Our skin is like a sponge, we absorb what we apply on our skin. We regularly expose ourselves to chemicals by slathering, lathering, rubbing, spraying different beauty products on our hairs and skin. Consider the average woman wears makeup every day, easily that means it can add up to 10 or even more different skin care products applying to the skin. The fact is, we have no idea how many chemicals are in these makeups and skincare products and how some of those chemicals will affect us over time, or how they react in our bodies in combination. Almost 90 percent of the 10,500 cosmetics and skin care ingredients known to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, the FDA, or any other publicly accountable institution, according to the Environmental Working Group.
To choose safer, non-toxic products for your skin, you will have to start adopting a green beauty routine. Keep it simple and the basic you need will be cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and broad-spectrum sunscreen to keep your skin in tip-top shape. Toxic synthetic chemicals are the biggest issue, and when it comes to examining product labels, it may be quite confusing and difficult to figure out those words on the packaging. For example, the words “natural” and “all-natural” are not regulated labeling terms.
The word “natural” actually means nothing when it comes to skin care products. To put the word “natural” on a skincare label, the company does not need to meet any standards or regulations. “Natural” in this contact really does not mean the formula is without any synthetic ingredients. The word can be easily used, whenever a manufacturer wants, or the brand wishes. Also to keep in mind, no matter how natural the ingredient is, there is always some degree of physical processing such as cold pressed or steam distillation etc. and may include the addition of other not-so-natural ingredients.
What Does Natural Actually Mean?
The word natural has been using so much in the natural beauty industry. The word natural can means different things to different people and it is used all the time. This often creates confusion as there is no legislation neither you have to prove anything to use the word “NATURAL”.
As today, the word “natural” can be found on skincare, haircare, and makeup. It is important to explore more in details and look at different definitions.
Basically, natural can be classified into 4 grades.
The ingredient stays exactly the way it is. It is obtained from natural resources and it maintains its original chemical shape and structure. A good example is an oil. The fruit of an oil is picked from its plant, and cold pressed. The chemical composition remains even it is pressed. The physical may have changed but the actual chemical compositions remain as there are no chemical reactions. Ingredients like oils, butters, waxes generally will be in this classification and this makes them very natural. Any types of such product can also get 100% organic certification as long it does not contain any water, emulsifiers or preservatives, neither undergo any chemical reactions.
For this, the ingredient has undergone various chemical reactions such as fermentation, hydrolysis to become a finished product. For instance, polysorbate is not natural as they contain polyethylene glycol derived ingredients. Such ingredients name often read like very long chemical names but they are originally derived from natural or plant material. They have undergone a chemical reaction to create a finished ingredient.
Often, conflict occurs on this grade as of whether a natural identical ingredient can be considered as a natural ingredient. The ingredient is derived, but not derived from natural but synthetically processed but it is identical in its chemical structure as the same ingredient found in nature. Usually, a chemical synthesis process is carried out, thus there are chemical reactions to obtain a product or several products. This happens by physical and chemical manipulations usually involving one or more reactions.
A good example is critic acid which often uses as a PH regulator in cosmetics. As millions of tons of citric acid are used not only in cosmetics but food and other industries, it is hard to naturally derived to produce such a large scale. So this means citric acid is synthesized in the lab. And the next question will be, it is not possible to produce naturally derived citrus acid? It is possible but to produce hundreds of millions of citrus fruit for global consumption, it is not sustainable. Other examples include sorbic acid, benzyl alcohol, salicylic acid and a lot of weak acids or fragrance compounds.
When the massive drive towards naturals and organics, scientists are now creating natural glycols and one good example is butylene glycol. Butylene glycol is made from the fermentation of corn or other carbohydrate substrates. For this classification, synthetic materials are made from natural resources by chemically changing the original substances to create a material with different characteristics. It may be chemically identical to a naturally-occurring substance or may be different. Even the EWG, rate butylene glycol overall hazard as low.
There is a huge amount of innovations in chemistry over the last 150 years. Taking for instance natural glycols have been used as solvents, humectants across many industries for many decades. Scientists use them to reduce water activity and also act as preservatives. To make a high-performance lotion, an emulsifier has to be used and preservative has to be added. In such case, there is bound to have elements of naturally derived ingredients and also nature identical ingredients in the finished formulation.
There is no legislation on the use of the word “natural”, whether you call a product natural using naturally derived ingredients and also nature identical ingredients, it is quite subjective. Some people are strongly against and some people are absolutely fine. Since there is no legislation, the words used on the skincare products can be quite confusing. It is important to understand the frequent words used on the skincare products.
In the natural world, it will never be easy to know whether the ingredients were from nature or synthesized in a lab. Unless formulators go through strict selections and question their suppliers, and even they do, suppliers may never know as well. A lot of suppliers are just retailers and they buy wholesale from other retailers and the chain goes back through all these suppliers. The documentation you get with the ingredients will not always be that clear. Even formulators working on an ingredient thinking is derived from nature may not realize that it had been synthesized in a lab.
Natural ingredients are not always gentle on the skin and all type of products have the potential to cause irritation. Synthetic ingredients do have their own unique benefits and scientifically formulated products are using ingredients that have been proven to work. Ultimately, there isn’t anything wrong on these polar opposites views. it is essential to seek out for chemically safe and natural products. Learn to read ingredients label is a good start to know what is in your beauty products.