The Best Sustainable Skincare Ingredients for Colder Seasons

The weather is cooling down as we brace ourselves for the coldest time of the year; winter. Winter is the harshest season on our skin, as the bitter cold can damage our skin's protective barrier, yet so many of us don't up our skincare game when the weather cools down.


To properly prepare for the coldest months, now is the time to start introducing ingredients to your ritual to protect and nourish your skin, so your skin is prepared and ready for the change in seasons. We've all heard of popular skincare ingredients, but favored ingredients are often subject to over-harvesting.


So in this article, we'll discuss some lesser-known, sustainably-sourced ingredients that are equally as effective in anti-aging skincare during colder seasons; and we'll highlight some products that contain these ingredients.


Over-Harvesting of Ingredients

Before we dive in, I want to point out the problem we're facing with the over-harvesting of natural ingredients. While I am a fan of natural over synthetic ingredients for most of my products, it's essential to understand that harvesting natural ingredients are not always better for us—or the environment.


With the rise of the internet, we're seeing many naysayers regarding science, e.g., anti-vaxxers. But one thing we need to understand is, scientists spend their entire lives studying and working in a laboratory. They live and breathe science and can mimic the molecular structure of a natural ingredient, minus any toxins or contaminants, to a tee. 


While it's great to use what Mother Nature provides us, we also have to accept that synthetic ingredients are sometimes better alternatives. It's easier for a scientist to control the safety and efficacy in a lab, and using synthetic ingredients doesn't exploit natural resources. If you're interested in reading more on the overconsumption of natural resources, read my previous blog article here.



Sustainably-Sourced Ingredients

There are hundreds—if not thousands—of ingredients that promise to minimize signs of aging and give you a radiant and glowing complexion. You've probably heard of many commonly used natural staples in skincare products, like rosehip and jojoba seed oils. But when a natural ingredient trends in skincare, that ingredient often becomes subjected to exploitation and over-harvesting.


Take bakuchiol as an example. This retinol-like alternative found predominantly in parts of India became renowned when it delivered anti-aging and acne-reducing properties without the skin irritation that retinol sometimes causes. Its sudden demand led to it becoming over-harvested, and now, bakuchiol is endangered.


Another ingredient that has been an issue for some time is one of the most widely used ingredients in the beauty and food industries; palm oil. Palm oil harvesting has created an adverse chain reaction due to its demand. We're seeing entire rainforests destroyed, wildlife endangered, farmers exploited, and villages poisoned from pesticides to make way for more palm oil plantations in developing countries.


As mentioned earlier, we're now seeing ingredients mimicked in a laboratory setting. Palm oil is one of them (1). C16 Biosciences have designed a completely sustainable alternative that doesn't involve palm trees. It is a fermentation process using microbes. 


Taken from their website: By offering producers, refiners, traders and consumers of palm oil an opportunity to invest part of their production into bio-based oils and sustainability efforts, our aim is to reduce the environmental footprint of palm oil production and protect precious natural land, wildlife and resources in the process.


There is a way we can reduce our impact on the environment through more responsible consumerism. But as the population grows, we can only expect consumption to increase, so perhaps science is the answer. However, in this article, we're focusing on natural ingredients, so it's vital to ensure the natural ingredients that you are using have been sourced responsibly and sustainably.



Two Types of Aging

Before we talk about different anti-aging ingredients, I thought it'd be helpful to learn about the two types of aging our skin goes through. These are:

  • Chronological Aging
  • Photo-Aging


Chronological aging is what we experience organically and inevitably as we get older. We get excessively drier skin; loss of elasticity; an increase in skin blemishes, such as benign surface skin growths; and hair becomes thinner and loses pigment. The outer layer of skin (the epidermis) also flattens out, losing its plumpness (2).


On the other hand, photo-aging comes from external factors, like sun damage and pollution. This is known as free radical damage and is how premature aging can occur, which is why it's vital to protect your skin to minimize photo-aging.


Using products containing antioxidants—also known as free radical scavengers—we can minimize photo-aging. To simplify it for you, when free radicals enter our skin, they take molecules from our skin's cells and damage them. They then spread to other molecules, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. 


Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals by essentially sacrificing some of their electrons to break the chain of free radical damage. So adding antioxidant-rich ingredients to your ritual will keep your skin healthy in the long-term (3).


Sustainably-Sourced Anti-Aging Ingredients for the Colder Months


Not only should we be adding antioxidant-rich ingredients to our ritual, but winter-time is the most drying of all seasons. So it's crucial to use nourishing and effective skincare to adequately protect from the harsh environmental elements.


As mentioned before, I looked for ingredients that were not trending because when demand increases, ingredients are often exploited. So here are lesser-known but still incredibly effective ingredients to protect against signs of aging during colder seasons.

Our skin—particularly our face—takes a beating every day as we expose it to the elements, wear makeup, and constantly touch our face. One study found students touched their faces 23 times in an hour (7). This transfers bacteria onto our face, and the bacteria can harbor free radicals. To protect our skin, here are some ingredients you can look for:


Theobroma grandiflorum (cupuaçu) seed butter

This butter is an excellent base in many lotions and creams due to its ability to absorb quickly and retain hydration within the skin. It is known to restore skin elasticity while protecting against free radical damage (5). This butter improves skin texture while keeping it nourished.

Find it in Earthwise Beauty Yasuni Face Balm. This balm is nourishing and lightweight and contains a range of other butters to keep skin supple. 

