Ask the Experts – Preserving
Greeting from London, UK. What an informative site, thank you.
I’m male and have just got my dermatitis under control. I got interested in what caused my D and it in the skincare products that I use. I’ve been on a mad research frenzy finding out about the cosmetic industry.
I’m a bit horrified by the number of hazardous chemicals used and the fact that my D cleared up when I cut out using every day supermarket skincare says a lot. So now I am suspicious of every manufacturer that is offering ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ products. I have read your interesting article on why we need preservatives in water/oil emulsions.
In my search for a natural skin care product I came across paiskincare.com. This a Uk based company and looking at the ingredients listed it appears to be chemical free. Then i thought, where is the preservative? This is something I want to know in case my D flares up again. I wrote to them and they told me that they had been developing their products in house for 5 years and could not disclose their preservative system.
With all the other ‘green’ cosmetics that claim to be 100% hunky dory I notice the preservative Phenoxyethanol or limonene crop up time and time again. So for Pai to not have these chemicals listed would be a major point of difference in marketing. Is there a deception going on here?
Below are the ingredients. What do you think is preserving them? Is it possible to make an educated guess?
purified water, jojoba oil*, coconut and corn derived emulsifier, thistle oil*, borage oil*, natural vitamin e, vegetable glycerine*, corn extract, manuka oil, basil extract, geranium oil*, juniper oil*, lavender oil*, natural lactic acid (from sugar beet)
*Certified Organic. Soil Association Certified. Suitable for Vegans
This product is free from irritating chemicals and ingredients including: alcohol, artificial fragrances, formaldehyde (including sodium hydroxymethylglycinate), parabens (including japanese honeysuckle), phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol and sodium lauryl sulfate.
Dermatitis is a miserable condition to suffer from and I am glad you are making some progress in getting on top of it. It is often a challenge to pin point what exactly is causing a particular case. The main symptom is basically a very poor skin barrier function, and this in turn causes a lot of other problems. Disentangling causes from effects can be very tricky indeed. The condition’s full scientific name is atopic dermatitis, the ‘atopic’ bit is simply greek for unknown origin.
There are a number of things that can definitely make the condition worse, and synthetic detergents are high on the list. But not all synthetic detergents are equally bad. For example sodium laureth sulphate is very likely be irritating. Triethannolamine laureth sulphate by contrast is much much milder, despite the similarity of the name. The detergents in natural products tend to be a bit milder but it is far from always the case. For example a well known natural brand makes a marketing point about not containing sodium lauryl sulphate while listing sodium coco sulphate among its ingredients. The two materials are virtually identical and would be just as irritating.
With regards to preservatives, the problem you have as a dermatitis sufferer is that your skin is more permeable than most so it is possible that preservatives that don’t penetrate normal skin might get through yours in greater quantities. Atopic dermatitis is the result of a heightened immune system response so you have a big chance of getting a reaction. Frankly, if I were you I would look out for products that are preserved with parabens. They are listed with names like methylparaben and propylparaben. These are very widely used because everyone in the business finds that they are the ones that give you the minimum number of complaints about skin reactions.
And so to Pai Skincare and their preservative system. This is something that commenters on my blog have dissected in some detail. Basically they are using a couple of organic acids as preservatives. These are unusual ones, but not very different to benzoic acid and sorbic acid that are used in other products. Pai do have a lot more idea of what they are doing than a lot of companies that market themselves as natural so I think they are worth giving a try. They do aim to produce products that have less potential to irritate than mainstream ones. Unfortunately this is a tough job and I am sure they themselves would acknowledge that no product will be perfect for everybody.
You can find the full discussion along with input from a representative of Pai themselves here.
Good luck with your search and I hope you can find some products that meet your needs.
More about the author: From the UK, Colin Sanders has been a formulator of cosmetic and topical pharmaceuticals for 27 years. Read more from this author