Natural vs synthetic skincare

Right now it feels like it’s one rule for the environment and another for our skin. We are all happy to avoid products that contain chemicals harmful to the world around us (even to the lengths of banning insect repellents containing DEET from refugee camps in malaria danger zones) so why are we all so willing to smother our bodies in chemicals that could have been made in the laboratory next door?


Women are constantly bombarded with advertising telling them they can only solve the ageing process problem by buying some synthetic miracle cure. What they often don’t tell us, however, are all the side effects from these products, with the height of irony being that the chemicals in them are now beginning to seep into the environment to harm us there too.


So, what can we do? To care for the environment and our skin at the same time might seem like an insurmountable task but that only because we’ve been convinced that it is. In reality, as always, we can find natural solutions to the problem.


Let's start by admitting that even if they aren’t good for the environment, for people considering surgery or injections as a treatment for their naturally ageing skin, chemical solutions can sometimes be effective. Chemical peels and retinol can reduce the appearance of blemishes and  wrinkles, but they never come without their own risks.


Essentially, chemical peels work by burning off the top layers of skin to reveal the newer layers beneath which tend to be firmer and brighter. If successful, they can remove things like age spots, freckles, and wrinkles, however the danger is that because they are literally burning the skin from your face they can just as easily create blemishes of their own. Chemical peels also disproportionately affect people of colour as any negative effects will be more apparent in their naturally darker skin tones.


Retinol is perhaps the most sought after chemical when it comes to anti aging, but it's wrinkle reducing miracle power doesn't come without a price. There are accounts everywhere of people developing inflammation, redness, flaking skin, burning, itching and even increased sensitivity to the sun from using retinol. These unwanted side-effects are so common that there is even a scientific term for the problem: retinoid dermatitis.


But there is a solution! Natural remedies for skin treatment do exist and in some cases even out perform their synthetic cousins. Let's look back at retinol. When we strip all the fancy terminology, retinol is just a compound in the vitamin A family which in theory is no bad thing. However, the problem is that retinol either comes from animal products or is made synthetically which predispose it to irritate our skin. So instead of retinol we can use products that contain carotenoids which are planted-based and are naturally converted to retinoids in our own skin.


There are also loads more natural solutions that we can use to keep our skin feeling and looking healthy. Pomegranate has been used for hundreds of years to treat skin and works because its high levels of Omega-5 fatty acid helps our skin to hold onto its naturally produced collagen. Coffee oil is also a really effective ingredient and works, as you would imagine, by boosting your skin’s energy reserves at a cellular level and thus speeding up skin tissue reproduction.


Lastly, you can rely on another vitamin friend, vitamin E. Vitamin E enhances our skin’s hydration and suppleness, easing dryness and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The great thing about vitamin E is that the naturally occurring version actually outperforms any synthetic equivalents so it’s the best for you and the best for the environment.


All in all, despite what the billboards and spam emails tell you about your skin, you know that you have nothing to fear from growing old but if you do choose to use a topical that there are loads of natural remedies out there so you don’t have to harm yourself or the environment.


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