The world of nature-based grooming products is on fire right now. Globally, the natural and organic skin-care market is an $11 billion industry, with U.S. consumers leading the charge, making more purchases last year than any other country. What’s more, 50 percent of men now say they believe grooming products with natural ingredients are better for their skin than synthetic formulas, according to a survey by global research firm Mintel. “Men have a growing awareness about the risks of synthetic chemicals and are eager to find a healthy solution,” says Dan Pettit, co-founder of the all-natural grooming line Tenzing. “Just as there is a big push in looking at food labels and understanding what we’re putting into our bodies, the grooming products we put on our skin should have an equal emphasis. Our largest organ is our skin, and toxic ingredients are absorbed quickly into our system.”
Some natural ingredients may be more effective than synthetic ones — but not all. And not everything made in a lab is bad for you either. “Over the years I have used a broad range of hair- and skin-care products on my clients,” says Rayon Mclean, owner of SteelMclean Barbers and founder of SteelMclean grooming products. “The reality is that the benefits versus risks associated with the use of a natural chemical or synthetic chemical aren’t as black and white as they may appear. There are many naturally occurring compounds that can cause dermatitis, acne, and many other allergic reactions that one may view as being harmful. Similarly, there are synthetic chemicals that have been used in the cosmetic industry for many years and have proven to be beneficial.”
How to distinguish between what’s safe and what’s not: “The synthetic ingredients that I would stay away from are those that mimic the benefits of a natural ingredient — moisture, suppleness, and so on — without providing the benefits, such as the infusion of essential vitamins and minerals that aid in healthy hair and skin maintenance,” says Mclean.
So which natural ingredients are worth seeking out? And what should you avoid? Here’s what to know about the stuff you put on your skin and hair.