Preservatives in Skincare: Good, Bad or Ugly?
Lets start with the basics. What is a preservative and why are they commonly found in skincare?
A preservative is a substance that prevents contamination from occurring, prolonging the shelf life of a product. They do this by killing potentially harmful bacteria, yeast and fungi. These three contaminants can thrive in skincare products, especially when formulas are water-based or utilise botanical extracts.
So if they are protecting us, what is the problem?
These ingredients are designed to kill micro-organisms. In doing so, they can be damaging to us too. Preservatives have a tendency to cause allergic reactions and some have even been linked to serious health concerns such as cancer. There are very few natural options that are effective in stopping the risk of contamination.
I don’t like the sound of that!
Fortunately, a good formula will only require very small amounts of preservative- they should be found at the very end of the ingredient list. Their concentrations are so low that they shouldn’t cause any sensitising issues or health concerns.
For those of us who are truly on a path to cut out anything synthetic from our lives, there are formulas out there without any synthetic preservatives. A good option is to look for products that are oil or aloe-vera based over water based, as these are more likely to be able to avoid the need for a synthetic preservative.
Natural skincare brands are paving the way with new formulas. These are, at times, more expensive than commercial skincare, but customers are paying attention and demanding clarity in the ingredients they’re putting on their skin. Sometimes, irritations can still occur from a natural product. It doesn't necessarily mean that the ingredients are bad for you, they just aren't quite the right fit for your skin type. It's always best to patch test any new product first.
What is ATURA’s stance?
Obviously we love natural. We hate greenwashing. But mostly, we want to encourage transparency. We feel that empowering the consumer to make their own, well informed decisions will lead to the right choices being made. ATURA takes the hard work out by ensuring that you are offered the most health conscious and eco-friendly options, but ultimately the decision on which product is worthy of your hard earned money lies with you.
Some of the products we sell do contain preservatives, otherwise they would be a health risk. We have made sure to select brands that strive for natural preservatives. Synthetic preservatives will only ever be tolerated in extremely minimal quantities. Our aim over coming weeks is to highlight these and link them to further information. And of course, you would never find one from our ‘no-no’ list (read here).
Ultimately, we have judged each brand, product and ingredient to be of the highest quality and adhering to ATURA’s values (find them here). We are all about being open and honest and will be up front if there is anything that might be of concern to our valued customers. If you like what we're doing, or if you can see there is room for improvement, we always seek and encourage your feedback.
- This is a great little piece on ethical blogger Ethical Unicorn's (Francesca Willow) website which details an interview between Leah Wise from StyleWise and Kerrie Pierce from Kitsune's Closet. It dispels some natural beauty myths and clarify's a few issues people have with preservatives. ethicalunicorn.com/2017/03/16/the-truth-behind-natural-beauty-myths/
- Natural Beauty by Karen Gilbert, 2011, CICO Books, UK