The Clean Beauty market has gained a lot of attention in the past few years, and whilst Synergie Skin will never engage in undermining other brands, we believe it’s important that we are transparent in our core values as much as possible to avoid confusion for our customers. It may be easy to mistake Clean Beauty for Synergie Skin’s formulating philosophy: Clean Science®. However, both terms are completely different in most respects. In this blog, we aim to inform you precisely where Synergie stands on the Clean Beauty trend.
First off, what is Clean Beauty?
This is a beauty trend that promotes ‘natural’ (technically naturally derived ingredients) with zero tolerance for laboratory-synthesized elements. This creates a duality where natural is seen as ‘clean’ versus chemical compounds which are labelled ‘dirty’. This mentality of everything being “100% clean and natural” often comes at the expense of ignoring scientific evidence and processes that are needed to create safe and reliable products. For example, Clean Beauty tends to exhibit a mistrust of preservatives, which are actually necessary to keep cosmeceuticals stable and safe. At best, this practice is fear mongering, and at worst it can be negligent to consumer wellbeing. In our view, the Clean Beauty movement is flawed, unscientific, and more focused on the optics of how their products are perceived, rather truly offering lasting benefits based on substantiated evidence.
How is Clean Science different?
Clean Science is Synergie Skin’s trademarked commitment to creating ethical skincare with ingredients backed by real clinical data that genuinely enhances the health and longevity of the skin. Rather than inciting sensationalist green-washing, our Clean Science philosophy champions transparency; where the aim is to merge the highest quality laboratory-made synthetics and naturally derived ingredients in synergy to create an objectively measurable benefit for the customer. We do this whilst also remaining accountable to our environmental impact in a sincere, results-driven manner. Like any reputable scientist, Synergie Skin places knowledge, education, and research at the forefront of everything we do. We acknowledge aspects of our products or processes that need improvement, then overcome these challenges with rigorous investigation and innovation. Clean Science places the health of skin and our planet as our number one priority.
What defines a ‘natural’ ingredient?
Always be wary of anyone who says their formulas are ‘100% natural and chemical free’. Synergie Skin challenges any personal care company to create a product that can be scientifically classified as being 100% natural and - sorry to break it to you - but everything that matter is composed of in this universe is a chemical! As soon as any ingredient is processed, purified, or incorporated into a skincare product that is fit for consumer use, it becomes ‘naturally derived’. This is important to note as Clean Beauty fosters a mentality that chemical compounds are inherently impure in comparison to naturally derived ingredients, but this belief is unfounded. Even naturally derived ingredients can be harmful depending on the context of use. Arsenic, for example, is considered a natural compound, yet less than 1/8th of a teaspoon can be fatal to humans. The beautiful oleander shrub can be organically grown, but may result in cardiac arrest if the leaves or flowers are ingested. What is important is we harness our ingredients based on the proven effects they have on the skin. If there is clinical data to support the positive impact of an ingredient – naturally derived, or synthetic – then Synergie Skin will consider a place for it in our formulas. If we find evidence to the contrary, however, then we reject it.
What are ‘questionable’ ingredients and where does Synergie Skin draw the line?
Synergie Skin never releases a formula to the public without backing by scientifically-verified evidence, and whilst some ingredients may not be considered dangerous or ‘toxic’, they may still not reach our standards of efficacy or environmental impact. For example, SLS cleansing agent and phenoxyethanol preservative are not considered ‘toxic’ with normal usage in personal care products, but they may cause irritation, particularly in those with sensitive skin. With this in mind, we will choose alternative cleaning agents and preservatives with a lower potential for irritation. Oxybenzone, a common organic sunscreen (often incorrectly referred to as a chemical sunscreen, considering all skincare ingredients have a chemical basis!) has been found to be harmful to reef and marine life. Although oxybenzone is an effective sunscreen, for this environmental reason, I choose not to use this ingredient in my lab. Some sources of naturally derived minerals found in mineral sunscreens and mineral makeup may contain unacceptable levels of lead or other heavy metals. Ultimately, responsible chemists must source ethically, use reputable suppliers with relevant certifications, and undergo rigorous testing to ensure that all ingredients and finished products are fit for sale.
Dosage of skin care ingredients is also worth discussing. It is important to note that yes, even water has a lethal dosage! Most ingredients are not inherently toxic at the recommended dosage in personal care products, however, some may have queries associated with them that are still unproven. Some ingredients may be used for years in personal care products, but may be disallowed in certain regions as a result of updated scientific findings. We have an internal mantra at Synergie Skin: “when in doubt, leave it out”. We will always seek the best alternative with the customer’s long-term skin health as our primary goal. Clean Science is built on the foundations of transparency, and we will always give our customers information and a mandatory comprehensive listing of all ingredients we use. Our aim is to protect customers and the planet from any undesirable outcomes, wherever possible. And this brings us to…
Another common Clean Beauty myth is that naturally derived ingredients create a smaller carbon footprint than synthetic ingredients. Whilst this may be true in some cases, it is often far more environmentally sustainable to create ingredients in a laboratory than to harvest a natural ecosystem. For example, take a variant of phycosaccharide we use for promoting healthy skin cell production. This is an extract harvested from bacteria living on a rare seaweed. It is far better to use laboratory-based methods to clone this specific bacterium when this is all you really need, rather than to reap massive quantities of seaweed from its natural habitat. In this case, the laboratory-synthesized version is more sustainable, and just as effective as it’s naturally derived equivalent, which makes it my formulating preference.
So, as you can see, natural is not always best. There is a gulf of difference between Clean Science and Clean Beauty, and perhaps the most important difference is verified accountability. At Synergie Skin, we recognize that minimizing our carbon footprint whilst creating ethical yet effective products is an ongoing journey. We are constantly acquiring new data, refining our methods, and striving to do better. That is our Clean Science commitment.