August 08, 2019 4 min read
There are several definitions of the word chemical. Unfortunately, the public uses and misuses all variations of these definitions as if they were the same. When it comes to skin and hair care, it is important to understand what we mean when we say chemical, and how this translates to product safety and effectiveness.
So, let’s look at what chemicals are, the differences and similarities between natural and synthetic chemicals, how synthetic chemicals are used in skincare, hair care, and cosmetics, and some commonly asked questions.
To understand what chemicals are, here the two primary accepted definitions of the word:
As you can see, these are quite different. The first definition states that all physical matter may be considered a chemical. Pure oxygen, hydrogen, water, granite, tree bark, and star matter are all variations of chemicals.
In casual conversation, most of us refer to the second definition.The second definition refers to chemicals as substances which are created through deliberate chemistry or through natural chemical reactions.For our intents and purposes, we will be discussing this second definition when we talk about “chemicals” in skin and hair care products.
With this in mind, what are the differences and similarities between natural and synthetic chemicals?
Natural chemicalsare created through non-man made methods. This can include pure elements, naturally occurring compounds, and everything in between. Natural chemicals still often go through a chemical reaction, yet they require no interference from human beings to form.
Synthetic chemicalsdo require human intervention to exist. However, it is possible to synthetically form chemicals which may have otherwise occurred naturally. The same chemical compound will behave the same whether it was created in nature or in a lab.
So why exactly do we shy away from synthetic chemicals in our skin, hair, and beauty products? It is simple: most synthetic chemicals in your hair and skin care products are used as preservatives, emulsifiers, dyes, fragrances, and other purposes (which are many times unnecessary).
The issue with synthetic chemicals isn’t their source per se, it is how they react with our skin, hair, and affect our overall health. A great example, found in many products, are parabens and sulfates.
Parabens and sulfates are both chemicals which are used as an inexpensive way to make beauty products last longer and create that “lather” we all have come to expect. Yet they do not do much to actually enhance the product, and they have been associated with a number of health issues.
Absolutely not. Synthetic chemicals are man made, but that does not necessarily mean that they are dangerous for use on the skin or hair. What makes synthetic chemicals tricky for cosmetic use is that understanding their safety and efficacy requires a deep understanding of chemistry.
Again, not even close. Naturally occurring ingredients are fantastic (and all we use), but there is no question that natural does not equal safe. Consider Britannica’s list of the world’s seven (7) deadliest plants.
Water hemlock, white snakeroot, oleander, and tobacco are all potentially lethal poisons that occur naturally. Thankfully, there are large numbers of natural products that are safe and effective for use in all manner of applications!
In most cases, you should look to avoid parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes, synthetics fragrances, and any other harsh ingredients. At the end of the day, it is important to read your skin and hair care products’ labels.
If you cannot read half of the ingredients on your shampoo or soap, that might be a red flag. If, however, you recognize the ingredients as naturally occurring and safe, you should feel confident using that product.
Products from The Yellow Bird are always free of synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrances, and harmful chemicals such as parabens and sulfates. We believe that all-natural solutions for hair, skin, and other beauty needs is not only possible, it is ultimately more effective as well!
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