Natural vs. Chemical Emollients in Beauty Products

by Ingela

Read the ingredients list on any product in your skin care and cosmetic collection and you’ll probably go cross-eyed.  Today’s beauty products are often filled with chemical and synthetic ingredients that are hard to pronounce and hard on your skin.

Chemicals such as dimethicone and TEA are very common, so you may see these and others over and over again on different product labels.  Some companies will follow these chemicals with a list of herbs, natural extracts, and essential oils to make the product seem natural.  But in reality, it’s not natural at all.

Most skin care products are composed of five parts: emollients, humectants, emulsifiers, surfactants, and preservatives.  This article will discuss the function of emollients in common beauty products and what natural alternatives to look for when shopping.

The Purpose of Emollients

Emollient ingredients are usually listed first in a product’s ingredients, so these will jump out at your right away. When we say a lotion is water-based or oil-based, these are the emollient agents that are at work inside a product.  Mainly, emollients are responsible for preventing dryness of the skin and protecting it like a barrier.

Water is the best natural emollient, but it evaporates quickly and becomes ineffective.  To resolve this problem, many companies have combined chemical emollients with water or “natural” oils to extend a product’s effectiveness.  This is not necessary, since several natural alternatives might work much better.

Natural vs. Chemical

Natural emollients will absorb into and nourish the skin.  They’re also biodegradable.  Your skin can metabolize these ingredients easily with its own enzymes so there is no by-product.  You could actually eat natural emollients if you wanted to.

Chemical emollients, on the other hand, will often sit atop the skin and leave it feeling greasy.  They’re not biodegradable and have been shown in some studies to accumulate in the lymph nodes and liver. Wherever these chemical emollients breakdown, inside or outside the body, they leave harmful effects behind them.

What Chemicals to Avoid

This is where it gets complicated.  There are so many synthetic emollients to look for that it can be very confusing.  Basically, there are three main groups of chemical emollients.  Here’s the bare minimum of what to be on the look-out for:

  • PEG Compounds, which may contain toxic by-products and can cause allergies and dermatitis.
    • Look for anything that contains the phrase benzyl, butyl, cetearyl, cetyl, glyceryl, isopropyl, myristyl propyl, propylene, or stearyl
  • Hydrocarbons, which contain carcinogenic acid and mutating chemicals. They may also cause acne.
    • Look for mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin
  • Silicone Oils, which can clog the pores like a film of plastic wrap and have caused tumors on lab animals (though no studies on humans have been conducted).
    • Look for dimethicone, cyclomethicone, copoplyol

These are the big ones to keep your eyes open for.  Once you get in the habit of reading ingredient lists and picking out the bad guys, it will get easier to remember them all!

Natural Alternatives to Look For

If it’s easier to look for the natural versions instead, this list is much smaller and easier to remember.  The main natural emollients are mostly plant oils, such as jojoba, avocado, and rosehip.  Other natural emollients include shea, cocoa, and jojoba butters.

Not only are these safer and healthier alternatives in the long run, but they actually work better than their chemical counterparts!

Use this information to make smart choices about what products you put on your body. I personally have chosen Xtend-Life’s skin care products. They rock completely and my skin seems to agree.

Have a great day!

Previous post:

Next post:

Powered by Thesis & Designed by Quixotic Media.

No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission.