Synthetic vs Natural Ingredients in Skin Care : 5 Things You Should Know

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With a growing awareness and interest in healthy living (open to interpretation, yes!), it’s not surprising that many of you may be concerned by the use of synthetic ingredients in your cosmetics. I’m often asked if Apothekari is ‘natural’ and while we could certainly describe ourselves as a natural skin care line, it feels a bit insincere to say that because when it comes to skin care, the word natural is unregulated and very much open to interpretation. We like to focus instead on the fact that we formulate with safe and effective ingredients and that we include them at appropriate concentrations to deliver the best possible outcomes for your skin.

There is a lot of fear mongering on the internet, often perpetuated by well-meaning but unqualified individuals who would like us to believe that if any ingredient is synthetic – produced in a lab – that it must be bad. And that if an ingredient is natural – coming from nature – then it must be good. The truth is that there are good and bad skin care ingredients in both the natural and synthetic camps and you shouldn’t be led into believing that one is better than the other.

Here are 5 common misconceptions about synthetic ingredients and natural ingredients that you may come across:

  1. Synthetic Ingredients & Chemicals Are Bad. The truth is that everything is a chemical. WE are made up of chemicals. Something that is synthetic or a chemical isn’t necessarily bad for you or your skin. However, some ingredients, whether synthetic or natural are best avoided or used in minimal quantities. No direct relationship between the benefits and dangers of a particular chemical and its origin as a natural or man-made substance have been found.
  2. Natural Ingredients are Better for Your Skin. Whether a chemical is synthesized in a lab or obtained from nature, our bodies cannot distinguish between the two. Identical ingredients are treated and processed by our bodies in the same manner.
  3. Natural Ingredients are Better for the Planet. Not necessarily. Some plants are endangered and by continuing to harvest them, we may be putting a strain on them and their habitat. Consider the palm tree and palm oil. While it is possible to harvest palm sustainably, we don’t always know that it was.
  4. If You Can’t Pronounce an Ingredient it Must be Bad. Just as synthetically produced ingredients may have long and unpronounceable names, the same is true of natural ones. Consider this list of ingredients – a-pinene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, cis-ocimene, trans-ocimene, 3-octanone, camphor, linalool, linalyl acetate, caryophyllene, terpinen-4-ol and lavendulyl acetate. Would you be surprised to learn that they are all constituents of lavender, an ingredient used widely in many ‘natural’ skin care lines?
  5. Even Natural Products Must Have Preservatives. Manufacturers of natural products often proudly claim to be preservative free. While this may be OK for certain formulations (those that don’t contain water), it is not safe for products formulated with water or botanical ingredients. Natural and preservative free is not always a good thing and it can be downright dangerous