Using natural skin care products and organic skin care products is a growing desire for most people. You want skin care that is effective, safe to use, and good for the environment. There are many natural products in the market place and an increasing amount being sold as organic.
Why choose natural and organic skin care products?
The natural vs. synthetic debate has become very intense and polarized. Which is better? Which is safer? What should you use? There is so much information – much of it inaccurate – on the internet. There are consumer groups hellbent on scaring the consumer away from buying practically anything, natural or synthetic. Every ingredient seems to be hazardous in their opinion. It’s gotten a bit out of control.
It can be made quite simple. If your desire is to use a skin care product with an effect on the skin use products that actually have ingredients that will provide that effect. Most synthetic ingredients used in skin care products are in there to make the product look good in the bottle. These are emulsifiers that keep the oil and the water from separating, surfactants that cleanse and preservatives. A majority of natural products will have mainly active ingredients in the product. This would be vegetable oils, herbals, essential oils and nutrients (though many nutrients like vitamin C, CoQ10 and others are synthetically made).
The choice in this direction is now between a majority of active ingredients or functional – just there to make the product look good – ingredients. Ingredients that are synthetically composed of petroleum are also viewed as more environmentally hazardous. As an environmental concern, natural ingredients should be sustainable, and not in danger of extinction.
There’s a lot more depth to this discussion.
Organic skin care products
It’s best if you play the role of the skeptic when it comes to labels and marketing. If a label says organic skin care it should have an official seal, like the USDA NOP certified organic seal. If an organic skin care line is coming from Europe it may have the ECOCERT label.
What is natural skin care?
The bigger challenge is in identifying what defines natural. Many ingredients labeled as natural are really synthetic. This doesn’t make them bad or dangerous, as many people are being led to believe. Several ingredients, such as vegetable emulsifying wax and cetearyl alcohol, are derived from plant sources and altered to become a new compound used in skin care. These start as natural so are often described as natural ingredients by the brands using them. Natural soap is another chemically altered ingredient that is no longer natural. Coconut oil is used in a reaction with sodium or potassium hydroxide to create a cleanser. The resulting compound, or soap, is called sodium cocoate – if made with sodium hydroxide, potassium cocoate if made with potassium hydroxide. This compound does not occur in nature so can not be defined as a natural ingredient. These two examples are used to show the difficulty in defining a natural ingredient. The ingredients are fine for use in natural products as they are safe, effective at their function for the skin care product, and are not disruptive to the environment.
What is a synthetic ingredient?
Most synthetic ingredients are easier to identify and define as synthetic. These would include any ingredient that begins with MEA-, TEA- or DEA-. The preservatives phenoxyethanol, parabens or any of the formaldehyde releasers like DMDM Hydantoin or imidazolidinyl urea are also synthetic. These synthetics are not manufactured using starting material from a plant source. Though it can be argued that it does come from a “natural” source, where some will say that starting from a collection of single electrons to fully manufacture something that does not exist in nature still has a natural starting material. Silly argument, but it has been said.
What are natural ingredients?
It easy to recognize most truly natural skin care ingredients. Coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and herbal extracts are familiar and easily identified. Other ingredients may be mislabeled, such as essential oils which are not regulated and can be synthetic fragrances. There are some new plant based preservatives that are being used, though these have not all proven to be effective enough for commercial products – these may include rose or rosemary extracts. Ethanol, mainly defined as grain alcohol or grape alcohol, is a good natural and effective preservative. Alcohol can also be an organic ingredient.
The challenge of natural skin care
This article was not very conclusive as to what you can do to ensure you are buying safe skin care or how to buy natural skin care. It’s difficult to clearly, without a long discussion and debate, define or comment on product safety. When doing an internet information search for safe natural ingredients you may find this comment – “even natural can be dangerous. Look at poison ivy.” The only real response one can make to that is – “who is the fool that puts poison ivy in skin care?”
Make your decisions based on your desired results and do your research. This will help you define natural and synthetic ingredients and find suitable skin care for your needs.