It Ain't Easy (Not) Being Green: Navigating My Guilt of Loving Synthetic Beauty

 [Disclaimer: I am not an expert or a scientist. These views, thoughts, and opinions are my own and not reflective of anyone else]

My name is Laura, and I am comfortable with parabens, chemicals, and “nasties” in my skincare and makeup. I don’t believe that organic is best when it comes to sensitive skin, and in my opinion there is no “nature’s alternative” to retinol. I’m not saying synthetic is right for everyone, but it’s right for me and I’m finally in a place where I’m comfortable with it.

I created my Instagram back in November, and not even a month later did I receive my first direct message from someone informing me that there are parabens in my favourite SKii Facial Treatment Essence, and that those parabens mimic estrogen and will cause breast cancer. At the time I felt embarrassed and ashamed and I shelved the essence immediately. I started to purchase more and more “natural” products, not necessarily believing they were better for my skin, but feeling more confident in sharing my skincare choices knowing I wouldn’t have anyone telling me how awful the ingredient listings were.  I believed I was giving my skin the best of the best - organic, natural, cold pressed oils and balms, sourced from the purest and most powerful ingredients promising clear, glowing, and nourished skin.

At the beginning, I did have beautifully soft skin, but after a month or so I noticed I had more congestion, redness, and dehydration. My skin wasn’t even toned as promised and my fine lines were more prominent than ever. I didn’t understand how that could be. It took me a while to realize that a lot of these issues were not only from the oils and balms I was routinely putting on my skin, but from believing my natural products were all my skin needed and therefore shelving the majority of my synthetic products. It turns out, my skin really needed those synthetic products because as soon as I stopped using oils and started using simple hydrating serums and barrier repairing products, my congestion was almost entirely eliminated and my skin was less red and more balanced. My dehydration drastically improved as did the appearance of my pores and for the first time in a long time, I was really happy with my skin. Did I shelve green beauty completely? No, but it’s not the foundation of my skincare routines these days. I use my green beauty products dispersed throughout the week and they are a fantastic compliment to my synthetic products.

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I get these messages and comments weekly, if not daily sometimes and I never know how to answer. I’m not a scientist and don’t feel comfortable responding back with a wave of statistics, yet at the same time, I feel the need to justify my choices which is getting a little tiring if I’m being completely honest. I thought I would share how I answer these questions for the sole purpose of explaining my comfort level with synthetics.

“Don’t you worry about parabens/chemicals?”

Parabens are preservatives that I am comfortable with. Most products don’t contain them anymore and the ones that do are usually in small quantities. I think parabens have gotten a bad reputation from misinterpreted studies, and are a much better option than bacteria and mould in my products. Again, I’m not a scientist, but Michelle from Lab Muffin is, and she has two great posts on parabens that can be found here and here. As for chemicals, this is a word thrown around so much in the beauty industry these days. Chemicals are everywhere, whether they occur naturally or are made artificially. The common example is “water is a chemical” and its true. Chemicals can occur just as much in natural beauty as they can in synthetic beauty and just because they are made in a lab doesn’t mean they are dangerous to our health. That also means that just because something occurs in nature doesn’t mean it is safe. Dosage is important and a blanket “chemicals are toxic” just doesn’t work in the beauty industry or anywhere else.

“My skin is so sensitive so I’m only using natural products.”

I have sensitive skin too, and I think it’s safe to say at some point in our lives, we will all have moments of skin sensitivity and irritation. At the beginning of my green beauty journey I figured everything was safe because it was natural, and didn’t understand why my skin was so red and irritated. Essential oils are common in green beauty and although they are natural, they can be irritating to some skins, and like I said above, there are lots of chemicals that come into contact with natural ingredients, too. Any product can be irritating to any skin, natural or synthetic. I like that synthetic products have usually been purified and tested in a lab on sensitive skin, it gives me extra comfort when dealing with irritation.

“Why do you use sunscreens with alcohol?”

My answer to this one is short: because they work, and the sun’s damage is far worse than the mild drying/irritating effects of alcohol. I use both physical and chemical sunscreens daily and don’t see that changing.

I wanted to write this post because there’s a lot of fear mongering going on out there with green beauty these days and it’s pretty overwhelming.

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Graphics like these are continually making the rounds and have to stop. They are misleading, offensive, and most importantly, often put up by distributors of green beauty products and not the creators themselves. I am a huge fan of green beauty brands such as Josh Rosebrook, May Lindstrom Skin and so many more, and they have never put forward any marketing such as this, yet when companies that distribute their products do, it lumps them all together in the industry and that’s neither fair nor even remotely accurate.

There’s a place for both natural and synthetic beauty in the market. Skin care is self-care and we should be encouraging that no matter what the product choice. I will never tell anyone whether to go natural or synthetic because it’s not my place, nor is it anyone's place to tell you what you should or shouldn’t use on your skin. Use what you can afford, use what makes you comfortable, and use what makes your skin happy.

I hope you all have wonderful weeks, whether they be all organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or closer to mine which hopefully involves less cheese than last week. Simple goals over here.

Laura