I hope that since you are reading this blog, you understand why this creeps me out. If not, let me explain...
Preservatives are not inherantly bad things. Hey, without them, we'd all be making daily trips to the store. BUT, some preservatives are worse than others. Unfortunately, cosmeticdatabase.org, my "bible" of harmful ingredients is offline right now. Otherwise I'd tell you to grab your favorite major brand of soap or lotion and start researching its ingredients.
Here are a few of the worst offenders:
Do you know where to find most of the preservatives on your product labels? Look at the bottom of the ingredient list. You know that product labels (just like food labels) are labeled based on the quantity of each ingredient, right?. The ingredient that makes up the greatest percentage of the final product is listed first, with each other ingredient following in descending order. It only takes a little preservative to protect a product, so they are usually one of the last few ingredients.
Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products; they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite creams and makeup, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom. This can be a very good thing until you consider the fact that scientific studies have shown that parabens have been found in many types of body tissue including breast tissue and tumors, umbilical cord tissue and urine. Parabens are known estrogen mimicers and hormone disrupters. What you put on your skin DOES enter your blood stream!
What would happen without preservatives in our personal care products? If a product contains water, it must contain a preservative to have a shelf-life of more than a couple of months. Otherwise, you could have a moldy, bacteria-laden mess on your hands! It makes sense for large companies to use preservatives. Otherwise, their products would spoil before they ever reached the consumer.
Are there alternatives to chemical-based preservatives? Sure! I refuse to use any of these chemicals in my products. There are several very effective natural antioxidants that can help slow down the oxidation process, thereby slowing down spoilage. Some of these natural ingrediens include Vitamin E, Grapeseed Oil, Neem Oil and Rosemary Oil. Not only are these products safe, but since they are antioxidants, they are actually beneficial for your skin! Now, don't get me wrong. These ingredients will not make a product last forever. To be safe, all of my products should be used in six months to a year. Not unreasonable, right?
As is true with most things in life - everything works in moderation. When I go to the grocery store, I can't buy exclusively organic, but I do what I can. It is nearly impossible to avoid potentially harmful ingredients like the preservatives mentioned above. The key is to limit your exposure to them when you can. I have made the personal choice for myself and my family to use as many natural products as possible.
Always read the ingredient labels for the products you purchase. If you can't pronounce the ingredient or can't picture the source it may have come from, chances are it isn't natural. If a product doesn't include an ingredient list (yikes!), don't use it!