Think all-natural skincare products are always good for you or the environment? Think again. We may not always realise it, but the way we consume products can have a huge impact on the Earth. In light of World Environment Day, we’re highlighting unsustainable consumption habits and unpacking the dark side of ‘all-natural’ skincare, which has been trending for quite some time.
For years we’ve been made to believe that synthetic ingredients and chemicals are toxic, and only natural skincare substances are worth using. But in reality, everything is a chemical, be it natural or synthetic. We are made up of chemicals. So products that are made with synthetic ingredients aren’t necessarily bad for us or our skin.
Just because something is natural doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. A substance’s origin doesn’t imply it works better or worse on our skin; our bodies cannot distinguish between a chemical that has been obtained from nature or one that has been synthesised in a lab. But the truth is, many natural substances that aren’t safe for human use are still used in personal care products worldwide. Natural clays, for example, are often used in skincare but may contain toxic heavy metals; essential oils, like tea tree and lemon oil, can cause skin irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Why is all-natural bad for the environment?
One of the most confusing aspects of going green is the use of the term ‘natural’. But all-natural doesn’t go hand-in-hand with being environmentally-friendly. For starters, natural ingredients usually have to be flown into production factories from across the globe. This likely generates a larger carbon footprint than using locally produced synthetic ingredients (that work just as well, if we may add). 100% natural ingredients also have a shorter lifespan, and if they’re not utilised before their expiration date, it can result in a big waste of resources.
“The all-natural beauty market is currently worth USD$22B, and is expected to reach USD$48B by 2025.”
But the main problem lies with growing consumer demand for natural ingredients, which has increased dramatically in recent years thanks to the booming all-natural beauty trend––the market is currently worth USD$22B, and is expected to reach USD$48B by 2025. In order to keep up with surging demand, these ingredients are often farmed as quickly and as cheaply as possible. This leads to unsustainable farming practices and corner-cutting, which disrupts ecosystems and depletes natural resources. And they’re depleting far faster than they are being replenished!
Take palm oil as an example: a highly versatile vegetable oil, it’s used extensively in food products, cosmetics and as fuel, which is contributing to deforestation, habitat loss and climate change. Today around half of the consumer products worldwide contain palm oil; this roughly translates to 3 billion people in 150 countries consuming daily––we each potentially use up an average of 8kg of palm oil per year!
A deforested palm oil concession in Papua, Indonesia.
Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace
Yet, boycotting palm oil may not be the be-all-end-all answer to protecting rainforests––it’s actually an incredibly efficient crop, producing more oil per land area than any other equivalent (soybean or coconut oil, for example, needs between 4–10 times more land for production). Boycotting would therefore just displace the problem, threatening other habitats, species, and the communities that depend on palm oil production for their livelihoods. As such, it shouldn’t be about boycotting all together, but about supporting businesses that commit to sustainable and mindful sourcing practices, (for palm oil, start with companies that are RSPO certified) and demanding more action to tackle the issues head-on.
World Environment Day: To care for ourselves we must care for nature.
When it comes to skincare, synthetically produced ingredients, that are safe and clinically tested, are a great alternative to naturally-derived ones. It means they have been molecularly replicated in a lab to deliver the same, if not better, results––this also makes it vegan! Vitamin A, for example, which is found in animal and plant sources, can be reproduced in a controlled lab environment and tested extensively for safety and efficacy.
For us, knowing where our ingredients are sourced from through transparent supply chains, and how they are produced, is our top priority. Our philosophy is based on maintaining a balance between nature and science to find the right fit for users and the environment.
“Our philosophy is based on maintaining a balance between nature and science to find the right fit for users and the environment.”
While this philosophy is fundamental to how we produce everything at Yours, this was a guiding principle when creating Clean Slate Exfoliating Pads – our new BHA-based chemical exfoliant powered by plant-based extracts – especially considering there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding skin exfoliation.
For as long as we can remember, natural exfoliants were all the rage––walnut scrubs, sugar scrub, apricot scrubs and so on and so forth. But the reality is, physical exfoliants packed with natural ingredients, like fruit pits and nutshells, are too abrasive and have a tendency to cause micro-tears on the skin. Other physical exfoliants contain non-biodegradable plastic microbeads, which end up contaminating oceans and harming marine life. Fortunately, microbeads have been banned by more than a dozen countries worldwide, including the US, the UK, Canada, France, New Zealand, and Taiwan.
Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, are much gentler on the skin and have a much smaller environmental footprint. They contain acids or enzymes which remove dead skin cells and aid cell turnover. There are a few different types of acids – including AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) and PHAs (Poly Hydroxy acids) – which do different things for the skin. One of the most common types are oil-soluble BHAs (which you’ll find in our new exfoliant pads). They penetrate deeper layers of the skin and pore-lining to exfoliate from within and have skin-soothing properties.
As we wrap up, here’s what you should take away from this blog:
- Earth’s resources are finite. To meet increasing consumer demand, natural resources are depleting faster than they are being replenished, destroying ecosystems, habitats and the environment.
- Consume consciously. ‘All-natural’ is not always the way to go––before purchasing any product, consider all possible ways it can impact you and the environment.
- Synthetically-produced ingredients can be safer alternatives. Not all synthetics are toxic, they can often be much safer for you and the Earth, than natural ingredients.
- Support sustainable practices. We need to back ethical farming and sourcing practices and commit to conscious consumption habits as well.
We’re on a mission to make skincare simple and sustainable. We’re starting an initiative to generate awareness and bring more environmental issues to the forefront, so we can all make more informed decisions. Look out for the illustration on the packaging of our soon-to-launch exfoliating pads, Clean Slate, which is dedicated to the movement. Sign up below to get exclusive early access to the new product and a perk on your pre-order!
If you found this blog useful, share it with your friends, so they can be more responsible consumers, too.