Updated: Sep 5, 2022
As a greater awareness continues evolving around the products we apply to our body’s largest organ (hint: it’s the skin), it’s high time to talk about why it’s a good idea to swap those chemicals for some plant-based love.
Ancient wisdom, modern skincare
The concept of natural cosmetics is not new: even ancient Egyptians like Cleopatra used Kajal or kohl, to darken her eyelids and milk to lighten and soften her skin. However, modern trends have moved towards synthetics and have been accepted by society as the norm. The majority of products flooding the cosmetics market are composed of a concoction of synthetic chemicals.
I wanted to understand why people are increasingly looking for natural or organic alternatives to the mainstream recipes that have filled bathroom cabinets for decades. During a conversation with a friend not too long ago, the topic of cosmetic products came up (as it often does with me). At one point the conversation turned to the question of why: why should we use natural skincare products over brands that integrate synthetic ones? A great question to bring to light because it’s so simple, yet also complex. While both natural and synthetic ingredients can be beneficial, Wild Leaves (obviously) believes that natural products are the more superior choice of the two.
Applying hundreds of ingredients per day
Here’s a mind-blowing fact to wrap your head around: a typical skin and body care product contains between 15 and 50 ingredients. Think about it: shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face creams, foundation, blush, mascara, lipstick, nail polish, body lotion… The list goes on and on and on. Considering that the average woman uses between 9 and 15 personal care products per day, based on a poll of 2016 women by deodorant-maker Bionsen, researchers have estimated that women apply approximately 515 individual chemicals to their skin each day. You read that right.
515 individual chemicals applied to the skin each day!
Skincare products will generally contain some of the following core ingredients: water, oil, extracts, emulsifiers, preservatives, surfactants, thickeners, emollients, color, solubilizers, fragrances and pH stabilizers. In synthetic-based products, these ingredients can contain harmful substances such as parabens, phthalates, sulfates, sodium laureth or laurel sulfate, formaldehyde, nano particles, mineral oils, petroleum, and synthetic fragrances, to name just a few. Prolonged use can cause serious health problems including skin irritation, allergies, hormonal imbalances, toxicity, and an overtaxed immune system.
So, what exactly is the difference between natural skincare and synthetic skincare?
I would like to make this topic easily digestible so let’s start with the basics. First off, it’s important to define natural skincare and synthetic skincare ingredients to understand the difference.
Natural Skincare, and cosmetics at large, are termed natural when their ingredients are natural, non-chemically processed substances. These substances are purely plant-based or may be derived from plants, animals, minerals or other sources.
Chemically synthetic ingredients are basically any substance synthetically derived, i.e. not found and harvested directly from nature. It’s generally a raw material created in a lab where scientists replicate compounds found in nature (such as plants or animals).
Hint: Watch out for the term ‘naturally derived.’ It can refer to a product that contains 100% chemical or synthetic ingredients and does not necessarily mean it was “derived from nature”!
From the earth to your skin: benefits of natural skincare
Now that we know the two definitions, it’s clearly not a “What came first: the chicken or the egg?” type of conundrum when it comes to natural ingredients. It’s pretty simple: nature first provided its benefits, and synthetics are chemical copies of natural ingredients. Yet many people still shy away from going au naturale, often because of things like prices, sticking to familiar brands, and lack of transparency.
Another reason I’ve heard from many people is that as soon as they completely eliminated synthetic-based products in favor of an all-natural skincare routine, their skin broke out in pimples. That’s actually extremely normal! Because the toxins, which were being suppressed, can finally be released. They now have an escape route through the skin (our body's largest detox organ). If this happens to you, don’t worry or feel the need to go back to your synthetic products. Wait it out and let your body and skin naturally release what needs to be released. This can take up to a month or so, be patient with your body.
One of the many great things about natural ingredients is that they have passed the “Darwinian test of time,” meaning that they possess properties that are widely known and have been tested for thousands of years. Our bodies have lived in close contact with nature throughout the ages and as a result are compatible with substances having a natural origin. Just as our bodies have been evolving, so have plants.
With a vast amount of complex chemical compounds working in synergy with each other, plant relationships build on a harmonious relationship that’s nearly impossible for synthetic ingredients to mimic. Most of these synthetic ingredients serve purely functional purpose and come directly from a lab.
Here are a few more reasons to choose natural skincare:
Eliminating toxic ingredients: 60% of what goes on the skin is absorbed. That’s why it’s better to avoid potentially harmful chemicals from seeping into your bloodstream.
Naturally rich in health: Plants naturally contain substances our bodies need like minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fatty acids. The skin and body thrive on receiving these vital antioxidants and nutrients to stay healthy and ward off free radicals.
Healthier from the inside out and outside in: Natural ingredients can support and boost the immune system, while prolonged use of harmful chemicals can weaken the skin’s barrier function and even damage cells in other organs of the body. Our bodies can go into overdrive trying to process and fight off harmful foreign substances, which in turn can cause premature ageing and toxic overload. Natural ingredients serve a more supportive role and are packed with nutrients that can’t be mimicked by human-made synthetics.
No animal testing: Animal testing in the cosmetics industry began around a century ago due to serious injuries caused by unsafe ingredients. Companies wanted to test their products for safety on animals before putting them on the market for humans. Unfortunately, this practice still exists. But when using natural skincare products, natural ingredients have stood the test of time and have been successfully used on humans for eons. Animal testing can become a non-issue when we go completely natural. We obviously stand behind this sentiment and do not test on animals!
Environment and eco-friendliness: We all know this but it bears repeating – sourcing locally and from known sources who share the same values can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, toxins, and shady manufacturing processes. It’s easier to know the original source of natural ingredients so we can better follow the process from seed to skin. Our skincare ingredients are all sourced from Europe!
Applying leaves, seeds, and blossoms to your skin
Compare this knowledge to what we now know about synthetic ingredients used in many cosmetic formulations on the market. They are purely functional and often bland and boring. Just the thought of spreading leaves, seeds, blossoms and barks (or any lush skin-friendly ingredient harvested from nature) across the skin sounds so much more appealing than something coming out of a lab. One thing is for certain: It’s a pretty drab life for a chemical-based ingredient compared to a natural one, wouldn’t you say? Apply this logic to your skincare and let us know what you think.
Keep it simple. Keep it natural. Keep it real.