Solid Cleansing Oil Balm

Natural Emollients vs Synthetics?

Using naturals over synthetics is a noble cause but do they work as well? 

Consumers today are pushing naturals and clean beauty hard and are increasingly driving demand for natural alternatives to synthetics in beauty products they use. Even so, GCI reported that according to a recent The Benchmarking Company sustainability study of female consumers, 78% of consumers ranked efficacy as one of the top three most important attributes when considering a beauty product purchase.

So, let’s look at a few efficacy studies where synthetics and naturals were put head-to-head and see how they stacked up.


A primary efficacy claim for moisturizers is their sustained improvement of skin barrier function, or moisture retention. In a recent study, two naturals were tested: Daikon Seed Extract (DSE), a natural emollient with a light sensory signature, and Meadowfoam Seed Oil (MSO) a fast absorbing, highly stable natural oil. Also tested were two synthetics commonly used in moisturizers: 100 cps dimethicone, and isopropyl palmitate (IPP).

In that study, DSE decreased TEWL (skin’s transepidermal water loss) and significantly increased barrier function compared to isopropyl palmitate at all measurement points during the study demonstrating the enhanced utility of DSE that can be achieved while maintaining the light skin feel associated with IPP.

There was no statistical difference in performance between DSE, MSO, and 100 cps dimethicone demonstrating that DSE and MSO perform comparably to well-known synthetic cosmetic emollients.


A separate hair strength and shine study provided some interesting data comparing Daikon Seed Extract with higher viscosity silicones. Hair tresses treated with each of the test emollients to compare the effect of each on hair strength and shine. Testing was performed on Daikon Seed Extract, diphenylsiloxy phenyl trimethicone, 12,500 cps dimethicone, and 60,000 cps dimethicone.

All the tested emollients improved hair strength. However, phenyl trimethicone and Daikon Seed Extract improved hair strength over both untreated hair and hair treated with the synthetics in the study.

All products were also observed to significantly reduce hair breakage. Once again, Daikon Seed Extract was observed to provide the optimum benefit over the synthetics.

The two dimethicone samples gave rise to the greatest increase in hair shine; although Daikon Seed Extract was also observed to have a sizable effect. Interestingly, the phenyl trimethicone was observed to induce the lowest shine increase of the 4 materials. This is noteworthy as the higher price point of phenyl trimethicone is often traced to its high refractive index; which is frequently linked to improved shine benefits.

These independent studies indicate just a couple proven cases where naturals stack up well against synthetics. Great news for companies looking to source viable, EFFECTIVE natural alternatives to synthetics.

LEARN MORE about these studies and more on our Formulators Resource Page.

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