Nature’s Alternatives To Synthetics

Its important for an educated consumer to understand what elements make an effective product. All skincare products (synthetic, organic and everything in between) contain the functional ingredients that serve as emollients, humectants, emulsifiers, surfactants and preservatives in some combination or another in order to produce effective products.

There is no reason we need to rely on chemicals to make a product work or even to preserve it. There are hundreds of natural ingredients that outperform synthetics and generally render synthetic chemicals obsolete!

So why do cosmetic companies rely so heavily on synthetic ingredients?
Producing synthetics costs much less than sourcing natural ingredients, synthetics are readily available and very easy to dilute.



Emollients serve two functions; they prevent dryness and protect the skin acting as a barrier and healing agent. Water is the best emollient, but it doesn’t work well for products because it evaporates quickly. In order for a product to be an effective moisturizer some sort of emollient oil needs to create emulsion so the skin can absorb the product.

Natural Emollients

  • Natural emollients actually nourish the skin are recognized and metabolized by the skin’s own enzymes and absorbed into it. These ingredients are provided by nature, thus readily biodegradable. There are no contamination concerns and these ingredients are of edible quality as pure as food.
  • Some examples of natural emollients are Plant Oils (eg. Jojoba, Avocado, Rosehip) and Shea, Cocoa and Jojoba Butters

Synthetic Emollients

  • Synthetic Emollients are occlusive, meaning they coat the skin and do not allow it to “breathe” or respire (much like plastic wrap), which can cause skin irritation. Some synthetic emollients have been proven to accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes of the body. Finally, synthetic emollients are not biodegradable and create a negative environmental impact.
  • Some examples synthetic emollients are PEG Compounds, as in PEG- 45; Synthetic Alcohols, as in anything that contains the phrase benzyl –, butyl-, cetearyl-, cetyl -, glyceryl-, isopropyl-, myristyl propyl-, propylene-, or stearyl-); Hydrocarbons, as in mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin; Silicone oils, as in dimethicone, cyclomethicone, copolyol.



The main purpose of a skin cream is to keep the skin moist and that function is served by the product’s humectants.

Natural Humectants

  • Natural phospholipids, from lecithin, are fantastic humectants. An important benefit of phospholipids is that they are hygroscopic (attract water from the surrounding air) and hold water where an increased level of hydration is needed.
  • Therefore, phospholipids increase the hydration levels of the skin without being occlusive (forming a film to prevent water loss, and preventing normal cellular function).
  • A recent study proved the value of topically applied phospholipids in skin care. It found that environmental factors (sun, wind, pollution) and the detergents and solvents found in most skin cleansers, actually stripped the natural phospholipid content from the top layer of skin.
    • This loss resulted in a rough feel and a pitted appearance under a microscope. Importantly, the phospholipids in the uppermost skin layers cannot be replaced by natural cell function, as the top layer of cells no longer metabolize; they serve only as a protective barrier.
    • Remarkably, the study showed that topically applied plant phospholipids restore the barrier function of the skin, protecting it from substances such as bacteria and harmful synthetic chemicals.
  • Some examples of natural humectants are Lecithin, Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), Glycerin

Synthetic Humectants

  • Many conventional creams using synthetic humectants form a suffocating film on the skin to prevent moisture loss.
  • Some examples of synthetic humectants are Propylene Glycol, Ethylene/Diethylene Glycol, PEG compounds (eg Polyethylene Glycol), Synthetic alcohols (eg Glyceryl Coconate, Hydroxystearate, Myristate, Oleate)



Emulsifiers blend and hold together ingredients that don’t normally mix. An emulsifier can either be a physical substance (like wax) or a physical action (like “shake well before use”).

