Which is better for you, synthetic or natural skincare? The problem with skincare like with all commercial products is the information about products can be confusing. A product may boast natural extracts but upon reading the INCI list, it is full of synthetic ingredients. To help clarify some of the confusing information out there, we’ll be going through all the pros and cons of both synthetic and natural skin care as objectively as possible so that you become a better-informed consumer when it comes to what you are putting on your body.
What is natural skincare?
Natural skincare products are products made using organic (alive) ingredients that occur naturally such as plants, animals, and minerals. Chemical skincare is products made using synthetic ingredients such as silicones, petroleum, and alcohol.
How do we define natural skincare?
For us, natural skincare means products are formulated using predominantly organic materials that occurs naturally such as plants, animal extracts, and minerals.
We use a range of skin-loving ingredients that come from organic, cold-pressed, unrefined and food-grade plants, animals (honey, beeswax, lanolin from sheep’s wool) and plant-derived emulsifiers, esters and preservatives.
We believe that natural skincare is as effective as synthetic skincare and it can be used for therapeutic purposes for overall well-being. A lot of the ingredients used in natural skincare are rooted in ancient wellness practices from across the world. Preservatives are an essential part of skincare and we use them across our water-based products. We choose to use plant-derived preservatives that are also deemed ecologically sound. Aromatherapy, ayurvedic medicine, Chinese traditional medicine and African traditional medicine are all called on to create products that are designed to soothe and nourish the mind, body and spirit. Our products are always naturally scented and coloured, always cruelty-free and always designed for wellness.
What is the environmental impact of natural and synthetic skincare?
Natural skincare products are more likely to be biodegradable and better for animals and the planet. They get reabsorbed into the ecosystem causing no disruption.
The story is different for synthetic ingredients. Ingredients like silicones and mineral oil behave like other plastics and are not reabsorbed. They float about causing damage to ecosystems, choking fish, birds and other animals and generally causing havoc on the planet. We aren’t also going to talk about the damage their extraction causes on a planetary scale or the damage caused to the communities they are found in. They are most definitely the bad guys when it comes to the ecosystem.
Is synthetic skincare more effective than natural skincare?
The argument for synthetic skincare is that they are a more stable product, they won’t change consistency, smell or colour over any period of time and they have an extensive shelf life. Another argument is that they are more effective as they are usually created for very specific purposes.
Synthetic skin care is lab produced and can be very precise in the way they are formulated so they penetrate the skin to the most depths and into the bloodstream. This can be good if you have hyper-sensitive skin or want a very specific outcome with your skincare. However, for the average person, the skin usually needs only minimal intervention to work effectually in protecting the body from external attacks. Also, these products that penetrate very deeply can cause irritation, which goes against what they are designed for.
On the flip side, natural skincare is thought of as gentler, and more effective over a longer time SO it takes longer to appear to be working but the results are longer lasting.
What are the dangers of natural skincare?
Nothing is without danger and natural skincare is no different. One of the major issues is the use of essential oils which are usually used for sensory and therapeutic benefits. They can cause irritation, sensitisation and phototoxicity. Phototoxicity is a reaction that occurs on the skin when it is exposed to UV light. This can cause damage to the skin like sunburn, rash and skin discolouration. It can cause long-term damage and when untreated it can lead to losing term health issues such as skin cancer.
To combat this, formulators have to stick to the dermal limits of certain essential oils and their compounds. This means they can only be used up to a certain amount in any skincare, reducing the chances of irritation.
What are the dangers of synthetic skincare?
Again, this depends on who you ask. Several studies both confirmed and debunked, have linked some synthetic ingredients in skincare to long-term, permanent health issues for you, your children and even your children’s children. Sulphates, parabens, and formaldehyde are some of the main reported culprits. Sulphates reportedly cause skin, lung and eye irritation, whilst parabens and formaldehyde cause contact dermatitis, endocrine disruption, and some cancers. It is important that you do your research and learn what is in the products you are using on yourself and your family.
Here are some of the top reported potential offenders.
- Ethanolamine Compounds
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)/ Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)
- Synthetic Fragrances
- Chemical UV Filters
- Paraffins and Petrolatum
- Polyethylene Glycols
- Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde releasing preservatives.
- Benzalkonium Chloride
- Butylate Hydroxyanisole (BHA) & Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA)
- Methylisothiazolinone & Methylchloroisothiazolinone
- Coal Tar
- Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA)
As a natural brand owner, I am very passionate about providing natural alternatives that are both effective and gentle to skin and nature. I believe in using nature’s bounty to create products that clean, soothe and moisturise our bodies using modern technology. We have ironed out many of the issues our ancestors had around beauty, especially for safety so why not harness that knowledge?
We have dermal limits, for essential oils now which ensure their safe use, and we have computer-generated formulas that ensure our soaps and cosmetics are safe for us and our families. We have robust testing and stringent rules in the EU and UK around manufacturing skincare natural or otherwise so it is a safe and effective way to look after the mind, body and spirit.
Is natural skincare always safe?
No. Nothing is always safe 100% of the time and not all-natural skin care products are created equal. Some of them may contain ingredients that can cause a reaction in your skin because we are all unique and have unique makeup.
Also, some ingredients used may not be of optimal quality, which will affect the efficiency of the product. We use organic and/or wildcrafted, cold-pressed, food-grade unrefined oils and butter to extract the maximum nutrients from them for your skin.
On the flip side, ingredients like essential oils can be irritating or sensitising so you may which to avoid them if you have a sensitivity. Again, it all boils down to you knowing your body and reading the ingredients list on all products to ensure they align with your skincare, health and moral requirements.
Similarly, not all chemical skincare products are bad for your skin. It is important to become an educated consumer. Learn about ingredients on your skincare labels as you would on the recipe labels for your food. Knowledge is power and it is your duty to arm yourself against harmful or damaging ingredients.
Which is better, synthetic or natural skincare?
It depends on what results you want from your skincare and your political and ethical standpoint. Natural skin care has less impact on the planet as most ingredients will eventually be reabsorbed into the planet, causing minimal damage to the planet.
Synthetic skin care can be very effective on first use and we as consumers LOVE that, we see the value straight away. However, they come with a host of issues that some may not be comfortable with.
So synthetic skincare isn’t the bad scary thing and natural skincare aren’t always safe and effective. Most of us want skincare that will make us look better without damaging our long-term health or our planet. We also want skincare that is effective and heavily regulated so we get the very best products without our price points. The truth is a combination of both synthetic and natural skincare is the best option for most people. Plant-derived skincare that is lab formulated but rooted in nature will give you the best of both worlds.
If natural, plant-based skincare is what you are seeking, check out our shop for all things good-natured skincare and more.
Be good to yourself.