January 19, 2008

Preservatives: The Good, the Bad, the Fugly

Killer Question from reader really does require additional follow-up post

I'd like to reprint an answer to a question "Rhonda" posed to me after this last post regarding the ongoing controversy about the Preservatives in hair/skin products known as "Parabens". The new hair product I reported on had 2 ingredients in its list that have been in the battle.
I'm not sure how frequently people read the "comments" section and this was on the top of my list of "Posts To Write for Blog" so worthy of reprint
yes, well . . good for you for noticing. Parabens are a very long and probably never-ending battle within the field.
This could be a long post and it is such a controversial subject I am almost afraid to tackle it.
I try to simplify my answers, so they are easier to understand for ALL readers( if you want it more complicated & technical please tell me)
I will preface this with the statement that for 10 years I was on one side..then I studied with a couple Chemists & switched sides.
What you learn once you start formulating products and learning about the actual chemistry that goes into the make-up of each and every product you put on your face-hair and body is that each ingredient is put in there for a very specific reason.
I like to relate it to cooking , when I went thru training and learning how to make products from scratch it always reminded me of cooking and baking. Cooking is chemistry as well, so I have always used the correlation to help with clarity in teaching to clients.
When you make a cake...they have you add 10 ingredients, each for a reason. The eggs are an emulsifier, the vanilla is for flavor, the flour is for the base, etc. They don't have you add say peas, just for the Hell of it - it would screw up the chemical make-up (as well as the flavor) of a cake.
Same thing with Hair-skin-body products.
Each ingredient has a purpose, companies costs go up every time they 'add' an ingredient so of course, they do not want to add unnecessary ones - for that reason as well. With all the controversy about parabens why do you suppose some companies ( like this one) would still use them? Especially a new line like this...an expensive line..? Doesn't make sense does it?
Well, in my opinion (and many chemists & formulators I have spoken to and read about) Parabens got a bad rap and truthfully were never able to recover from it, they actually are one of the best all around preservatives we have, in most all cosmetic chemists minds. I'm dead serious, there are a million and one reports that back this up. But in America if you do not handle your "marketing issues" properly then 9 times out of 10 you have lost the ball.
I'm sure you are aware of that.
Parabens come from a chemical company run by chemists, they are the most unaware -lab geeks on the planet (great-nice - sweet people-just different) they just do not think like that, they think all the proof is in the science - just look at it, they would say.
Well, you cannot get 50 million Americans to look at a chemists report... once they see the first large technical word that is 40 letters long you have lost them.
To Americans its in the "flash" NOT THE SCIENCE.
They did not do their damage control correctly, and have learned a very big lesson.
Therefore, all these Preservative manufacturers went full bore ahead to develop preservatives 'without' parabens in them...there are a whole host of them now. For about a full year that is all we talked about - all the time.
If you saw the amount of the Paraben used in a giant vat of shampoo or conditioner > a couple drops from a very small eye-dropper. Once you saw the minute amount used .. you would never again worry about it. I say make 'that' a demonstration on UTUBE then the 50 million Americans would listen and get it. Maybe.
In a formula of ingredients to make any hair products....the total of all the ingredients needs to equal 100%. The amount of a Preservative used out of 100% that is the correct amount required to do its job correctly, not too little ... not too much ?? Is a whopping .03% !! That is not even 1%, not even 1/2 of 1 percent. So, yes.. a teeny tiny amount, yet the proper amount to prevent any foreign contamination problems arising.
In my opinion, one of the main problems with using a preservative is not the preservative itself - its the actual "amount" of it used. Use the case of Dennis Quaid's new Twin babies that were almost killed accidentally {by the hospital I go to!} (help) as a great example. They were given Heparin-- a blood thinner - a great drug + saves many lives - but only when its given in the proper dosage! Overdose, is lethal.
Same thing with preservatives. Exactly the same: if used at the proper dosage you want preservatives in your products,they protect you...without them the amount of contamination that would be floating around would be very dangerous. There would be tens of thousands more sick people from the way they treat and keep their make-up and creams (etc), and I am erring on the side of caution.

I feel the field needs to work on the marketing of the word and 'title' of Preservative. That name is deceiving and gives people the jitters when they hear it. When I was making my products, I printed on the label what they actually are " Anti-bacterial agents" !! A preservative is the exact same thing as an 'anti-bacterial' ...does that sit better with you? I bet it does, it did for me & my clients.
ALL Preservatives - parabens and non-parabens do the same thing: to kill off all strange and weird bacteria that could be growing in our products so we all don't get infections (staph or otherwise) get sick and or die.
When I heard it explained "that way" it hit me: "why" wouldn't we want preservatives in products?
There is a great story about a big class action lawsuit against MAX FACTOR in the 70's, the old timer chemists talk about it as it changed the business forever. That is when we started using preservatives in the 70's (weird huh?).
This was told to me by a chemist who is no longer with us, so I haven't a way of asking him any further questions about it.
I guess as the story goes: 20 women brought a case against the company suing them for 100 million dollars - all of them developed some blindness or total blindness from using their mascara without any preservatives in it !
You know how we all pump the hell out of the mascara tube, well that incorporates AIR into the formula and then lashes that shed and dirt from your eyelashes gets put back in the tube...over and over & over. Well, with ZERO preservatives to protect the mascara formula some type of bacteria grew into some type of infection which all these women came down with in their eyes. I believe he said it was the first major suit against a large make-up company - many of these chemists had to testify in the case. The women won. They won well over 20 million each - (my memory sucks)
this started the entire industry including preservatives in all their products.
I've always thought they need to go to work on the word "PRESERVATIVE" as well ...another marketing blunder in my opinion.
This exact subject was on my list of SUBJECTS FOR POSTS TO WRITE...
So great question...
PS: there is no way to know if a company is using the proper amount of preservative in their products, If there was... life for me would have been easier. Once I learned this I have never bought another skin or body product from a store. I still make all my own skin and body products - so I Know exactly what is them. I know the preservative is exactly perfect, I use the best oils, butters and well, it just gives me peace of mind. some probably think its nutty, but once you use these products, and feel the difference you can NOT use the ones from the stores. The difference is to vast, it really is.
MY point is that I feel it is a big mistake not including ANY preservatives in products - there are a few lines of body & skin products out there that use that as their big claim-to-fame - "not using any preservatives"...
They would work and be OK if they are "dated" and contamination tests are run on the batches regularly, without the date how long are they saying their products will last without a preservative ? forever? Well, that's ridiculous!
They should have a shelf life of 3-4 months provided they came directly from the manufacturer - see the problems that arise without a preservative??

This is where I have a helluva time recommending to people...in this category. The way I tackle it is I don't trust any products and make all my own....that way I know they are perfect. That is a huge down-side to having this knowledge!

And I thought I would run out of Topics to write about!
1 comment on "Preservatives: The Good, the Bad, the Fugly"
  1. Thanks for taking the time to expound on this! Great info...


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