Natural vs. Synthetic Skincare: Which is Better?

In this tile, you will learn about synthetic and natural skincare products. The tile will also shed light on the benefits of natural skincare products.

Natural and synthetic
Artificial ingredients created in laboratories
Nature identical

Sources of active ingredients

For a skincare product to be effective, it must have **actives**. These active ingredients are obtained from two sources: **natural and synthetic**. The natural source of active ingredients is plants, whereas synthetic active ingredients are made in the lab.

For many years, the skincare industry has thrived on products consisting of synthetic ingredients; **moisturizers, serums, eye creams, and cleansers all have synthetic oxides, acids, and their derivatives**.


But, over the past two decades, **the skincare industry has been revolutionized**. People are now seeking more natural products than synthetic ones. This is mainly because of the research done in the food industry that has demonstrated that natural food is better than processed.

According to Fox Business, Americans spend around $322 per person per year on skincare, but still, there are no regulations for natural skincare products.

What are synthetic skincare products?

**Synthetic skincare products consist of artificial ingredients created in laboratories after thorough research on natural ingredients**. In short, they are made of synthetic versions of natural ingredients. Synthetic products are also called chemical products.

**Both the actives and inactives of synthetic skincare are made in the lab**. The actives in these products include antioxidants, niacinamides, and retinoids.


The inactives forged in the lab can be dyes, fragrances, and preservatives. **These products use dye to add color and beauty to the product’s texture, while preservatives increase the shelf-life of the products**.

**Combining active and inactive ingredients makes the formulation work and the skincare product effective**. However, some of these ingredients can be harmful if not used the right way, but that it does not mean that all synthetic products are toxic. In fact, many of them have tremendous benefits for the skin, including collagen protection, screening from the sun, and delaying skin aging.

What are natural skincare products?

**The term ‘natural’ has no straightforward meaning in the skincare industry**. Unfortunately, natural skincare has no legal standard, so many brands call an ingredient ‘natural’ according to their own definitions.

But, generally, **natural skincare products would typically mean products comprising ingredients sourced from plants**. These skincare products can consist of two types of ingredients: **naturally occurring and nature-derived ingredients**.


Naturally occurring ingredients are used in their raw form in skincare products. **These ingredients are rich in antioxidants, carotenoids, and other actives with exceptional skin benefits**.

Examples of naturally occurring skincare products are aloe vera extract, used as a moisturizer, and cucumber juice, used as an anti-inflammation ingredient.

Nature-derived ingredients are natural ingredients but are often processed to make their active ingredients accessible to the skin. An example of a nature-driven ingredient is almond kernel extract used in skincare products to treat acne.

Nature identical ingredients

**Another skincare label widely used containing the word ‘natural’ is natural identical ingredients**. But these ingredients are not natural at all. They are created in the labs, having specific compositions to mimic the natural ingredients.

**Nature identical ingredients might have the same functional benefits to the skin as naturally occurring or nature-derived ingredients, but they are not actually ‘natural.’**

It wouldn’t be wrong to call nature identical ingredients ‘synthetic.’ ‘Natural identical’ is just another term brands use for synthetic active ingredients resembling natural ingredients.


An example of such an ingredient is Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that helps in skin rejuvenation. Vitamin C is originally present in citrus fruits but is also made in the lab.

Synthetic vitamin C has almost the same structure and functions as natural vitamin C, which is why it is used in moisturizers, and skin serums meant for nourishing the skin.

Natural ingredients are safer alternatives

There are actually quite a lot of reasons to start leaning toward natural skincare products. **Studies suggest natural ingredients are safer and cost-effective for skin benefits**.

This is especially important because some natural ingredients are a great alternative to synthetic ones. For instance, **Bakuchiol extract effectively clears wrinkles and fine lines**.


Bakuchiol is sourced from the seeds of a plant called Psoralea corylifolia and works in the same manner in the skin as retinol, helping the skin regenerate faster to stay young and smooth by helping form collagen to keep the skin firm.

Research suggests that **the topical use of retinol can spark irritation, rashes, and redness**. But, unlike retinol, **bakuchiol extracts do not cause irritation or redness**. This is why bakuchiol stands out and has become a great alternative to retinol.

Natural skincare products are sustainable

The formulation of synthetic products involves **chemical reactions that can sometimes release harmful environmental substances**. For example, the fragrances added to these products are obtained from petroleum.

These scents release gasses that can deplete the ozone layer, contributing to global warming. **These gasses can also cause breathing problems and irritation of the eyes in humans and animals**. Similarly, the disposal of synthetic ingredients also releases harmful chemicals which can kill plants or sea life.

But **natural products do not cause harm to the environment**. The scents used in natural skincare are usually made by crushing the flowers, so they don’t give off any nasty chemicals.

As these ingredients are from nature, their disposal is also easier. They degrade in the soil without negatively impacting plants or animals.

Natural skincare products are rich in beneficial nutrients

**The ingredient list of natural and synthetic products is entirely different**. But, understanding this list is probably the easiest way to decide what product to choose.

If you have ever observed the ingredients of synthetic skincare products, you might have read about **petrolatum, siloxanes, or parabens**. Although these ingredients are made carefully in the lab, some of them can still have side effects.


For example, these products use parabens as preservatives. However, while they efficiently preserve the product’s active ingredients, they can cause skin irritation and rashes if used in higher amounts.

However, **natural skincare products consist of ingredients that are beneficial to the skin in one way or another**. Rose petals, argan oils, and orange peel are some ingredients added to natural products to make them more effective. These ingredients are loaded with actives like vitamin C, E, and niacinamides that, instead of harming the skin, nourish it .

Natural skincare products do not involve animal testing

**Synthetic skin care products consist of many active and inactive ingredients that make the product effective in skin treatment**. But, as these ingredients are artificial, they can have detrimental effects and cannot be used directly on humans.

For 80 years, synthetic skincare products have been tested on animals first. If they create no skin reactions or allergies, only then are they used on humans. During the testing, animals are put at risk. Some can acquire skin diseases, and others can lose their lives.


Fortunately, **natural skincare products do not need animal testing**. They are derived from plants, most of which are already a part of our diet and do not initiate any side effects. For example, honey, cucumber, and almond oil are enjoyable edibles.

But they are also rich in antioxidants. They are readily used in natural skincare products to make the skin glowing and free of wrinkles.

Natural skincare products have natural colorants

You might perceive a yellowish cleanser or orange-ish moisturizer as appealing, but did you know that **all these colors in synthetic skincare products are artificial**? Besides providing the color to a product, research has shown that these colors have harmful effects on the skin.

**Some of these color additives can block the skin pores, leading to more production of oil**. This is one reason you or someone you know might have gotten acne after using a specific skincare product. Applying artificial color pigments also increases the risk of skin inflammation and allergies.

Luckily, **natural skincare products are devoid of artificial colors**. They consist of natural colors occurring in the plants. A few examples include chlorophyll, a green color pigment, a carotenoid, a reddish color pigment, and anthocyanin, a bluish color. **These colors enhance the skincare products’ texture and overall look without harming the skin**.

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