The Plus Side of Preservatives

The Plus Side of Preservatives

June 6, 2013 9:03 pm 31,807 comments

hIf your shampoo and lotions are mold-free for more than a few days after you open them, they contain preservatives. Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing, finding a way to maintain freshness in personal care products is important, especially for super sensitive skin.

In this article…

  • What Are Preservatives Anyway?
  • Preserving the Use of Preservatives
  • Staying Fresh

In the world of skincare, the word ‘preservative’ has gotten a bad rap. Many of the most common chemical ones deserve their reputation for toxicity. But finding a way to maintain freshness in personal care products is important, especially for super sensitive skin.

What Are Preservatives Anyway?

Preservatives in your family’s soaps and lotions are not automatically a bad thing. For extra sensitive newborn baby skin care products, we definitely recommend playing it safe and using products that you know are fresh, pH balanced, doctor recommended, allergy tested and specifically designed for baby skin.

According to the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI), which sets the standard for how the ingredient list for personal care products have to be labeled, a preservative is defined as an ingredient whose primary purpose is to inhibit the development of micro-organisms in cosmetics and related products like cleansers, soaps and lotions. This keeps the products that you buy fresh and useable.

Some ingredients have properties that preserve, but they are not listed as preservatives in INCI nomenclature so the product can still claim ‘preservative free’. This can be more than a little confusing for most of us.

To rid your mind of the mumbo-jumbo, just think of it this way: if your shampoo and lotions are mold-free for more than a few days after you open them, they contain preservatives whether the manufacturer says they do or not.

Typically the preservatives used by major manufacturers include parabens, phenoxyethanol and other chemicals that probably deserve their negative reputation. These additives may extend your product’s shelf life but they can also mimic estrogens in the body or donate toxins and carcinigens like formaldehyde, and 1-4 dioxane.

Preserving the Use of Preservatives

It’s simply not always practical to mix your own soaps, lotions and other skin care treatments every day for your family’s use. This practice can be wonderful for the practiced mixer, but can also be unsafe for the inexperienced. Product pH levels can be off, stability can be volatile, and lots of other unexpected things can go wrong when mixing ingredients. Making great and super effective skincare products isn’t easy, and the need for stabilizers in the products you choose is real.

The key is choosing products that use naturally derived preservatives that aren’t harmful to you or your family. Although it may seem counterintuitive, those with sensitive skin are especially in need of well-preserved products as they can be more susceptible to the effects of mold, fungi and other bacteria that would grow without some kind of preservative.

Staying Fresh

Because of our decades of experience working with natural ingredients in the medical setting, we know that natural fruit esters made from grapeseed, kimchi extracts and coconuts can naturally and safely act as stabilizers to maintain freshness. Our natural approach to product freshness includes a patented blend of botanicals and proven, allergy tested botanical extracts that are extra gentle and keep the products fresh and stable for upwards of two years. For example, the naturally derived preservatives Capryl Hydroxamic Acid and Caprylyl Glycol are primarily used as moisturizers and humectants in our exclusive formulas, but also act to safely preserve our products without the use of harsh synthetic preservatives we know to be both unnecessary and potentially unhealthy.


Contact Dermatitis. 2005 Jul;53(1):27-32. Preservatives in registered chemical products; Flyvholm MA.

Dermatol Ther. 2004;17(3):264-71.Contact dermatitis to cosmetics, fragrances, and botanicals. Ortiz KJ, Yiannias JA.

EWG (Environmental Working Group). 2004. Exposures Add Up – Survey Results.

EWG (Environmental Working Group). 2007c. Cosmetics With Banned and Unsafe Ingredients. Table 2 – Unsafe for use in cosmetics, according to industry. Accessed June 21, 2010.

EWG (Environmental Working Group). 2007a. Safety Guide to Children’s Personal Care Products.

Gomez E, Pillon A, Fenet H, Rosain D, Duchesne MJ, Nicolas JC, et al. 2005. Estrogenic activity of cosmetic components in reporter cell lines: parabens, UV screens, and musks. Journal of toxicology and environmental health 68(4): 239-251.