Yes, Naturals “Work” – Here’s Why
When I was 16, the standards by which I measured a skincare product’s efficacy were sort of twisted. If it burned or tingled when I applied it, I felt it was “working” – like, really, really well. If it had a strong chemical smell (hello, Noxzema!) or produced a super-foamy, squeaky-clean feeling, then I was particularly delighted. And if it claimed to employ some kind of super-cool technology to assault my pores and demolish my pimples, then I was totally on board.
My face was a battlefield and my synthetic ingredient-laden products were basically chemical agents of warfare. Natural solutions? These were blunt, inadequate tools – the equivalent of using a bow and arrow to fight a war in 2016. No, thank you.
I have since changed my attitude, clearly, and thank goodness. I now shudder to think of my poor, distressed, flaming red skin being attacked by some foul smelling, salicylic acid goo. See, back then, I didn’t really understand my skin – it was this thing I should “treat,” not take care of: an adversary to be conquered, not an ally to be treated with respect. Moreover, I didn’t understand that real, natural ingredients’ gentle nature belied their strength and, more importantly, their effectiveness. Which brings me to the persistent, nagging question we constantly receive at S.W. Basics: “Do naturals actually work?”
The short answer: They 100% do. The long answer: You really shouldn’t even be thinking about using synthetics. Here’s why.
All hail mighty naturals.
For one thing, 100% natural or organic ingredients are far gentler than their counterparts. This means that skin irritation is not only alleviated using (truly) natural products, it can be prevented altogether. This is good news, particularly given that a majority of women and nearly half of men identify as having sensitive skin: It’s a “skin type” that is increasingly and disturbingly on the rise, it’s usually self-diagnosed, and still hard to definitively characterize. Along these lines, I’d argue that a lot of those sensitive skin folks are simply experiencing symptoms (i.e., redness, itchiness, irritation, breakout-prone) that correlate to root cause.
The culprit? Constant exposure to chemicals in our personal care products. Synthetic ingredients like fragrances and parabens are known irritants, plus can be endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and allergens. Those all don’t sound great for sensitive skin, right? The saddest part of this all is that those sensitivity symptoms – acne, redness, and skin imbalances – are often treated with synthetic products marketed for sensitive skin. For example, that cream from the pharmacy that has “mineral water” as it’s first ingredient: I’m sure you’re thinking that must be soothing and hydrating, right? Wrong. For one, water is a filler ingredient used to cheapen a product; applying it topically actually dehydrates the skin because it evaporates. Two, where there’s water, there’s usually a preservative involved (otherwise, the product will become all moldy). And as I mentioned, preservatives happen to be some of the most irritating skincare ingredients out there. So in the pursuit of alleviating your sensitive skin, you’re basically just applying another potential irritant. And so goes this ugly cycle.
An organic plant humectant like coconut oil or shea butter, on the other hand, does not need preservatives to increase its shelf life. Plus, they’re loaded with amazing vitamins and good-for-you nutrients that your synthetic friends just don’t have. Which brings me to my next point: Even if you aren’t experiencing any visible negative reaction from your synthetic skincare, you also aren’t necessarily reaping any of the proposed benefits, either. A recent article in Well + Good on Cetaphil (the much beloved and touted sensitive skincare cleanser) makes this point brilliantly. Pointing out that it includes three parabens, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, Melisse Gelula notes, “…there’s nothing in Cetaphil that nurtures skin. No antioxidants that help fight free radical damage; not a dribble of omega-rich plant seed oils that fortify the skin barrier; and not a drop of skin-calming botanicals.” On the other hand, natural, organic ingredients are loaded with plant-based nutrients, an array of skin-friendly vitamins and minerals, and collagen-boosting fatty acids.
Indeed, it shouldn’t be shocking to learn that your skin loves the same things your body does; it is, after all, your body’s largest organ. This brings me to my final and most important argument. Of course naturals “work” – just use common sense! They’re effective because they’re the exact same ingredients that you’d use to feed a healthy body. We all know we feel (and look) better eating real, whole foods versus processed junk foods. So why deny the same idea in caring for your skin?
I’m not telling you that you need to buy S.W. Basics for better skin. I am telling you, however, that natural and organic ingredients are better than their synthetic counterparts. Not just for making your skin look lovely, but for making you a healthier person. Can you say that about your synthetic cream?