Healthy Aging Resources

Live Life to the Full in Optimal Health

  • Jun 13

    Are preservatives necessary in skincare? To Preserve or Not Preserve – That is The Question!
    by Bea Kinnear, Author Your Skin & You, 5th Edition

    Obviously, no one wants to be using creams loaded with harmful chemicals, but would much rather “Go Natural” or “Green”, but knowing how and why these skincare products are preserved, or not preserved, is very important to your health.

    Preservatives in skincare are necessary due to creams and lotions being formulated with water to help emulsify the ingredients. This gives the product the incredible texture we know and love. Even though the thought of a naturally preserved product sounds perfect to us, it can provide a haven for yeast, mould, bacteria and fungi. Those natural ingredients we strive for, also produce natural sugars and in a moist environment, plant extracts provide microorganism’s their favourite food source.

    The only time you can typically get away from preservatives, is in products where no water is added. An example of this is thick body butter scrubs, where ingredients are strictly melted and whipped together. They are not emulsified, so water is unnecessary, however, you should still look for some preservatives in these due to the fact body scrubs are used where? In your shower and what is in the shower? Water! Many of us don’t stop to think about it, but when using these products close to water, or dipping your wet fingers into the jar, water has now been introduced and microorganisms can begin to grow. This also includes naturally created shampoos and conditioners.

    There is a downside to purchasing preservative free or naturally preserved products. Preservative free products must be stored in the refrigerator immediately after opening. They must be made in the most sterile environment possible, and I do mean sterile. They should be used up within a few days to a week, despite what you may have been told by the seller.

    Microorganisms require water in order to grow. Having water available for the formula but not available to microbes was the first hurdle of several steps to attain Usana’s Sensé self-preserving technology.

    Constant dipping of fingers, steam from the bathroom or getting any kind of moisture inside the jar, will begin deteriorating the product and bacteria will multiply at an astounding rate unless they are sold in an airless pump.

    Refrigeration will not stop microorganisms from growing; it will only slow the rate a bit (a good example is the food in your fridge). If you are told they can withstand longer periods of time then you could call into question whether or not it is truly preservative free. Sometimes preservatives are left off the ingredient list or are masked under the label “other ingredients” or “fragrance”.

    Natural preservatives, (like essential oils) can buy a bit more time in the way of product life, usually up to 6 months shelf life before opening. After that, the product should be used up within 30 days. There are some natural preservatives known to be quite effective but they are not indestructible to air and water contamination, this essentially can make them ineffective against deterioration or oxidation and thus undependable.

    Essential Oils that have antiseptic properties and are shown to kill bacteria and fungi also can create sensitivities to the skin. Some people are allergic to essential oils and will develop a contact dermatitis or rash. Essential oils can also break down or evaporate every time you go into/open your favourite face cream.

    Grapefruit Seed Extract is a popular preservative natural lines like to use. It is a natural antibiotic, anti-septic and preservative found in many skin preparations. However, this ingredient is not as natural as some think. It is mainly synthetically produced from Grapefruit Seeds under a chemical synthesis involving catalysts and reagents under extreme heat to create the aforementioned extract. It also is known to contain Methylparaben and triclosan in commercial preparations. The natural grapefruit extract has not been shown to provide any antimicrobial protection whatsoever. So typically it is the latter of these two inserted contaminants that are preserving the skincare product not the grapefruit extract. (Note: triclosan is on the Canadian Hot List due to its chemical similar molecular structure to some toxic chemicals like PCBs, and dioxins, page 523, Consumers Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, 6th Edition)

    Since Parabens are on everyone’s mind these days, it is very important how you handle your comments about them. Research to date has not proven they cause breast cancer with regard to the U.K. study, that found the presence of intact parabens in all 20 samples of human breast tumors (Source: Journal of Applied Toxicology, Volume 24, Number 1, 2004) (Dr. Darbre interview: BBC News Item 11/01/04). Further research needs to be done to answer key questions on that particular discovery.

    The first question regards the long belief that Parabens flushed out of the body. This discovery of several Parabens in each cancer tissue examined tells scientists that this past belief was not correct.

    The second question is how the parabens got there and most important, were they the cause of the cancer. Until these very important questions can be answered through more research, is it worth the risk of using products with Parabens until we have those answers?

    In any preservative system one question is about how long something can be stored. Shelf life is shorter for jars since lids come fully off and fingers are dipping into the products. Airless pumps, tubes and squeeze bottles don’t allow air to get in and the product is dispensed into the hand, therefore shelf life is extended.

    Not all natural things are necessarily the best thing for you, just as not all chemicals are necessarily the worst. Don’t count on the glamour of the container, the price, comments like “good enough to eat”, “all natural”, “organic” or “no chemicals”! Do your homework!

    Bea Kinnear, Author Your Skin & You, 5th Edition

    For women 40+ who want to live life to the full and stay younger longer

    If you would like to find out which nutritional supplements are recommended for healthy aging plus more information about self-preserving skincare, please request my free eBook, by completing the form on your top right.

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