Try to buy organic and avoid additives? Is your body (sometimes) a temple? Well, you’re not alone: more of us than ever are considering what we put into our bodies these days. And with sales of natural and organic skincare products up by 20 per cent in recent years, it looks like we’re questioning what we put on them too. Then again, who wants to run the risk of ending up with a face like the Toxic Avenger’s because of a suspect additive?
Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate – two ingredients used in a raft of skincare products to make them foam – have, for example, been known to cause dermatitis, eye irritation and mouth ulcers in some cases. Parabens – preservatives used in everything from deodorants to moisturisers – are thought to negatively affect testosterone levels, while phthalates – as well as being virtually unpronounceable – have been linked to asthma, cancer, obesity and reduced fertility in men. So you can see why it’s worth saying ‘balls’ to some of your bathroom cabinet’s nastier chemicals.
Or maybe, recognising that the human race in the last 60 years has begun to negatively impact the planet at a rate unprecedented in the previous 10,000, you – sensibly – care about the planet too. Which means it’s worth avoiding products containing palm oil (linked to deforestation and climate change) and microbeads – those seemingly innocent tiny plastic beads used in shower gels and face scrubs (often simply listed on products as PE, PP or PET) that find their way into rivers and oceans where they collect toxins and are often eaten by unsuspecting wildlife.
And don’t think that opting for natural ingredients will compromise the efficacy of your products either: natural grooming products can be every bit as good as synthetic ones (a study by the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, for example, revealed that tea tree oil is as effective at treating zits as traditional chemical remedies like benzoyl peroxide).
So, if you’re thinking about going au naturel, here are a few brands that, to varying degrees, put natural ingredients, animal welfare and the wellbeing of the planet at their heart. Oh, and keeping you looking your absolute best, too, obviously.
The first men’s grooming brand to be recognised and approved by the BUAV (now ‘Cruelty Free International’) under their Humane Cosmetics Standard, British mavericks Bulldog have since gone on to become one of the key players in mass-market skincare for men. And, at a time when skincare companies charged a premium for reforming their products, founder Simon Duffy was determined to make Bulldog’s offering affordable to everyone.
None of the products in the range are tested on animals. Nor do they include any ingredients derived from animal sources. They’re also free from chemical no-nos like parabens, synthetic fragrances and artificial colours, and are packed full of skin-nourishing botanicals and essential oils instead. In affordable natural skincare terms, they’re what you might call the dog’s b***ocks.
Key Products: The Original Moisturiser, packed with antioxidants and skin-saving vitamin E, is especially good; the Original Eye Roll-On is great value at under a tenner; and the brand’s award-winning Sensitive Face Wash is worth a punt too.
Organic Homme By Green People
One of the leading names in natural skincare, Green People is also one of the most trusted, with more awards than Sam Smith at the BMAs. By swapping harsh chemicals for natural alternatives (Green People replaces sulfates with natural foaming agents, for example) and organic essential oils, the brand ensures that what you put on your face is as kind to it, and the environment, as possible.
Key Products: The brand’s clever Shave Now Wash & Shave can be used as both a daily face wash and a shave gel and comes enriched with aloe vera to soothe and condition skin. Also worth checking out is the 100 per cent natural Fennel & Propolis Toothpaste, a naturally antibacterial, fluoride-free alternative to your average Boots fare.
Long admired by grooming and beauty editors – as much for its sleek, modern packaging as the purity of its products – REN uses 100 per cent plant- or mineral-derived ingredients and its entire range is free from synthetic ingredients and pore-blocking petrochemicals.
What’s more, all but a handful of the brand’s UK-made products are suitable for vegans.
Key Products: REN’s Multi-Tasking After Shave Balm has long been one of the brand’s hero products owing to the fact it doesn’t just take the heat out of post-shave skin, but – thanks to the addition of fruit enzymes – helps prevent ingrown hairs too. Cool stuff. Literally.
