Like I explained in the greenwashing post, I hate scaremongering. Honestly, truly. I absolutely hate when brands market products as being free of A, giving A a bad name when A is actually innocent. Preservatives in skincare have been on the receiving end of misplaced hate and fear lots of times.
Truth is preservatives have done nothing to warrant all of that. Preservatives are not necessarily bad in products and more often than not, are actually needed. Preservatives are used to prevent the growth of microbes (bacteria, yeast and molds), prevent spoilage and extend shelf life life in personal care products.
Preservatives fight against contamination which leads to spoilage and possible irritations and infections. Contaminated products can be very bad accidents waiting to happen and the use of preservatives helps in curbing those.
Why Do We Need Preservatives in Skincare
If a product contains water, (with water covering a whole range of ingredients like aloe vera, goat milk, floral water) it needs preservatives. It is most likely that a product will come in contact with water, in which case it needs preservatives. Which is why I’ve learned to stay away from the so called natural products brands that waste no time in slapping on those “paraben-free” and “preservatives-free” labels on their products. Preservatives are what enables products to stay on the shelves for long months without going bad.
Can Antioxidants Be Used As Preservatives in Skincare?
Long story short, No. Antioxidants however, can be uses to extend shelf life of oils by slowing down their oxidation so that they don’t go rancid but they do not prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast or mild.
Most productswith natural ingredients are more susceptible to microbial growth becaus elf the presence of more bio-available nutrients for bacteria to thrive on.
Just like anything else, there are toxic and non-toxic preservatives
Naticide, a pleasant-smelling, vegetable-derived preservative with vanilla and almond scent used to preserve cosmetic formulations. It can be used as a fragrance too.
Glyceryl Caprylate is a co-emulsifier and multi functional plant based ingredient that is conditioning for the skin and also used as a preservative due to its anti microbial nature.
Other non-toxic preservatives are Benzyl alcohol and dehydroacetic acid.
Toxic preservatives to look out for are:
Benzisothiazolinone- which is mostly found in hand washes and is cytotoxic to lung cells and creates free radicals damage.
Diazolidinyl urea and Imodazolidinyl urea which are preservative ingredthat release formaldehyde which is a carcinogen.