A cosmetic chemist explains preservatives and natural beauty

The most controversial class of beauty ingredients? It has to be a preservative (followed by silicones, which we also cover in the episode).

“Preservatives are, by definition, the most potentially dangerous ingredient in cosmetics. In order to kill bacteria, you must have something strong enough to stop their growth. The growth of germs, molds and mildew is actually a natural process – it’s not abnormal for these things to grow in water, and nature wants organisms to grow and thrive,” he says.

Yes, it is natural for these things to grow in water. Anyone who leaves food on the counter for too long knows this to be true. But the problem in beauty is that we often have unrealistic expectations of what we want from our products. We want them to be all natural, but also able to stand the test of time sitting in our bathrooms. Imagine leaving a piece of fruit in your bathroom, then coming back a year later expecting it to be perfect, untouched and ready to eat? Not likely, huh.

“[And people want to avoid preservatives,] but in modern conventions, the products are stable for more than a year. And keeping something stable for years, especially natural ingredients and botanicals, is actually unnatural,” he says. “So what people need to understand is having a preservative-free product means it basically becomes perishable, you have to refrigerate it, use it within two weeks, and at that time- there it simply becomes food.”

But that’s not to say that people who don’t want to consume preservatives in any capacity are wrong. It just means they need to understand the side effects of it. “And if you, for whatever reason based on personal beliefs about the ingredients you accept, don’t use preservatives, then that’s okay, but you have to accept the caveat that the products won’t last forever. just not that long,” he said. said.

For more nuanced information on formulations, tune in to the episode.

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