I have been working on a few different questions as all natural beauty's (anb) Eco Living and DIY Natural Formulating Expert. A couple days ago, I answered a question on spas, and the effectiveness of natural versus lab actives. I will be posting two more answers to questions very soon!
I posted some more additional thoughts on Earth Alkemie's (my business) blog about this topic, including an example of many of the uses and nutrients in a single plant ingredient: camellia oil. Here are some more random thoughts related to my anb article. :)
Many people think that lab actives are always a better choice for everyone. Personally I don't use most lab actives because currently my skin tends to react badly to many of them (though there are a couple my skin likes). For example many people use retinol, lab derived/concentrated acids (like glycolic, lactic, or mandelic acids. Some may be naturally derived but they are still lab actives), and vitamin C serum (people call this natural but it is a lab active; it has been concentrated in the lab) because they work for them. These ingredients do not work for me at all, and when I tried retinol many years ago (before I began learning about skin care) it severely damaged my skin (just from using it literally only a few times). My skin does not react well to many forms of lab derived vitamin C (especially the most common form), and it has only liked one kind of lab vitamin C I have tried (tetra C). I have never been able to use the lab derived acids because they are extremely irritating for me (even the more gentle ones), and many years ago I could not even use the natural version found in many fruits on my skin (certain fruits contains low amounts of these acids and also enzymes), though my skin loves the natural acids and enzymes in fruits now! (I use fruits in scrubs and masks to exfoliate my skin).
People's skin also change over time too, so what works for someone now may not work for them later. I used to not be able to use one lab active, hyaluronic acid or HA, on my face (but my body skin loved it) but now my skin likes that lab active very much (I only use it occasionally though and not on a regular basis, since my skin likes other ingredients more! Also HA is often derived from roosters, so I use vegan HA instead of the kind derived from animals). I try the lab vitamin C from time to time, as well as natural ingredients that didn't work for me in the past. (I will NEVER try retinols again though, because the past damage was that bad. Plus I like natural ingredients, like vitamin A in plant ingredients, better anyways). Many other herbalists who have been using naturals for decades have amazing skin. I truly believe natural ingredients are one of the reasons why my skin is so healthy despite my health issues. But as mentioned in my anb article, what works for someone else, may not work for you. So good skin care always takes a bit of experimentation to find out what is right for you, whether you choose something natural, naturally derived or standardized natural extracts, or lab actives (which range from natural to synthetic, and everything in between).