There's a certain paranoia that has set in about preservatives with parabens being deemed carcinogenic. People today want products that have no preservatives. But preservatives are not the problem! Parabens are. Yes, parabens are bad and, yes, they are preservatives. But all preservatives are not bad. They're actually pretty important! Here's why.
Why are Preservatives Used?
Preservatives are synthetic, or sometimes natural, ingredients added to foods, cosmetics, personal care products, shampoos etc. to prevent any spoilage. They help your product stay free from bacteria or any other microbial growth. Exposure to oxygen can also spoil a product! The last thing anyone would want is to spend money on a moisturizer or a face wash only to have it spoil during monsoon! Preservatives are here to help with that.
The irony of the situation is that people believe that opting for preservative-free products will keep your skin and your body healthy. What they don't realise is that a product spoiling could do you more harm!
If a particular product is water-based, there need to be preservatives in it because you're at a greater risk of contamination. For water-free products such as body butters and lip balms, the concern is not so great. However, if an anhydrous or water-free product comes in contact with water through wet fingers or any spillage, it could be bad news.
Nowadays, there are broadly two types of preservatives used - natural and synthetic. Let's go through both categories!
Synthetic preservatives are much cheaper than their natural counterparts, so it won't come as a surprise that these are widely used. Examples of synthetic preservatives are - organohalogen compounds, aldehydes such as formaldehyde (suspected carcinogen commonly used in keratin hair treatments), glycol ethers and parabens. Hope you didn't have any horror flashbacks of chemistry lessons here!
Other than being cheap, synthetic preservatives are very effective against bacteria and fungi. Their safety and toxicity profiles are also better understood, and these types of preservatives don't interfere with the fragrance, colour or consistency or the product they're being added to.
Today, you can find preservatives that are natural and do not pose a health risk. What's good about them is that they have a broader pH coverage than some synthetic preservatives such as parabens. Benzoic acid, salicylic acid and alcohol are some natural preservatives that are now widely used. They do impart a certain fragrance, but hey, at least they don't cause any harm to your body! These days, even antioxidants are used as preservatives.
So, the moral of this story is that, when it comes to preservatives, it's not all dark and gloomy. These compounds exist for a reason and it’s because they help your products last longer. But yes, you do have to be careful of which preservative is being used. At Myra Veda, we prefer natural preservatives and steer clear of all that synthetic nastiness and controversy. Shop our collection *here*.