Natural v Synthetic
Chemical absorption myth
First, it is not true that whatever you put on your skin gets absorbed in to you body. Skin is designed to keep things out of your body. It is an excellent barrier to almost all chemicals. This is why doctors still have to give you shots or you have to take pills for most medicines. Some drugs, like those delivered through nicotine patches really work, but overall very few chemicals can penetrate your skin and get into your system!
Second, natural products do not necessarily protect your overall health. I don’t know where this comes from, but “natural” does not make something nice. Consider all the awful natural things in the world like poison ivy, radiation, or cyanide.
In fact, “natural” ingredients are often more dangerous than the synthetic ones. These ingredients can harbor disease and allergy-causing microbes that can send some people to the hospital. Peanut allergies, wheat allergies, and hay fever are all caused by natural plant ingredients. There is nothing inherently good about natural ingredients. Synthetic ingredients are cleaned of bacterial contamination. They are standardized so you know exactly what you are using each time. Overall, synthetic ingredients are safer.
Slamming Natural Products?
I don’t slam all natural products. For example, I gave a mostly positive assessment of the Aveeno Active Natural Product. And in another article that showed some natural ingredients that really work on excema. In another one that showed the benefits of Honey for Hair, and broccoli has shown benefits as a sun screen . I try hard to find and write about natural beauty solutions that really do what they say. I am not inherently anti-natural.
Naturally Harder Than You’d Think
Unfortunately, most of the time you’ll find that “natural” products are no more natural than their “synthetic” counterparts. Typically, a marketer of a “natural” product will take a standard formula, add small amounts of natural sounding ingredients and play up the natural-ness on the label and in advertising.
This is classic cosmetic marketing. But the companies shouldn’t get all the blame. Consumers are mostly frightened by chemically sounding names. Would you rather buy an Aloe based moisturizer or one based on Petrolatum? The Petrolatum is superior in function but the name is not nearly as friendly. People want to buy the story in addition to the functional product.
The Natural Problem
The real problem we have with natural products is that there is an implied superiority that just isn’t deserved. While most companies don’t come right out and say it, they do insinuate that regular products are dangerous and harmful. They use claims like “Paraben-free” or “Sulfate-free” which only makes people wonder why those chemicals aren’t used. A natural conclusion is that they are somehow bad for you when this isn’t proven by any science. These kinds of junk claims border on lying to me.
Then there are some natural companies who come right out and tell you the chemicals you are using are poisoning you. They are so desperate to steal market share from more legitimate companies that they issue skewed press releases designed to scare you. The incredible hypocrisy of this company is that they issue this ridiculous press release about cosmetics containing cancer causing ingredients and then a quick examination of their own products reveals they use the same ingredients they say CAUSE CANCER!
Juice Beauty Cleanser and Toner uses Benzyl Alcohol. This ingredient is listed in the Environmental Working Group’s ingredient database as one that has been linked to cancer.
* Just for the record, there is no proof that Benzyl Alcohol as used in cosmetic products is harmful in any way.
Insidiousness of Natural
Finally, the biggest problem we have with most natural products is that they help spread chemical ignorance and fear. They contribute to the dumbing down of the population. They count on the fact that most people will naturally remember bad things they hear and often won’t follow up to see whether it’s true or not. This scientific ignorance & lack of skepticism is one of the most troubling problems in the world.
For cosmetic products, it’s really not such a big deal. Nearly all products will work and are generally harmless. But when that same fear & lack of skepticism is applied to the areas of medicine it can cause great harm to the entire population. Sadly, there are people like Jenny McCarthy who go on television shows, write books and spout unproven theories about a link between vaccinations and autism. They ignore science and twist data to suit their political agenda. And if enough non-skeptical people listen and believe, one of the greatest medical miracles of human existence could be reversed. Beaten diseases like polio, mumps, and small pox could come back and kill millions of people. It would be tragic.
This is why natural products are so troubling.