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How Avene Tolerance Extreme is able to go preservative free

September 26, 2009 Reviewed by Marta 7 Comments
Preservatives have always seemed to be a necessary evil. They protect products from developing harmful bacteria, but they are oftentimes irritants or even potentially carcinogenic as well (see the post on why products need preservatives). So I was intrigued by Avène's Tolérance Extreme range, proclaiming that it is preservative, fragrance and surfactant free line of skin care products for very sensitive skins.

So how is Avène able to say look Ma no preservatives and still produce a safe product. It turns out that a packaging company called Promens has developed a sterile closure system for cosmetics products that allows preservatives to be cut out altogether.Called the DEFI system, the tubes somehow stay intact to protect the formula from bacteria that could enter after the product has been opened by the consumer.

Although this isn't the first time that cosmetics have come in small tubes, vials or ampoules (likes Dr Hauschka's Rhythmic Conditioner), but usually these are tiny things that contain enough product for a couple of days. The Promens ones are a little bigger. Its all in the tube's cap. It has four parts to it, including a membrane that rises when the tube is squeezed and resumes its normal position when pressure is released from the tube. These are high-precision parts manufactured to one hundredth of a millimeter.

Now all they need to do is make them out of recycled plastic. In the meantime, hats off to Avene and Promens for a step towards a preservative free future.

As a gratuitous aside, I mention that I was surprised to see, when I checked out Avène's Tolérance Extreme range, that something expressly made for sensitive skins would contain mineral oil, known to cause petrochemical hypersensitivity, triggering serious allergic reactions. Mineral oil is also believed to to cause photosensitivity (encouraging sun damage).

Ingredients in Avene Tolerance Extreme Soothing Cream

Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Squalane, Carthamus Tinctorius (Hybrid Safflower) Seed Oil, (Carthamus Tinctorius), Cyclomethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, Sodium Carbomer, Titanium Dioxide.
  • February 22, 2011

    by Adam Gibson

    I've been working with Welby Naturals for over 10 years now and I can honestly say that our products do work! Most of our business comes from repeat orders and referals from satisfied customers.

    If you suffer from eczema, psoriasis or acne, why not have a look at our site: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></A> and read about what our products can do for you.

    Look forward to hearing your views.
    Adam Gibson

  • May 29, 2010

    by Izabella

    Why cannot we use the Avene tolerance extreme every day?
    I have a terrible exzema on my face, I went to the docotr and he couldn't helped me! What can use to sooth the red, irritated, dry, itching place? :(((((

  • October 2, 2009

    by marta

    Xenoestrogens and mineral oil are linked together anecdotally on a lot of websites - mostly selling natural alternatives. There isn't much research to back this up though. In fact, a Univerisity of Texas study on xenoestrogens in hair care products and breast cancer in African American women specifically says mineral oil is not harmful. On the other hand the EWG says:

    Among the studies linking the petrolatum impurity PAHs to breast cancer is a Columbia University study in which researchers found that the breast tissue of women with breast cancer was 2.6 times more likely to contain elevated levels of PAHs bound to DNA (called DNA adducts) than the breast tissue of women without breast cancer (Rundle et al. 2000). The National Toxicology Programs finds that some PAHs are reasonable anticipated to be human carcinogens, and the State of California lists a number of PAHs as carcinogens in its Proposition 65 program (NTP 2002, OEHHA 2004).

    Petrolatum is listed as a probable human carcinogen in the European Union's Dangerous Substances Directive (UNECE 2004), and its use in cosmetics will be banned by September 2004 with the following caveat: “The classification as a carcinogen need not apply if the full refining history is known and it can be shown that the substance from which it is produced is not a carcinogen.” Chemical industry sources have interpreted this clause to mean that petrolatum will continue to be allowed in cosmetics in the EU if it is refined and meets PAH purity standards for food set by FDA (Faust and Casserly 2003). Even this purity standard does not set direct limits on PAH content, but instead relies on a light absorption test as an indirect indicator of contamination.

  • October 1, 2009

    by Susan

    How does xeno-estrogens factor into the use of mineral oil?

  • September 29, 2009

    by Alex

    Thanks for your reply.

    I agree that longterm use of mineral oil might not be beneficial for skin health given its occlusive properties, but I think short term use of highly refined, pharmaceutical-grade mineral oil as part of a cosmetic formulation is not the same as working with pure, unrefined mineral oil.

    I'd recommend the Tolerance Extreme Cream for times when skin is irritated and skin barrier is impaired (like mine was when I still used products with alcohol, essential oils and irritating plant extracts) but not as a daily year-round moisturizer. It's also ideal for people who can't tolerant natural salicylates and salicylate-like-aromatics.

  • September 26, 2009

    by admin

    Thank you Alex, we have swapped out the image for the new tubes. There is evidence of irritation at the <a href="" rel="nofollow">Dept of Labor site</a>: Exposure to mineral oil mists can cause eye, skin, and upper respiratory tract irritation as well as central nervous system effects in humans. In addition, certain mineral oils are carcinogenic in humans [Hathaway et al. 1991]. According to Australia´s National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, "Prolonged contact with mineral oil has the associated risk of developing skin conditions such as folliculitis, eczematous dermatitis, melanosis of the face and planter warts.

  • September 26, 2009

    by Alex

    The DEFI System tube is not the same as the little tubes pictured above, which is the old single use mini-tube version of Tolérance Extreme. The DEFI tube with the sterile closure system is a 50 ml/1.7 oz tube, the tubes pictured above are 10 ml/0.3 oz each and supposed to be thrown out after three days.

    Also, do you have any scientific documentation for mineral oil triggering serious allergic reactions? In my experience mineral oil is one of the very few inert substances I can put on my skin when it's irritated without aggravating it further.

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