Avoiding Preservatives in Skin Care Protect the Body
Preservatives prevent spoilage in both food and cosmetic products.* Without preservatives, many skin care gels, creams, and lotions would become contaminated with bacteria. Cosmetic companies ensure their products have a long shelf-life (some upwards of seven years!) to prevent products from becoming contaminated. If you mistakingly use a contaminated product, whether store-bought or homemade, it can cause serious infections.
The paraben family–listed on cosmetic labels as methyl-, ethyl-, propyl- or butylparaben–is a commonly used preservative. Unfortunately, studies have linked parabens to decreased sperm counts and increased likelihood of cancer.
How to avoid chemical preservatives in cosmetics:
- look for natural preservatives when buying cosmetics. These include:
- grapefruit seed extract
- sorbic acid
- tocopherol (vitamin E)
- retinol (vitamin A)
- ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
- gum benzoin
- pycnogenol (a potent antioxidant).
- make your own skin care products. If there’s water in the recipe (and thus a potential for bacteria growth and infection), store the product in the refrigerator. Always make relatively small amounts and use product quickly to avoid contamination.
When shopping for cosmetics:
- Choose glass packaging over plastic to reduce exposure to toxins
- Try to avoid the following ingredients:
- Artificial Colors (experts believe many artificial colors are potential carcinogens)
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): These are crops whose genes have been scientifically altered. Corn and Soy are common ingredients in cosmetic and skincare products and often contain GMOs.
- DEA, MEA, and TEA (irritants to eyes and drying to hair and skin)
- Formaldehyde: a preservative with potential harmful long-term effects. Labeled as Imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and quaternium 15
- Fragrance: synthetic fragrances can have up to 200 separate ingredients, many of which are petroleum-based.
- Isopropyl alcohol: an antibacterial solvent made from petroleum.
- Methyl paraben (and all other parabens), which can irritate sensitive skin.
- Methylisothiazolinone: a preservative that commonly triggers irritation and allergic reactions
- Paraffin: an ingredient often derived from petroleum or coal
- Propylene glycol: provides moisture to cosmetics and is commonly derived from petroleum
- Sodium lauryl sulfate: a detergent that is extremely drying for the skin, which interferes with the skin’s barrier function and makes it more vulnerable to harmful chemicals and toxic invaders.
Wonderful brands that offer 100% natural, synthetic- and chemical-free skin care:
*To find out more about the harmful effects of preservatives found in food products, click here.
**I feel like I need to qualify this post, because if you were to look at my cosmetics case, you would see it is not just organic. I go through labels and try to minimize chemical ingredients…and there are certain things I always avoid. However, there are certain non-organic products I love. In a perfect world, they would have organic counterparts I could use, but until then…
Fairley, Josephine. Organic Beauty. Dorling Kindersley, London. 2001.