Natural vs Synthetic

26 Mar

I didn't used to give much thought about which compounds I was putting on my body or around my home. I assumed that things couldn't be too harmful otherwise companies wouldn't be allowed to sell them. Right?

I also assumed that so called eco-friendly natural alternatives couldn't do the job as effectively as the ones scientists had formulated and improved over the years. 

But I now think I was blindly and mindlessly falling for the marketing of these big companies, who have been poisoning us. Some products contain hormone disruptors and carcinogenic substances (can cause cancer), but because they are within what the governing body deems safe levels, they are allowed. The problem is, we don't just use one product a day. We use tens of products daily  - the average woman uses 12-16 personal care products alone, before we even begin to thing about products used in the home for cleaning etc. If all of these products have small quantities of toxins this is going to have a cumulative effect and toxins can accumulate in our bodies overtime. No wonder we are all getting ill and the cancer rate is at an all time high. 

Why would these companies put these harmful chemicals into our products? 1) because it is cheaper to synthesise chemicals in a lab than to source and process the natural ingredients 2) some of these chemicals are used to preserve the ingredients and prolong the shelf-life, after all they will most likely be stuck on a shelf for a long while 3) some of the chemicals are by-products and too expensive to remove. 

What to avoid

1. Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Paraben - Used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products. Have caused many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Studies have shown that they are weakly estrogenic, which means they mimic and interfere with the natural hormons produced by the body. They are absorbed through the skin and are stored in fatty tissues. Parabens have been found in high concentrations in breast cancer tissues. Widely used even though they are known to be toxic.

2. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA) - Often used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are "amines" (ammonia compounds) and can form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.

3. Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea - These are widely used preservatives. The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. Neither of the Germall chemicals contains a good antifungal agent, and they must be combined with other preservatives. Both these chemicals release formaldehyde, which can be toxic.

4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS/SLES) - A cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos for its cleansing and foam-building properties. Often derived from petroleum, it is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the phrase "comes from coconuts." It causes eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions.

5. Petrolatum - Also known as petroleum jelly, this mineral oil derivative is used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value for the skin and can interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping. It often creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate. Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is unbelievably cheap.

6. Propylene Glycol - Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. Usually it is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. When you see PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol) on labels, beware - these are related synthetics.

7. PVP/VA Copolymer - A petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, styling aids and other cosmetics. It can be considered toxic, since inhaled particles can damage the lungs of sensitive persons.

8. Stearalkonium Chloride - A quaternary ammonium compound used in hair conditioners and creams. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals, which are beneficial to the hair. Causes allergic reactions. Toxic.

9. Synthetic Colors - Used to make cosmetics "pretty," synthetic colors, along with synthetic hair dyes, should be avoided at all costs. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6. Many synthetic colors can be carcinogenic. If a cosmetic contains them, don't use it.

10. Synthetic Fragrances - The synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can have as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way to know what the chemicals are, since on the label it will simply read "fragrance." Some problems caused by these chemicals include headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation - the list goes on. Advice: Do not buy a cosmetic that has the word "fragrance" on the ingredients label.


Because of the need for these companies to keep costs low in order to maximise profits, you will often find cosmetics and skincare products made by the bigger brands filled out with cheap low quality ingredients,bulking agents, or simply water or mineral oil. 

Natural products are the original products. 

Plants and botanicals were medicines before synthetic drugs existed. Synthesised chemicals are often made to replicate what is found in nature. Just on a larger scale that;s more cost effective and sustainable. 

Essential oils and botanicals  have many healing properties, knowledge that has been gathered over many generations. And something modern science( or should that be clever marketing by big pharma), has poked fun at as a way to keep us spending money on their products. These are the things that should be filling our creams, active ingredients that work! Plus you can take some of them orally. Preferably with gin!

Going natural, by reducing the amount of products we use can have a positive effect too. I've been reading up on ditching shampoo, which apparently leaves your hair in the best condition of it's life. If you can get past the greasy stage that it. Expect a blog of my "no poo" journey soon!

Since switching to natural products I have been blown away by their effectiveness. And I'm only getting started, I've hardly even dipped my toe in yet. 

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