chere Di Boscio

There is a misconception that in order to produce good skincare, companies ‘need’ to include preservatives in their products for them to ‘work’. And yet, an increasing number of companies are reducing the harmful components in their products–whether by choice or by law–and there’s a plethora of all-natural skincare brands coming up with high-tech, scientific formulae that claim to reduce fine lines, make skin appear brighter and tighter, and prevent damage from the sun and free radicals. But do these actually work? Is it possible to create ‘pharmaceutical’ or ‘medical’ level skincare products without including long lists of unpronounceable synthetic ingredients?

Over the course of two months, I tried 5 brands that claimed both to be ‘natural’ and effective at fighting the signs of ageing. So, do natural skincare products work better than their chemical counterparts? Here’s what I found.

1. Kimia Facial Skincare System

This natural luxury beauty range comes packaged in sleek, luxurious bottles and a lovely gift box, and is a favourite with the likes of Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss, Laura Bailey and other celebrities. A-listers apparently most value its anti-ageing ingredients and simplicity. The whole system is comprised of two products: a serum and a hydrator, the combination of which is meant to remove dead skin cells and accelerate cell removal.

Kimia never uses GMOs, animal ingredients, artificial colours or fragrances or parabens, but it does use some chemical preservatives. Main ingredients include: Witch Hazel, Cranberry Seed Oil, Marula Oil, Sweet Almond Oil and Rosehip Oil. There is a medium-strong floral scent to this, with rose being the dominant note.

After cleansing,  I dabbed the light yet heavily concentrated serum on my face, and noticed it left a smooth, matt finish on my skin. According to the Kimia website, the serum allows the skin to work ‘from the inside out’, and is packed with nourishing plant extracts to improve the look of fine lines and improve elasticity and new cellular growth of skin cells.

Then, after a few minutes, I smoothed the moisturising hydrator over that. Even in winter, with the heater blasting, I felt my skin was softer and plumper after just one use. Whether Kimia’s skin kit will lead to younger looking skin over time is yet to be seen, but I have high hopes after reading that others have had good results–plus, I love the packaging and the simple 2-step process.

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2. Queen of the Hive

Bee venom doesn’t sound like it would be the most nourishing ingredient for your skincare regime, but the makers of Queen of the Hive swear it works to help regenerate skin cells.

On the package, it warns that you shouldn’t use the product if you have an allergy to bee venom, and that it may sting (pardon the pun!) after application. Bravely, I slather it on–it smells slightly of honey, and is as rich and creamy as the inside of an eclair–and feel absolutely nothing, not even a little tingle. Yet apparently, my skin would act as though it had been stung: the ingredients of the cream are said to ‘fool’ the skin into thinking it has received a hit of melittin–in other words, bee venom.

This causes the body to direct blood towards the area and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. It sounds mad, but in clinical trials involving 14 women aged between 50 and 59, all the volunteers said the bee venom cream improved the texture of their skin, reduced lines and wrinkles and left them appearing ‘visibly more youthful’. Collagen strengthens body tissue while elastin is the protein that helps the skin to remain taut and bounce back into shape after being pressed or pinched. The venom also has the effect of relaxing the muscles slightly, it is claimed.

If you’re worried about the bees, the manufacturers assured me that no bees were harmed in the making of the cream–the venom is harvested by placing a pane of glass alongside a hive and running a weak electrical current through it, which encourages the insects to sting the surface. Because the bee’s lance remains in its body, it does not die, and the venom is collected from the glass. In fact, the manufacturers claim that the boom in bee venom cream could encourage more people to keep bees, which are in a dangerous decline.

All I know is that this is a thick, rich cream is fully natural, with no artificial ingredients whatsoever, and left my skin plumper, smoother, and certainly more hydrated after just one application–and my skin smelled sweet, too! There were no changes in my facial contours, though, even after several applications.

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3. Luxe Botanicals

I must say, the packaging for new brand Luxe Botanics’ Discovery Kit is certainly gorgeous: 7 delightful pots all in a ‘book’ tied up with silver ribbon. And the gorgeousness certainly continued long after the ribbon was cut, too.

Each little pot contains a kind of oil, that serves a specific function. There’s Marula oil to start off with, as a ‘pre-cleanser’, Camu Camu for cleansing and Kigelia oil for moisturising. Each oil can also be used as a serum.

Derived from organically grown materials, the oils were carefully selected by the founder of the brand for their skincare benefits, and then are enhanced with further botanicals to give them further unique benefits.

I wasn’t sure why I needed a pre-cleanser, but I dabbed on the Marula oil first, and noted that my skin drank it up pretty quickly. So quickly, there wasn’t really anything to wipe it off! Marula oil comes from  South Africa (as does the founder of the brand, in fact) and is known for its anti-oxidising qualities, so I reckoned it was a good thing to just leave this on for a bit.

I still needed to wash my face though (I tested this kit in the evening), so I generously applied the Camu Camu oil with my fingertips, and let it sit on my skin for a bit. This didn’t sink in as fast (maybe because I had just applied another oil), but when I took a warm, damp cloth to my face to wipe it all off, an astonishing amount of makeup and London grime came off with it. I must admit, I was a both horrified and amazed at how much makeup I seemed to have applied that day, so I kept rinsing and wiping until the cloth came away clean. Yipes!

Once I felt my skin was clean, I applied the Kigelia africana oil. I had never heard of this, but the packaging said it was from Malawi and served as a moisturising serum, which is a good thing for me because I have pretty dry skin. Turns out this is a pretty rare oil, with some pretty amazing qualities: it’s anti-bacterial (good news for those with acne), proven to boost collagen and firm skin (so much so that African women apparently use it on their breasts to keep them perky), and can even prevent melanoma when it’s used medically. Wow!

