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Making "natural" into a dirty word

It is true that there is no legal rules about what skin care companies (or food, or anything) can call “natural”. But we all know what we call natural: a substance that has not been modified chemically to became something different from what it was before.

But “natural” is one of those words that make us go soft and buy a product, so companies keep using it to make us buy something that it is not natural. Other words that make us go soft are: green, honest, pure, organic, etc. Beware when you see these words, they are used just to make us go soft and buy something that we would not buy otherwise..

The latest product to make me angry? Consonant Skincare – HydrExtreme Hydration Booster Serum, advertised as “natural”. There is even a glowing review about how marvelous that there is a skin care product with just two ingredients. Except that the ingredient list is impossible: Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide, Vegetable Glycerine.

Why impossible? This mix would be a sticky powder, not a serum. The polysaccharide is a powder, and glycerol is a viscous liquid. The result of mixing them would be a sticky mess. So, what is missing from the list? Water and phenoxyethanol, the preservative. Nothing wrong with them, except that the advertising is false.

So what are you buying when you pay $60 for 10 ml of this “100% natural” serum? An aqueous solution of seed gum. It is used in Japan as a thickener, although it has not been approved yet in the USA for this use. One possible reason is that Cassia gum (similar chemically to guar gum and tara gum, all of them galactomannans, polysaccharides made of galactose and mannose) may contain anthraquinone.

Why use Cassia angustifolia gum? Because it can be advertised as “new”.
It is also advertised as a “botanical” hyaluronic acid, but of course it isn’t, because plants don’t make hyaluronic acid. The hyaluronic acid we use in Skin Actives products is made by bacterial fermentation and, just like our own hyaluronic acid, it is a polysaccharide made of long chains of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine alternating with glucuronic acid. In our skin. Hyaluronic acid stabilizes the intercellular (in-between cells) space in the dermis, and contributes significantly to cell proliferation, migration, and skin repair; all activities essential to skin health.

While hyaluronic acid applied to your skin will not enter your cells as such, it can be modified by your skin and its sub-units will be used to make your own hyaluronic acid, and that’s good. Hyaluronic acid will also help retain water on your skin. And yes, Cassia gum can also do this, especially with glycerol in the serum, but there is no magic in there and no special benefits. So don’t pay for magic, even if it sold as natural.