Tackling Preservatives

Tackling Preservatives


Commercial products are typically loaded with preservatives to allow them to remain fresh for long periods of time. Although preservatives do extend the longevity of most skincare products and help keep them free from bacteria, the preservatives themselves are often harmful and unhealthy. Many cause or promote skin problems and some are even reported to cause cancer. 

So seeing a label that says "100% preservative free" may sound appealing, right?...Hold on, not so fast! A world without preservatives is a world with mould, bacterial and yeast - yuck!

How about we find a happy medium? 

Preservatives are necessary to help prevent bacterial, mold and yeast - all things you don't want on your skin. Preservatives stop growth by acting on spores when they germinate, killing cells or by making the product an unpleasant place for bacteria to grow. Any product that contains water (including floral water, aloe vera, goat's milk, etc.) or that may come into contact with water (ie. a scrub used with wet fingers), needs a broad spectrum preservative. 

For anhydrous (no water) products (body butters, butter bars) preservatives aren't necessary, but they are still recommended. If these products are left in a humid bathroom or may come into contact with water, then a preservative is advisable. 

What is safe without a preservative? Cold process soap (made with sodium hydroxide).  Generally if the pH is above 10, a preservative may not be required.

You will not find a product on the market that is all-natural, and safe for use that will protect your products against microbes and fungi. Essential oils such as vitamin E oil, grapefruit seed extract, and tea tree have been suggested, however, the percentage required to be effective as a preservative would not be safe to use on the skin.

Here at Scrub & Butter, we use Optiphen plus. Optiphen plus is a broad-spectrum, water-soluble, paraben- and formaldehyde-free preservative that guards against bacterial, mold and yeast. We use Optiphen Plus in almost all of our products because it is so versatile.

I hope this post has given you a bit more insight into the world of preservatives. In short, yes - some preservatives are really bad for you and your skin. But, preservatives are necessary to keep you safe from all of the yucky germs that want to invade your skincare!


Preservatives - Something that preserves or has the power of preserving; specifically, an additive used to protect against decay, discolouration, or spoilage.

Germinate - Germination is the process by which an organism grows from a seed or similar structure. The most common example of germination is the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.

Broad Spectrum - The term broad-spectrum can refer to a preservative that acts on multiple major bacterial groups, gram-positive and gram-negative, or any preservative that acts against a wide range of bacteria.

Anhydrous - Of a substance, especially a crystalline compound containing no water.

pH - A measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution.


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