All of Luxe Botanical’s oils are fully organic with zero additives or preservatives, and none of the oils had any kind of strong smell (unlike, say, olive oil). I was really surprised to see how effective the Camu Camu oil was at cleansing – much better than the creamy cleanser I usually use. Using an oil for a moisturiser doesn’t give the same effect as a cream – it leaves you ‘glowing’, kind of with a dewy feeling to your skin, but I felt in winter I would need something richer that to get rid of the flakes I tend to get on my chin and around my nose. Who knows? With all the amazing qualities of these specialty oils, I’m going to give this routine a try through the colder months to see how I fare.

The bottom line? From what I experienced, this is an excellent regime for anyone with sensitive or mature skin.

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4. AEOS

Harnessing the power of minerals, gemstones and crystals, AEOS offers a multiple step skincare system for different types of skin. The first step for each program always begins with cleansed skin. Personally, I prefer a cleansing oil, as I believe these really dig out city dirt that’s deeply embedded in the pores, so I began with the Cleansing Oil Dé-Maq. 

The key ingredients of this nourishing cleansing oil are over 90% biodynamic Spelt, Jojoba, Grape Seed, Sesame Seed, Avocado, and Rosewood Oil as well as Vitamin E. The full sized product is 75ml and as only a few drops are needed, this should last a very long time.

The golden oil smells slightly citrusy and is quite rich–I found that heating a white washcloth with hot water then adding 4-5 drops of the oil on it worked wonders to rid my skin of impurities. After wiping my face for a few minutes with this, the cloth was dark with makeup and other impurities that seemed to have easily been removed from my skin with the oil. It’s recommended to use the Dew Facial Wash after this cleansing step, but honestly, I could see that my face was profoundly cleaner with the oil on the washcloth alone.

So I moved to the next phase of the routine—rebalancing. For this, I used the Energising Conditioner . This encourages hydration and puts moisture back in the skin, helping the skin to find its own balance after potentially being stripped by the cleansing process. To be honest, after using the cleansing oil, I felt this step was unnecessary. This thin blue slightly floral liquid just left my face feeling a bit wetter, but I imagine the Spelt Oil, Rosewater, Hyaluronic Acid, Lavender Extract, Rose Extract and Rose Geranium Oil will benefit my skin in the long run. There are also pure essences of Opal, Amethyst, Turquoise, Emerald, Quartz and Chrysoprase, which help reduce inflammation and bring some healing qualities to the skin, helping it to regenerate and lift over time.

The third phase is Replenish, and there is a serum and moisturiser for this stage–specifically, the Realive Serum and Enriching Moisturiser. The luxurious serum helps to minimise the signs of ageing whilst the moisturiser seals in all the positive benefits of hydration.

The serum felt a bit runny and had a pleasantly floral smell. It sank in quickly and left a slightly dewy feeling on my skin. The pink moisturiser, which is forumlated for dry, sensitive or more mature skin, is very hydrating and has a medium light texture. What I like best about this is its high-end, luxurious anti ageing ingredients like Argan Oil, Arnica Extract, as well as more typical Sweet Orange Oil, Lemon Myrtle Oil, Lemon Tea Tree Oil and Lavender Oil.  Importantly, it also contains precious crystal essences from Fire Opal, Rose Quartz, Topaz, Orange Calcite, Charoite and Tourmaline, which make various claims for calming the skin, and the soul.

Overall, AEOS skincare requires some time for the various steps of the routine, and frankly, I am likely to use only the cleansing oil, serum and moisturiser on a daily basis. But given their purity, effectiveness, gorgeous packaging and the immediate results obtained, I cannot recommend AEOS highly enough.

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5. Ambuja

This high-tech German skincare brand prides itself on solving skincare issues with technology and nature, and so the range is perfect for those with issues to solve. My own problem is redness and dry skin, so I tried Atelier Elixir, focused on improving skin tone and elasticity for those with very small fine lines. The scent was a bit unusual: pleasantly reminiscent of cocoa, with a bit of wheat, but it went on oddly dry and left a slightly powdery finish on my skin, making it feel what some may say is toned, but for me it felt a bit tight. When used regularly, Ambuja claims this is one of their very best age-defence serums, so I shall continue using this for its multi-peptide complex, which protects skin from free radicals and pollution, and is therefore much needed in the smoky, polluted centre of Paris, where I live.

The next product I tried was the Charisma Capsule Elixir. Containing Indian gooseberry, known to reduce hyperpigmentation, a problem I am beginning to see on my skin. This ‘radiance enhancing’ product also protects the skin from oxidative stress–a must when living in a big city like London or Paris. I only had enough of this to last for about three weeks, and honestly haven’t any reduction in brown spots yet, but surely you’d need to apply it regularly to allow the product to work. Anything that keeps me from having to use lasers one day is worth it! It’s also a much purer formulation than others I have tried, such as GG Beauty. 

Additionally, Couture Capsule Elixir was designed to reduce another problem that many women–including me– experience after the age of 25 or 30: dryness and redness. Because it is so hydrating, it’s one I’ll be relying on for winter. It is immediately absorbed; smells a bit like rice pudding, and keeps more moisture in the skin than does the Atelier Elixir, in my opinion. It contains bioactive buckwheat to reduce puffiness, so it’s perfect for the day after a big night out. On my own parched skin, I found that it left a slightly dry film; for some reason, the same didn’t happen to my husband’s oiler skin when I asked him to try it.

In short, Ambuja makes a wide variety of high-tech, all natural formulations aimed at different skin concerns, and while prices for these products are quite high (around $300 for a full sized bottle), the purity of the product, combined with wonderful packaging, and rare, natural, high-tech extracted ingredients may make these products worth the spend for mature women who are unwilling to slather themselves in chemicals in the name of beauty.

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