The Natural Preservative Paradigm Shift
Preservatives are a necessary component of skincare products because they keep formulas from rapidly degrading. While all cosmetics and skincare products will eventually degrade, preservatives make the difference between a shelf life of a few days to a product that will last a few years. Unfortunately, while many of these compounds can greatly extend a formula’s shelf life they can also have a negative impact on your skin. This can be in the form of toxicity, estrogenic effects, or carcinogenic (cancer causing) consequences (see our harmful ingredients publication to read the effects of specific ones). So while they are solving one problem (preventing product degradation) they can create others (harming the skin). This poses quite a dilemma for the consumer that wants a long product shelf life without having to worry about other health concerns from preservative use.
There are a wide range of preservatives available to companies today that keep oils from spoiling and bacteria/fungi from growing. While preventing oils from spoiling has been fairly easy for the skincare industry to naturally defend against through the use of antioxidants, naturally preventing microbial growth in water-containing formulas has been the real challenge. This has traditionally been done with artificial preservatives (diazolidinyl/imidazolidinyl urea, butyle-/methyl-/propyle-parabens, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, etc) that have had side effects ranging from improper estrogenic feminization of tissues (e.g. when paraben preservatives bind to estrogen receptor sites to inappropriately mimic the hormone’s effects in the skin) to the release of carcinogenic formaldehyde (as is the case with diazolidinyl/imidazolidinyl urea). Luckily, new studies in the field of preservation systems are turning up more natural methods of preserving products with the absence of negative impact associated with these older models of contamination defense.
Just in the past few years have these less controversial bactericides and fungicides come out that are highly effective but without the drawbacks of traditional preservative systems. The most notable is Phenoxyethanol, an ingredient that not only is very effective at preventing the growth of microbes in products but can do so at relatively low concentrations. In clinical studies it was demonstrated to be very well tolerated on the skin, probably because of Phenoxyethanol’s similarity to ethanol (natural alcohol). Unlike many preservatives on the market that are banned in certain countries (especially in Europe where regulatory laws are very strict about what compounds are allowed in food and personal care products), Phenoxyethanol use in skincare products is universally allowed in all countries because of its proven safety and effectiveness.
But an even more interesting natural preservative is silver. Silver comes in many forms, including silver ions and various silver salts, and has proven to be a very effective antimicrobial agent in formulations. Stabilized Silver is a special form of silver especially effective in low concentrations against the typical bacterium types that invade skincare products. While its anionic nature makes it appropriate for some formulations and not others, it’s one of the first broad-spectrum anti-bacterial preservatives for skincare that is completely neutral on the skin (the salts of the skin actually neutralize it, which is perfect considering that by that point of application its role as a preservative is completed). XERIDIAN CLINICAL SKINCARE use Stabilized Silver as a natural preservative in our treatment serums to form a completely natural range of products.
There also are a number of plant extracts that have been proven to have antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. These include certain essential oils, Rosemary Extract, Lavender Extract, and Olive Leaf Extract that not only impart antioxidants and phytonutrients to the skin but also help prevent bacterial growth when supplied in very precise concentrations. When all these ingredients are combined in very precise concentrations, as they are in our formulas, they yield a much longer shelf life than when only standard preservatives are used.
Keeping a tight seal on skincare products at all times is another reason the products in our line remain at such high quality for a long duration of time without needing traditional preservative compounds to remain effective. Skincare products that come in jars are repeatedly exposed to the environment every time they’re opened, which not only exposes the solution inside to oxidizing environmental conditions, but the oils, bacteria, and pathogens from one's fingers can slowly contaminate it with repeated applications. Using dispensing pumps ensures that only the amount immediately needed is dispensed from the bottle while the rest remains sealed inside shielded from the environment.