Question: Are natural or organic products better than ones with chemicals?


With the growing “green” trend, there is an increasing concern about whether natural skin care products are better for your skin and whether products with chemicals are safe to use.

In my opinion, natural and/or organic skin care products are more effective as marketing strategies than what is actually inside the bottle. (Organic products are labeled organic because their ingredients are FDA certified.)

I always hear people say they don’t want to put any more “chemicals” on their skin. But, everything is a chemical and made up of chemicals, even natural products. What most people probably mean is that they don’t want to use any harsh ingredients, like acids, retinoids, etc. This is understandable, but for me and many others who will never have clear skin without the help of “chemicals”, that is pretty much an impossible task.

The thing that bothers me the most about some “natural” skin care companies is that they make their products sound as if they were stripped from nymph bark or scooped out of angelic glacial waters. But natural products are still formulated and bottled in laboratories and factories, just like any other skin care product. Many natural and organic skin care products also have labels that claim they do not test on animals. However, even if they don’t test on animals themselves, many of the ingredients they use in their products are ingredients researched and developed through animal testing.

Some people also think that natural products use ingredients closer to their raw material form. What I mean is, have you ever heard people say that you should only put stuff on your skin that you can eat? Like using fresh lemons is better than L-ascorbic acid for Vitamin C? That sounds like healthy skin advice, but a lot of times, the raw material form of some things, like fresh lemons, can be quite irritating to your skin. Also, your skin may not be able to absorb any of those nutrients unless they are in the proper formulation.

Green tea is another example. There is a lot of talk about soaking green tea bags and using the tea as a toner. However, the green tea wouldn’t have any effect on your skin because the particles are too big and would just sit on the surface. Since the green tea isn’t in the right form, your skin won't be able to absorb and use any of its good stuff. That’s why there are products with green tea extracts and other antioxidant “chemicals." These nutrients and skin vitamins are formulated in a way for your skin to better absorb and utilize them.

Some people also think using natural products will clear up acne. In my experience, switching to organic products did not prevent any of my breakouts. It's easy to assume that natural means both gentle and effective, but it really depends on the individual product, not whether its ingredients are organic. Natural products also tend to have stronger fragrances and extracts which may be irritating for those with sensitive skin.

Choosing natural products versus ones with chemicals is a personal choice, although I think there is no harm done using products with chemicals. Some people like supporting organic products or using natural products because they may be free of preservatives and use simpler ingredients. My beef isn't against natural products themselves, but rather against the assumption that just because a product is natural or organic, it is somehow better.

There is no guarantee that using natural products will improve your skin more than if you used products with chemicals. Natural or organic doesn't automatically equal gentle, just like how chemical doesn't necessarily mean harsh. Are some natural products better? Of course. But there are good products out there with "chemicals" as well. With any product, it will take work to find the one that best suits your skin.

Last updated: September 23, 2012

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