Earthwise Beauty is a veteran sustainable beauty brand—they've been in business for over a decade. Their formulations are carefully handmade using high-quality, sustainable ingredients from all over the world.


Illipe Seed 

This is also used as a moisturizer base due to its effective emollient properties. This butter is also naturally high in vitamins A and E, both antioxidants with anti-aging protection, and vitamin F—linoleic acid—which is excellent for hair and skin (6). Skin will feel nourished, hydrated, and protected against external aggressors.

Find it in Mahealani Moonlit Glow Balm. This moisturizer is a fantastic addition for the colder months. It contains shea, cocoa, and a beautiful array of seed oils to help protect and keep skin feeling soft and hydrated throughout winter.

Honua Skincare source their ingredients from local farms that practice sustainable farming and wildcrafting.




Aspen Bark (Populus tremuloides) 

Aspen bark comes from Aspen trees. Something unique about these trees is that they grow in groups and are usually connected underground by one complex root system. As a result, these trees can live for thousands of years. 

Aspen bark contains salicin, an anti-inflammatory and calming compound (8). When used in skincare, this ingredient will protect against the cold climate keeping skin soothed while smoothing out the skin—so fine lines and wrinkles will appear softer.

Find it in Three Ships Refresh Papaya Salicylic Acid Cleanser. This cleanser is excellent for clearing skin blemishes due to its natural salicylic acid content. It's also gentle enough to use throughout winter.

Three Ships source their Aspen Bark from the lumber industry in Canada, giving discarded bark a new purpose, and contributing to a circular economy.



Red Algae Astaxanthin

One of nature's most potent antioxidants, Red Algae Astaxanthin protects skin from free radicals, improves elasticity, and speeds up skin cell turnover. It also draws in moisture, is an effective UV blocker, and will give skin an overall radiant glow.

Find it in Earth Harbor Helios Anti-Pollution Youth Ampoule. Formulated to balance the skin's pH, smooth out fine lines, and protect against free radical damage. This ampoule can be added to any ritual as a serum.

Earth Harbor is committed to ocean conservation, they donate to a handful of foundations, and they are using post-consumer resin closures, including ocean waste plastic in their packaging.



Poppy Seed Oil

You may think about their opioid properties when you think of poppy seeds. But what you may not realize is that poppy seeds are incredible at protecting the skin from transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Unfortunately, this condition causes premature aging, and we're more prone to it as we age (9)—and even more during cooler months. Poppyseed oil is also lightweight and quickly absorbs the skin, so it doesn't leave a greasy residue.

Find it in Earth Harbor Nymph Nectar Superfruit Radiance Balm. This balm feels quite rich and thick, like a buttery wax, but as you work it between your fingers, it becomes a silky emulsion that melts into the skin. Active ingredients include tropical berries and mango butter for hydration and protection.



Pequi Fruit Oil

A botanical found in South America, the pequi fruit is high in essential fatty acids and vitamin A (10). Its protective properties make it an excellent skincare ingredient, as it also helps to heal and soothe cracked and dry skin, which is perfect for winter.

Find it in Earthwise Beauty Ambrosia do Cerrado Liquid Moisturizer. Pequi Fruit Oil contains beta-carotene and vitamins B1 and B2, for firm, supple skin, and also helps with pigmentation. Other key ingredients include buriti oil, and moringa pod oil, for brightening, treating hyperpigmentation, and hydrating. 




Here's a food you may not have thought about using in your skincare. Eggplant is high in vitamin C and antioxidants to help fight free radicals. Some say you can even treat sunburn with eggplant due to its healing properties.

Find it in M.S.Skincare Illume Radiance Enhancing Moisturizer. This nourishing moisturizer will keep the skin feeling hydrated and supple. This effective moisturizer will leave your skin glowing with a vast array of natural ingredients commonly used in Ayurveda for centuries.

M.S.Skincare is a sustainable beauty brand focusing on the traditions of Ayurveda in the modern world. The company was founded almost a decade ago and is committed to safe luxury skincare and doesn't cost the Earth.



Olive Leaf

Olive leaf has been used in treating skin conditions since ancient times. Olive leaf is proven to reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and improve skin texture after a two-month treatment plan (11)

Find it in Circumference In Depth Hydration Face Mask. This hydrating mask will leave your skin soothed, supple, and nourished—perfect for winter.

The olive leaves used in Circumference's skincare products are salvaged from the Olive Oil industry, contributing to the circular economy.



Opuntia Ficus-Indica (Nopal)

Cactus (Nopal) is abundant in nature because it is incredibly hardy, even throughout the harshest weather conditions. So it's no wonder cactus is also a great skincare ingredient. It has hydrating properties, wound healing properties, and protects against UV rays (12), one of the leading causes of premature aging.

Find it in this Moisturizing Body Bar by Nopalera. This bar contains cocoa, shea, jojoba, and nopal.

I am obsessed with Nopalera. Their range is small, but they are a fantastic brand with handmade, artisanal products. There are three soaps to choose from, body scrub and their moisturizing bar that comes in a travel tin. 



Winter is the most damaging season for our skin and can cause the most prevalent premature aging. So choose protective and nourishing ingredients, and always check that the brand you're buying from is sourcing the ingredients sustainably. Or, if you're too busy to do the research, stay up-to-date with our blog and follow our Instagram. We research, so you don't have to.



Emma Jade has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn't cost the Earth.

Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition