Conventional cosmetics vs. Natural cosmetics: Part II.

In the previous post (Conventional Cosmetics vs. Natural Cosmetics: Part I) we saw how conventional cosmetics use an enormous amount of synthetic chemicals with serious health and environmental risks. In this post I will tell you more reasons to understand why switching to natural cosmetics is a very beneficial change for everyone.

1. Conventional cosmetics often “make up” the skin without providing real benefits

As I was saying, one of the things that strikes me most about this whole story is that the toxic or risky ingredients in conventional cosmetics do not usually produce any benefit to the skin. And this is because most of the ingredients in conventional cosmetics are introduced into the product with the sole purpose of appearing to benefit the skin (for example, providing a false glow, luminosity or homogeneity, which disappears after a few hours) or for accessory purposes: to make it smell good, or to achieve a more commercial color or texture.

In Cosmetics we talk about active and inactive ingredients. Inactive ingredients are those that do not contribute to the main objective or function of the product (for example, in a face cream, they contribute neither to the hydration nor to the nutrition of the skin) but are introduced with other secondary objectives: to preserve the product longer, to improve the smell or the texture or even as a simple filling. Instead, the active ingredients are those that produce a benefit and are used to achieve the objective of the specific product (to moisturize, nourish or combat the skin problem for which the product has been designed).

Well, the active principles (ingredients with a real function) that are normally used in conventional cosmetics do so in a very low percentage (between 1% and 5%, at most). They are usually natural ingredients (vegetable oils, vitamins, hyaluronic acid, collagen, etc.) since few synthetic ones provide real benefits. The advertising of the products always refers to the active ingredients only, making us believe that we are applying those ingredients, when normally their quantity is minimal and the product is mainly composed of ingredients that do not do anything (or that can even harm us). In order not to be misled, we can check if the ingredients advertised or indicated on the label correspond to the ingredients at the beginning of the INCI (this is the technical way of calling the complete list of ingredients, in which the ingredients are included in order of quantity – from highest to lowest -). Normally a product consists of 95% of the first 2 to 5 ingredients of the INCI. If we take this into account, we will see how the ingredients that the advertising boasts about are not usually in the first places, which usually means that the amount introduced of each active ingredient is minimal (less than 1%). It goes without saying that if the advertising doesn’t tell us about the ingredients that are at the beginning of the INCI (and make up the majority of the product) it is because the brand has nothing to brag about.

It’s hard to believe, but this is true of almost all unnatural cosmetic products. Although there are conventional brands that use some beneficial natural ingredients, usually their products are dominated by synthetic and inactive ingredients that produce no real benefit to the skin. That is, these are products that will only generate an apparent benefit for a few hours (luminosity, tighter or fresher skin, less wrinkles) until they are finally removed by themselves and our skin returns to its previous state. These appearances, moreover, make us believe that we need these products when we stop using them and miss that false glow or quality that seemed to bring us.

This “make-up” effect is also often counterproductive, since many of these chemicals create a film on the skin that prevents the absorption of other substances that would be beneficial to the skin.

Let’s take an example. Conventional moisturizers usually contain mostly mineral oils. These are oil derivatives that are used to make the cream look good on the skin and as a preservative. They are carcinogenic but are used a lot in cosmetics because they are very cheap. On the labels of the products they appear as paraffinum, paraffinum liquidum, petroleum, kerosene oil, paraffinum perliquidum, mineral oil, oil of vaseline or liquid vaseline, among others. Unless you have gone over to the world of the natural and ecological, I am sure you will find some product at home with some of these ingredients.

These mineral oils create a film on the skin that plugs the pores and pulls moisture up to the surface, making the skin look more hydrated (not really). With that film, the skin does not breathe or eliminate toxins, which can cause acne, rosacea or other problems, in addition to skin aging. That’s why when you stop using these creams your skin can look older.

2. The natural ingredients are the ones that bring real benefits to the skin and the body

In the case of natural cosmetics, when it is of quality and from honest manufacturers, what happens is the opposite: most of its ingredients are active ingredients with effective properties for the skin. Plants, extracts and vegetable oils have innumerable benefits and therefore can really improve skin health. Although natural cosmetics may also need some inactive ingredient for secondary functions (preservative, antioxidant or emulsifier) are usually in much smaller proportions, in addition to being safer for health and the environment.

3. Natural cosmetics are better assimilated. Conventional cosmetics are neither assimilated nor eliminated well.

Finally, another important difference between conventional and organic cosmetics is how both behave when in contact with the skin and inside our body. The human organism -which, let’s not forget, is natural and organic- “understands” and is made to assimilate what is natural and organic. When organic substances enter the organism, it knows how to keep what it needs and discard what is not useful or can be harmful. This is not the case with synthetic substances. Since our body does not “understand” them, it does not absorb them in the same way and, when it absorbs them, it does not know how to distinguish what it needs to retain and -more importantly- it does not detect what it needs to eliminate or can harm it. Hence the seriousness of the fact that synthetics can be toxic or harmful: in many cases our body does not know how to eliminate them and, therefore, they accumulate inside us, which over time can cause many health problems.

With all this, I hope you are all convinced that the first step is to choose cosmetics and beauty products that are 100% natural. In the next post we will see how the ideal is to go one step further and choose cosmetics that, in addition to being natural, are organic and clean (no ingredients that, although natural, may also have risks).

Connie B. (@connie_wrocks)