What does ‘raw’ mean in skin care?
When it comes to skin care, the terms ‘raw’, ‘100% natural’ and 'synthetic-free' are commonly used. However it is very easy to be misled by brands making these claims about their products, because most include ingredients that have been chemically synthesised. Often, the synthetic ingredient is partially derived from a natural source, eg ‘from coconut’, but has undergone a chemical reaction that transforms it into a completely different molecule. To my mind, an ingredient that is no longer in its natural form is, by definition, not natural.
I’d go so far as to say that a product labeled ‘raw’, ‘natural’ or ‘synthetic-free’ that includes these ingredients is at best misleading and at worse, a con.
Indeed, any skin care product containing water (which is virtually all skin care) must include a preservative and an emulsifier to remain stable. Preservatives and emulsifiers suitable for skin care do not occur naturally and must, therefore, be chemically synthesised. When brands that include these ingredients claim their product is ‘all natural’ or ‘raw’ they should really be saying, ‘some natural/raw ingredients’, which is not quite the same thing.
What’s the problem with a small amount of synthetics in my skin care?
For most people, the synthetic ingredients added to virtually all skin care will cause no recognisable problem. A skin reaction will occur in some people, because synthetic ingredients are common allergens in skin care (1). However it is the long-term and less obvious effects of these synthetic ingredients that would surprise most people. The most significant culprits are:
1) Emulsifiers - these are the detergent-like molecules that must be added to water-containing skin care to create a stable emulsion. Emulsifiers are of no benefit to the skin, they simply prevent the water and oil phases in the product from separating. However, emulsifiers are in contact with the skin for long periods of time and, being detergents, can upset the skin’s important barrier function. This may result in a compromised skin barrier, with intermittent dryness and irritation the outcome (read more here).
2) Preservatives - these must be added to water-containing skin care at a low concentration to stop microorganisms from growing in the watery medium. Despite their low concentration, they are powerful molecules, since they must be active for the shelf life of the product, which is usually around 2 years. The application of such potent antimicrobials to the skin each day can alter our skin’s microbiome, which in turn can affect our skin’s health and may also affect our immune system (read more here).
Neither of these ingredients offer any benefit the skin - they are added to stabilise the formula. Ironically, skin care that includes these ingredients can potentially contribute to skin problems.
Can switching to truly ‘raw’ ‘natural’ skin care really make a difference?
Mokosh is one of a handful of brands that have formulated a full skin care range without any synthetics at all - truly ‘raw’ and truly ‘natural’. Despite this, the products have a minimum 2 year shelf life, because our formulas do not permit the growth of microorganisms.
We believe the reason so many of our customers experience a transformation in their skin’s health when they switch to our range is partly due to the absence of these synthetics.
The absence of emulsifiers means the skin’s barrier function is improved, which makes it less prone to irritation, and less exposed to the damaging effects of free radicals.
Likewise, the absence of microbe-killing preservatives means the skin microbiome can return to its natural state.
Finally, because our products are not diluted with water, they are highly concentrated and nutrient dense. What's more, the nutrients in our water-free formulas are more stable and retain their activity for longer (2), which means overall better nutrition for your skin.
The outcome is calm, resilient, well-nourished, healthy skin.
Have you experienced the difference to your skin when you make the switch to truly raw, natural skin care?
1. Gonzales-Munos, P. et al (2014) Allergic Dermatitis Caused by Cosmetic Products. Actas Dermo-Sifiliograficas (English Edition) 105:822-832
2. Frankel, E.N. et al (1994) Interfacial phenomena in the evaluation of antioxidants: bulk oils vs emulsions. J. Agric. Food Chem. 42:1054–1059