BRYT’s range might be small (just four products at time of writing) but its credentials are impressive: as well as avoiding the usual synthetic suspects, the brand’s ingredients are ethically sourced (fair trade-certified, organic and sustainable wherever possible), its packaging is biodegradable, and it avoids doing business with countries that carry out animal testing. Hat-trick.
Key Products: The 99 per cent natural Foaming Cleanser For Him features the brand’s signature Advanced Phytoscience System (APS), a formulation rich in organic super- antioxidants and skin-softening aloe in its purest form. Smells great, too.
It took two years of R&D to get ManCave to market, partly because of the company’s unwavering insistence on replacing man-made chemicals with natural ingredients. Out went parabens, sulfates and artificial dyes (the brand uses caramel to colour its shower gel instead) and in came cruelty-free ingredients and essential oils.
In an attempt to be as transparent as possible – something unusual for a skincare brand – ManCave has a comprehensive A-Z of ingredients used in its products along with exactly what they do on its website.
OK, so the name ManCave might be a bit suspect, but the brand’s affordability means you won’t have to save to switch to a more natural grooming routine.
Key Products: The Lemon & Oak Shower gel is the perfect morning wake-up call, while the Face Scrub contains fine olive stone particles (rather than plastic beads) to slough away dead skin cells.
Virtus By Big Green Tree
Handmade in small batches in Derbyshire, Big Green Tree’s small but focussed Virtus range includes everything you need for a top-to-toe, chemical-free grooming routine.
Key Products: The Soothing Aftershave Balm is great for calming freshly shaved skin and, thanks to a combination of juniper, lavender and patchouli, offers a pleasant scent to boot. Meanwhile the Hand, Body & Foot Scrub, made with sea salt and shea butter, is the perfect way to smooth out your rough edges and is – remarkably – made from just 10 ingredients, too.
Neal’s Yard Remedies
Pretty much a household name (you’ve definitely picked up one of the brand’s other-half gift packs in a pinch, trust us), Neal’s Yard Remedies has been at the forefront of natural skincare for over 30 years.
Its blue plastic bottles are made of 100 per cent recycled material, while the glass ones are recyclable. And packaging in general is kept to an absolute minimum – even the cornstarch chips Neal’s uses to safeguard online orders is compostable.
The company’s popular men’s range, NYR Men, is based around beneficial botanicals like calendula, lavender and rooibos, and proves that efficacy and ethics can go hand-in-hand.
Key Products: The Calming Aftershave Balm and Close Shave Cream are especially good. Look out, too, for its wide range of organic essential oils which, when added to a little carrier oil, make great, inexpensive fragrances.
John Masters Organics
If you’re as fussy about what you put on your hair and scalp as you are on your mush, then you might want to investigate this premium haircare brand from John Masters, which swaps harsh chemicals for natural organic substitutes.
Key Products: For a greener way to a great-looking barnet, try John Masters Organics Sculpting Clay, which eschews silicone and synthetic polymers for organic beeswax and three types of natural clay to create a matte-finish styling clay.
With fans as diverse as INXS and show jumper William Fox-Pitt, Weleda is one of the more high profile natural skincare brands out there.
Established in 1921, it’s certainly doing something right (that strict all-natural, no toxins, no petrochemical additives policy might have something to do with it) and disclaimers pointing out that the colour of products may alter slightly due to variations in ingredients only adds to its credibility.
Key Products: Check out the rich Shaving Cream, formulated with almond and goat’s milk, and the aluminium-free Sage Deodorant.
The brainchild of Soho House & Co., award-winning brand Neville prides itself on a ‘no nonsense’ approach to grooming, which roughly translates to packaging inspired by old-world barbershops combined with the very latest in naturally-derived formulations. Or, put simply, great stuff for your skin.
Key Products: Slather on some of the brand’s best-selling Face Reviver to feed your face its fill of Vitamins A and E and aloe vera. Or for the follicly gifted, try the Beard Grooming Oil blended from organic argan and grape seed oils.
Already cleaning out your bathroom cabinet? Or are you yet to be convinced by ‘greener’ grooming? Have a favourite product or range to shout out?
Let us know below.