Who doesn’t love natural stuff? It’s a fantastic thought that the cosmetics you’re putting on your skin are just as good for you as they are for the environment, and it should be the norm amongst cosmetic brands. But when it comes to chemical vs natural skin care, is there really a difference?
A lot of people think that natural skin care doesn’t work, or that there are “bad chemicals” or “chemical nasties” hiding in their skincare that will cause anything from breakouts to cancer.
Recently, I spent some time – almost a year – working for Lush Cosmetics, one of the world’s leading “natural” cosmetic brands. I loved the brand before working there, and that hasn’t changed.
What has changed is my ingredient knowledge, and my lack of patience with obnoxious sceptics who refuse to do their research before trying to play “gotcha” on Facebook. So this one is for you guys, and for anyone else genuinely confused by the slew of information out there. It’s time for a natural skin care education.
Chemical vs Natural skin care: THE MYTHS
Myth #1 “Chemicals are bad for you”
The first mistake that people make in the chemical vs natural skin care debate is assuming there’s a difference between the two. “Natural” things and “chemical” things are actually one and the same.
“Chemical” is often used as a buzzword, and it sounds intimidating, but they are found in literally everything. Lavender oil is a mixture of chemicals. So is water. So is your skin.
Be more specific when you’re asking about or researching a specific chemical, because a “no chemical skincare routine” is impossible, and if someone tells you a product has ‘no chemicals’ in it, they’re probably full of shit. #NotAllChemicals
Myth #2 “Glycerine isn’t natural”
Not all glycerine is natural, however there are plenty of natural forms of glycerine on the market and in cosmetics.
Glycerine is a clear, viscous, water-soluble liquid which occurs widely in nature. It’s a traditional cosmetic material and has been used for many years because it’s so safe and effective. It’s also used in foods and pharmaceuticals.
Vegetarian glycerine can be produced from natural sources, like rapeseed oil.
Myth #3 “Parabens give you cancer”
There are many types of parabens. Some parabens occur naturally in some fruits such as blueberries. Some are synthetic – chemical preservatives used to keep products (usually food or cosmetics) fresh and contamination-free.
The paraben-controversy comes from a study in 2004, which found a correlation between breast tumors and the presence of parabens. However, further studies have found no evidence to support this. Correlation does not equal causation, and no studies have definitively found parabens to be the cause.
Since that time, 500 independent safety studies have been carried out. Such rigorous testing has occurred that experts now believe that they are safer than other synthetic alternatives.
Two of the safest parabens include:
Propylparaben: As microbes go to reproduce, propylparaben prevents the cell wall from forming properly so the bacteria can’t close itself in. This means a second generation of microbes can’t form.
Methylparaben: There’s a lot of conflicting information about this one out there. Methylparaben is an ester of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. It is a fine crystalline powder, which is odourless, tasteless and non-irritating.
Studies have also shown that methylparaben are not a serious threat to the environment, as this chemical can be broken down by bacteria commonly found in soil. EU regulations state that 0.4% of a formula can be composed of methylparaben and 0.4% made of propylparaben.
Myth #4 “Talc gives you cancer”
Again, there are different ‘grades’ of talc.
Asbestos grade talc is dangerous, as it does (as the name suggests) contain asbestos. But cosmetic grade talc (which, unsurprisingly, is the one most used in cosmetics) doesn’t contain asbestos and is perfectly safe to use externally.
As talc is very absorbent it is also added to products to make them self preserving. The talc absorbs any excess water, which creates an environment inhospitable to micro-organisms.
The most important thing to remember is that science changes. Studies can be proved and debunked and re-proved. Make sure that the information you’re getting is the most up-to-date, not just the most widespread. Often the most vocal voices are not the most accurate, and to sort the real from the fake often takes a little research, but it’s worth it.
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