Natural Skincare Ingredients

We combed the continents for the most exciting new naturals coming to your beauty regimen. With some serious science backing them up, they may just outperform your old skincare standbys.

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Larch tree extract, or galactoarabinan (GA), boosts the skin’s natural ability to retain moisture and may diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by increasing cell turnover. A 2006 clinical study by a pharmaceutical company observed a 19 percent reduction in the appearance of fine lines after eight weeks of GA application.

When added to sunscreens with physical blockers, GA may also enhance the SPF of the product, by improving the ingredients’ ability to spread over the skin.

Joanna Vargas Daily Serum, $85


Dermatologists researching the leaf and bark extract of the African Anogeissus tree found it to be very effective at preventing collagen breakdown and restoring youthful skin structure. “Our discoveries regarding the African Anogeissus tree were astonishing,” says Dr. Annelise Lobstein, Professor of Pharmacognosy at the University of Strasbourg.

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“The bark of Anogeissus is particularly concentrated into compounds able to stimulate the natural production of fibrillin, which is responsible for helping to support the structure of the skin. The facial appearance becomes firmer and lifted, contributing ultimately to reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and the visible signs of skin aging.” Local tribes in Ghana, the tree’s native habitat, use it as a wound healer.

Origins Plantscription Anti-Aging Serum, $55


Say goodbye to pore-clogging petroleum jelly: researchers at the Korea University College of Medicine found that chia seed oil improved the natural function of the skin barrier, reduced trans-epidermal water loss and alleviated dry, itchy skin, which could be due to its unique fatty acid balance (it contains 60 percent pure omega 3—about as much as potent flax oils).

And there’s no need to worry about chia seed oil causing breakouts with its richness; it actually prevents clogged pores by rebalancing the essential fatty acids found in sebum.

Super by Dr. Nicholas Perricone O-Mega Oil Liquid Nourishment, $42


You may have sipped it on occasion: rooibos, or red tea, which trumps even green tea in antioxidant powers. “Rooibos tea contains nine potent flavonoid anti-inflammatory antioxidants, including quercetin and luteolin, that are potent free radical scavengers that help diminish the signs of aging,” says Holistic Cosmetic Dermatologist Jeanette Jacknin, M.D.

Alaffia Rooibos and Shea Butter Antioxidant Face Cream, $17

Studies show that rooibos has sun protective properties, in addition to its role as a multitasking skincare ingredient that heals acne, allergies, eczema and sunburn.

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Rosehip seed oil, or rosa moschata, is a natural source of retinoic acid (the gold standard of anti-aging regimens everywhere), and it’s free of the drying side effects of the synthetic version. A 2009 clinical study found that rosehip oil could diminish scars by up to 27 percent after 12 weeks, while a 2007 clinical study showed a 23 percent reduction in fine lines and wrinkles when applied twice daily for eight weeks.

What makes rosehip oil so effective? Its high content of essential fatty acids, such as gamma linoleic acid (GLA) and omega 9 fatty acid, plus vitamin C and quercetin, are powerful antioxidants and skin fortifiers. “It’s superb for aging and dry skin,” says Annet King, Director of Global Education for Dermalogica.

Dermalogica Overnight Repair Serum, $40


As dermatologists and skincare companies learn more about the link between inflammation and aging, anti-inflammatory ingredients like magnolia are taking center stage.

“Magnolia bark contains two potent anti-inflammatory compounds that synergistically reduce the activation of a key promoter in both the inflammation and aging processes [called NF-KB].” says Ni’Kita Wilson, YouBeauty Cosmetic Chemistry Expert. In addition, its natural UV-protective properties help prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin from sun exposure.

Boscia Restorative Night Moisture Cream, $48

7Red Rice:

The extract of this Himalayan rice boosts collagen production in the skin, which is crucial for maintaining youthful skin structure. And while rice is dry and starchy, its extract is just what the doctor ordered for moisture: “It improves barrier function by increasing cell adhesion (stickiness to each other) which is very important for keeping moisture below the skin so it can remain hydrated,” says Wilson.

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L’Occitane Red Rice Purifying Mask, $19

8Barbary Fig:

The quick-absorbing, anti-inflammatory oil contained in the seeds of the Barbary fig, also known as the prickly pear, is one of the most expensive natural oils on the market. And it appears to be worth the price: barbary fig oil is a rich natural source of antioxidant vitamin E (even more than the buzzed-about argan oil) and tissue-healing zinc that’s a known blemish-eraser.

Its extremely high content of linoleic acid (up to 70 percent by research estimates) restores the hydro-lipid layer of the skin, and its vitamin K content reduces and prevents dark circles.

La Bella Figura Decouverte Under Eye Repair Serum, $115


Acerola berries are the fruit of the wild acerola bush, found primarily in Brazil or Caribbean islands, which have the unique ability to lighten skin pigmentation when applied topically. “The acerola fruit has a remarkably  high vitamin C content, 30 times  more than an orange by weight,” says Jacknin.

With the presence of powerful antioxidant carotenoids, bioflavonoids and anthocyanins as well, it’s already a sought-after ingredient in anti-aging skincare.

Absolution La Solution + Anti-Age, $89


Urucum seed oil, also called annatto oil, is a naturally reddish oil with six times more carotenoids than carrot oil, which makes it a powerful antioxidant that adds a UV-protective boost to your sunscreen. And urucum is prized for its skin-healing properties: “Rainforest tribes since the Mayans have used the entire plant medicinally, including as an astringent, and antiseptic treatment for burns, skin infections, and wounds,” says Jacknin.

Diptyque Satin Oil for Body and Hair, $58


This common perennial, a favorite food for monarch butterflies, is a source of an anti-aging oil with an antioxidant value almost 50 percent higher than blueberries. But milkweed oil is getting even greater attention because it helps block a wide spectrum of UV rays. Because milkweed oil is completely biodegradable, researchers say that it won’t have the damaging environmental effects of some chemical sunscreens.

Esthetician Andrea DeSimone, who uses milkweed oil on clients, says that the oil is tolerated well by sensitive skin types, as well as severely dehydrated, sun damaged and allergy-prone skin.

MSO, $45