Are natural products better than synthetic?

Andreea asks: I’m thinking of buying the Korres Pomegranate Balancing Moisturizer. Their products are silicone free, mineral oil free, propylene glycol free and ethanolamine free. What do you think about Korres? Are they better since they’re more natural?

The Left Brain communicates about Korres:

The Korres products do appear to be tantalizingly natural. They make a big deal out of the fact that they don`t use mineral oil or propylene glycol. But if you’re a regular reader of the Beauty Brains, you already know that mineral oil is perfectly fine for your skin! (And basically the same is true of propylene glycol.)

According to their website, Korres pride themselves on broadly avoiding synthetic components that can sum up to 30 to 60% of a cosmetic formula, replacing them with greatly beneficial naturally derived ingredients. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But are their products really more natural?

I see from looking at the ingredient list for the Pomegranate skin moisturizer you mentioned that they do use natural ingredients. For example, the formula contains plant extracts like Punica Granatum Extract (Pomegranate), Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil (Jojoba), Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, and Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, to name a few.

But I also see C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Pentylene Glycol, Sucrose Cocoate, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Lauryl Glucoside, Methylparaben, PEG 8, Polyglyceryl 2 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Propylparaben, and Carbomer. These ingredients are emulsifiers, thickeners, and preservatives that are used in many other unnatural cosmetics. So at best, Korres’ claim about replacing synthetic components with naturally derived ingredients seems to be a bit of a stretch.

This argument really comes down to a case of what is considered natural and what is not. I think everyone would agree that pomegranate extract is natural. But what about mineral oil which is refined from petroleum that comes out of the earth? It is it any more or any less natural? Since there is no single definition of what constitutes natural there is no clear answer. Companies can pretty much say anything they want about natural even if they’re exploiting consumer ignorance and fear of chemistry to make a buck.

I’m not saying the Korres product isn’t a good moisturizer. I’m just put off by the fact that they’re trying to mislead consumers with bad information.