Natural Emulsifiers

  • Natural emulsifiers are obtained from various nuts, berries and leaves
  • Some examples of natural emulsifiers are Plant Waxes (eg. Candelilla, Carnauba, Jojoba,
    Rice Bran), Xanthan Gum, Quince Seed

Synthetic Emulsifiers

  • Synthetic emulsifiers are usually petroleum/hydrocarbon derivatives
  • Some examples of synthetic emulsifiers are Alkoxykated Amides (eg TEA, DEA, MEA, MIPA compounds), PEG compounds, Sorbitan Stearate, Laurate, Palmitate, Oleate, Ceresin, Silicone, Isopropyl Stearate



Surface-active-agents are substances capable of dissolving oils and holding dirt in suspension so it can be rinsed away with water. They are used in skin cleansers and shampoos.

Natural Surfactants

  • Natural saponins (foaming agents) are a superior surfactant choice for shampoos and body washes as they gently cleanse the hair and scalp without stripping the natural oils. Natural cleansers create the perfect balance of mildness, effective cleansing, scalp and skin nourishment and protection.
  • Some examples of natural surfactants are Castile Soap, Yucca Extract, Soapwort, Quillaja Bark Extract

Synthetic Surfactants

  • Most synthetic surfactants are inexpensively produced, excessively harsh, stripping and irritating to skin and scalp.
  • Another serious problem with ethoxylated surfactants (those that utilize ethylene or propylene oxide in the chemical reaction) is that they can be contaminated with dioxane, a potent carcinogen. These surfactants are listed on labels as ingredients ending with –eth, (like laureth) or containing the phrase PEG (PolyEthylene Glycol), or PPG (PolyPropylene Glycol).
  • Another potentially unsafe class of synthetic surfactants are amides. These are listed on labels containing the term TEA – TriEthanolAmine, DEA – DiEthanolAmine and MEA, MonoEthanolAmine. All compounds containing TEA, DEA and MEA can undergo nitrosation with other synthetic chemicals to form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.
  • Some examples of synthetic surfactants are Sodium or Ammonium Lauryl or Laureth
    Sulphate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Lauroyl or Cocoyl Sarcosinate
    Cocomidopropyl Betaine, TEA (Triethanolamine) compounds, DEA (Diethanolamine) compounds, MEA (Monethanolamine) compounds, PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) compounds, Quaternium -7, 15, 31, 60 etc, Lauryl or Cocoyl Sarcosine Disodium Oleamide or Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate



Preservatives are used to protect products from bacteria and mold and give them a longer shelf life. In all matter, the decaying process is natural and will eventually occur with or without preservatives of any kind. Skin care products do not, and should not, last forever.

Natural Preservatives

  • Another Miessence exclusive is the all natural and organic preservation system we feature in our products. This proprietary formulation is a combination of 6 different herbal, fruit and flower extracts, which varies from product to product.
  • Just like food, all natural skin care products will eventually deteriorate and go rancid, you will just have to pay mind to the Miessence “fresh by dates” and “use by dates”. Read more on our Preserving Products Naturally page.
  • Miessence has also developed distinctive airless vacuum pumps for many of our bottles, highly desirable for naturally preserved products due to the fact that it keeps air and airborne contaminants out of the bottles. This feature significantly assists the function of our natural preservative system and shelf life of our products.
  • Some examples of natural preservatives are Tea Tree Essential Oil, Thyme Essential Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Bitter Orange Extract

Synthetic Preservatives

  • Synthetic chemical preservatives are toxic by nature since it is their chemical purpose to kill bacteria and mold for years and years. All synthetic preservatives are considered toxic in high doses, but manufacturers argue the small amounts in products are harmless. Since human safety testing does not exist for 89% of synthetic chemicals used in personal care products, we will have to wait for conclusive evidence.
  • Some examples of synthetic preservatives are Imidiazolidinyl Urea (formaldehyde donor, releases formaldehyde if temperature over 50 degrees Fahrenheit), DMDM Hydantoin (also contains formaldehyde), Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Parabens, Benzalkonium Chloride, Chloromethylisothiazolinone and Isothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated hudroxyanisole (BHA)


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