Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Worth It? An Investigation

Picking out an engagement ring is no easy feat—and if you think it is, you definitely haven’t spent enough time thinking about it. (Just kidding! Please tell me your secrets.) There are so many factors to consider: exactly how bankrupt are you hoping this ring will leave you? What’s your ring size (and will you still wear that size in six months, or will your sweating for the wedding routine throw everything off?) Are the 4 Cs (cut, color, clarity, carat) everything you dreamed? And finally, the main event: assuming that you’re springing for a diamond ring, should you go for mined or lab-grown diamonds?

I’ll be totally honest: I hear a lot of bad things about the ethics of diamond sourcing, but I’m also shallow as hell and don’t like the idea of my forever ring being anything but 100% legit. So, I spoke with a rep from Clean Origin, a laboratory-grown diamond company featured in Vogue, W Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and even Betches. They answered all my questions about WTF lab-grown diamonds are, and how they’re different from buying a “real” diamond. If you’ve been wondering the same thing, read on.

What Are The Pros Of Lab-Grown Diamonds?

Since I was talking to a lab-grown diamond company, I figured I’d kick things off with a softball. Per the representative I spoke with, “lab-created diamonds are affordable, conflict-free and environmentally sustainable alternative to mined diamonds.” When asked to expand on each of those points (affordable diamonds? Tell me more), they clarified that lab-grown diamonds are typically “20-30%” less expensive than mined diamonds. Apparently, lab-created diamonds follow a simpler process than mined diamonds, which means “less costs get passed onto the consumer.”

As for their ethical benefits, lab-grown diamonds have the advantage of not being “mined using exploited labor,” and are thus “the only diamonds that can be trusted to be truly conflict-free.” Lab-grown diamonds also sidestep “the environmental impact of extracting mined diamonds from the earth,” which, upon further research, is not a negligible impact. Per Diamond Foundry, “even the most ‘sustainable’ mining site” unearths “up to 250 tons of earth for a single carat of diamond.” Considering that lab-grown diamonds unearth exactly zero tons of earth, it does seem more sustainable and responsible.

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Calling all pave ring lovers! Every single diamond from Clean Origin is 100% man-made — even the ones on the band! This isn't the case for all lab-grown jewelers, so always be sure to ask. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #cleanorigin #labgrowndiamonds #engagementring #diamondring #diamonds #engagementinspo

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Is There A Visible Difference?

According to Clean Origin, lab-created diamonds are “atomically identical” to mined diamonds. The only difference is that they came out of a lab instead of the ground, and there’s no way to tell from looking at a ring whether the diamond is mined or lab-grown. I was kind of skeptical of this answer TBH (if they look identical, why isn’t literally everyone buying lab-grown diamonds?!), but the internet at large confirms this. Back in 2015, Popular Science ran a piece claiming that lab-grown diamonds were “so indistinguishable to the naked eye that the diamond industry in an arms race to produce machines that discern lab-grown from natural ones, in order to keep the synthetics from flooding the market.”

First of all, the diamond industry needs to take an enormous chill pill—but I have to say, I’m impressed to see how much the lab-grown diamond industry has gotten to them.

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds Synthetic?

In my lab-grown diamond research, I noticed a lot of outlets using the term “synthetic” to describe any diamond that wasn’t mined. Curious whether this was an appropriate designation, I checked in with Clean Origin, and apparently, the term “synthetic” is on its way out. Here’s how it was explained to me, starting with the basics of what a diamond really is: “A diamond is pure crystalized carbon; a diamond is a diamond whether it is grown in a lab or comes out of the ground.” The Clean Origin rep continued, “The term synthetic is not accurate—in fact the Federal Trade Commission recently ruled that lab-grown diamonds ARE real diamonds and can no longer be called ‘synthetic.'”

The Gemological Institute of America (what, not familiar?) is on the FTC’s side, and has updated its language for all certificates issued for lab-grown diamonds. Per their website, “the grading lab will no longer use the term synthetic when referring to diamonds created in a lab, either inside its reports, or in the title. The new reports will also feature the same 4 Cs descriptions found on the GIA’s grading reports for natural diamonds.” In other words, any reports you see referring to lab-grown diamonds as either “synthetic” or “fake” are pure and utter bullsh*t: they’re made from the exact same material as any other “real” diamond, and the only difference is that no one died for it. (Kidding! I think?)

I’m sure it sounds like I’m coming down hard on the side of lab-grown diamonds, but, well, I am. The price point makes a big difference to me, and frankly, I’m all about scientific improvements on outdated methods. After all, modern technology is behind most of my beauty routines—why shouldn’t it be in my jewelry too? That being said, I totally understand if you have a sentimental attachment to the idea of a diamond that’s found in nature. Just really, truly do your due diligence to make sure that diamond is ethically sourced—it’s 2019, and you have no excuse not to.

Images: Izabelle Acheson / Unsplash;  @cleanorigin @pleasereturntocesar/ Instagram; @TheEconomist / Twitter

What Is Toner, Why Do You Need It, & Which One Do You Need?

