Skincare . . . natural vs. synthetic

fragrance2 Are “natural” and “organic” skincare products better for your skin than products with “synthetic” components?  Our opinion is a flat out NO. There are great skincare ingredients that are non-toxic synthetics.

A natural substance is derived from a plant, mineral or animal source, without having undergone a synthetic process.  A synthetic is a substance which has been formulated or manufactured by a chemical process, and has chemically altered a substance which was derived from a plant, mineral or animal source.  The majority of skincare products, and many “natural” foods (a “food labeling modernization” bill recently introduced in Congress would force the FDA to establish a single, standard nutrition labeling system including new guidelines for the use of “natural” as numerous lawsuits have been piling up due to the false advertising of food companies because these foods are NOT natural.  Wall Street Journal 11/6/2013), are created via chemical alterations so the term “natural” is extremely misleading. Organic food is one thing . . . organic in skincare is another.

The first misconception I wish to point out is that if something is full of natural and/or organic ingredients, namely essential oils, that it not only smells good, but is good for your skin. WRONG! Fragrance whether it be natural or synthetic and alcohol are two components are the most irritating to most skin types. Essential oils are fragrance, pure and simple, and they are considered volatile ingredients for the most part.  Fragrance is NOT GOOD FOR YOUR SKIN!  That is why it is suggested to spray your perfumes, colognes, or toilettes on to your clothes, not your skin. I can attest that every single time I use something full of some type of fragrance, I break out.  My skin gets so pissed off at me that I get welts . . . including from my hair and bath products.  I had such a hard time dealing with acne my whole life that I became super intuitive to why my skin would react to certain things.  The fragrance issue I figured out early on.  Many people suffer from their skin reacting to exposure to allergens resulting in allergic contact dermatitis or irritant contact dermatitis. Fragrance can cause disruption (either by allergy or irritation) in the stratum corneum (the top layer of skin, mostly dead skin cells that you see in the mirror every day) and you will see that disruption but . . . damage is also happening below the epidermis.  Skin cells can become damaged from irritation and inflammation and that hurts your skins ability to repair itself and produce healthy collagen.  Below is a list from PaulasChoice.com that breaks down just a few volatile fragrant ingredients (there are many but these are the most common):

Frequently used fragrance ingredients to avoid are (the names in parentheses are how the ingredient’s name will appear on the product):

  • Fragrance
  • Parfum/Parfume
  • Linalool
  • Citronellol
  • Cinnamal
  • Limonene
  • Geraniol
  • Eugenol
  • Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Rose flower extract (Rosa damascene)
  • Bergamot oil (Citrus bergamia)
  • Ylang-ylang oil (Canaga odorata)
  • Lemon (Citrus limon)
  • Lime (Citrus aurantifolia or Citrus medica)
  • Orange (Citrus sinensis)
  • Tangerine (Citrus tangerine)
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
  • Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
  • Menthol
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum)

Many non-toxic synthetic ingredients (the FDA continues to study the safety of certain ingredients and does require specific percentages and labels to be adhered to even though they do not govern the cosmetics industry) are actually really good in your skincare products . . .  peptides, hyaluronic acid, topical alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids and many others including the gold standard in skincare . . . retinoids/retinols. In the end and I’ve said it before on other blog posts, feeding your skin with good ingredients whether it be natural or synthetic is the key to good skin.  It’s a dance and you will have to experiment, but please don’t be fooled my these “natural and organic” skincare products because quite frankly, the majority don’t have any “actives” that are doing anything to “feed” the skin below the epidermis, that’s where the real work begins in a good skincare regimen.  Remember  . . . skincare is about feeding the skin with good ingredients natural and synthetic AND protecting it with a broad spectrum sunscreen which too can be natural or synthetic . . . more on THAT in a future blog.

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