At Kavella, we’re all about safe, clean, natural ingredients.
That’s why we formulate hair care products with vitamins, natural oils and butters, plant extracts, and more. And if you’re familiar with our products at all, you already know about our unwavering dedication to making clean, safe products with strict ingredient standards.
But that doesn’t always mean natural ingredients. In some instances, a safe synthetic carries more advantages than natural derivatives.
We know what you’re thinking: how could that possibly be? Just the word “synthetic” can cause some conscientious shoppers to raise an eyebrow.
In this article, we’ll detail why some safe synthetics are nothing to be wary of and when to choose safe synthetics over natural derivatives.
What Are Safe Synthetics, Anyway?
It’s normal to pause when you hear the word “synthetic.” After all, that’s why our society faces a lot of the health crises we have today. However, some synthetics can do good — especially when they’re both proven to be safe and used sparingly.
What exactly does synthetic mean? Simply put, it means that the material is man-made and is not harvested from nature or the natural earth.
Most of the time, synthetic materials are created entirely in laboratories. However, sometimes a material can be labeled as synthetic if it is harvested from nature but is so heavily modified that it is refined past its natural point.
But just because synthetic ingredients are human-created and produced doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all bad — just like all natural products aren’t always safe for consumption. There are many poisonous and toxic natural elements in the world, and just because things grow from the earth doesn’t make them safe for humans.
Ultimately, when safe synthetic products are used in tandem with a mostly plant-based product, the results are profound. Check out some of the advantages of using synthetic products below.
Advantages of Safe Synthetics
There are many advantages of formulating hair care products with safe synthetics.
In fact, using safe synthetics can bring a variety of benefits, including:
- Improving personal well-being by reducing chances of allergies, inflammation, and reactions
- Supporting fair wages
- Reducing deforestation
- And much more
It is worth your time to learn more details about the benefits you can receive from choosing safe synthetic products.
We love natural, plant-extract ingredients. But sometimes, as counterintuitive as it may be, safe synthetics are better for your health and well-being than natural ingredients.
Many people in this country suffer from extreme allergies, eczema, or psoriasis. Some reports mention that 7.5 million people suffer from psoriasis and other skin conditions.
Even traditionally gentle ingredients like aloe and oat can irritate some people’s skin.
Aloe can be bothersome to certain people. If you have a sensitivity to aloe in particular, some reactions may include:
While aloe is a great ingredient for most people, others need ingredients that are even less inflammatory.
In these cases, dermatologists can recommend a simple cream that includes a skin protectant like dimethicone. This basic, non-toxic silicone ingredient is especially useful as it carries no allergenic or irritation potential. Need an aloe-free shampoo and conditioner? Try Kavella’s Healing Tea Shampoo and Conditioner!
Oat, too, is a commonly used ingredient for those with sensitive skin. Yet oat can sometimes cause allergic reactions as well. Those with a sensitivity to oat may find they experience symptoms such as:
- Blotchy skin
- Itchy, dry eyes
Safe synthetics are a great alternative for those with sensitive skin. Another benefit of using synthetic materials is that you get exactly what you pay for. Sometimes natural ingredients can be a bit unpredictable. When you combine natural with synthetic, you can get a reliable product that you can count on.
We’re all in on the environment.
With an ever-warming climate and the loss of species by the hour, we’re dedicated to being eco-friendly. Sometimes, using certain plant derivatives and extracts in our haircare products can cause more harm than good to the environment.
For example, there could be a lack of sustainability when it comes to a certain crop. The scarcity of that crop could be exacerbated by frequent droughts, flooding, wildfires, or any of the frequently occurring weather problems that are driven by climate change.
Oats, for example, are crops that are diminishing in size. Shockingly, the USDA released data in 2021 that shows how American oat crop production has decreased to the lowest level since crop yield records began in 1866.
While oats and oatmeal are common ingredients in many hair care products, whether that’s good for the environment is another story. Kavella does not use any oats in our products. Not just because of the low crop yield, but because we are a gluten-free brand and most oats experience gluten contamination.
Using natural derivatives may hurt farmers, too. Some crops cannot be obtained in a fair way, which means that farmers must sell their products at low, unlivable wages. Not only does this propagate a cycle of poverty wages but it is also exceedingly unethical, given how much information there is out there.
There’s more, you ask? Unfortunately, yes. Using natural ingredients can contribute to the clearing of rainforests and natural resources. Palm oil, of course, is the biggest embodiment of this concern.
Currently, Brazil is clearing the rainforest at incredible speed to replace it with more profitable agriculture like palm trees.
The problem? The rainforest needs a shocking amount of biodiversity to properly function. When there’s a monotone culture of only one type of tree, species die, which will wither the rainforest (and we shouldn’t have to tell you that is bad news).
But there’s good news. Palm oil can be readily switched with safe, synthetic ingredients. As a result, there’s a way to get the same great products without compromising the safety of our earth. There’s also RSPO certified palm, which is palm that is certified sustainable by going through a strict verification of its production process.
From keeping our rainforests safe to protecting vulnerable crops, synthetic materials are a great alternative for those rare times when natural resources can’t, or shouldn’t, be used.
When you use safe synthetics, you get a product exactly as you intended without compromising the health of the user or the health of the planet and ecosystem.
For example, our signature Scalp & Hair Oil Treatment uses this very theory. Normally, most hair oils have a siloxane base such as cyclomethicone or cyclopentasiloxane. Unfortunately, these oils are terrible for the environment as they don’t easily break down.
Furthermore, siloxanes are endocrine disruptors, which are substances that block hormone production, leading to nervous system damage, infertility, gastrointestinal problems, and much more.
