Happy World Science Day! We've come a looong way as humans. From conquering the heights of space travel to curing illnesses. Science has allowed humanity to progress beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors. But with all innovation, inevitably comes some scepticism. In skincare, one of the most persisting questions posed is the manufacture of synthetic ingredients: are they a good thing or are they harmful?
Einstein said, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”
As you know, we’re Mother Nature’s biggest fan, but, we’re also a great believer in science and that remarkable things can happen at the intersection between both.
Are Natural Ingredients Better Than Their Synthetic Counterparts?
The truth is, even when a synthetic substance and its natural counterpart possess the exact same molecular structure, there can still be some differences between them. Despite the word “synthetic” having negative associations, synthetic doesn’t necessarily mean bad—as long as an ingredient is effective while produced and sourced in a responsible, safe and sustainable manner.
To understand, let’s take a closer look.
Synthetic Ingredients In Skincare
In the case of vitamins (like the powerhouse trio vitamin A, E and C), many used in skincare are synthetic. Manufacturers typically turn to these ingredients because they are often more cost-effective and easier to source. Some synthetic ingredients are also usually more stable, with longer shelf lives than natural ingredients.
If we take the example of Vitamin C, it has many beauty benefits: it can lighten dark spots, neutralize free radical damage and help fight wrinkles. This mighty vitamin is usually processed for use in skincare products. The closest form to natural vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid and is made from corn starch, corn sugar or rice starch. Then there are natural extracts like our beloved Camu camu berry, which contains more vitamin C than acai and oranges.
But, when it comes to results, natural vitamin C seems to have an edge over L-ascorbic acid. In one study from 2001, researchers found that "delivery of topical L-ascorbic acid into the skin is critically dependent on formulation characteristics," meaning it had to be formulated at a certain pH level to have any effect on the skin.  The same study also concluded that two types of synthetic vitamin C, didn't even penetrate the skin in order to bring about any of the positive effects of vitamin C.
In this instance, nature wins if ingredients aren’t formulated correctly.
But remember, even though an ingredient is natural it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always more effective either.
Let’s take a look at another example: natural Vitamin B3, also called niacinamide, has similar results on the skin as synthetic Vitamin B3 which we derive from beets and legumes as a more plentiful source. There are also peptides - protein fragments made up of amino acids - most of which in skin care are artificial, that companies use to help stimulate collagen production to minimize wrinkles and plump up complexions. At Luxe Botanics, our peptides, are created using sustainably sourced natural palm kernel oil and coconut oil, which perform with equal efficacy as a natural peptide.
So you start to see in certain cases that synthetic Ingredients come up trumps, and to understand that not everything is black and white. It all comes down to doing your homework.
Natural Or Synthetic?
So. What to do? In the end, bear in mind that just because an ingredient wasn’t literally dug up or picked in nature doesn’t automatically spell unsafe or ineffective. Sure, there are plenty of skincare products out there with fillers and other synthetics that do more harm than good, but there are exceptions. What you should be looking at is the effectiveness of the ingredient (does it perform the job it’s supposed to? How does it formulate with other ingredients) and making sure the environment isn’t at risk due to its production.
Scientific advances today mean we have the tools to create high-tech natural beauty synthesised from natural and organic bases like never before; where delicate, botanical ingredients are not compromised but can be enhanced. It’s this pursuit of discovery which scientists thrive on.
At Luxe Botanics we select our core botanicals based on peer-reviewed data published in scientific journals. But even this is not enough if we don’t then look carefully at the ingredients we formulate with, each which must have an individual purpose. By taking time to understand the perfect synergy of ingredients, balanced in precisely the right proportions, this is the harmony we strike between science and nature.
For more info on high-tech, plant based ingredients in our skincare take a look at our earlier blog on ingredients with purpose.
The Luxe Botanics Team