Preservatives prolong the shelf life of a product and protect water-based products from contamination and microbial and mold growth. A preservative is a natural or synthetic ingredient that is added to a product to keep it safe from spoilage. Oils do not require preservatives because microbes cannot grow in a water-free environment. A necessary part of formulating, preservatives ensure the microbiological safety and stability of a product and prevent it from changing over time. Without preservation, your skincare product wouldn’t stay fresh, effective or safe to use for very long.
Traditional skincare products are loaded with artificial preservatives to help them remain fresh for the duration between the date of manufacture and the time you finish using it. Some commonly used chemical preservatives that safeguard against bacteria and fungi to extend the shelf life of a product are:
- Organic acids, such as benzoic acid, sorbic acid, levulinic acid, anisic acid
- Aldehydes, such as formaldehyde
- Glycol ethers, such as phenoxyethanol and caprylyl glycol
- Isothiazolinones, such as methylisothiazolinone
- Parabens, such as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.
Chemical preservatives work by irritating the cell walls of bacteria and entering and killing them as a result, That’s why they are effective but that’s also why they can be hazardness. Chemical preservatives can’t distinguish between bacterial or human cells. If you’re applying to your face skincare products everyday, these harsh chemicals can get absorbed and build up in your body over time.
Well known Preservative like parabens have been widely used as the go-to preservative since the 50’s. With scientific studies generating concern over their effect on the environment and health, parabens have become quite the controversial ingredient. And for good reason: Methylparaben, with its reputation for being an endocrine disruptor, has no place in any skincare product.
This nasty chemicals aren’t just hard to pronounce, they’re very hard on skin. Synthetically produced preservatives may be great at keeping bacteria away but they’ve also been linked to allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, irritation and lots of serious health problems.
PLANTS IN SKINCARE
Did you know that plants make such ideal skincare ingredients? They are able to be a powerful preservative and skin-restorative at the same time. Plants continuously have to fight off different microbes including bacteria and fungi in order to thrive in any environment. To protect themselves against pathogens, plants produce an arsenal of antimicrobial chemicals, antimicrobial proteins, and antimicrobial enzymes that serve as plant defense mechanisms. Botanicals also contain powerful antioxidants which also function as preservatives to prevent oxidation of the natural ingredients in a formula. plants are nourished by the pure mineral spring waters that flow through the mountains and nutrient-rich soils that have been untouched for centuries.
Smart brand like I’m Fabulous Cosmetics are using antioxidants and essential oils with preservative properties—such as turmeric, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and tea tree—and they’re even redesigning packaging to limit exposure to air and patented Miron violet glass packaging to keep the active ingredients alive and super fresh, Dr. Lyrac, says.
Safe preservatives list includes:
Food grade preservatives (like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate); alcohols (organic ethanol, grape alcohol, benzyl alcohol, and witch hazel); and a short list of others that are sourced from plants (like gluconolactone, ethylhexyglycerin, triiostearyl citrate) and some that are synthetic but non-toxic preservatives, like dehydroacetic acid.
Beware of “greenwashing,” or brands that represent themselves as cleaner than they are. One sign? They say they are not using parabens but instead are using formaldehyde slow-releasers: They appear as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and diazolidinyl urea.