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The debate on whether synthetic or natural ingredients are best for skin care is age-old and doesn't appear to be nearing a final conclusion any time soon.  While the demand for more natural ingredients has certainly grown, the choice between the two is not easy or crystal clear.

Opting for something labelled "natural" is unfortunately no guarantee of its suitability or its effectiveness.  While the word "natural" implies botanical or chemical-free to many of us, the fact remains that the labelling of a product as "natural" is not currently regulated by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), making it nearly impossible to be certain of what you're getting. Since many natural ingredients require a significant amount of processing and preservatives in order to maintain efficacy and freshness, you may be loading up on unnecessary ingredients.

In the same way that "natural" does not always equal good, not all synthetic ingredients are bad. In fact, many key skin care ingredients are more effective in their synthetic form and are actually made from a combination of natural ingredients.  In addition, the synthetic form may be more stable, may penetrate the skin more easily and create longer lasting results than the natural form.  Vitamin C is a perfect example.  Straight from nature, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is highly unstable. As Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (found in [Link Removed] ), these stable and free radical-fighting derivatives of vitamin C are the darlings of the skin care world.

When it comes to specific skin care treatments, I clearly have one foot on each side of the fence:

Sunscreens:  Although texture, finish and feel are all personal preferences, I like a combination of both natural sun filters (zinc oxide and titanium oxide) and chemical filters (Mexoryl SX and XL and Tinosorb S) to protect me from as much of the UV light spectrum as possible.  No secret, then, that [Link Removed], a naturally-occurring emollient derived from olives, which enhances the skin's natural barrier function, warding off external damage, and hyaluronic acid, a lab synthesized version of a naturally occurring polysaccharide in the human body. Hyaluronic acid has the enviable ability to pull moisture out of the air and deposit it into the skin's depleted store.
Which one is best, synthetic or natural?  Perhaps the answer is a balance between the two with the aim of using ingredients that are safe, effective and backed by science.  In that case, everyone wins.

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti-aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed].
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