What preservatives are safe in skincare and which should be avoided
When you buy a new piece of skincare, you expect it to last you more than a month without going bad, right? For this to happen, there needs to be a preservative in there. Without a preservative in your serum or cream, it will go bad pretty quickly or the active ingredients just won’t work. Chemicals, irritants and toxins aren’t the only dangers you need to watch out for in skincare. Microbes in the form of bacteria, fungi, molds and yeasts can form if the wrong ingredients are mixed together or not preserved properly. These can cause breakouts or even make us seriously ill. This applies to lots of different things - think food, skincare, cosmetics, medicines.
The importance of preservatives in skincare
Preservative free skincare is a worrying trend which is on the rise. This isn’t a good thing, as most skincare has some form of water content, which creates an environment for unwanted microbes to grow. If you think about it, water content is necessary for hydration, making it necessary for moisturiser for example. This is one of the reasons preservatives are needed in skincare.
Not only that, but dipping your fingers in jars and tubs can lead to bacteria forming too, which can be minimized with preservatives. Better yet, use a small stick instead of our fingers to get the product out.
Antioxidants can sometimes be mixed up with preservatives. Don’t get me wrong - they are great for getting rid of toxins and stopping free radical damage. But they’re not preservatives and don’t let labels tell you otherwise. Vitamins such as C and E can be wrongly marketed as preservatives. This is because they prevent oxidation and fight oxidative stress, but don’t do much against bacteria itself. In short - antioxidants are great and should be in your skincare, but not as a preservative.
Safe preservatives in skincare
First things first, you want to go for a broad spectrum preservative. This means that it protects against both bacteria and yeast. Below, we’ll give you a list of 3 broad spectrum natural preservatives which are safe and organic for use within skincare and cosmetics. They do exist - yay!
This natural preservative gets first place in my opinion and that’s why we’ve chosen it to preserve our products. In this preservative you’ll find a blend of Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Glycerin and Sorbic Acid. Scary chemical sounding words, I know. But rest assured it’s absolutely not as bad as it sounds. All of the mentioned components are found in nature, from plants. There are no bad things like parabens or formaldehyde in there either.
In its natural state, it gives off a kind of almond-like smell. We like it because of the fact every component in there is a natural source (vegan too) and it’s ECOcert approved. It’s also COSMOS compliant, which stands for Cosmetic Organic and Natural Standard.
The eco preservative used in our Calming Serum 2 is non-GMO and Vegan, we use it at less than normal recommendations at 1% because some of our other organic ingredients have antimicrobial properties. It's effective as a preservative but gentle for sensitive skins.
Here’s another ECOcert and COSMO compliant preservative which is suitable in natural and organic products. It’s a mixture of Benzyl Alcohol and Dehydroacetic Acid. It’s amber colored, water soluble and another decent gentle preservative.
Euxyl K 712
This is another ECOcert approved mixture of organic acids - Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate. You can find this preservative a lot in foods and cosmetics.
Preservatives to avoid in skincare
Antioxidants, plant extracts and oils
If you’re looking for a real natural preservative, you need to look for something that’s ECOcert certified. This means that the preservative can be used in products that are considered natural or organic. These preservatives are free from parabens and other toxins that people who are into skincare steer clear of.
Sometimes though, people or brands turn to other natural ingredients which aren’t fit for acting as preservatives. Natural “preservatives” which aren’t effective include:
- Vitamin E and C
- Essential oils
- Rosemary extract
- Grapefruit seed extract
ParabensIt’s good advice to steer totally clear from parabens in your skincare. Parabens are known for disrupting hormones and have been linked to some forms of cancer. These can be found in a lot of everyday cosmetics and big names in skincare so be careful.
This preservative releases a chemical (formaldehyde) which causes contamination on its own. It helps to stay clear of microbes but it contains carcinogens and can cause irritation and allergies.
So there you have it. I hope this article has helped to provide some info on the types of preservatives you should try and avoid and the ones you should look for. This is just tip of the iceberg and of course there are more good and bad ones out there, but hopefully this will give you a rough guide of the common preservatives used and what they do.
I first started making Finca Skin Organics skincare for myself. Before it was a business, it was a solution to my own problem. The initial idea was to do with the fact I couldn’t find products that suited me and contained ingredients I was comfortable putting on my rosacea skin.
That’s usually how things start. Finding a problem and a gap in the market that seems as if it won’t be filled unless you do something yourself! To be honest, I didn’t know that much about skincare at the time. I’m an engineer with a love for finding solutions. What started off as a personal project slowly took over my life and in the end turned into a passion and full time work.
Over the past few years, I’ve been asked a lot about ingredients and what are the best natural/organic options. These days there’s increased awareness around toxins and chemicals that are bad for us and for our skin. People are looking at labels to check the ingredients lists and are more conscious than ever of what goes in and on our bodies. There’s been a bit of an awakening in the consumer world and I’m here for it! If you like knowing what’s going on your skin, be sure to also check out what kind of preservative is being used.
All Finca Skin Organics products have one thing in common. They are all made using a minimal, plant-based ingredients list and formulated by me, a rosacea sufferer. The Finca Skin Organics range has undergone a Harley Street clinical study. After using our products, 87% felt the appearance of their skin significantly improved.
When in doubt, always refer to your doctor or dermatologist as the condition differs for everyone. It’s always best to talk to your dermatologist first and work out your treatment plan together.
If you have any queries regarding your rosacea or how to use our products get in contact with us, we'd love to hear from you.
With love from Ireland,
*Clinical evaluation by Harley St. dermatologists on 23 subjects after 8 weeks of use.