Are Synthetics More Sustainable Than Natural Ingredients?


 February 17, 2022

Are Synthetics More Sustainable Than Natural Ingredients?

In the battle between natural and synthetic skincare ingredients, the winner isn’t always clear. The idea that natural is always better than synthetic is an outdated one. Synthetic ingredients have come a long way in the past decade. Today, a number of sustainable skincare ingredients are grown in laboratory environments.

That’s right. It is possible for synthetic ingredients to be sustainable. Synthetic ingredients can be just as good for the planet as organic compounds.

What Is Sustainable Beauty?

Before we can answer the question of whether synthetics are more sustainable than natural emulsifiers and other organic ingredients, we need to define what sustainability means in relation to the beauty and skincare industry.

Unlike certain regulated terms, sustainability is a term that means different things to each person. Without a standardized way to measure the sustainability of a synthetic ingredient, it’s nearly impossible for the beauty and wellness industry to agree on whether synthetics are more sustainable than natural ingredients.

Thankfully, top beauty manufacturers have largely agreed that sustainability in beauty refers to the impact that products and ingredients have on the planet, both today and in the future. Sustainable ingredients do not harm the ecosystem, so long as they are developed in an ethical way.

Can Synthetic Ingredients Be Sustainable?

Based on the definition of sustainability outlined above, synthetic ingredients can be considered sustainable. However, synthetic ingredients shouldn’t be labeled as “natural.” Natural ingredients, such as natural emulsifiers, are ingredients that come from nature. This includes ingredients that are derived from animals.

Even when natural emulsifiers require processing in a lab, they can still be considered “natural” if the ingredients themselves come from nature. Synthetic ingredients, on the other hand, are created in a laboratory environment. Even when synthetic ingredients are identical to natural ingredients on a molecular level, they still shouldn’t be considered natural.

Evaluating Sustainability in Skincare Ingredients

Synthetic skincare ingredients can be just as sustainable as natural skincare ingredients, but which option is better for the planet and your skin?

Natural ingredients are often derived from plants that may require water and pesticides to grow. Modern harvesting practices may be harsh on the ecosystem, as well. In these cases, synthetic ingredients developed inside laboratory environments can actually be better for the environment than natural ingredients. A few examples would be natural emulsifiers and ingredients like palm oil, floral extracts, and vanilla.

On the other hand, hemp is a natural ingredient found in many skincare products. It is also one of the most sustainable plants on the planet. Hemp is both natural and sustainable. It captures carbon emissions and regenerates soil for future crops. Hemp also requires little water to grow, making this one of the most sustainable skincare ingredients available today.

As our understanding of the ingredients used in beauty and wellness products grows, it’s likely we will see more synthetic alternatives to natural ingredients. To learn more about what to consider when choosing natural, safe skincare formulations, contact Omya Kinetik’s product specialists at (732) 335-5775 for more information.