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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Preservatives - Lesson 1!

Parabens Anyone?

Asked if they would like to use parabens in their face cream, most people will say, No.

But it should be understood that there is no truly effective natural preservative suitable for use in a cosmetic product.

Before you get all up in arms I am not talking about anti-oxidants... there are plenty of those. I am talking about preservative in the sense of a substance that will inhibit the growth of a wide range of bacteria.

The person who discovers a natural one will have found the holy grail of the cosmetic and toiletry industry. Currently the most popular preservative choices are Sodium Benzoate or a mixture of Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, and Potassium Sorbate and since the choices are still very limited, Parabens.

Bacteria love our jars of cream, there is plenty of food for them and the water provides the ideal medium in which they love to live. Bacteria are easily introduced into the product by contact with human skin... double dipping (that is placing your finger into the pot and then onto your skin and then back into the pot) is the fastest way to introduce bacteria into your home made product. This bacteria will not only spoil your product it can pose a threat to your health too. Becoming infected from using a cream or lotion spoiled by bacteria is no joke - you could be left with severe scarring of the skin, at the very least.

You may have read about Parabens in the press a few years ago. (and since then the internet has abounded with equally inaccurate reports).  but I digress, a report was published that the widely used preservative parabens was discovered in the tumor taken from a breast cancer patient. The inference of the article was that the parabens had caused the cancer. Immediately it seemed like the entire female poplulation of the world checked their bathroom cabinets and binned everything containing Parabens, which turned out to be almost the entire contents of their cosmetic bag. And then found that it was impossible to buy anything without it. Too late... the word Parabens was demonised forever.

Lets put the Record Straight

Parabens has been used as a preservative for decades because of it being extremely effective against a very wide spectrum of bacteria. Actually, nothing else is as good in this respect. Scientifically it is still one of the safest preservatives on the market. You see, not only did they find parabens in that tumour, they also found other things too, from all sorts of foods and cosmetics. And of course, because one tumour does not constitute a viable scientific study - there is no proof that any of the substances found actually caused the unfortunate woman's cancer. I did promise no urban myths here. You will read on other websites that this substance is cancer causing and that you should avoid it... usually by buying whatever product that particular website is selling. The truth is that this is not proven... you can believe what you like... but that's the facts.

In light of the outcry about Parabens they subsequently removed the controversial Butylparaben from the formula.

My next post will cover just what you can do to preserve your home made cosmetic formula.

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