Skincare: Natural isn't always better

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: HANNAH THEODORE
Skincare is a game of trial and error until you find what works best for you.

Anyone that has ever taken the plunge to improve their skincare game has probably gone through the “kitchen phase.”

It’s that awkward period where we inexplicably rub things like avocado, lemon juice, and honey all over our faces in the hopes of keeping things natural.

As skincare has grown in popularity with the rise of TikTok and YouTube channels like Hyram, though, it’s become clear that natural isn’t always better. Dermatologists have spent decades studying and refining chemical formulas to do exactly what they’re supposed to do.

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The problem is, the world of skincare is vast and misinformation can spread quickly on social media. There was a time not long ago when TikTokers tried to tell us that toothpaste could clear up blemishes (it can’t). So how can you know what’s best for you?

Terms like “chemical” tend to trigger some folks to run for the hills in search of more natural alternatives, but this reaction stems from a common misconception. Chemical products are not unnatural, in fact, everything in the world is made up of chemicals. The popular idea that there is something scary about chemical products is something we have to let go of. Oftentimes, chemical ingredients in skincare are formulated from natural products like citrus fruits and plant oils, expertly crafted so as not to overwhelm your skin with a high concentration. Experts agree that chemical ingredients tend to be more stable on the skin, because they have been formulated to cause the least amount of irritation.

That is not to say there are no raw ingredients that have benefits for the skin. Raw honey, rose water and Aloe Vera are all known to have positive effects on the skin when used minimally. However, you might be better off just using a chemical product formulated with these ingredients to avoid irritation. The Rose Hibiscus Coconut Water Face Mist from Herbivore is a great example of a product that uses natural ingredients, but has been carefully put together by dermatologists to provide the most benefit to your skin.

Most experts agree that when it comes to natural products, reading beyond the label is key. Far too often, brands sell themselves on being “natural,” with earthy tones on the packaging or promises of being “organic.” Research and ingredient-list literacy is essential to making sure you’re making the right purchasing decisions. Take a brand like Lush, for example, who pride themselves on using all natural ingredients but still use some non-organic products and even formulate some products with potentially harmful parabens. Just like with the food we eat, we as consumers have to be skeptical of claims like “organic,” especially when we’re considering products for sensitive skin types.

It has been pretty well agreed upon by experts at this point that things like lemon juice and apple cider vinegar are things you should not be rubbing on your face. Plenty of research has been done in recent years on the skin’s pH levels, something that can be easily disrupted by heavily acidic ingredients like raw vinegar. If brightening your skin is the desired effect, consider a vitamin C serum derived from fruits or ascorbic acid, such as the Strawberry C Serum from Volition.

Skincare is a messy game of trial and error. What works for someone might not work for you, and the only way to really find out if a product is good for you is to test it out. For optimal results, don’t box yourself in to only using natural products or only using chemical products. Do your research, play the field, and remember that skincare is a marathon, not a race.