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Preservatives in Skincare: Good or Bad?

Posted on January 26 2022

There are two types of people in this world:

Person 1: Preservatives must be bad for the skin. Otherwise, why would countless brands purposely claim that their products are preservative-free? Surely that must be the main reason.

Person 2: Almost every cosmetic product on supermarket shelves or in cosmetic stores is formulated with preservatives. I am personally using products containing preservatives too, and nothing bad happens to my face. Preservatives are not bad for the skin.

The use of preservatives in skincare has been done since decades ago by countless cosmetics brands in order to prolong their products’ expiry date. Until today, debates are still going around on whether or not they are really safe for both the formula and the skin.

 

 

The question is, which one of them is truly correct? Are preservatives good? Or will they harm your skin? Worry not, below is everything that you need to know about preservatives and why they are used in most of your products.

 

Why Do Cosmetic Products Need Preservatives?

One word; microbes.

Microbes are tiny organisms that exist in the form of fungi, yeast and bacteria. They can be found on every surface of living things and items around you, including your favourite skincare products. While they are harmless in small quantities, they still have the ability to multiply rapidly under preservative-free conditions.

 

 

What happens when they start contaminating a product? Once applied to your face, these microorganisms will penetrate past your skin barriers and into your body, where they could cause all kinds of serious infections and health issues. Candida Albicans (a dimorphic fungus) is responsible for the athlete’s foot and can cause terrible breakouts. Pseudomonas (a bacterium) on the other hand, would elicit redness and wound drainage.

So while your face can stay healthy without any preservatives, your products definitely need them. If we have to choose between skincare that is preservative-free or microbe-free, it is safe to say that we will no doubt go for the latter.

 

Do All Products Need Preservatives?

In a nutshell, most products need preservatives to be free from microbes, while some can still thrive without any.  

Waterless products such as makeup remover in oils, pure moisturizing facial oils, cleansing powder and the like are natural suppressors for microbes. Bacteria, fungi and yeast need water to survive so they could never live in these conditions or textures. Thus, adding preservatives to these products is completely unnecessary.

 

 

So, the easiest way you can find out if the product is preservative-free is to check if it is waterless. For example, if you read the list of ingredients in our Mad Hippie Antioxidant Facial Oil, you will find that this plant essence is formulated solely with 18 pure, antioxidant-rich oils and nourishing essential fatty acids. Not a single drop of water and not a single dose of preservative.

Besides pure oil-based products, some products formulated in high concentrations of alcohol or solvent (which is extremely irritating) and surfactant (ingredients that do the washing, foaming or emulsifying), are also preservative-free.

 

Are Products with Preservatives 100% Safe?

While preservatives do prevent the growth of microbes, they are still not guaranteed to diminish the microorganisms completely and not affect your skin at all. There are two ways for you to understand this:

  1. Careless use of products can give birth to microbes. The environment you store your products in, and the way you use the products have a big effect on the effectiveness of the preservatives. Even if it is well-formulated with the most ideal ingredients, bad handling of the product can still contribute to the growth of harmful microbes.
  2. Factors like concentration, pH condition, and the types of preservatives incorporated in the product formulas have a big influence on whether or not the product may irritate certain skin.

Going back to the previous section, we did mention that pure oil-based products do not require any form of preservatives. But if you store these products under humid conditions after you bring them home, the high level of water vapour will get absorbed into the facial oils, especially if your products are contained inside a jar. Remember that microbes thrive in water so where there is moisture, there are microbes.

 

 

This is also why Worthee Cosmetics is strongly against the use of jar packaging. Imagine each time you open the lid and use your finger to dip inside the content. You are literally transmitting the invisible and detrimental microbes from your finger to your product.

Aesthetically, jars on the shelves may look beautiful and attractive to most consumers. This is the main idea that leads manufacturers to package their items in jars, which is to lure people into purchasing the products. However, pretty or not, jar packaging is never the cleanest and safest method of accommodating skincare ingredients.

The bottom line is, just like food, skincare products must have preservatives to last more than a matter of weeks, if not months. Preservatives are inevitable because of the delicate nature of skincare formulations and potential health hazards that could arise without them. While they are a necessity for most products, it is still important for you to go for formulas with safe and effective preservatives that would not affect your skin. So do not get terrified when you see preservatives in the list of ingredients and remember to avoid jar-packaged products at all costs.

 

Your Sharing: Are you more inclined to buying products without preservatives? Why or why not?

 

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