Thousands of articles written by qualified – and unqualified – experts flood the internet warning us against cosmetic products containing Parabens, EDTA, Phenoxyethanol and almost every preservative for water based cosmetics there is. In most cases is all quack science, in others there might be a real reason for it. Parabens have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors, according to the Breast Cancer Fund. One thing scientists agree on, more testing needs to be done.
Yet there is almost no mention of the devastating effects of unpreserved water based cosmetics at all!
Many small and new cosmetic companies, have resorted to completely part away from all forms of preservatives for their water based cosmetics, in an attempt to offer consumers a more viable, less harmful option – according to them not science – to traditionally preserved beauty products, even advising consumers to place these products in refrigerators to extend their shelf life.
But the claims of “safer cosmetics free of preservatives” certainly don’t live to the expectations. Unaware consumers thinking this is the best thing after pizza, rush to snatch these apparently safe versions of their favorite cosmetics without even thinking of the thousands of dangerous bugs growing in them. Within their apparently safe preservative free environment, lotions, shampoos, makeup and even baby products, grow bugs capable of killing a healthy adult multiplying by the thousands with every hour they sit on the bathroom counter and even under refrigerated conditions.
Where there is water, there will be bacteria, yeast and mold. Just because they can’t be seen with the naked eye doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
By taking a sample of an apparently perfectly ok lotion free of preservatives, and place it in a petridish under the right conditions similar to the ones found in a bathroom, or a cabinet one can grow whatever it contains to a visible size. If you can see it it means they are in the thousands. No matter how sanitized and sterilized the lab or manufacturing facility where a lotion or shampoo is made is, it will always have some contaminants that must be stopped from growing. The only way to stop the growth of the thousands of strands of bacteria, yeast and mold than can contaminate and plague a preservative free lotion for example, is by adding a good set of preservatives capable of inhibiting their reproduction, even after the lotion leaves the manufacturing facility.
But adding the preservatives and pray it all goes well, isn’t enough either. Putting the cosmetic under many conditions while analyzing samples is where chemists enter the field of cosmetics. We not only formulate, we test, and analyze to make sure no matter the circumstances, within limits of course, the product stays free of contaminants. As a cosmetic chemist for By Valenti Organics my task is to analyze every lotion and water based product that leaves the lab, to make sure no bug can thrive in them and adjust the set of preservatives if needed. The fact some cosmetic companies rely solely on pure luck and not good manufacturing practices and science is alarming, scary and downright wrong, without mentioning perhaps illegal?
According to the FDA’s Cosmetics Good Manufacturing Practices,
“Laboratory controls should include provisions to ensure that:
. Raw materials (including water), in-process and finished product samples are tested or examined for identity and compliance with applicable specifications (for example, Contains Nonbinding Recommendations Draft-Not for Implementation 10 physical and chemical properties), microbial contamination, and hazards or other chemical contamination
. Samples are representative of the lot
. Current finished product samples as well as retained product samples are tested for adequacy of preservation against microbial contamination under reasonable conditions
of storage and use
. Samples of approved lots of raw materials and finished products are retained for an adequate time period
. Retained samples are stored under conditions which protect their integrity (for example, to avoid contamination and deterioration), and are retested at appropriate intervals to
assure continued compliance with established specifications; and
. Returned cosmetics are examined for deterioration, contamination, and compliance with acceptance specifications.”
By offering preservative free cosmetics, these manufacturers are inevitably putting consumer’s health in danger. If it’s true parabens may actually pose a health risk, unpreserved water based cosmetics can and will spread disease 100 times faster with probably much more devastating consequences. From simple but scaring infectious acne all the way to respiratory and life threatening ones, that preservative free lotion could make you and your baby very, very sick.