Is your new moisturizer made with only natural ingredients? Or are there some hyphenated words in the list that sound too technical to be healthy? On the other hand, are the 100% organic ingredients in your all-natural lotions and soaps being sourced in sustainable ways, or are they putting more of a strain on the environment than lab-cultivated alternatives? These are some important (and overlooked) questions to ask when you're crafting your personalized skincare routine.
The Great Ingredient Debate
When it comes to the ultimate question of natural vs. synthetic ingredients, and which are the better choice for skincare products... you may not like the answer. One is not definitively better than the other. In an age where “going green” and living sustainably feel synonymous with words like “organic” and “natural”, you may be surprised to learn that some synthetic alternatives are healthier for both your body and the environment.
Consider this: there are certain “natural” things that are decidedly not healthy for humans, such as biological waste, poisonous plants, rotting meat, and certain bacteria, fungi and viruses, just to name a few. Similarly, there are synthetically produced components of food, medicine and cosmetic products that offer valuable protection and have significantly improved our lives, even if we take them for granted.
In many cases, synthetic alternatives may directly mimic the effects of a natural substance, but can be produced more sustainably in a lab setting, such as cultivated meat as an alternative protein. Another excellent example is oleyl erucate, a vegetable-based ester and a synthetic mimic of jojoba oil. Jojoba is a shrub-like crop producing nuts that needs to be harvested to extract the oil, but the plant may take 3-4 years of watering to reach the flowering stage. Thus, the synthetic version reduces the strain on global resources and promotes sustainability, without denying consumers the potential moisturizing benefits of oleyl erucate in their lotions and serums.
There are other popular skincare ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, that can be produced through large-scale and sustainable bacterial fermentation, rather than extracting this valuable substance from animals. Bacterial fermentation is a natural process, albeit one carried out in industrial labs, but it eliminates the need for animal sources for this highly sought after ingredient. Despite its seemingly natural origins, many people still classify hyaluronic acid as a synthetic ingredient.
Natural vs. Synthetic: Pros and Cons
As we've demonstrated above, this is a question that should be asked on a case-by-case basis. However, there are some basic pros and cons to consider when choosing between natural or synthetic ingredients in your skincare products.
Synthetic Pros: These alternatives are often more sustainable, more ethically sourced, less expensive, or simply more effective than their natural counterparts. Additionally, production is more precise with synthetic ingredients, allowing for more even batches and consistency in their efficacy.
Synthetic Cons: Some ingredients have a tendency to clog pores with their larger molecular size and composition. Also, in skincare products with a dense list of synthetics, it can be hard to know the harmless from the harmful.
Natural Pros: Natural and organic products are often aligned with cruelty-free and vegan values, while offering the unadulterated benefits and nutrients of plant-based products.
Natural Cons: As the demand for natural ingredients rises, so too does the burden of their production and processing on the environment. Think of palm oil... natural, but far from sustainable.
Sustainable and Versatile Solutions
Benefitting equally from natural and synthetic ingredients, some products represent the best of both worlds, like NeuLuna's Day and Night Cream. Hyaluronic acid derived from a fermentation process is the active ingredient, while natural rosehip oil acts as the carrier oil, further supported by oleyl erucate, a synthetic mimic. Offering moisturizing, anti-inflammatory and healing speed benefits, this eco-friendly product proves that in the battle of synthetic vs. organic, results speak louder than ingredients.