What Exactly is a "Chemical"?

August 08, 2019

What Exactly is a

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.

 What Exactly is a Chemical

What Exactly is a Chemical?

To understand what chemicals are, here the two primary accepted definitions of the word:

  • “Any substance consisting of matter. This includes any liquid, solid, or gas.” This includes elements and solutions/compounds.
  • “A substance obtained by a chemical process or producing a chemical effect.”

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. 

Natural vs. Synthetic Chemicals

With this in mind, what are the differences and similarities between natural and synthetic chemicals

Natural chemicals are 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 chemicals do 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.

 What Exactly is a Chemical

The Role of Synthetic Chemicals in Skincare, Hair Cair, and Beauty Products

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.

Rather than take a chance with synthetic chemicals you can barely pronounce, why not try all natural soaps and shampoos to keep your body healthy and beautiful? 

 What Exactly is a Chemical

Synthetic Chemicals and Health FAQs

Are all synthetic chemicals hazardous?

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.

Most of us can read a label and say sure, coconut oil is safe for me. But how many among us could confidently say whether synthetic chemicals like phthalates are good for our hair or skin?

Are all naturally occurring ingredients safe?

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 which occur naturally. Thankfully, there are large numbers of natural products which are safe and effective for use in all manner of applications!

What synthetic chemicals should I be avoiding?

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.

The Yellow Bird Health and Beauty Products are Always Free of Synthetic Chemicals!

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! 

To learn more, feel free to read our story or take a brief skincare quiz to find your perfect product match. Here are just a few of our all natural, synthetic-free products to explore!




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