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Am I a natural or synthetic girl?

March 3, 2015

After teaching last weekend I think I must have given the impression that I’m the kind of girl who would slap anything on her face without a merry little care in the world.  I talked about ingredient safety and where to look for data and happened to give  examples of some petroleum derived ingredients that had a long history of safe use and a couple of natural ingredients that are actually quite irritating.  This was to illustrate a bigger point and not a thinly veiled attempt to turn a bunch of people who came in wanting to make natural cosmetics into chemical wielding lunatics.  Heaven forbid…..

Teachers aren’t supposed to stand up and spout their beliefs, they are not preachers. Instead they are thought facilitators employed to furnish you with thinking and processing skills relevant to the subject at hand. They are also there to create a safe and welcoming environment within which to practice those new skills. I would like to think that I achieved that but really, you would have to ask my students.

But I am not teaching right now, I am writing my blog which, while factual and researched is also an outlet for some of my opinions so here’s this one.

Am I a natural or synthetic girl?

The answer is that I am neither.

I found this beautiful piece of art whilst walking around the Pop art exhibition in Sydney at the weekend (we caught the last day).  It says it all really so thanks Richard Larter.

Richard Larter prompt careb and how we never learn

My answer is that asking if ‘natural’ is better or safer than synthetic or vice versa is a non question.  It is a great example of how we have debased (reduced the quality of) language and that makes me a little angry really.

For someone who struggles with spelling and grammar I LOVE the written word and the power that words have.  Our beautiful English language is born of complex, descriptive origins, origins that are quite literally spelled out in our words, laying their exact meaning bare with every syllable, well, that is until some marketing team gets hold of them.

As the picture, which is entitled ‘Prompt Careb and how we never learn’ from 1975 states,  when we debase language our thinking suffers.  When we think of ingredients as ‘natural’ or ‘synthetic’ we try to screw up a massive and complex set of information encompassing origin, biological fate, ecological impact, environmental behaviour and long and short-term health benefits into one neat soundbite.

It is impossible to reduce our thinking down like that.

Our thinking suffers.

We are indeed fools for thinking it is even possible.

So that is what I think.

Your thoughts are absolutely welcome.

Amanda x

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2015 8:23 pm

    Hey Amanda, really enjoyed your post on natural v synthetic, what you do so well is make us think and give people a why, i completely agree that cosmetics become tagged as one or the other and incorrectly people assume one is better for you and less effective and synthetic can be less safe but may provide powerful better results, if only life were this simple. I am a natural girl but all ingredients have to have a reason, a why, and I would advocate using the safe natural origin synthetic ingredients if they provide a great purpose, where would be be without all the great emulsifiers or preservatives, we cant all use wax or anti-bac oils, for example. For me I like to formulate with the quality ingredients and organic where possible but if I want a bio-active and there isn’t an organic option I will use the non-organic option. Greenwashing is a trend I dislike and transparency is key. thanks again for making me think

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 3, 2015 8:31 pm

      Thinking is always a good plan. Thanks for sharing Emma, it is good to get some feedback and I wish you well with your skin care adventures (the candles look like they smell divine).

  2. Tanya Emery permalink
    March 3, 2015 11:06 pm

    Hi Amanda,
    I was at your weekend course and will say that I thoroughly enjoyed your depth of knowledge of the cosmetic chemistry industry.
    Yes you definately made me think about synthetic vs natural.
    As I am a beauty therapist I am questioned on a regular basis about this topic. I must say that I am, I guess, a little let down to have realised that many skincare companies have made comments that are untrue about particular synthetic ingredients in order to sell their organic products. Or I guess I could in fact look at what I have believed to be true because I wanted it to be.
    After saying all of this why do I still want organic? It maybe because it’s easier to sell to a client as they believe it to be safer for skin, cleaner, better for the environment etc. Not sure?
    Anyway, thanks so much for an excellent course, and yes you did a great job of getting me thinking!
    Tanya x

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 4, 2015 6:14 am

      Thanks Tanya, it was a fun two days!
      It is natural to feel a little miffed and as if people have been lying to you when you start digging deeper into something like this but people rarely lie. Most of the time people stick to what they want to believe and stop looking when that box has been ticked. That is a shame as it is limiting for them and you and can lead to a proliferation of mis-information.
      Organic farming (as in restricted list of pesticides that can be used)* would no doubt be the most healthy way to farm the world and in choosing or promoting organic you are stating your values and priorities and making them clear to everyone. There is nothing wrong with that at all and in fact it is likely to give you a platform from which you can do great good. Have fun exploring!

      * Changed following comment from Rorie as my earlier statement was over-simplistic.

      • March 5, 2015 2:06 am

        Hi Amanda, very interesting topic & I totally agree with you about debasing language.
        Just wanted to note here, the idea that organic farming = no pesticides is a common misconception. Organic farms can use pesticides as long as they are natural in origin, and no GE crops. (Eg, spraying Bt on fields but not using Bt crops is acceptable organic farming).
        There are certain aspects of organic farming that may be better for the environment than conventional farming, but they by no means are pesticide-free.

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
        March 5, 2015 5:53 am

        You are absolutely right about the organic farming Rorie, thanks for bringing that up! It just shows me how easy it is to fall into the word trap even when you have your word radar on. Thanks for picking that up.

  3. March 5, 2015 7:43 am

    Hi Amanda,
    I’ve been wanting to write a similar post myself. I think some people associate synthetic ingredients as toxic and try to avoid such ingredients. I’ve been trying out natural products for the past few years and I reacted badly to some of them whereas the worst I got out of synthetic products are just minor clogged pores. I think the reasons could be from the essential oils and/or the lack of preservatives. Having said that, I’ve found some natural products that worked well on me and I will personally continue to experiment with all kinds of products just for fun. Your blog is very informative and I also have a science background so I really I appreciate that (although I didn’t like chemistry!) 🙂

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 5, 2015 6:24 pm

      Your skin reactions could be anything I guess, it can be very hard to narrow these things down. My skin is highly reactive to the environment and breaks out every time the season changes. If I was to change my skin care regime at one of those times I might arrive at the conclusion that the products aren’t right for me when in reality it is the weather that sucks. Food, general health, tiredness, sun exposure and hormones can also play a part so in that regard our cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients are only one part of the story.

  4. March 5, 2015 9:04 am

    Thanks Amanda, love your work, as you know. What I love the most is the fact that you highlight the conversation on ingredients, because they do matter! No matter what our beliefs, when we have access to information we can make our own informed choices, and that’s what it’s all about!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 5, 2015 6:20 pm

      thanks Melissa, that’s exactly right.

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