Legions of skincare enthusiasts are throwing out age-old dressing table staples in favour of a new phase of beauty. Implementing 7-step k-beauty routines or whittling their morning ritual down to as little as one multi-tasking facial oil, beauty aficionado’s worldwide are discovering that there are countless solutions to their individual skincare needs. But, as the steps we take to address our complexions become more personalised, there is still one point of contention up for public debate.
The choice between natural vs. synthetic skincare products is leaving a community divided. While some insist that the use of 100% natural products is the only solution to healthy skin, others argue that truly penetrative power can only come from lab-created, scientifically formulated solutions. Speaking with skincare brand founders Arabella Preston and Lars Frederiksen, we dive into one of the biggest discussions surrounding the science of skincare.
Name: Lars Frederiksen
Brand: Verso Skincare
Opinion: High quality, ingredients rooted in science can create great products that effectively target the skin’s daily needs.
Name: Arabella Preston
Opinion: Natural plant oils are packed full of nature’s super-ingredients and can create powerful, effective formulations.
“Historically, there’s been an idea that there is a correlation between effectiveness and the type of brand, but I think that is drastically changing.”
Our skin is our largest organ and is tasked with the major responsibility of protecting the body from exposure to the dangers of the outside world. A forcefield by design, penetration can be difficult leading many to debate whether synthetic or natural products are better at effecting the skin’s surface.
• Synthetic products use ingredients that have been proven to work.
Arguing in favour of synthetic products, Lars explains that “A 100% natural plant-based products have more a holistic approach to skincare and will not necessarily provide the effect that you are looking for. Whereas a scientifically formulated products are using ingredients that have been proven to work.”
• Natural ingredients do have the power to provide significant results.
“Years ago natural beauty products weren’t up to scratch,” says Arabella. “Historically, there’s been an idea that there is a correlation between effectiveness and the type of brand, but I think that is drastically changing. If you read the ingredient list, you’ll notice that a lot of the synthetic-skewed brands do use natural products. They are very hard working ingredients.”
“100% natural does not mean that it’s more gentle to the skin or give any side-effects”
When it comes to scrutinizing what we put onto our skin, safety should always be a deciding factor. For synthetic beauty brands, the biggest cause of concern for many customers is whether or not such products are appropriate for those with sensitive skin. And, for the natural brands there are also suggestions that these products can harbour their own side effects.
• Natural ingredients are not always gentle on the skin.
Verso founder Lars explains that it was growing up with the delicate skin condition of eczema that first led him to explore the use of synthetic ingredients. “I realized that if we work with high quality ingredients rooted in science we are able to create great products” he recalls. And, while those with sensitive skin are often encouraged to find safety in products that use naturally occurring ingredients, Lars insists that “100% natural does not mean that it’s more gentle to the skin or will not produce any side-effects.”
• All products have the potential to cause irritation.
One side-effect often raised by those who oppose the 100% natural skincare movement is the claim that overuse of specific natural ingredients can lead to the development of previously unexperienced skin allergies. But, Votary founder Arabella dispels this, bluntly stating that “Skin changes daily, it changes seasonally, it’s changing as you age. You can develop an allergy to anything at anytime.”
“When people talk about ‘kitchen table businesses’ that is definitely us”
The creation of plant-based cosmetics often elicits the image of a kitchen full of natural oils and wooden utensils, whereas scientifically-based formulas conjure a vision of a glistenting lab and clean white coats. In many ways, both Votary and Verso live up to these stereotypes, and their methods feed greatly into the efficacy of their products.
“When people talk about ‘kitchen table businesses’ that is definitely us”, says Arabella “I usually have a concept in mind and then I start playing with it at home. Then, I go into process development with our manufacturer who is an oil specialist.” While the process may sound quite casual the founder ensures it’s rigour, “it has been known that we can turn something around in 6 months but generally it takes 12 months to 18 months”.
Spending the same amount of time on Verso’s line of products, Lars explains that “normally it takes about 12-18 months from idea to launch”. “It will start from a consumer perspective and then we will start looking for the right ingredients for the specific needs. The lab will start formulation, safety and stability work and continue until we are satisfied.”
“It’s about being aware of what is right for you and for your own skin”
So, in the debate of natural vs. synthetic skincare, who is triumphant? While both Lars and Arabella put forward strong arguments for their preferences, ultimately, they admit that there are benefits to either type of formulation.
• Natural ingredients can be just as good, and sometimes better.
“There are some great natural products available” confesses Lars, “from a Verso perspective we focus on functionality and efficacy. While our main ingredients are synthetic, we do use natural material as well, but only when they are proven to be as good or better. Admittedly, there is a big misconception that scientifically formulated means that it will work for everybody and very quickly”.
• Synthetic ingredients do have their own unique benefits.
“I am quite pragmatic” reveals Arabella, “Last year we introduced our intense night oil in which we used a synthetic form of retinoids. That was the first time we had used a ‘non-natural’ ingredient, but we did it because it’s proven to be effective.” She continues, “every person’s skin is so unique and so different. With the amount of information available today, it’s about being aware of what is right for you and for your own skin”
Lars Fredriksen is the founder of skincare brand Verso. Created in Stockholm, Sweden in 2013 Verso’s line of skincare solutions prides itself on the use of advanced science and their ‘secret recipe’ that starts with their proprietary Vitamin A complex, Retinol 8.
British celebrity make-up artist Arabella Preston is the name behind natural plant-oil powered skincare brand Votary. Founded in 2015, Votary focuses on concentrated and pure natural ingredients and all of the brand’s formulas have been handcrafted, blended and tested by Arabella personally.