Synthetic vs. Natural Skincare Ingredients

By Charity

  • Drawing a line between natural and synthetic ingredients is meaningful from a food standpoint but less important from a skincare perspective

  • Whereas most experts would agree that natural foods are better for your body, most experts would not say the same about natural skincare products for your skin health

  • Read more for all the details!

The beauty industry is rife with a lot of jargon - natural, organic, vegan, synthetic, clean, plant-based - how should we think about each of these terms? What matters most?

At a minimum, I think most of us are looking for a product that is safe, effective and kind to both humans and planets in its production. This seems to be the general definition of ‘clean’ beauty. 

But is clean beauty plant-based or synthetic-free? This is where a bit of decoding might help us answer this question.

What are natural products? Natural products are typically derived directly from plants. As a plant-lover, I would like to think that sourcing all of my products from nature is the best option. But that is not necessarily the case. There are several natural plants that give pause (think poison ivy). Or high concentrations of pure plant-derived ingredients, such as essential oils, can also raise caution and require careful attention.

The added layer of complexity here is that the beauty industry is largely self-regulated, as the FDA does not have a standard definition for what is deemed to be purely natural. Therefore, paying close attention to the ingredient list is the best path for a conscious consumer who wants to steer clear of green-washing.

What are synthetic products? Synthetic products are scientifically formulated in a lab. In many cases, these ingredients are synthesized from natural compounds in such a way to preserve the benefits and improve its effectiveness. Think of vitamin A and C, both of which are bioavailable yet are also produced in a synthetic form. Caution should be granted when synthetic ingredients are used as fillers, stabilizers and preservatives.

So synthetic ingredients can sometimes be more effective, and all-natural may not always be safe. And all formulas, whether natural or synthetic, are made from chemicals. Think about this: our bodies are made up of chemical compounds, and the water we drink is too!

Dr. Yoon says, drawing a line between natural and synthetic ingredients is meaningful from a food standpoint but less important from a skincare perspective. In other words, whereas most experts would agree that natural foods are better for your body, most experts would not say the same about natural skincare products for your skin health. 

There are many natural skincare products that can cause allergic reactions or irritation.  On the other hand, there are many synthetic ingredients in skincare that have been shown to be safe and beneficial to your skin. Therefore, what’s important is not whether a skincare product is natural or synthetic but rather whether the product includes proven clean and effective ingredients. A simple rule of thumb is to stick to products with a minimal list of ingredients free from fragrance, dyes and other potentially irritating elements.

So where does that leave us? At its core, clean beauty products are toxic-free and thoughtful in their formulaic approach, sourcing in a way that is beneficial to the planet and people alike. There is room in clean beauty for both synthetic and natural products. A great way to practice decoding these terms is to identify the primary function of the product you are looking for. Do you need a toner or a moisturizer? From there, you can review the ingredient list, screening to ensure the list is non-toxic and inclusive of effective ingredients for that function.

As one of the newest clean skincare brands out there, Soffi Skin is certain to have something for you! We value simplicity and intentionality when formulating our products. And just so you know, this is not a sponsored post. The team at Soffli Skin has gone great measures to develop a minimalist-style formula that cuts the excess out while maximizing the benefits. There’s purpose behind each ingredient. That’s the Soffli way!