So, what is a preservative really? A preservative is a naturally occurring or synthetically produced chemical that is added to skincare products to prevent proliferation of microbes and the consequent decomposition of your skincare product through microbial growth or undesirable chemical changes. We use preservatives in everything from cosmetics to food. You must remember that they are there to serve a purpose…to protect you from bacteria, fungus and yeast. We follow a very simple mantra. The risk of using preservatives is significantly lower than that of using unpreserved water based cosmetics. If you're wondering whether the preservatives in your skincare products are safe, the answer is "YES!" but only if you're talking about the ‘right ones’. There are preservatives that are known to be irritants and carcinogens, but there are also some that do not have side effects and are just as efficient in preserving skincare products totally accepted in natural skincare formulating. It is crucial to know which preservatives, whether synthetic or natural, are suitable for your skin.
We must first acknowledge that cosmetic preservatives are not the bad guys. Think about the setting spray or finishing powder you use while applying makeup. Do you really want to spend so much time perfecting it just to have it vanish after a few hours? No, you want it to stay all night!
In this blog we will discuss the functions of preservatives in skincare products, the safety of preservatives, the dangers of preservatives, the best natural preservatives for skin care, and the reasons why we at NESARA by Nicky use them.
The role of preservatives in Skincare
As the outermost layer of our bodies, our skin plays a vital role in protecting us. It prevents damage from outside factors and aids in thermoregulation, infection prevention and more. Our skin reacts to the environment and can change to fit it. This includes the skincare products we use on it.
The pH range of 4-6.5 is considered ideal for skin. The acidity or alkalinity of a given environment is measured in terms of its pH. Many microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, fungus, yeasts) cannot survive in an environment with a pH level below 4 or over 10, but they flourish in a pH environment comparable to our skin, therefore knowing the pH level is crucial.
While we can create products on the extreme ends of the pH scale to restrict microbial growth, the products would likely irritate or harm our skin. Therefore, we rely on preservatives to produce a hostile habitat for bacteria and keep the pH level at a comfortable level for our skin.
Simply put, preservatives in skincare products stop harmful microorganisms like yeast, bacteria and mould from multiplying.
The same way that food needs preservatives to survive more than a few days, skincare products need to be preserved to last more than a few weeks. Because mould and bacteria and yeast can grow quickly in cosmetics, we'd have to use up entire bottles of cleansers, moisturisers, and the like in only a week or two.
Any product containing water needs a preservative to make it last long.Considering the high-water content of most skin care products, they are an ideal breeding ground for germs and other nasties. Due to this, naturally formulated skin care products are even more vulnerable than their synthetic chemicals’ based counterparts.
Are Preservatives in Skincare Safe?
Simply put, yes, although it depends on which ones. Because they prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast and mould, generally preservatives in skincare make them less of a risk to use thereby eliminating chances of damaging the skin or causing skin infections
But there are some skin care preservatives that aren't safe and should be avoided, not just because they can irritate the skin but because they can create major health problems due to the harsh chemicals they contain.
The following are examples of typical preservatives to avoid:
Formaldehyde- We know what you're thinking, and yes, it's the same formaldehyde used to embalm the dead! Formaldehyde may be fine for the deceased, but it could mean catastrophe for the living. In addition to causing discomfort, formaldehyde is suspected of causing a wide variety of diseases, including leukaemia and brain tumours, which is why it never should be used in skincare products.
Parabens- Parabens, another frequent preservative, are also on our long list of ingredients to avoid. Parabens are thought to cause cancer in the same way that formaldehyde does. Because of their ability to act like oestrogen, they may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
Ureas- Aside from the fact that urea is also a potential irritant, this preservative is also a formaldehyde releaser, which is why we steer away from it.
Hydantoin DMDM- Even though DMDM hydantoin, which is a formaldehyde releaser like ureas, is commonly used in skin care, it is not present in any NESARA by Nicky products.
Quaternium-15- Yes, another formaldehyde producing preservative and hence, a non-starter for us!
Hydroxyanisole butylated- Butylated hydroxyanisole may pose a cancer risk, and you may have seen warnings about this on store shelves if you live in or have visited particular areas. If that doesn’t scare you off, consider this: butylated hydroxyanisole (or BHA as it’s frequently known), is forbidden as a food preservative worldwide from Japan to the EU.
Note: BHA is not related to BHAs or beta hydroxy acids in any way. It's purely coincidental that they share an initial.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives that can be used as safe preservatives in skin care products:
Phenoxyethanol- This naturally occurring preservative, which results from the reaction of phenol (EU) and ethylene oxide (EU), is perfectly safe to use at concentrations of 1% or less. This natural preservative can be found in green tea and chicory, and it has been given the seal of approval by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. Although it occurs naturally, it can also be developed artificially. Phenoxyethanol is not suitable for new-borns and young children to ingest, thus it should not be applied to skin where they might suckle.
Benzyl alcohol- like phenoxyethanol, is produced synthetically yet occurs naturally. It is naturally occurring in plants, teas, and some fruits.
Sodium benzoate - We employ this all-natural component because it has been shown to have effective antimicrobial properties in skin care products without causing any harm. Salt that occurs naturally in plums and prunes acts as an effective antifungal agent.
Potassium Sorbate- Much like its salty relative sodium benzoate, is an excellent natural preservative. It can be found in nature (especially in berries), but it can also be produced in a lab.
Ethylhexylglycerin- This colourless liquid is an effective substitute for parabens, and it can be found in coconut and palm oils
Why NESARA by Nicky Includes Preservatives in Our Skin Care
Even though the term "preservatives" may make some people think of harsh, unnatural chemicals, the reality is that most skincare products wouldn't survive more than a few days without them. Without preservatives, skin care products would quickly get infected with bacteria and mould (not necessarily visible to the human eye), requiring frequent replacement of cleansers, toners, and moisturisers.
The good news is that modern skincare preservatives have come a long way, and now include options that are both effective and gentle enough to use on your face without posing any long-term health risks like irritation or infection.
Preserving Your Skincare Products
The best way to maintain the integrity of your skin care products is to follow the storage instructions carefully and only use the product until they're due to expire. Never risk the formulae in your skincare products by exposing them to direct sunlight; instead, keep them in a cool, dark place. To avoid spreading bacteria or mould, always use clean hands or a spatula and make sure to tightly seal containers after use.
Note the "open jar" shelf life of each product as well. To check this, look for the open jar symbol on the packaging or product container. If you look at the open jar icon, you'll see the number of months that the product will remain usable after being opened. Opened cosmetics that are past their use-by or expiration dates should be thrown away. And always remember that if you have any doubts about the quality and safety of a product, throw it and replace it with a fresher one.
By now, you should realise that preservatives are crucial to the longevity of skincare products. While it would be ideal if cosmetics or skincare products didn't require any preservatives, we do have faith in a number of natural and reliable ones.
If you've been using skincare with harmful preservatives or preservative-free skincare products out of fear, it’s time to make the switch to skincare that use safer preservatives.