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These 10 winning natural body-care products in our second annual Natural Beauty Awards are free of harsh chemicals and full of plant compounds.
Desert Essence Italian Lemon Hand and Body Lotion, $9, desertessence.com
Star ingredient: Shea butter, which is rich in fatty acids, helps your skin retain moisture.
Tester feedback: “My skin is sensitive, and this product did not cause any adverse reaction. It has earned a permanent place in my beauty routine.” —Alisha Harris, education counselor, Little Rock, Arkansas
Sun Specialist SPF 40 High Protection Cream PA+++, $38, jurlique.com
Star ingredients: All-natural Superberry Complex, with pepperberry, ribery, and muntari berry extracts, plus shea butter and Inca ichi oil, hydrate and protect your skin and make this SPF super absorbent.
Tester feedback: “I loved this non-greasy sunscreen that I can wear under makeup without it being too heavy.” —Tara Johnson, artist, Foley, Alabama
Banyan Botanicals Beauty Balm, $22, banyanbotanicals.com
Star ingredients: Traditional Indian herbs, including ashwagandha and shatavari, help skin cope with stress.
Tester feedback: “I was impressed with how well this worked to smooth and soothe my dry skin.” —Kirsten Akens, yoga teacher, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Naturopathica Gotu Kola Healing Balm, $42, naturopathica.com
Star ingredients: Gotu kola and calendula smooth and repair injured or irritated skin.
Tester feedback: “The smell and feel were excellent— a great gift for a girlfriend or new mother.” —Margaret Mattinson, program officer, Washington, DC
Jurlique Rose Hand Cream, $25, jurlique.com
Star ingredients: Safflower- and macadamia-seed oils help to seal in moisture.
Tester feedback: “It seemed to last all night and made my hands soft and smooth.” —Rachel Buonafede, global marketing manager, Chicago
Out of Africa Peppermint and Tea Tree Shea Butter Foot Cream, $9, outofafricashea.com
Star ingredient: Shea butter has an astounding range of properties, from triterpene alcohols, known to reduce inflammation, to lupeol, which can slow the effects of skin aging.
Tester feedback: “The texture was perfect for a foot cream, not too greasy, and it absorbed quickly.” —Sarah Sgarlata, massage therapist, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Inesscents Aromatic Botanicals Magic Mango Butter, 4oz jar for $22, www.inesscents.com
Star ingredients: Mango seed butter, blended with organic golden jojoba oil, is rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants, which deeply penetrate dry skin, restoring softness.
Tester feedback: “This product leaves your skin nourished, and uses only four luxurious, all-natural, botanical ingredients.” —La Vega, musician and makeup artist, Alexandria, Louisiana
The Honest Co. Sea Salt + Sugar Body Scrub, $17, honest.com
Star ingredients: Sugar and Pacific Ocean sea salt exfoliate, while lavender essential oil helps you relax.
Tester feedback: “I loved that this scrub had grit but then truly felt like it dissolved as I worked it in.” —Ali Nicholson, program associate, St. Paul, Minnesota
One Love Organics Gardenia + Tea Antioxidant Body Serum, $39, oneloveorganics.com
Star ingredients: Antioxidants derived from algae help defend against environmental stressors.
Tester feedback: “This oil was light and spread easily.” —Noel Batiste, social-media coordinator, Los Angeles
John Masters Organics Geranium & Grapefruit Body Wash, $18, johnmasters.com
Star ingredients: Geranium, grapefruit, and lavender essential oils relax and nourish your skin, while offering a refreshing scent.
Tester feedback: “My skin always looked brighter and smoother after use. It was one of the best I’ve used.” —Idania Mentana, designer, Boulder, Colorado
What’s Inside Your Body-Care Products?
Ingredients to avoid
Phthalates In the United States, phthalates often sneak into skin-care formulations under the label “fragrance” (a catchall for myriad chemical formulations). Used to prolong scents, phthalates have been linked to reproductive problems in animal studies. While the EU has banned certain phthalates from cosmetics for a decade, the Food and Drug Administration, which monitors the safety of cosmetics in the United States, does not require companies to individually list chemicals used in fragrance. Look for products with fragrance derived from natural essential oils instead.
Ingredients to adore
Gotu kola this ancient healing plant, long taken orally in both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, is making a comeback as an antiaging topical skin treatment. This year, gotu kola (Centella asiatica) popped up in several body lotions, creams, and facial moisturizers as a headlining ingredient. Many studies suggest that gotu kola, which is rich in amino acids, fatty acids, beta carotene, and other phytochemicals, is linked to significant improvements in skin firmness, elasticity, and hydration, as well as faster wound healing.