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How to be smart about natural vs. synthetic skin care products

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Contrary to popular (and sarcastic) belief, naturally based skincare products can work wonders.  Article from Beauty Bender.

Nature’s Best

Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Expertise

How to be smart about natural vs. synthetic beauty products—and what those terms really mean

Just as opinions on matte vs. dewy skin are subject to personal opinion, the word “natural” is open to interpretation when it comes to the formulation of a product. Calling something green or organic can be even more ambiguous. Essentially it’s a touchy subject all-around. “In the beauty industry, ‘natural’ is a tricky word simply because there is no federal regulation around it,” says Sasha Fedulow Wirth, founder of Blossom Jar, a growing brand of organic, natural and non-toxic facial and body oils handmade in small batches in Sydney, Australia. “There’s a whole spectrum of what natural could mean—and not everything natural is good for us, take mercury or arsenic for example.”

We’ve all seen products labeled with that wholesome-sounding promise, but because it’s not something regulated by the FDA, it’s important to know how to read labels. One concern is preservatives. Now there are actually natural preservatives—for example, Blossom Jar uses astringent and antibacterial rosemary essential oil to preserve its blends, making them last up to two years. The reason they’re able to use a something natural in that role is because the other ingredients are pure; products with a significant amount of water or other unstable ingredients require stronger means of preservation.

“The ingredient list is crucial,” says Fedulow Wirth. “Look for a short ingredient list filled with names you can identify. Don’t pick up anything that lists fragrance as an ingredient—it’s a loophole for not having to list up to thousands of ‘trade secret’ ingredients, the majority of which you don’t want circulating in your body.” She suggests checking the app Gorgeously Green for a list of what to avoid. After studying sustainability and herbal remedies, Fedulow Wirth is decisive in what she endorses putting on one’s skin. “For me, natural beauty products are made from ingredients that are organic or wild-crafted, minimally processed and as close to their natural state as possible.” Oils, which have been gaining momentum in the last year, are one way of delivering pure and potent elements to the skin. Smaller labels, such as her go-tos RMS Beauty, Jane Iredale, Josie Maran, Yarok, MyChelle and Pratima, produce quality products without cutting corners.

But like all formulas, it’s a matter of finding ones that work for you. Fedulow Wirth has used natural deodorant and mascara that have given her a rash and made her lashes fall out, respectively, but warns this speaks to the trial-and-error nature of the slightly untested road. The same goes for synthetic products and their potential long-term drawbacks, like cancer, hormonal disorders and chronic inflammation. The biggest misconception about products labeled natural might be their efficacy. It’s important to understand the difference between the way natural and synthetic products operate. “The aim of most natural products is to support the skin healing itself,” she says, while “the goal of synthetic blends is to fix the problem, not necessarily to address the underlying cause.” So the latter produces faster, more dramatic results, while the former works over time to nourish and support the skin in fixing itself.

All in all, it’s a confusing shopping experience, but one that can be made less so with a little research and understanding. Says Fedulow Wirth, “of course there are some natural products with fluff ingredients, but there are just as many synthetic products with the same overstated claims. The key is doing your research on the company and their ingredients and making an educated decision.”

– See more at: Beauty Bender