To circumvent that (while still giving you an effective product you can be happy with), we opt for the safe synthetic hydrocarbon C13-15 Alkane.
This ingredient, mixed with all the other organic plant-based oils in the formula, creates a sublime combination that is a lightweight, spreadable oil.
Safe synthetics can make a wonderful supplement to a mostly all-plant base and give us more control over our products and how they perform.
Silicones Versus Plant-Based
Silicones get a bad reputation. When used in moderation, silicones strengthen hair and provide beneficial heat protection.
In fact, silicones make a much more reliable heat protectant than any plant-derived oils due to their thermal conductivity, and they do not have a limiting smoke point/boiling point like many plant-derived oils have.
Of course, there are limitations to using silicone. Many hair products use a mostly silicone base, which results in film buildup.
A plant-based material like oils can achieve the same result, except that they have less protection against heat than silicone. As a result, mild to moderate use of silicone in hair care products is a great way to gain benefits from oil while also protecting your hair from high heat when you straighten, curl, blow-dry, or style it.
Again, Kavella uses only small amounts of silicone, and we’re very choosy about which silicone we’ll put in our products.
For example, we never use silicone products like
Instead, we use safe silicones like amodimethicone, as it is a conditioning silicone that does not like to build up on itself. Instead, it creates the desired protective layer while the rest of the amodimethicone washes away. Learn more about silicones here!
Why All of This Matters (the Dangers of “Bad” Ingredients)
So now we’re on the same page about how some synthetic products are safe and not only good to use, but sometimes more beneficial than their natural counterparts.
But why is it so important to be cognizant of the safety of ingredients, anyway?
To avoid harmful reactions, you want to know exactly what you’re exposing your skin and hair to. It’s therefore incredibly important that you research all ingredients listed on the back of your hair and skin products.
If you’re not sure what an ingredient is, look it up. Just because an ingredient has a long, chemical name doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad — it could simply be a safe synthetic ingredient.
A great example of this is the ingredient guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride. This is just a long name to describe the derivative of guar gum, which is a drought-resistant crop that is a descendent of the pea family.
In this case, the ingredient is benign and is an incredibly helpful additive to shampoos and conditioners because it actively combats static. Ultimately, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride yields no adverse short-term or long-term side effects (though its name can be intimidating and off-putting to shoppers).
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about some other ingredients.
Therefore, the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones is to thoroughly research the products before you apply them to your body. Or better yet, choose a product line such as Kavella who does all the research for you, avoids toxic or harmful ingredients and takes the guesswork out of the whole process.
Here are some synthetic ingredients that you should be aware of and look out for. Read on to learn more.
Parabens and Endocrine Interrupters
Chances are you’ve heard the word “parabens” before. And you’ve probably already deduced that they’re harmful based on so many brands advertising that they are “paraben-free” or never use parabens.
But what exactly are parabens? They’re a preservative, and even though Kavella never uses parabens, we understand why other brands are tempted to. Parabens protect makeup, hair, and skin products from developing harmful bacteria and mold that can potentially harm users.
However, parabens are easily absorbed into the skin, and researchers are increasingly able to link parabens to endocrine system disruption.
While parabens are probably the most popular type of endocrine interrupters, there are thousands of these chemicals that can block our hormone production and throw a wrench in our body’s ability to perform basic functions.
Other common endocrine disruptors are:
- Synthetic fragrances
- SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate)
- BPA (bisphenol A)
- PFAS chemicals
As you may or may not remember from science class, the endocrine system is a wonderfully complex network that regulates hormone production.
In order for us to be able to digest food, produce testosterone or estrogen, reproduce, have proper brain function, and so much more, we need our endocrine system to function correctly and release hormones.
Unfortunately, all of those chemicals above (and many more not listed) block the endocrine system, which can lead to a series of health problems. In fact, some studies warn that endocrine disruptors could be the cause of startling low fertility and birth rates.
So the next time you read fragrances, parabens, BPA, or Phthalates on the back of a shampoo bottle, make sure to put it down and never look back.
As if you didn’t have enough to worry about, some materials used widely in shampoos and conditioners have been known to cause cancer, too.
For example, many hair aerosol sprays contain benzene, which is a chemical that has been shown to cause cancer. In fact, in 2021, the parent company of popular hair care products Pantene, Herbal Essences, and Aussie had to recall dozens of aerosol products due to benzene concerns.
Some of the most well-known carcinogenic ingredients that are found in hair care products include:
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
- “Fragrance” (which is a catch-all word for thousands of possible chemicals)
- Formaldehyde, or Formaldehyde Donor Preservatives
- Retinyl Palmitate
If you’re in the habit of using dry shampoo, make sure to check the ingredients list; if your shampoo is made with talc, chances are it contains trace amounts of asbestos.
That’s because talc is a mineral that is fused together with asbestos; while some manufacturers claim that you can remove the asbestos from talc, an increasing number of studies are proving that this separation is impossible.
Therefore, if any of your hair care products contain talc powder or talcum powder, it’s best to chuck them in the trash can as soon as possible.
Navigating the world of hair care products can be dizzying. While plant-based products are typically the way to go, some synthetics are safe to use in moderate amounts and are even superior to their natural derivative counterparts.
At Kavella, our highly effective plant-based hair care line is full of products that are formulated with the perfect balance of naturally derived ingredients and very safe synthetics, creating the most luxurious and healthy products for your hair and scalp.
When purchasing hair care and skin care products, always use your judgment, research the ingredients, and never stop looking until you find a product that works for you.