Why are preservatives used in skin care products?
Preservatives become necessary to insure a bacteria free formula in most creams and lotions that contain water (aqueous solutions).
It is estimated more than 90%of all personal care and cosmetic products contain one or more of the paraben family of preservatives, and with the time it takes for products to ship from overseas manufacturers via storage at your wholesaler/distributor to your shelves and finally your customers, months may have elapsed before the product is finally used.
With airtight packaging and controlled storage this is not as bigger problem as it used to be, however once opened, without some form of preservative, damage to the product from air, light and the growth of micro-organisms (eg, bacteria and fungi) can occur.
This could have a far worse effect on the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes than the presence of a preservative would. In a worst-case scenario, the product will start to go off and may even start growing potentially pathogenic organisms.
As a conclusion, preservatives are used as a response to health, hygiene and commercial necessities.
The most common used preservatives are paraben derivates: they are cheap, widely used and completely toxic to bacteria. The unfortunate side effect is that parabens are also toxic to human, lead to allergies and cause cancer. Most of the negative press preservatives get refers to two common types of preservatives; Parabens (butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben) and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (2-bromo-2-nitropane 1-3 diol, DMDM hydantoin).
The effects of parabens in the skin are cumulative. That is why is so important to curtail your use of any cosmetic that contains parabens.
Are there any safe preservatives?
Natural and Organic cosmetics haveintroduced the notion of safer preservatives by using herbal acids. The most commonly used natural preservatives areNeemOil, Vitamin E (d-alpha Tocopherol, Honey, Rosemary Extract, Grapefruit SeedExtract, caprylol glycin (a plant derived lipo-aminoacid )and Sodium Hydroxymethylgycinate (organic preservative plant derived from the amino acid glycine). They maintain aqueous formulas free of bacteria, but for shorter periods of time. Therefore, the shelf life of these products is much shorter: it often does not exceed 8 months. You have to check very carefully the expiration date on the label of any organic cosmetic.
How can I avoid preservatives altogether?
The only type of cosmetics that do not need preservatives are those that are oil based: Any product that contains water (including flower water, herbal infusions, Aloe Vera) NEED a preservative.
Oil based cosmetics need to be protected only from light and excessive heat: that is why most of pure oils and oil based serums come in dark tinted bottles.
If you move away from the traditional creams and lotions towards oil based serums, like THE ONE, you are taking a huge step towards insuring the most natural, preservative-free skincare routine for yourself!