Where does one begin to understand preservatives in skin care? Using the Google isn't always helpful since there's so much conflicting information out there and thousands of alarmist websites that make you feel like using anything but plain water on your skin is going to give you terminal cancer.
The first thing to understand is that most skin care products need to be preserved in some way. If they aren't bacteria and mould will grow and they are known to cause irritation, allergies and skin sensitivities. Using preservatives is a good thing since sometimes a product can live on a shop shelf for a few weeks or months before it finds a good home. It can be daunting to figure out which ones are good and which ones are bad, and to make it even more complicated, some companies use the worst of the worst, some claim to be preservative-free, some use natural products and synthetic preservatives, and then there are the ones that go completely au-natural.
There are a lot of options for synthetic preservatives and they were adopted by most companies because they were cheap and did the job. The amount of preservatives in a product is usually low enough to not cause any problems. What was not accounted for is the number of different products us humans end up putting in contact with our bodies. We lather on moisturiser, body wash, shampoo and conditioners, makeup, sunscreen and the list goes on. This means that the unnatural preservatives can build up in our systems over time. So why may you want to stay away from synthetic preservatives? As time has gone one, science has been able to show that some of them are linked to health issues including reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, skin irritation and even cancer. Need we say more?
Ingredients to look out for: Parabens (Butylparaben, Methylparaben and Propylparaben, some of which have now been banned in the EU) Formaldehyde Releasers (DMDM Hydantoin, Bronopol, Glyoxal). Phenoxyethanol.
Luckily, it's not all doom and gloom. As demand increases, so does the options for natural preservatives. Staying away from the synthetic preservatives that keep popping up in the news for their long-term health effects is one of the reasons people have been looking for better products made from better ingredients and switching over to natural skin care. Naturally so, customers want to feel confident knowing that what they use on their skin isn’t affecting their health. And another thing that customers are getting increasingly concerned about is the effect that products we use have on the environment.
We’ve spent a lot of time looking into the natural preservation systems available, and developing the ones we use, which align with our ingredients philosophy of being edible, natural and non-irritating. After a lot of trial and error, we now use a Hops Extract (think hops in beer) which is also used in a lot of foods such as Apple Juice. The creams we make use this preservation system and have all passed preservative testing, so we're very happy with that. The things about Hops is that it comes with an "earthy" smell. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but some people aren't used to it and sometimes ask us if their product has gone off. Most commercial creams are packed with a synthetic fragrance that makes them smell like a bathtub full of roses or a citrus fruit juice.
Now let’s discuss “100% preservative-free”. Well, this sounds great, doesn’t it? But we can assure you, it can be the complete opposite. If it’s oil-based product then that’s fine as oils don’t usually provide the conditions necessary for bacteria, yeast and fungus to proliferate (fancy word for increase in numbers). If it’s a water-based product, then we think the brand isn’t being honest or doesn’t have enough knowledge about preservatives. A cream without preservatives is a cream with mould, bacteria, and microbial growth. Ewww! might be one way to describe it.
We get asked all the time why we use preservatives in general? And why can't we make our products preservative-free? Or why didn't we use Grapefruit Seed Extract or another "organic" preservative? We're always explaining that natural products like ours are food for bacteria and some bacteria like Staphylococcus Aureus are far more dangerous in skin care than the worst preservative. That's why we need to use a genuine preservative of some kind, because an unpreserved cream is a recipe for disaster, literally. If you have the time and the patience to make your own skin care at home, you'll quickly find out how fast it will go off, kind of like the fruits in your fruit bowl.
Still scratching your head about Preservatives? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have still, we would love to answer them.