Info You Must Have on Avoiding Synthetic Skin Care Products!

All Natural IngredientsWikipedia confirms  there are many wives tales surrounding the benefits of certain ingredients, however, scientific studies demonstrate that ingredients such as Chamomile have demonstrated healthy healing when applied topically. There is, however, Wikipedia says no actual definition of actual according to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  All ingredients are chemicals by definition. The classic definition of natural skin care is based on using botanically sourced ingredients without the use of synthetic chemicals, which are manufactured in such a way as to preserve the integrity of ingredients. Many marketers try to oversell natural ingredients when, really, their products include a high percentage of synthetic ingredients. Is every synthetic ingredient detrimental and is every natural ingredient necessarily beneficial are the two questions that need to be addressed.

As natural and organic products have become increasingly popular due to consumer awareness, it seems that the word "synthetic," has developed a stigma regardless of whether a product is safe or not. I have noticed that many "natural" skin care companies are now incorporating synthetic anti-aging ingredients into their products. Some of these include Matrixyl 3000, a synthetic pentapetide which is suppose to increase collagen production.

On the other hand, there are ingredients found in nature that can be toxic. And, while not necessarily toxic, there are some all natural ingredients such as lavender and bergamot oil which may increase sensitivity to sunlight.  While essential oils do have benefits (they are routinely used in natural skin care products), they can be irritating for some sensitive skin types.  Allergies and skin sensitivity can happen regardless of whether an ingredient is natural or synthetic.

Frequently it is necessary to use some type of synthetic non-toxic preservative(s) to ensure the products you use are safe. In my opinion, there are really no safe and effective all natural preservatives. Some companies use a combination of essential oils, but research indicates that in order for essential oils to be effective as a standalone preservative, they would need to be used at unsafe levels.  If a product contains water, then it needs to be properly preserved; water provides a fertile breeding ground for bacteria, mold and fungus. Some products that do not contain water may not require any preservatives at all (e.g. soap).

Many natural skin care companies find it challenging to come up with safe and non-toxic preservatives for their natural products. In an ideal world, we would be able to pluck the leaves or seeds from a plant or tree, crush it up and mix into our products and come up with a safe and effective preservative. However, this rarely, if ever happens.

While the idea of using 100% all natural products may seem appealing, it does not necessarily mean they are safe. In fact, failure to include effective preservatives in a product can lead to health problems, such as skin infection. While it is sometimes apparent that a product has gone "bad," (e.g. visible mold spores or product separation), bacteria may not always be visible to the naked eye. So, in reality you may be using a product which may look fine, when in fact it isn't.

Some natural preservatives are originally plant derived, but must undergo a chemical process to convert them into a viable and effective compound strong enough to prevent and combat bacteria and fungus. A balance must be struck between effectiveness and gentleness – in other words, a preservative, which is not only non-toxic, but one that won't cause (in the majority of people) skin irritations, allergic reactions (e.g. dermatitis).  For example, Cosmocil CQ. is an extremely gentle preservative with an excellent safety record. It has been used in baby wipes and in contact lens solution for over 20 years. Cosmocil CQ is considered non-toxic and does not contain parabens or release formaldehyde.

I believe it is more important for a product to be safe and non-toxic rather than have 100% all natural ingredients. Bear in mind, that some consumer advocacy organizations such as the National Ingredient Resource Center (NIRC) considers a product "all natural", if it contains at least 95% of ingredients which fits their criteria for natural ingredients. The other 5% may come from ingredients that do not meet their criteria for natural, but do not contain synthetic fragrances, artificial colors or ingredients from petrochemicals. The toxicity of each ingredient must also be minimal. So a product label which reads, "All Natural," may not be same as one that states, "100% All Natural."

Many resources are available both on the internet and at local bookstores to help you make more informed decisions. A great site to checkout is Compact for Safe Cosmetics. It provides a wealth of information regarding safer skin and body care products. This will ensure that the products you purchase are not only effective, but safe. Countries such as Europe and Japan are stricter about what ingredients they allow in their products than the United States. At a minimum, make sure the products you buy are in accordance with European standards (EU). Educate yourself as much as possible.  

Dr. Teri Dourmashkin received her Doctorate in Health Education from Columbia University. She is a passionate advocate of safe and non-toxic skin care. She is the president and founder of La Vie Celeste Skin Care, Inc. The La Vie Celeste collection contains remarkable anti-aging properties which are suitable for even the most sensitive skin. La Vie Celeste–the perfect union of science and nature.

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