Detergents, Preservatives and ‘Mass Murder’ on your Skin.

Detergents, Preservatives and ‘Mass Murder’ on your Skin.

I was very interested to read an article in the Guardian this month with comments from both a research scientist and a dermatologist on the topic of skin care. The dermatologist, Professor Saxon Smith, described how dry skin is typically the result of over-washing, over-exfoliation, and longer, hotter showers. 

But there was more - the article also emphasised the importance of our skin’s microbes, known as the skin microbiome, in maintaining a healthy skin barrier and preventing dryness and other skin problems. The researcher,  Dr Chris Callewaert explained: “They convert sebum and produce an ‘acid mantle’ on our skin, protecting it from other harmful pathogens or viruses.”

He goes on to say:

 “In virtually every product that we apply on our skin there are some kind of ingredients that will kill or inhibit bacteria…We are doing a ‘mass murder’ on the skin on a daily basis, without even knowing or thinking about it.” 

This 'mass murder' is blamed on the antimicrobial ingredients and preservatives included in deodorants, antiperspirants, shower gels, body washes, shampoos and cosmetic products.

Why antimicrobials in skin care products?

Antimicrobials must be included in skin care products that include water - without it, the product would soon be overgrown with bacteria and fungus. Unfortunately, antimicrobials don’t stop their activity when they reach your skin - they can kill or slow the growth of the microbes that keep your skin healthy.

"Ultimately, the strong survive - but they aren't always the most beneficial ones."

An altered skin microbiome has been associated with skin conditions including acne, psoriasis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and rosacea (read more here). Therefore, applying products that upset the microbiome does not make sense. This is why we formulate all Mokosh products without preservatives (read more here).

Upsetting the skin’s barrier function

 Putting it simply, over-washing with hot showers and detergents depletes the skin’s barrier of oils, while overuse of preservatives disturbs our skin’s microbiome, potentially affecting skin pH and allowing overgrowth of harmful microbes.

Professor Smith says: “So maintaining that skin barrier in that broad sense is so important for all of us. It’s not just about the fact that the itch drives us mad when the skin is dry; it’s also about ensuring that we are minimising our risk and exposure to the things that our skin is supposed to be protecting us from.”

Professor Smith advised three simple daily habits: “Soap-free wash, moisturiser and lukewarm showers.”

Dr Callewaert suggests considering avoiding antiperspirants and cosmetics altogether, or at least familiarising ourselves with the ingredients in our products so we can avoid those known to be harmful. 

It’s not just our skin that we’re harming

 Our skin microbiome affects not only the health of our skin, it is vital for a healthy immune system. 

Dr Chris Callewaert summarises:

“The skin microbiome trains our immune system and creates a healthy balance in immune response. Without that balance, we would be prone to any harmful vector, or have asthma or allergic reactions all the time.”

We have written in detail about how the skin microbiome affects our immune system - read it here. 

But it’s not just our immune system. Recent research suggests that a poor skin barrier may contribute to the chronic inflammation responsible for accelerated ageing. In one study, restoring the skin’s barrier function resulted in a reduction of inflammation indicators in aged people down to the levels of a 30 year old (read more here).

At Mokosh, we do things differently

 Mokosh products do not contain preservatives. This means they will not disturb your skin’s important microbiome. Read more about how we formulate here. 

Our facial cleansers are free of detergents and support the health of your skin’s barrier. We believe that detergent cleansers offer no benefit to your skin. Note that detergents are added to micellar water, cream cleansers, foaming cleansers, clear cleansers and even some oil cleansers. We recommend using natural soaps on the hands and only sparingly, if at all, on the body.

We never include emulsifiers in our skin care - these are detergent molecules that must be added to moisturisers to allow water and oil to mix and form a stable emulsion. They are mild detergents that remain on your skin after applying your moisturiser. Why can they be harmful? Their detergent action can also disturb the skin’s barrier function (read more here).


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