Since the paraben 'epidemic' in the early 2000's, the demand for preservative-free skin care has been rapidly on the rise. Thanks to EWG's Skin Deep website (www.ewg.org/skindeep), consumers are now able to easily research products and ingredients in skin, hair and and make up lines. Which is great, but there are many companies (both large and small) that still use parabens or have simply replaced parabens with other harmful preservatives. Another sneaky tactic these companies use is to hide ingredients and preservatives under other ingredients in the ingredients list (ie: aloe vera juice).
So how do you safely choose a product if you want to steer clear away from preservatives? And is it safe to use products that are not preserved? Read on for some quick tips:
1. If water/aqua is in the ingredient list, a preservative needs to be added. If it's not, this would not be a safe product to use. If there is no preservative on the ingredient list, the company is lying and is either not fully disclosing their ingredients, and/or are hiding ingredients in other ingredients (see #2 - aloe vera juice). This is not ok for so many reasons.
2. If Aloe Vera Juice, for example, is in the ingredient list, there are hidden preservatives in your product. AVJ (and any other liquid that includes water either naturally or added) needs to be preserved. If it's not, it will quickly go bad and start to deteriorate. Most companies purchase AVJ that is already bottled, and therefore already preserved . So it is up to the company making your skincare products to look into the ingredient list of the AVJ they buy to see what preservatives are being used. These preservatives should also be included on the ingredient label but many times is not. This is a classic example of a hidden ingredient.
3. Anhydrous products (meaning no water is added) are the ONLY products that do not need to be preserved. Many oils have a naturally long shelf life without the need for preservatives. Think of the coconut oil or olive oil you use for cooking, and check the expiry date: it is probably at least 1-2 years out. Now what you probably didn't know is that plant and vegetable oils are amazing for the skin, and many are rapidly absorbed without leaving a greasy film behind.
While olive oil and coconut oil are great for the skin, they take a long time to sink in because their molecules are large. However oils such as grapeseed and rosehip are rapidly absorbed and considered 'dry oils'. Properly formulated oil-based skin care products will absorb just as fast as mainstream products, and many oils also contain tons of skin loving benefits. These 'botanical skin bombs' can help with fine lines and wrinkles, cell turnover and skin issues such as eczema, rosacea, and dermatitis.
4. Organic ingredients are important, especially for leave on products like moisturizers. The reason for this is because select certified organic ingredients have been approved by the USDA and are guaranteed to be free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. The USDA has very strict guidelines and all rules and regulations must be met before they grant organic certification to farms, growers and suppliers for their raw materials.
The percentage of organic ingredients in products is also important. Although it is more difficult for a company to achieve a 100% organic product, it is not difficult to incorporate some organic ingredients into product formulations. But it is more expensive, which is why most companies won't do it. There are also many unethical companies that slap the word 'natural' and 'organic' on their label but they only contain a tiny amount of organic ingredients in them. Just take a read of this shocking article:
" A new survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission and the USDA found that many consumers mistakenly believe personal care products with organic claims meet government standards, even though most do not. A large number of consumers also mistakenly believe personal care products with organic claims contain only organic ingredients"
5. Find a company you can trust! This is not easy, and is one of the main reasons why I decided to launch Juji Skin (see 'My Story' for more on this). I wanted to know what I was putting on my body, and was fed up with the chemicals, greenwashing, animal testing and lies that are a constant in the skincare and cosmetic industry.
Look for a company who is honest, and not owned by a large conglomerate (ie: Body Shop is now owned by Loreal, Burts Bee's is now owned by Clorox, Mac is now owned by Estee Lauder and all these conglomerates still test their products on animals). A small, honest and educated skintrepreneur who can tell you about themselves, who has a serious passion for skin care, and who has done research on safe ingredients and good manufacturing practices is your best bet.
So are all preservatives dangerous? Absolutely not. But some are and should be avoided like the plague. If any type of paraben (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, heptylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben) is listed on the ingredient label of a product DON'T BUY IT! Skin Care companies have an obligation to use only safe ingredients in their products, but most don't. So if a company is still using parabens this is a very clear sign that they do not care about you or your health.
The great news is that there are new preservatives coming out all the time. Many are naturally derived and look very promising. But for now, I prefer to safely formulate without them and my body thanks me for it every day. Yours should too.