I'm trying my best to answer all of your e-mails but it can be challenging to answer product specific questions for things that I have not used before, and I try to frame my answers as objective and well researched as possible. From your questions it definitely seems that citrus oils and sun protection is a big question in the green beauty market. Please note, these are simply my views.
"My sunscreen contains citrus oils, is this okay?"
From: A lot of you!
The answer is that this depends on the product. What is the the sun protection factor, is it a physical or chemical sunscreen, what is the concentration of citrus oils in the formula? A lot of companies use citrus oils because it provides natural fragrance, otherwise many people might be turned off by the natural scent of the cream. Obviously, I would like to use a product that didn't contain citrus oils in my sun protection, but I don't think it will be make a sunscreen bad (especially if it contains a high degree of physical blockers which will guard the photosensitizing ingredients from UV rays).
"I read that ascorbic acid is a cheap form of Vitamin C that isn't complete, is this true? It is in many of the vitamins I take and skincare products that I use."
From: Lara, Mark, and Meghan
I received variations of this question and I just want to get this out there: Ascorbic Acid IS Vitamin C, there is nothing wrong with it and not all forms of ascorbic acid are cheap. This type of erroneous information is why there is perhaps no green beauty company I'm more frustrated with than La Bella Figura. I know that this was part of their campaign to publicize their "non-synthetic" Vitamin C from Kakadu Plum Extract but I've mentioned before how this is a fallacy (see active vs concentration question). While Kakadu Plum Extract does contain a high concentration of Vitamin C, it would be like saying rubbing a lemon on your face is going to be better than using a Vitamin C serum because "it's a non-synthetic, whole source". It's just wrong.
Here are a few of the reasons:
1. Not all of the extract is absorbed into skin and the amount that is contains non-Vitamin C as this is a food product. In fact fiber rich fruits such as this contain mostly cellulose and fiber which is present in nutritional content even in extracts, so a good chunk of the extract is most likely not even active. Versus pure-active Vitamin C ascorbic acid which is shown to deeply penetrate skin.
2. You can't control the concentration of vitamin c in food extracts, and you need a certain percentage concentration to make it effective in topical products.
I really really urge you to think about the qualifications these ladies behind the brand have for developing these products because their haphazard marketing and research has caused so much confusion in the space. So please, the next time before you start calling out perfectly reasonable ingredients, ask yourself where your beliefs came from and how reliable the source is.
"I read about the concern people had for May Lindstrom's The Youth Dew for its citrus oils. May says that the amount isn't significant to cause damage and she has never received a complaint about it. Can you provide some guidance?"
From: Mary, Elise, and Susan
I have tried The Youth Dew and it is a wonderful face oil. Not too heavy, moisturizing, and smells great! In fact when I use it at night, my skin feels very balanced in the morning, can't complain! I probably wouldn't use it during the day time just because there are so many great oils you can use that contain zero photosensitizing ingredients compared to her small but still existent amount. May probably has never received a complaint about this before because it isn't an immediately perceivable issue, like a blemish or skin rash. Dark spots and sun spots can take months and years to form, so by the time you get those spots, you've probably already moved onto another product or you don't even realize what caused it, erroneously attributing it to natural effects. Many many of the patients my parents see come from using products that contain citrus oils across the line such as Ren and they wonder why their skin is so much more prone to developing sun spots - this is why.