Bio-Oil’s founders share how they reformulated their iconic product without fragrance, preservatives, parabens, or phthalates for clean beauty lovers.
Thirty years passed before Bio-Oil, the South African company behind the beloved Bio-Oil Skincare Oil, launched a second product. Clearly on a roll, a third product is about to launch less than a year later: the Bio-Oil Skincare Oil (Natural). The new formulation of the fan-favorite body and face oil for moisturizing skin, while minimizing the appearance of scars and stretch marks, just dropped.
“Natural” may be a beauty buzzword, but no true definition of the term exists — hence the brand’s use of the parenthetical in the product name. The lack of regulation around natural beauty products means it’s up to each company to determine what natural means. For Bio-Oil, the word equates to a product formulated without fragrance, preservatives, parabens, phthalates, phytoestrogens, or steroids. “People’s needs and interests have changed over the years. Consumers are more interested in natural products than ever before, particularly when pregnant,” according to Justin and David Letschert, who are not only Bio-Oil’s owners and research directors, but also brothers.
With those parameters established, the Letscherts sought to create a formula that lives up to the original‘s hype. To make that happened, they removed the known allergens (like benzyl salicylate and hydroxycitronellal), mineral oils, and synthetic ingredients from the original formula’s base and amped up the concentration of plant-derived oils, specifically soybean and sunflower seed. The brothers also spiked the new, natural Bio-Oil’s base with safflower seed oil, which isn’t in the old-school one. Studies have found the latter oil, in particular, can improve the appearance of non-keloid scars by 14 percent in just eight weeks.
Jojoba oil, which hydrates without clogging pores because it’s similar in structure to skin’s natural oil, also appears on the Bio-Oil (Natural) ingredient list. Antioxidant-rich pomegranate and chia seed oils were also added to the mix. With its anti-inflammatory properties in tow, “Chia seed oil is chock-full of important saturated fatty acids, which are both integral to maintaining healthy skin cell membranes and warding off the harmful effects of free radicals,” according to Adam Friedman, an associate professor of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences.
The Letscherts aren’t simply updating the old formula and taking the first Bio-Oil off the market, though. Instead, they’re adding the natural option to the roster while keeping original Bio-Oil around as a way to meet consumers where they’re at while still celebrating the efficacy of the debut formula. The brothers say neither product is inherently “better,” no matter what the clean beauty-obsessed among us would have you think. “It’s the preference of the user which product they prefer,” the brothers share with Allure via email. “Some factors include if they prefer all-natural products or if they prefer products with a natural fragrance.”
I tested both Bio-Oil formulations at the same time and found them nearly indistinguishable from each other, texture- and results-wise. (That isn’t always the case with natural products.) Both worked seamlessly into my beauty routine as a non-greasy body moisturizer, especially for my dry, ashy legs after a winter inside with sweatpants.
The only major giveaways of their differences were their scents and shades. Personally, I prefer the original’s fragrance, which reminds me of rosewater and baby powder. The natural formula has more of an earthy-meets-baby powder smell due to the addition of patchouli essential oil. As for the hues, colorants in the original formula give it an orange tint, and the natural option is colorant-free with a subtle yellow shade from the oils themselves.
Like Bio-Oil’s debut product, the new launch is also safe for those who are expecting, confirms Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “In general, most oils are safe and beneficial for a rapidly expanding belly to prevent stretch marks and to help the skin expand in a safe manner that will not cause disfigurement,” he says.
Alicia Robbins, an ob-gyn at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, New York, also reviewed the new, natural ingredient list for Allure and agrees with Hartman that the oil appears safe for pregnant folks. “Many [people] experience dry, itchy skin or more skin sensitivity in pregnancy,” she says. “For my patients with sensitive skin, I usually recommend avoiding strongly scented creams or lotions, as well as creams with parabens or sulfates.” The fragrance-free Bio-Oil (Natural) certainly fits the bill.
However, keep in mind that no product can work miracles to remove stretch marks, Robbins points out. “[Bio-Oil] may help with stretch marks, but, in general, stretch marks result from a combination of one’s inherited genes and how much the belly is stretched in pregnancy,” she explains. “Therefore, there may not be much one can do to prevent stretch marks if you are genetically predisposed to them.”
Regardless, for $23 on amazon.com, a rich, luxurious oil is always a good idea for keeping skin nourished and happy — whether you’re pregnant or not.