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Yep—Everything Is a Chemical

By Kaleigh Fasanella, she/her 

When it comes to skincare, the topic of ingredients can definitely get political, but it doesn’t have to be as polarizing as some make it out to be. Take the whole battle between naturals and synthetics, for instance. The reality is, there shouldn’t be a battle at all because it’s far more complex than one being bad and the other being good. Sure, some chemicals and synthetically-made ingredients may be harmful and irritating to the skin (looking at you, PEGs), but on the flip side, many others are completely safe and come with a host of benefits. More on that later.

“The idea that all synthetic ingredients are bad, and conversely, that all ‘natural’ ingredients are good, is a common myth that needs to be burst,” says Youth To The People’s Senior Sales + Education Manager, Jacob del Rosario. “Consider the seed of an apple for instance—in massive quantities, this natural ingredient could be fatal if ingested. On top of that, even water, which is the cleanest of natural substances one could think of, has been found to be an irritant for the rare few.”

The point being: almost any substance, regardless of whether it’s natural or not, can prove potentially harmful if it’s used or ingested improperly. Additionally, as a result of advancements in cosmetic science, synthetics are being implemented more and more in skincare formulas, with many brands (YTTP included) using them to create vegan alternatives to certain ingredients, such as with hyaluronic acid

“At YTTP, we love to use both efficacious materials from nature and from science, all of them being clean, vegan, and sustainable,” says YTTP’s Director of Education, Laura Cline, who uses vitamin C as an example to explain just how effective formulating with synthetics can be. “Just think about vitamin C and all of the different synthetic types and their ability to be safe and penetrate the skin so much deeper than the raw form.”

As del Rosario points out, synthetics are also an excellent option because there can be many roadblocks when using solely plant-based materials. 

“The ingredient could be challenging to grow, harvest, and source either sustainably or ethically,” he says. “Also, once harvested, the source’s vitamin, antioxidant, peptide and/or collagen profile meant to benefit the skin can weaken throughout the process. But in a lab, we can replace those sources with a bio-identical ingredient while mitigating any loss or harm.” 

As if that wasn’t enough, parts of the chemical structure of an ingredient that are irritating can be isolated and removed in the lab. In other words: with synthetics, you have more control over the ingredient, and thereby the formula as a whole. 

“With the technology we have today, clean is a standard that is not as unattainable as it once was, so it only makes sense to be conscious of the ingredients we select to ensure that they’re not only safe for all skin types, but also innovative, results-driven, and earth-conscious,” says del Rosario. A few prime examples of clean synthetic ingredients that YTTP uses are Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Ethyl Ascorbic Acid and Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, which are all extremely effective and stable forms of vitamin C. 

“These synthetics are found in our 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum, Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask, Dream Eye Cream and the Superfood Cleanser,” says Rosario. Additionally, the ultra-calming pentapetide found in the Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream is synthetically-made and an amazing alternative to non-vegan snail mucin, which aids in reducing inflammation. 

The bottom line: everything is technically a chemical and no brands should be shamed for using safe, eco-friendly synthetics to make their skincare formulas better, more effective—and still safe for your skin and the planet. 

Written by Kaleigh Fasanella for Youth To The People