Natural cosmetics are often pitted against synthetic cosmetics.


Published November 15, 2023 

Natural and synthetic cosmetics are commonly set against each other. Natural ingredients are often seen as being beneficial, while 'chemical' ingredients are generally thought of as harmful to human health and the environment. But on closer inspection, it becomes clear that everything around us is chemistry: substances, materials, and liquids are all made up of atoms and therefore have a chemical composition — even those we consider natural.

In this article, we're going to take a look at what is actually natural, what isn't, and the distinctions between the two. We'll also look at how a chemical compound can be more environmentally friendly and more effective than a plant extract…


In the world of beauty products, making the distinction between what is natural and what is of natural origin is very important. This distinction is governed by specific regulations, such as ISO 16128, which defines the calculation that determines how natural a cosmetic product is.

- The word 'natural' refers to everything that exists in nature, whether on the surface of our planet, hidden underground, or deep in the oceans. It also refers to substances derived directly from plants, minerals, animals, or microorganisms.

- A natural ingredient is a chemical substance that is extracted from one of these sources, mainly using mechanical methods such as pressing, without any alteration to its composition. Examples of natural ingredients include vegetable oils such as olive oil or macadamia oil, which are commonly used in creams.

- An organic ingredient is a natural ingredient produced using organic farming methods. But this doesn't mean it can't go on to be processed. Plus, there are various labels for this type of farming, and each has its own criteria. This means that not all organic products from France meet the same criteria, and these criteria are not the same as those for American or Peruvian labels.

- Finally, ingredients of natural origin, organic or not, are produced by processing raw plant materials, generally using biotechnological processes based on the principles of green chemistry. The aim of this approach, which first appeared in the 1990s, is to minimize environmental impact by using as little energy and as few solvents as possible, while also reducing waste and energy consumption and ensuring that the compounds produced are as safe as possible. For example, the hyaluronic acid that FILORGA uses is of natural origin and obtained by biofermentation. This kind of biotechnology also makes it possible to obtain fragrances by using bacteria and microorganisms on wood shavings.

So, as you can see, chemistry plays a key role, even for natural, organic cosmetics.


Chemistry, as a scientific discipline, studies the structure, properties, and reactions of substances. It encompasses several specialized disciplines, like organic chemistry, which focuses mainly on living organisms.

In day-to-day language, we label a product as 'chemical' when it is artificially produced, which tends to imply that chemistry is inherently bad because it’s unnatural. And yet, it is the use of synthetic processes that guarantees the purity, stability, and consistency of this product. 

In contrast, the characteristics of unaltered natural ingredients, i.e. their chemical composition, color, fragrance, etc., are much more variable.

Synthetic ingredients can come from plants or minerals and undergo more extensive chemical processing than natural ingredients. Using them means avoiding:

- The use of rare or scarce natural resources.

- Raw materials that have a significant carbon footprint because they are sourced from all over the world.

- Plants that require a lot of water and agricultural land to grow — land that could otherwise be used to feed people.


Rather than giving a simple 'no' to this question, or getting into a Clean Beauty versus 'traditional' cosmetics debate, let's try to look at the bigger picture. 

There's no denying (and we don't intend to) that some human-made chemical compounds are in fact harmful and environmentally unfriendly. But it is important to be aware that being natural does not necessarily equate to being healthy or safe. The reality is that many of the most dangerous substances we know are found in nature, like animal venoms, foxglove, and ricin, and dozens of people almost die every year from eating amanita mushrooms.

Also, as mentioned above, the chemical processing or synthesis of a substance allows for improved quality and reproducibility, thus reducing impurities. In the wild, however, the quality of natural ingredients varies according to the climate, surrounding fields, and potential pollutants. 

Lastly, it has long been a scientific fact that it is the quantity of a substance that determines its toxicity. In other words, the dose makes the poison. Like all types of compounds, a naturally occurring substance like sugar or salt can be dangerous if consumed in excessive quantities.

So, if all the above is taken into account, the difference between organic beauty products, natural beauty products, and those produced more conventionally isn't quite as straightforward as you might think; there are positives (and negatives) to consider on both sides of the fence. Now, let's see how Laboratoires FILORGA has combined the best that nature has to offer with the technical advances made possible by chemistry.


For the reasons outlined above, we don't produce 100% organic or 100% natural products. 

Currently, our products contain an average of 88% natural-origin ingredients (calculated according to the ISO 16128 standard and our target for 2026 is 90%. The other compounds we choose to add to our formulas serve to ensure the safety, effectiveness, sensory appeal, and stability of our products, thereby meeting our stringent quality standards.

Vitamin C, otherwise known as ascorbic acid, is a good example. Vitamin C is widely used in cosmetics because it is an essential nutrient for humans and a potent antioxidant. However, it rapidly breaks down when exposed to air, light, or heat.

So, in order to preserve this active ingredient and safeguard its benefits, it can be necessary to rely on chemical synthesis. This allows us to produce forms of vitamin C that keep their beneficial properties for longer, even when exposed to air.
For example, our HYDRA-AOX [5] serum combines vitamin C with a glucose molecule to form ascorbyl glucoside. Glucose protects vitamin C and stops it being damaged by the oxygen in the air. Once in the epidermis, an enzyme breaks down the glucose to release the vitamin C.

Natural cosmetics use vitamin C that is not especially stable when exposed to oxygen.


To provide you with the safest possible treatments, all our products are subject to rigorous specifications, evaluation, and inspections:

- We comply with European regulations on cosmetics, specifically regulation 1223/2009, which is the most stringent in the world in this field. This means that we don't include any ingredients that are considered dangerous by health authorities or expert scientific committees. For example, recognized endocrine disruptors are completely absent from our formulas.

- We only use active ingredients in doses and concentrations that have been confirmed as safe in authoritative toxicological studies.

Our products are rigorously tested before being marketed. Then, if necessary, we change and fine-tune our formulas.

To sum up, there is no point in pitting natural and synthetic ingredients against each other because, as we've explored, they actually complement each other. So, it's not always necessary to seek out 100% natural face creams or beauty products because contrary to popular belief, synthetic compounds can be equally safe and effective.

Find out more about our brand.