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Why products need preservatives

Reviewed by Marta December 14, 2008 11 Comments
Regular readers know that I'm not wild about many preservatives. They might keep bugs at bay, but at the cost of side effects such as skin irritation and even cancer or cell death. So I was pleased to find Dr Hauschka's Jojoba and Marshmallow Conditioner. The only thing that could be construed to be a preservative amongst the ingredients is citric acid. Although I have also read that rosemary can play an anti-bacterial role.

Whatever Dr H thought would do the preservative trick, did not. Black mold developed under the lid of my bottle within less than six months. There is also a layer of fur on the surface of the stopper that is less visible as it is only just turning black.

Cosmetic formulators are always saying that preservatives may not be perfect, but are preferential to the alternative. The alternative that formed on my Dr Hauschka is a testament to that. I'm not going to give up crusading for preservatives that are perfectly safe, but until we get them I shall probably have to put up with a few parabens and a smattering of phenoxyethanol.

Water/Aqua, Betaine, Alcohol, Sorbitol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Jojoba (Buxus Chinensis) Oil, Glyceryl Laurate, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Althaea Officinalis (Marsh Mallow) Extract, English Oak (Quercus Robur) Extract, Nettle (Urtica Urens) Extract, Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Extract, Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) Extract, Neem (Melia Azadirachta) Leaf Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia Nut Oil, Fragrance/Parfum (Essential Oil), Limonene*, Citral*, Linalool*, Apple (Pyrus Malus) Cider Vinegar, Tricaprylin, Lecithin, Galactoarabinan, Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum
  • December 28, 2016

    by Carol

    I would rather refrigerate all natural products to preserve them then have manufacturers adding chemicals to their products to protect their investment in their products.
    We should all be questioning why we have refrigerated our foods all thru history but never given this option for skincare products. Maybe skincare products a just unnecessary in the first place, just another marketing scheme????

  • June 24, 2011

    by Darrell

    Hi Maeve,
    Consumers are often presented a myth that organic products do not include preservatives.

    Just because a product is "certified organic" and the manufacturer does not use/add preservatives does not mean the formula is preservative-free. This information is not often disclosed.

    I would like to see the actual (to FDA-standards) ingredient list of Miessence products. Could you point me to information about the products you mentioned that include an actual ingredient list to review?

    I've looked at your site and the main site and after some digging, only see a "photo" list of ingredients contained -- this is far from the actual ingredient list as required by the FDA (with ingredients listed in the order in which they occur in the formula).

    Also, I would like to highlight/question that just because an ingredient uses a certified organic natural extract, does not mean that it is preservative-free. Many natural extracts used in the personal care industry are actually pre-preserved by their manufacturer.

    For example here are a few "certified organic" ingredients I've pulled from a popular supplier site -- see that they are preserved:

    Chamomile Extract - Certified Organic
    Preservative: Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate

    Green Tea Extract- ECOCert Certified Organic
    Preservative: Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate

    Helichrysum Extract - Certified Organic
    Preservative: Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate

    Thank you,

  • June 24, 2011

    by Maeve

    Hi I only use Miessence products. 100% natural, synthetic chemical free
    Extensive range.. Certified organic to international FOOD standards
    I have never grown mould in any of my products?!
    I am so passionate about this company I have become a rep
    Visit my shop for lots of info about ingredients to avoid and ones
    To look for :)
    I think that anyone who believes a company who says "as natural as
    It can be" is just copping out. There are amazing
    Products available that don't need to lie to consumers about their

  • February 20, 2009

    by nhan

    Thanks for your advice Tracy. You've mention a lot of things that I did not know before. It is scary to know that there are very harmful bacteria growing without being seen. I hope to find better products out there that is safe for long term use.

  • February 20, 2009

    by Regina

    I have to disagree with the comments made about not trusting products without chemical preservatives. Aubrey, just as one example, is one of the largest manufacturers of organic skin- and hair-care products. Don't you think that if their products (and all of the products made by other organic companies) were causing scarring and mold, there would have been some publicity about that? People would be complaining, not to mention filing lawsuits. All of Aubrey's products use natural preservatives such as grapefruit seed extract, which is a natural antibacterial agent and it does work. I use it all the time (in capsule form) when I think I've eaten something bad because it will zap microbes. I've been using products with natural preservatives for six or seven years now, and I've never had mold in any of them, nor have I ever had any reactions. I used to use products with chemicals, and I've found that the organic ones last just as long, with rare exception. Besides Aubrey, I love Burt's Bees products.

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