Essential guide to plant-based vs. natural skincare

There’s a lot of talk about how to work clean beauty into a skincare routine. But people have questions too. Does clean beauty include plant-based and natural formulations? And is it true that plant-based products are not the same as natural skincare?

Myths and misconceptions abound in this space. Think twice before picking up an ‘all-natural’ cleanser or a moisturiser infused with ‘organic’ ingredients. Once you understand the meaning behind each label, you will know exactly what to shop for.


Plant-based skincare

Any skincare product that is formulated using botanicals is a plant-based product. Botanicals may include plant extracts, oils, and waxes. They also include the by-products of plant ingredients, such as skins, seeds, leaves, and pulp, which are normally considered waste material.

Can plant-based skincare be vegan? Yes, it can. But plant-based products could also contain animal or animal-derived ingredients: 

  • A face wash that contains honey is not vegan, because honey is derived from bees. 
  • That collagen sheet mask is probably not vegan either, because collagen is a protein that’s often derived from pigs, beef, or fish.

Can plant-based skincare be classified as organic? The term ‘organic’ is related to how an ingredient has been farmed. If the ingredient is from a plant that was grown and harvested without any synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, it can usually be termed organic. But we can’t just slap this label on to plant-based skincare.

For example, a plant-based cleanser may contain water or water-based ingredients. Water is not farmed and therefore is not organic. So, the cleanser in question cannot be labelled as 100% organic. 

Things get muddier when words like ‘natural’ or ‘all-natural’ come into play. Used as a smart marketing ploy by skincare brands, this can be a form of greenwashing. As a consumer who wants the best for their skin, you need to stay wise to that possibility.

There are no regulations around the ‘natural’ label. That is why many businesses use the word indiscriminately on their products. If you check the ingredient lists, you might spot several ingredients that are not sourced from nature.

Skincare is never chemical-free. Even water is a chemical. If you prefer a more natural approach to skincare, what you’re looking to eliminate are synthetic ingredients developed in a lab. That includes molecular replications of naturally occurring ingredients, such as retinol, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid.

(More on plant-based vs. chemical-based acne care.)


Plant-based vs. natural skincare

A skincare product that claims to be ‘100% natural’ or ‘pure’ may not necessarily be good for your complexion. The idea that nature-based ingredients are gentler on the skin is a misleading one.

  • Poison ivy is a plant that causes nasty rashes and blisters. People may even have breathing difficulties in severe cases.  
  • Closer home are essential oils. Although sourced from nature, their topical use can irritate the skin. To minimise adverse effects, an essential oil is diluted in a carrier oil before application.

Of course, there are gentler options. Aloe vera from the kitchen garden hydrates the skin, rose water is an effective toner, and neem is effective against acne and its scars. But DIY remedies like these take time, and they can be hit-and-miss for some. (Here are home remedies for acne-prone skin.)

That’s where specially formulated plant-based products have an edge. Scientists and researchers experiment with different concentrations and combinations of plant ingredients to develop formulas that tackle skin concerns without any adverse effects. The spotlight is on not just natural ingredients but also how well they work together.


How to choose plant-based skincare

  • Read the ingredient list. Ingredients with higher concentrations occupy the top spots on the list. Ensure that plant ingredients are in focus. If the packaging lists only the Latin names of plant ingredients, a quick internet search will tell you what each one is.
  • Go beyond the hero ingredient. Even if the hero ingredient is plant-based, the formula may be overpowered by synthetic or even toxic ingredients. For instance, check that the product does not contain harmful parabens or irritating sulphates.
  • Check for certifications. Should you be so inclined, look for authentic certifications stating that the product is organic, vegan, or cruelty-free.

If all of this seems too confusing, go with Clearica. Powered by plant chemicals and cutting-edge research, Clearica Anti-Acne Cleanser and Clearica Anti-Acne Cream feature four potent ingredients: eucalyptus leaf extract, green tea extract, phragmites kharka extract, and guava leaf extract. 

Being eco-friendly is a priority for us. It’s the reason we upcycle our guava and eucalyptus leaf extracts from discarded leaves. But there is never a compromise on effectiveness. No matter your skin type, plant-based Clearica will keep zits away, control oil levels, and rejuvenate your complexion. Plant power at its best!





Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.