June 7, 2020

Natural vs. Synthetic Skincare – It’s Not Black and White

There is a movement within the skincare industry being fueled by a growing desire to be clean with one’s beauty choices. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions associated with this movement. One of the biggest is that natural ingredients are always good while synthetic ingredients are always bad.

We Americans tend to look at most issues from either ends of the spectrum. We take things to an extreme. Yet most of life is not black and white; it’s more gray than anything else. This is true whether you are talking about organic food or the natural facial cleanser you use every night before bed.

Life is about balance. In the skincare arena, both all-natural and synthetic products have their place. To dismiss natural products as being ineffective because they haven’t been scientifically studied and approved by the FDA is as foolish and misinformed as saying that all synthetic products are bad because they contain only harsh chemicals that harm the skin.

Both kinds of products have their place. It is the consumer’s job to find out what works best for her and in the most balanced way possible.

What Is a Synthetic, Anyway?

It is easy to start slamming synthetic cleansers after falling in love with a plant-based facial cleanser. People do it all the time. Unfortunately, they really have no idea what a synthetic product really is. The word ‘synthetic’ is not synonymous with bad things because it describes something made in a lab. Take vitamin C, for example.

There are plenty of natural sources of vitamin C: citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, peppers, etc. But guess what? You can also synthesize vitamin C in the lab. In fact, vitamin C was the first chemically produced vitamin on the market.

The vitamin C molecule, also known as ascorbic acid, is the same molecule whether it is produced in a lab or occurs naturally. There is no difference from a molecular standpoint. There is also no difference from the standpoint of bioavailability. To assume that synthetic vitamin C is somehow inferior to its natural counterpart is to not understand science.

Another thing people do not understand is that many of the synthetic ingredients used in health and beauty products are actually derived from natural substances. In other words, synthetic does not mean artificial or chemical. It simply means synthesized in a lab.

You can synthesize water by combining hydrogen and oxygen in a lab, then electrically charging it to link the atoms. What you end up with is the exact same molecule as one that occurs in nature. Synthesized water is not harmful simply because it was made in a lab.

What Is a Natural Skincare Product?

Moving on to the natural skincare products, consider a natural facial cleanser from a Massachusetts company known as Poethique. The company’s deep cleansing milk is considered natural because all its ingredients are plant derived. The product contains things like olive oil ester, cucumber fruit extract, and jojoba seed oil.

It is generally accepted that this plant-based facial cleanser is safe and effective for most people because it contains no harsh chemicals. Lots of people swear by it as an effective cleanser and a substitute for chemical products. But does that mean that Poethique’s deep cleansing milk is the only safe and effective way to cleanse the skin? No.

Skincare is a very personal thing that is not well served by a black-and-white analysis that considers all synthetic products bad and all-natural products good. A proper balance between both kinds of products is the right way to go.