Are Preservatives Bad for Your Skin?

Hey All!

As you all know, most if not all, of your cosmetics goods, contain preservatives! 

So what are preservatives?

Preservatives in cosmetics are a chemical or natural substance added to items to prevent it from spoiling. Preservatives prevent the growth of microorganisms such as molds, yeasts, and bacteria. It also prevents the product from smelling bad as well as protecting the color and consistency. 

 Do all cosmetic items need preservatives?

Pretty much all cosmetic items need preservatives! Cosmetics are a breeding ground for microorganisms due to the fact that it all contains water. Whenever there is a presence of water, there will always be a danger of mold and bacterial growth. There are some products that might not need preservatives such as homemade masks and products, however, these items need to be refrigerated (known as physical preservation) and have an extremely short life span of a few days. 

Are chemical preservatives bad for you?

Some chemical preservatives can be harmful to you, especially in large doses. However, most products only contain a small number of preservatives, which is considered safe according to the FDA. When products are used in areas such as lips, underarms and near the eyes, you must be even more careful with the ingredients. A few preservatives to watch out for are:

  • Phenolic acid (Phenol): In large amounts, it can cause respiratory issues, coma, fainting, and even paralysis.
  • Petroleum-based compounds (propylene glycol, polyethylene glycols, or polyoxyethylene): Can possibly have contamination of “1,4-dioxane,” a chemical that the FDA says may cause cancer.
  • Phthalates: Can be absorbed through the skin and accumulated in the body. It may be responsible for the following: breast cancer, asthma, ADHA, obesity, type 2 diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism, spectrum disorders, and fertility issues.
  • Formaldehyde:  carcinogen. May also cause harm to the brain, allergies, irritation, asthma, and development in children.

What about natural preservatives?

Just because something is natural does not necessarily mean it is better or safer to use. Remember there are plenty of natural substances that are bad for you. With natural preservatives, not only do they not work as effectively, but they also tend to need a higher concentration in order to work and also do not preserve the products as long. With a higher concentration, this can cause skin irritation.

Natural preservatives are also not cost-efficient and can cause allergies in clients. They also might change the feel or fragrance of the product. In general, it doesn't make sense for both the manufacturer and consumer to rely on just natural preservatives from a financial standpoint and safety standpoint. 

What about parabens?

Parabens can be found listed under ingredient names such as methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben.

Parabens have been gaining a bad reputation within the last few years. It is one of the strongest, most used, and effective preservatives out there. So why the bad rep? In 2004, a small study had found small amounts of parabens in breast cancer tumors. However, this study doesn't necessarily mean that parabens are the cause of breast cancer. The study did not prove how parabens could have contributed to breast cancer and it also was found that parabens have extremely week estrogen-like properties. The American Cancer Society concluded that natural estrogen or hormone replacements are more likely the ones to blame for breast cancer development as supposed to parabens.

Another reason for paraben's bad reputation is due to the fact that it is considered a "chemical." People now are associating chemicals to being bad. However, all ingredients are made up of chemicals, for example, water is a chemical. Parabens, ironically, are actually naturally found in blackberries and raspberries. 

Overall, the FDA concludes that parabens are safe in low amounts and present no clear health risks when used in cosmetics and skincare products. 

In conclusion..

It is important that your cosmetic goods and skincare products DO contain preservatives. Preservatives present less harm than products with mold and bacterial growth. There are also plenty of different options now when it comes to preservatives that are cost-efficient and effective, which means avoiding parabens to be 100% safe is an option. Make sure to read the labels to make sure the product does not use a preservative that may be harmful to you and your health. 

All the best,




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