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Why Your Skin Care Products Need a Preservative

Posted by Katie Zapotoczny on

Why Your Skin Care Products Need a Preservative

Synthetic preservatives have developed a negative reputation over the years, and there are many good reasons for this. Some of them have serious unintended side effects, such as triggering allergies and interfering with our hormones. However, while preservatives have gotten a (mostly deserved) bad rap, they serve an important purpose in skin care products, which is why our founder chose a preservative for the Verefina line very carefully. Read on to find out why you really do want a preservative in some of your skin care products.

Water in Your Products Equals Microbes in Your Products 

Bacteria and mold thrive in water, which means that products containing water, like lotions, cleansers, and shampoo, require something to keep these microbes at bay. If you see a product that contains water but no preservative, it should be a red flag for you. Aloe vera, floral waters (hydrosols), and goat's milk will all have similar problems. It's also important to be aware that products that don't contain water at the time of manufacture can still potentially breed bacteria or mold if they get water in them. 

Microbes Living in Unpreserved Products Can Spread Infections

If you've got bacteria growing in your lotion, guess where it can end up when you use your lotion? That's right- on your skin. This bacteria may also be able to enter your body through any small cuts or cracks in your skin and could potentially cause a public health problem if it were to be accidentally ingested through the mouth or eyes. 

Not All Preservatives are Created Equal

So while it's important to have a preservation system, some preservatives are definitely less desirable than others. Certain preservatives, such as parabens and formaldehyde-releasing agents, can have toxic effects on the body. 

Parabens (including ethylparaben, butylparaben, or any other ingredient ending in -paraben) can penetrate the skin and have been found in urine samples of nearly all American adults, regardless of ethnic, socioeconomic, or geographic backgrounds. Parabens have been found to interfere with hormone activity and to mimic the actions of estrogen. They have also been linked to skin irritation, allergic reactions, and reproductive problems

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives kill bacteria in water-based products by slowing emitting formaldehyde into the products. These preservatives are of concern because formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives include DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and bronopol (2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane).

What Preservative Does Verefina Use?

As you can see, it is very important to use a preservative that prevents microbial growth without causing toxic side effects. That's why Verefina founder Jennifer Lugo was extremely selective in choosing polyaminopropyl biguanide as a preservative for water-based products. Polyaminopropyl biguanide, also known as Cosmocil CQ, is a gentle, formaldehyde-free preservative that provides broad-spectrum protection against a variety of microbes, including Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Rotavirus. 

Unlike parabens, this preservative has a relatively large molecular size, so it is not able to penetrate the skin, nor does it disrupt hormone activity. It is also UV stable and will not degrade or break down when exposed to sunlight. And, in contrast to formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, it is non-carcinogenic. It's sad that we even have to consider whether or not the ingredients in skin care products are carcinogenic!

The Environmental Working Group ranks thousands of products and ingredients on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being completely non-toxic and 10 been extremely toxic. The EWG has given polyaminopropyl biguanide a toxicity score of 2, while propylparaben ranks as a 7 as does DMDM hydantoin

In addition to polyaminopropyl biguanide, our lotion and facial cleanser bottles themselves form part of our product preservation system. Our bottles prevent air- another carrier of microorganisms- from getting into the products and allow us to use only a small amount of synthetic preservative. 

Are There Products that Don't Require Preservatives?

In a word, yes. Oil-based products that do not contain water, such as lip butters and balms, ointments, and scrubs do not require a preservative. Many companies add antioxidant ingredients, such as vitamin E, rosemary extract, or essential oils to these products to help prevent the oils in them from going rancid. However, as I mentioned above, it's important to keep water out of these products because water can introduce bacteria and other microbes into them. 


While "preservative free" has become a catch phrase that may sound good, it should actually raise concerns for you. Products that are not properly preserved can create health issues for you and your family because they are potential breeding grounds for all manner of unwanted bacteria, mold, and other microbes. That said, many common preservatives come with their own undesirable side effects. At Verefina, we take both of these concerns very seriously and have chosen a preservative that prevents microbial growth WITHOUT the toxic side effects.


"Cosmetics Database." Environmental Working Group. Web.

Hanafy, Erin. "Why '100% Preservative Free' on Your Beauty Label Could be a Red Flag." Well and Good. 18 October 2015. Web. 11 October 2017.

Layton, Vanessa. "Why Do You Need Preservatives in Skincare?" Hello Charlie. 14 March 2016. Web. 11 October 2017.

Leiba, Nneka. "Common Cosmetics Ingredient Can Harm Sperm." Environmental Working Group. 9 November 2010. Web. 12 October 2017.

"Preservatives." The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Web. 12 October 2017

Yeates, Terry. "Cosmocil CQ antimicrobial – effective use in personal hygiene wipes." Lotion Crafter. Web. 11 October 2017.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Katie! I love writing for the Blog and working as a Verefina Communications Specialist! I'm also the creator of An Ever Green Life, a blog that seeks to empower my readers to make changes that will improve their health and help protect our environment.

  • preservatives
  • synthetic preservatives
  • parabens
  • formaldehyde

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