When I started looking into the prospect of making skin care, I was a complete novice. My previous work had been as a veterinarian, pathologist and research scientist, so I knew nothing about skin care formulation, and had never spared a thought for what was in the skin care products I used each day. Looking back, I think my mindset was one of complete trust. Like many people, I assumed that if a product was available for sale, especially when the word ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ was included on the label, it must be safe. But when I learned that preservatives are used in all water-containing skin care - and that means virtually all of it - I had to look further.
So what’s the problem with preservatives in skin care?
Hopefully nothing, I thought - because they are added to virtually every skin care product, as well as most liquid body washes, shampoos and conditioners. This means that a preservative of some type is applied to our bodies regularly, our whole lives. I quickly discovered that there is no truly natural preservative - all are synthetically manufactured, though some of them have natural starting points.
It soon became clear that that not all scientists agree about safety in the world of preservatives. Most famously, the paraben preservatives have been declared safe and are the most widely used preservative, despite concerns from some scientists (read our blog on this here from back in 2013. However, a study published in 2016 showed that even low doses of parabens can result in oestrogen-like effects on laboratory animals - detected as enlargement of the uterus in immature rats and increased expression of oestrogen-responsive genes. This oestrogen-like activity was evident at doses within the existing safety limit for parabens (1). It means that many people who are using products containing parabens, even within the safety guidelines, could be experiencing oestrogenic effects.
Apart from the harm they can cause following absorption into our bodies, it has to be remembered that in order to be effective, preservatives must have strong antibacterial and anti-fungal effects. When they are applied to our skin, they could well be altering our skin’s microbiome, which many believe to be extremely important for our general health (read more on this here).
Why use any synthetic ingredients in skin care?
This is the question I asked myself, after reading about the scientific uncertainty around some preservatives. It soon became clear that preservatives are just the tip of the synthetic iceberg in skin care. For example all water-containing skin care needs an emulsifier, a detergent-like molecule that allows the oil and water to mix. This detergent-like molecule can disrupt our skin’s barrier, according to the scientific literature (2), potentially harming the skin’s health. We’ve written more about emulsifiers here.
Is it possible to make skin care without preservatives and synthetic ingredients?
Answering this question became my next task. Instead of looking at the scientific literature, it was time to look east, at ancient cultures who have worked with medicinal herbs and holistic treatments as medicine for centuries. I found the ancient Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, to be particularly intriguing. Instead of considering disease as something to be combatted, or as a range of symptoms to be counteracted, in Ayurveda disease is considered an imbalance of body, mind or spirit. The disease is treated by restoring balance through alterations in diet and lifestyle, habits of mind and body, and herbal treatments. Ayurveda’s philosophy is to make it a practice to care for oneself each day, to understand the unique needs of one’s own body and mind, and to ensure all aspects are nourished and cared for. This is considered the path to true health and happiness. So the short answer is ‘yes’, it is possible to make skin care using only 100% botanicals, because as Ayurveda and many other cultures have shown, nature provides everything we need for true health. It is all here in front of us.
100% certified organic botanical skin care
After a number of years of research, with continual refinement and testing, we have created a range made with only the purest and most beneficial botanical ingredients. We have selected botanicals that will deliver the most potent nutrients in proportions that will help build your skin’s resilience, while delivering everything your skin needs for optimum health, nutrition and beauty. We find that when our customers use the range and develop an understanding for how it works with their skin’s own regenerative processes, they also gain an improved understanding of their own skin and its individual needs. We hope that Mokosh can be part of your adventure into learning how the daily practice of nourishing mind, body and soul will enhance your journey towards true health.
(1) Sun, L. et al. (2016) The estrogenicity of methylparaben and ethylparaben at doses close to the acceptable daily intake in immature Sprague-Dawley rats. Sci. Rep. 6: 25173
(2). Barany, E. et al (2000) Unexpected skin barrier influence from nonionic emulsifiers. International Journal of Pharmaceutics 195:189–195