Death by INCI series: formulation myths - part 4 - avoid preservatives

Posted by Natasha Dauncey on

NB. Here's the final part (4) of my ranty series on various formulation topics and formulation myths on Instagram which I posted back in October 2019 and wanted to share them here. Enjoy!

Formulation myth: "Avoid products with preservatives" 🤦🏾

Following on from my last post in this series of formulation myths: "water is a filler", today's myth is that preservatives need to be avoided 🤦🏾 Preservatives are VITAL in any water-containing products to prevent microbial growth (this includes formulations which use aloe vera or hydrosols in place of water). Since parabens have been so widely demonised (unfairly so!), we're not left with a huge number of effective options when it comes to preservatives. Some brands choose "natural preservatives" because they believe they are somehow more acceptable, but these are not always reliable enough to limit the risk of microbial growth, and additionally may be limited in their use due to their effectiveness in a very narrow pH range. Furthermore, they're typically used in formulations with more "natural" ingredients like plant extracts, which are often more challenging to preserve, as they are great food sources for bugs!

It's true that preservatives can be potentially irritating in a few cases (eg for truly sensitive skin) - that's partly down to the way they work. That said, the risk of microbial infections totally outweighs the risk of irritation. It's also worth remembering that the presence of a potentially irritating ingredient in a list doesn't mean it will definitely cause issues - especially as preservatives are often used at a very low concentration. Remember, the dose makes the poison, and yet this is rarely considered by fear-mongerers who want you to be terrified of what you put on your skin. The EU has limits on specific ingredients like preservatives for this exact reason and tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to these limits!

So if you don't see a suitable preservative system listed for a water-based product be wary - at best the preservative hasn't been disclosed. At worst, they haven't included one at all. Neither is safe nor responsible behaviour!

Part 1, part 2, part 3

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