Natural Ingredients: Are They Really Worth the Hype?
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Even if you’re not the biggest skin care junkie around, it’s pretty hard to miss the growing green revolution that has taken the beauty world by storm. From the rise of Asian skin care—which puts a premium on exotic and nature-derived ingredients—to long-established and well-known brands creating entirely new lines of natural options, it’s safe to say that eco-beauty is no longer just a Hollywood or Instagram trend.
These days, natural skin care is considered a crucial part in one’s quest for a wellness-centered lifestyle. And in the age of Youtube vloggers and social media influencers, it’s easy to get carried away by all the hype. But in the midst of all the buzz, one thing that we still often wonder about is, “Are natural ingredients truly worth it?” And, “Are synthetic ingredients really that bad?” But as with all of life’s important questions, the answers to these can be rarely simplified to a mere yes or no.
What the Labels Really Mean
For centuries, we’ve always known that nature is the best healer. Before the invention of medicines and any of the scientific and medical advancements we enjoy today, mankind turned to Mother Nature for healing and relief. But just because something comes from nature doesn’t mean it cannot pose harm. (Poison ivy, anyone?) The same is true when it comes to natural skin care products.
The media often hypes up the use of natural ingredients in skin care products, but what doesn’t get mentioned as much is the fact that certain ingredients can have the reverse effect on your skin. Especially when you take into account that using the word “natural” on labels often mean very little upon closer examination of a product’s ingredients list or formula.
While we don’t discount the fact that there are brands who truly do their best to live up to their claims of using only natural ingredients, the fact of the matter is, there is no clear-cut set of guidelines that would strictly limit the use of these labels in any given product. Presently, the closest we have to a regulation is the USDA’s stipulations on the use of the word “organic,” which require products to contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. (Products that claim to be “made with organic ingredients” should have at least 70 percent.)
For products who brandish the “natural” label, it’s even harder to just take things at face value. “Natural” is not a regulated term when it comes to skin care products (as are the labels “green” or “vegan”), which makes it easy for brands to misuse and for consumers to be misled. A moisturizer can claim to be natural even when it contains only the tiniest amount of aloe vera or sunflower oil.
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Chemicals in Skin Care
With all the press that natural ingredients are getting nowadays, coupled with the bad reputation that synthetic chemicals have gained in recent years, it’s become quite common to assume that natural is always best. And while it’s true that nature is a bountiful source of all things good and healing, this doesn’t mean that natural ingredients will never irritate your skin or cause allergic reactions.
Some of us are also under the notion that when a product touts itself as natural, it must be completely free of toxins and other harsh chemicals, which, as we now know, is often far from accurate. (Fun Fact: Toxins also exist in nature.) But another point that’s also worth noting is that while studies have found certain chemicals to be a danger to one’s health—like sulfates, parabens, and phthalates—and the environment (such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are found in sunscreens), synthetic ingredients are not all that bad. In fact, some of the most praised anti-aging ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and glycolic acid—while found in nature—are typically synthesized and processed in a lab before they find their way into our skin care products.
But the biggest argument when it comes to chemicals in skin care involves the use of synthetic preservatives that advocates of natural skin care feel strongly against. Some of these substances have been banned for use in Europe (such as propylparaben, fragrances, avobenzone, and phthalates) but can still be found in skin care products sold in the United States. While there is definitely room for more studies to be done on the harmful effects of these chemicals on the body, the ones that have been conducted to date did show troubling results—linking these substances to cancer, allergic reactions, and endocrine functions.
Manufacturers, on the other hand, stress the need for chemical preservatives to lengthen a product’s shelf life. The FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe list is often cited as a reference when it comes to the amount used in each product. However, it should be noted that no such guidelines exist specifically for skin care and beauty products.
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Are Natural Ingredients Always Best
That said, there is a reason why the natural skin care industry continues to expand and shows no signs of slowing down. Because just as too much coconut oil can clog your pores or tea tree oil can irritate sensitive skin, there are natural ingredients that do work and are backed by scientific proof. So, yes, natural ingredients are best—but not always. The most effective natural ingredients are those that have been proven to be safe and effective. And more specifically, those that you have proven to work for you and fit your needs.
This means that when trying out new products, don’t just simply take the brand’s (or your favorite influencer’s) word for it. Reading up on the ingredients, the processes involved in developing these formulas, and the brands behind these products is a good start if you want to make sure you don’t wake up with inflamed and irritated skin. It’s also important to pay attention to how your skin reacts to these ingredients (or has reacted in the past). It’s best to stick to tried-and-tested natural ingredients that have been proven to deliver all the skin benefits they promise sans the risk of irritation or allergic reactions—like honey, kaolin clay, shea butter, jojoba, and evening primrose, just to name a few.
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Benefits of Natural Ingredients
Even with the caveats of using natural ingredients, advocates still argue that the benefits of using truly natural skin care products still outweigh the possible side effects or irritation. This is particularly true for those who want to extend their eco-conscious philosophy to every aspect of their lifestyle, including skin care.
Studies have also shown that truly natural ingredients and skin care products can be just as effective as their synthetic counterparts, especially when you consider the latest advancements in processing and extraction. Natural ingredients are also superior in quality as they are not exposed to harsh chemicals and toxic pesticides and don’t undergo unnecessary modification.
For a list of skin-loving natural ingredients (and what science says about them) used in Oceanic Gold’s skin care line, click here.