Everyone is very conscious nowadays of living a healthier, cleaner, greener lifestyle. Whether it’s the food we’re putting in our bodies, the clothes we’re wearing or the creams, lotions and potions we’re putting on to our skin. The common belief is that natural and organic is always the better option.
I am in full agreement with these sentiments and do my best to follow them myself. However, according to a cosmetic chemist, in the world of skincare, natural may not always be the best option. Many people find themselves with allergic reactions to skincare products, both natural and synthetic, but are often surprised to get flare-ups from more natural products.
There are reasons for this. Synthetic ingredients are created in a very controlled and sterile environment. This controlled synthesis means that the end result is purer even though it is not natural.
When it comes to natural, there are many factors to consider. Most often flare-ups and breakouts from natural skincare will be caused by essential oils and/or natural preservatives. There are many different grades of essential oils that vary depending on the yield, the quality of the crop, the season and whether or not pesticides were used. Oils have micro-organisms present and again the quantity and type can vary.
Then there are preservatives. Preservatives are needed to protect us from any undesirables that could sprout up in our products rendering them useless and potentially affecting our skin. There has been a big sway away from more traditional skincare preservatives in recent years, with parabens receiving particularly bad press. This had led to not only a preference for more natural preservatives but more frequently they’re being added into skincare product lines.
Once again, however, it can be a difficult choice to make for formulators. There are many synthetic preservatives that are extremely mild and therefore very gentle on the skin. That’s not to say that synthetic can’t cause flare-ups and irritations, but with natural preservatives, while there are many that are just as effective, some have strong scents that dominate the product, or a higher amount might be required. Most importantly, the natural preservatives used to need to have a very low pH to be effective, but a low pH can cause irritation on the skin. You want to ensure that your skincare products are pH balanced within the pH range of your skin (4.5-6.5). Creams and other products you leave on your skin should be (4-5.5).
So while natural is the ideal, it’s not always necessarily the best. Synthetic is made pure, but natural can vary. To reduce the likeliness of flare-ups from natural skincare products, test them on your skin first and make sure that you are buying from a reputable brand, that way you’ll also know that the pH is balanced correctly.