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Preservatives in Cosmetics

Preservatives and Cosmetics

Preservatives and Cosmetics - are they necessary?

YES!  This is something that is a thorn in my side.  Having been in the cosmetic business for 15 years, you see all kinds of things.  One hot topic is preservatives and cosmetics.  There is so much pressure on the cosmetic industry, large and small.  A very disturbing trend I have seen over and over is the purpose elimination of the preservative on the label! Not only is this illegal, it is misleading and confusing to consumers. Also very frustrating to other companies. Preservatives and cosmetics just like food and preservatives are sometimes necessary.

This past weekend I saw yet another company with a lotion on their table where the first ingredient was water and no preservative on their label anywhere.  You might say “well what’s wrong with that”?  Well let’s look at

The FACTS about Preservatives and Cosmetics

Preservatives and cosmetics go hand in hand in many cases.  A preservative MUST be added to any skin care product that contains a liquid. Liquid such as water, aloe vera, milk, fruit and vegetable juices etc. Think about your pure orange juice.  What is going to happen if you leave it on the counter for 2 weeks? It is going to start to smell and grow fuzzy things.  Well the same is true for other products that contain a liquid like that.  These liquids encourage mold, fungus, yeast and bacteria growth. Some of these can be very detrimental to human health.  I actually know of a lady that got a skin infection on her hands from an unpreserved cream.  She is now scarred for life but learned a hard lesson.

Products WITHOUT a liquid. 

Products with no water type liquid in them such as skin balms, oil scrubs, most lip balms etc do NOT require a preservative.  Bacteria, mold, fungus and yeast can only grow in a product that contains a water type liquid. But they do require an anti-oxidant such as vitamin E to prevent the oils from going rancid.  Rancidity makes products smell funny like their old and sometimes fishy. Contrary to some claims Vitamin E is NOT a preservative.  It does not inhibit mold, bacteria, yeast or fungus. Be wary of any person or company that states Vitamin E is their preservative.  Run!  Run far away.

What about Natural Preservatives and Cosmetics?

The first thing I say to this is “don’t you think if they were effective enough every cosmetic company would be using them”?  Cosmetic companies do not want to add synthetic preservatives to their products.  They MUST in order to extend the shelf life for the end consumer while keeping it safe to use.  But in our opinion there are responsible choices that can be made.  Natural preservatives such as essential oils can help but are not an effective preservative on their own.  In order for them to be completely effective they must be used in such large amounts that they would be unsafe to the consumer.  Just because something is natural does not mean it can’t hurt you or you can’t be allergic to it.

Grapefruit see extract is a whole other story.  Many companies tout this natural preservative but is it really natural?   A German study of six commercial grapefruit seed extracts (GSE) showed that five of these products contained benzethonium chloride, a synthetic antimicrobial often used in cosmetics and other topical preparations, as well as the preservatives triclosan and methylparaben. It was also noted that the GSE that did not have a synthetic preservative showed very little antimicrobial action (meaning it won’t preserve by itself).  You can read here and here about GSE.  Note where they say in order to stay ahead of the testing that the manufacturers are actually changing the synthetic preservatives contained in the GSE!  Yes, this is the world we live in folks.  So that grapefruit seed extract lotion you are using is probably not so natural.  The same goes for other extracts like aloe vera etc.  If it contains a liquid such as water it MUST have a preservative or you will have to use it up within a couple weeks and store it in the fridge.  Is there an effective natural preservative on the market that is going to keep your product from becoming contaminated or growing beasties for an extended amount of time?  Not really and the ones that are actually 100% natural usually have a harsh odor that is very difficult to cover.  They also will not give the extended shelf life needed.  Remember products go through transport, sit on the shelf and then have to be used up.  This can be 2 years sometimes and longer!

So what should you look for?

Don’t be afraid to ask a company how long their products lasts or what their preservative is and at what percentage.  Then make an informed decision.  Here at Nature’s Natural Solutions we believe in “responsible” skin care.  Skin care that is formulated with safe ingredients and as natural as possible.  There are many responsible choices when it comes to a safe effective preservative.  It doesn’t have to be a paraben, a formaldehyde releasers or isothiazolone. Many are also used at 1% or less!  Combine that with natural ingredients and you have a product that is 99% natural.  There is also Ecocert approved preservatives as well that are approved for use in organic cosmetics but can be used by any company.

Preservatives and cosmetics are a fact of life but there are responsible choices and that is the key to a safe and effective product!