Preservatives: The Good, The Bad and The Hazardous.

By now, you’ve probably heard of parabens, and you either avoid them like the plague, or you shrug off the negative hype, chalking it up to a smear campaign against a perfectly effective ingredient. The truth may be somewhere in the middle, but that’s not clean enough for Au Naturale.

Let’s begin with a little science. Parabens are a group of compounds used as a preservative in the cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical industries to extend the shelf life of products by combating bacteria, mold, and yeast growth. Sounds like a great innovation, but there’s a downside. It turns out many varieties of parabens cause questionable side effects and some are downright dangerous. And they still may be lurking in your makeup.

When you search the word “Paraben” on The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, you see a list of parabens that range from known toxic, cancer causing parabens to parabens that have not been linked to many health issues. For instance,  Butylparaben is a known cancer causing agent and endocrine disrupter while Sodium Paraben has not been identified as a harmful ingredient.

While we believe that every consumer has the responsibility to think about what they are putting on their skin, we also believe that cosmetic producers have a responsibility to do their research and look for alternatives when the safety of a formulation is questionable.

As a company, Au Naturale takes an approach similar to that of the European Union, which requires substances to be proven safe before allowing them. This is in contrast to the US, where a company can use a substance until (and sometimes after) it is proven to present “unreasonable risk.” We believe companies should “ask first” rather than “apologize later.”

For us this means that, rather than risk using a paraben based preservative that we think is safe, we use only preservatives that we know to be safe.

In fact, Au Naturale started out using no preservatives, which was a non-issue as our makeup range began as mostly loose, raw minerals which were inorganic rocks, and therefore unable to grow bacteria!  As the line grew to incorporate cremes, glosses, and lipsticks we began to introduce natural solutions, like Tocopherol (Vitamin E) and Organic Lavender Oil, for preservation. Though essential oils like Tea Tree and Lemon can also be used as preservatives, we so far have only utilized Tocopherol and Lavender at the Au Naturale Lab.

Perhaps the most innovative natural preservative discovery at Au Naturale came in 2018 when we were able to start formulating with the first organic synthetic preservative debuting in the beauty market: Xylityl Cocoate! Working with Xylityl Cocoate allowed our team to develop the first mascara which we debuted in early 2019.

As the natural beauty market continues to trend upward, we know there will be more natural and organic preservative solutions. We are excited to see how the industry evolves, but we plan to stay the course on our approach. Until we are confident something is safe, we won’t use it!

1 comment

I have dry eye syndrome and I’m looking for a line that won’t irritate my eyes. I’m in need of eye shadow, mascara and under eye concealer. Do your products have fruits extracts and minerals in them? If yes, could these be irritating to the eye?

Melissa Klein December 11, 2019

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