Let me start off by saying that I am not a skincare expert. I am just a 24-year-old human woman. One who discovered six months ago that my college skin care routine (“washing most nights, probably”) was no longer going to cut it. I’m lucky enough not to deal with serious acne. But all the “minor” concerns (dullness, dryness, redness, inexplicable bumpiness)? You bet. SO, I did what all good shopaholics journalists do best: research. I went into a very deep, surprisingly Korean internet blackhole, and emerged with a four-step skincare routine. Cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer. Duh. Of all these steps, toner was the one I resisted most—and the one I still find most confusing. Since I’m sure I’m not alone in this, I’ve written up my findings on this v important topic. What is toner, why do we all apparently need it, and which one is best? Please enjoy.

What Is Toner?

First and foremost, toner is very different than it used to be. The toner I remember from high school was glorified rubbing alcohol prescribed by particularly vindictive dermatologists. But today’s toners are so much more. A good toner can help you even out texture and tone (duh), shrink the appearance of pores, and leave your skin super soft and glowing.  To get technical, one skin care specialist describes toner as a way to “complete the cleansing of your skin.” Apparently, cleansers “can leave a film on your face” that toner strips off. Which really makes me question why I’m using cleanser in the first place, but k.

If you want a buzzier description of what toner does, Allure describes it as “a fast-penetrating liquid that delivers skin a quick hit of hydration and helps remove some dead cells off the surface of the skin.” (Seriously, are cleansers removing anything?) And in case I have any toner nerds in the comments, I’ll also mention toner’s effects on pH level. Apparently, a good toner functions by resetting your skin’s natural acidic pH. You can read more here, or just trust me that it means you’ll look good and resist more bacteria. Two equally sexy goals, am I right?

Finally, what is toner actually made of? The general answer is water, plus some combination of acids, glycerin, essential oils, plant extracts, and more. Kewl. Some toners still contain alcohol, but it’s not recommended unless oil is your main problem.

TL;DR: Toners are a water-based product will give you a more thorough cleanse, prep your skin to absorb your moisturizing products, and overall improve skin’s appearance and texture over time.

How Do I Use It?

You should think of toner as a chaser for your cleanser and a primer for your serum/moisturizer. If you’re particularly anal, you should apply toner no more than 60 seconds after cleansing. Apparently, that’s when your skin will absorb it best. After, you apply any serums/moisturizers/eye creams. My favorite explanation for how this works is given by Charlotte Cho, co-founder of Soko Glam. “Your skin is like a dried-up sponge,” she says (adds up). “If you put thick cream on a brittle dry sponge, it won’t accept it.” If this doesn’t make you spiral into self-doubt about every time you’ve put $70 moisturizer on your bone-dry face, congratulations. Can’t say the same.

As for like, how do you literally put it on your face—you have two options. You can read the instructions on the bottle (some recommend cotton pads while others say to use your fingers).  Or you can really make a day of it and attempt to follow the K-beauty “7 Skin Method.” I’d make a joke here about “who has the time for that,” but I watched a full season of American’s Next Top Model last weekend. I have the time for that.

Patting tips as you try the '7 Skin Method' : Start from the U-zone (cheeks – chin) to T-zone (forehead – nose) and finish with a massage on the neck in an upwards motion. Your U-zone is naturally drier while your T-zone is oilier, so you want to start hydrating the drier parts of the skin immediately after your cleansing step. Katie and I had a blast ???? today sharing our tips and demo'ing layering our fave essence toners on @glowrecipe's Facebook live ???? Thanks everyone for tuning in, we really enjoyed talking to you guys! If you're curious about this #kbeauty trend, my review is on our blog ????link in bio #sarahglowtips

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Okay, What Kind Of Toner Should I Buy?

Now you’re asking the important questions. The answer, of course, depends on your skin type. Generally speaking, Korean brands like Soko Glam will have great options, because their toner never went through the gross alcohol phase that American toners did. But beyond that, you should figure out your skin’s needs (or see a dermatologist to find out) and pick ingredients based off that.

For sensitive skin, chamomile, aloe vera, and amino acids all help calm/soothe. Some good picks include Mizon Intensive Skin Barrier Emulsion and Exuviance Soothing Toning Lotion. For oily skin, alcohol will help kill oil and shine, but so does witch hazel—and the latter is less drying. Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract Toner is my personal fave, and Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic is another beloved one on the market. For dry skin, glycerin, essential oils, and rosewater are all key hydrating ingredients. Try the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner or Caudalie Beauty Elixir. For dull, uneven skin, try Son & Park Beauty Water, which has both exfoliating and hydrating properties.

Oh, and whatever you do, stop buying Neutrogena toner. I usually love Neutrogena, but their crazy-drying alcoholic toners (yes, even and especially the “Alcohol-Free” toner) are the reason it took me so long to come around to real toner. I used that shit for two weeks and I may as well have been washing my face in Svedka. If you need any further convincing, take a look at their spokesperson. I rest my case.

That’s all the wisdom I have today! But my recent skincare tear is showing no signs of stopping, so stay tuned for upcoming reviews of dermarolling, Hanacure, and how to file for bankruptcy when you’ve spent all your money on Korean beauty products.

Images: Giphy (2); sarah_glow / Instagram

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