Natural ingredients aren’t necessarily better for your skin

Ingredients like witch hazel pose risks of irritation

PHOTO: Alex / Flickr

by Michelle Young, News Editor

The skincare industry has exploded in recent years — in 2019, skincare sales went up 13% in the United States. Along with the skincare boom, came the clean or natural beauty movement, which advocates for cosmetics that only contain natural or “non-toxic” products. 

The idea is that this will be more beneficial to your skin, because if cosmetics are free of “chemicals,” then they supposedly pose no harm. The issue is that in reality, natural skincare often irritates skin in its attempt to nourish it — and it’s also a myth that synthetic ingredients are inherently worse than natural ones.

There are good natural skincare ingredients, like glycerin and honey. However, it really depends on the ingredient itself. Products that list ingredients such as witch hazel and peppermint oil will often rave about their benefits. The problem is that many of these ingredients’ so-called benefits aren’t studied too well — and there’s always a risk of skin irritation. 

In the case of witch hazel, there are claims about its antioxidant properties, however long-term use of the ingredient isn’t recommended due to the sensitizing tannins within it, which is an antioxidant that can dry the skin. While witch hazel is a natural ingredient, it’s only one of the many natural ingredients that shouldn’t be in a daily skincare routine. 

Similarly, there’s a false notion that natural fragrance is better than synthetic fragrance. However, even natural fragrance irritates skin just as much as a synthetic fragrance. While some may not notice any irritation due to fragrance, this isn’t a sure sign that there is none, and gives all the more reason to avoid sensitizing ingredients in general. 

Cosmetics labelled with the words “natural” and “non-toxic” plastered onto them are usually meaningless and solely provide a false sense of comfort, because in skincare “natural” is not synonymous with “safer” or “better.” The idea of knowing what an ingredient means may provide a sense of security — especially when ingredients like tetrapeptide-30 don’t sound the most appealing. However, it’s simply false that natural skincare is always going to be a better choice than a non-natural alternative.