Preservatives are very potent. A small dose...as low as 0.6% has the ability to protect an entire formulation from mould or bacteria. This potency cuts both ways. A small percentage of a harmful preservative, used a few times a day over many years the potential to impact your cells and your health.
Preservatives are ubiquitous in skincare and food in our society. This makes it important to be aware of any potential health risks in order to make more informed decisions.
There is a huge range of preservatives. Instead of going for the more economical options, which are potentially linked to toxicity and allergies, we use Naticide, a broad spectrum anti microbial preservative. It is vegetable-based and approved for use in organic formulations.
The INCI requirements however, confusingly requires it to be called Parfum (Fragrance) on the label. Whilst it has a mild vanilla aroma, it is an entirely different substance to perfume or artificial fragrance. It is non-toxic and non -hazardous.
Below is a brief summary of some common preservatives used in skincare...both conventional and 'natural' skincare so please read your labels.
These include Germaben, Methylparben, Propylparaben and Butylparben
Widely used because they are cheap. Controversial due to studies linking it to estrogenic activity and how it can be easily absorbed into the body.
2. Formaldehyde releasers
These include Germall Plus, DMDM Hydantoin, Imadozolidinyl Urea, Diazolidinyl Urea. You can often find the latter two in chemical sunscreen formulations. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, allergen and skin irritant.
Synthetic preservative commonly found in natural skincare products. Optiphen, Optiphen Plus, Phenoxyethanol.
These can't be used in organic formulations or those claiming to be petrochemical free. There have been studies proving it can be an allergen, skin irritant and neurotoxic.
4. Benzoic acid, Sodium Benzoate,
It can interact with Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to form the carcinogen Benzene. Make sure the formula doesn't contain these two compounds together.
5. Potassium Sorbate
This preservative is allowed in organic formulations even though it is synthetic (nature identical) instead of naturally derived.
Studies have linked Potassium Sorbate to the alteration and deterioration of the DNA of white blood cells, in vitro.
5. Grapefruit seed extract
Citricidal, grapefruit seed extract
Widely used in natural skincare products because it can be extracted from chemical-free and even organically grown grapefruit. However there is controversy surrounding the end products because of the additives used during the manufacture of this extract and the residual contamination.
During the extraction process, grapefruit pulp and seed are treated with hydrochloric acid and ammonium chloride. After numerous chemical reactions, the final composition contains around 60% diphenol hydroxybenze (also clasisified as a quaternary ammonium chloride and benzethonium chloride). This chemical contains carcinogenic Benzene rings in its molecular structure.
According to studies, a truly natural extract of grapefruit seed and pulp in ethanol or glycerin, has ineffective antibacterial properties.
Given what we've researched on the many different options of preservatives, we have, and always will select the best quality, safest, least controversial and effective ingredient possible. This usually comes at a higher cost of raw materials but it is our promise to use and deliver non-toxic natural skincare, right down to the preservative used.
So if you see the word Parfum (fragrance) on our labels, please don't assume it is synthetic fragrance because we would never use that ever! It's simply the INCI name for the plant based preservative, Naticide.