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First lets decide what we mean by Natural and Synthetic Skincare.
Natural Skincare is a term used widely in the cosmetic industry, and it’s surprising to know there is no set definition. But on the whole, it means that a product has been formulated using ingredients found to naturally occur in nature, mainly plant-based, but some animal products too, including bee-derived products.
Synthetic Skincare refers to laboratory created ingredients. Often chemical created ingredients, such as the current trend to use Hyaluronic Acid, are chemically formulated to mimic a natural compound within skin. Let’s consider the term ‘naturally derived’ too. An ingredient may have originated in nature, but then been subject to chemical alteration, heat and / or solvent extraction to form a new compound. Is it still natural?
In my opinion, skincare is a very personal choice. As a manufacturer and creator of a natural skincare products, it’s obvious that I’m going to say it’s better for you than chemical skincare. I have a business to run right? But let’s consider the main points.
Natural skincare will often be more expensive than synthetic skincare for the reason that natural ingredients, (like Organic Tamanu Oil – my personal favourite) can take large quantities of raw materials to extract the oil. On the other side, once the chemical process has been undertaken and a chemical formula created, it’s a cheap and easy process to mass produce, making your skincare products cheaper. There remains an inherent faith in science for many people. That’s why you see so many people in white coats in TV ads for cosmetics. Remember the famous line in that advert… “Here comes the science bit…”. I’ll say no more.
Natural also does not mean hypoallergenic. Nut allergy sufferers need to be particularly careful when using natural skincare products as main of the famous oils are nut derived (I’m thinking, Sweet Almond, Shea, Tamanu off the top of my head). Anyone, at any time can develop a sensitivity to a product or ingredient, natural or otherwise. Anyone that tells you different is lying. Essential Oils are also considered ‘natural’; however, the vast majority contain Linalool and Geraniol which are classified as Allergens under EU legislation. Further blog to follow about Essential Oils. Keep posted!
Let’s consider Synthetic Products. For me, the biggest issues are ethics and the role of big pharma companies. Heard of Parabens? Parabens were introduced in the 1950’s as a chemical preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus in cosmetic formulation. Parabens were later linked to breast cancer and it was concluded that, while not explicitly stated that Parabens cause cancer, they can penetrate the skin tissue and do not degrade, disrupting hormone balances which can in turn lead to increased cell division and potentially tumour growth. Parabens have since been found within marine life that can only have arrived there through human use. Parabens are still legal to use, albeit in regulated quantities.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is another famous bad guy in the skincare world. SLS is a chemical formulation used as a surfactant (it reduces friction to you and me), making a formulation more slippery or gives a more luxurious foamy nature when combined with water. Products containing SLS feel nice when we use them and often, we can experience immediate relief. However, SLS is famous for stripping away the natural oils within skin, and ultimately this can trigger atopic dermatitis, dry skin and infection due to decreased effectiveness of the skin barrier. We therefore use more and more of the product. Win-win for the company. Not so much for those that use it.
Finally lets consider mineral oils. Any parent with a child suffering from eczema who has gone to the GP or to an NHS Dermatologist will likely have been prescribed mineral oil-based emollients, containing paraffin or petroleum derived products. These do have a benefit; they prevent moisture loss from skin by forming a protective barrier. Really helpful to eczema sufferers. But, and for me this is huge, they offer no benefit to skin other than that. No nourishment, no healing qualities. Where skin is cracked and damaged, this is similar to sticking a plaster over the top and can lead to increased risk of infection. My own personal experience tells me that Mineral Oil based products will ultimately dehydrate skin even further as the skin has a natural tendency to attempt to restore balance and will draw moisture from deeper skin layers in an attempt to dilute.
It leaves me wondering who benefits the most from use of synthetic skincare. Consumers or Shareholders?
For some people, combining both skincare approaches work well. If you are using Steroid creams and they work where everything else has failed, no one can tell you you’re doing it wrong. They might try at length, but it’s up to you. I recently unsubscribed from some exceptionally totalitarian Insta# where people were literally bullied for their use of steroids and told they could be cured using only celery juice and positive thinking! Nope. Not for me.
My opinion? We are natural beings, created and grown within nature. Our skin has an affinity with natural ingredients. Natural products can be equally, if not more effective then synthetic products. Use of a natural, nourishing product in combination with prescribed or synthetic product might provide additional support to skin. You’ve just got to find the right combination for you at the right time.
Love Suzy & The Naturally Happy Skin team.