Give Chemicals the Bird: Preservatives

The word “preservative” evokes strong reactions—maybe that’s due to their reputation for causing other reactions. That being said, preservation is essential. It means you don’t need to buy every consumable you use every time you need it, and you don’t have to constantly make small batches of your own products. Shelf life is not a bad thing, but the way it’s achieved can be.

The key word here is “can.” You have a choice between scary synthetic chemical preservatives and furry blue stuff that was lotion in a former life. But first, let’s look at a very common class of preservatives called parabens to see why we feel they’re scary.

The perils of parabens 

Parabens are a common preservative used in many cosmetics to extend their shelf life, but they could be shortening yours. They prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeasts, and are found in almost all chemical sunscreens. Unfortunately, they’ve also been linked to breast cancer and a host of health issues.

Parabens increase the expression of genes that would otherwise be naturally regulated by your hormones. (i)(ii) Your body has “instructions” built in to help it determine what proteins are needed by each cell and when to produce them. This process is called gene expression, and parabens confuse these instructions. Parabens are proven estrogen mimickers that can stimulate the division of cancerous cells in breasts and even cause ovarian aging in women. (iii) Even the FDA concedes that parabens “act similarly to estrogen,” and that “estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer.” (iv)

And guys, you’re not immune here either. Studies have linked parabens to low sperm mobility and count. Children are at risk, too, since parabens can lead to early onset puberty. (v)

We’ve all heard the myth that if you swallow gum it stays in your digestive system for seven years. While we now know the gum scare isn’t actually true, this tendency to stick around is true when it comes to parabens. They penetrate the surface of your skin, make it to your bloodstream and remain inside your body. Designed to persevere in products, parabens accumulate in fat cells and have been identified in breast tumors. And the FDA permits levels of up to 25-percent in cosmetic products! (vi)

Even if your only goal when buying sunscreen is to protect your skin, parabens are a no-no. According to Time Magazine, “Studies indicate methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB (the burning rays), leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.” Two parabens have even been outlawed in Denmark, although they’re still allowed in the U.S.(vii)

We’d rather use radishes

None of that sounds super fun, right? How do you feel about radishes? They add a nice spot of color to a salad and kimchi is delicious, but beyond that, they’re incredibly useful as preservatives. No really. We actually use an alternative natural preservative system using radish-root ferment and organic acids. These ingredients work together to safely preserve the sunscreen. And instead of nasty health consequences, they create natural peptides, which have skin-repairing benefits.

Parabens over peptides?

Both preservative methods extend the shelf life of products, but one causes serious health issues along the way. Why would companies then choose parabens over peptides? The simple answer is that parabens are cheap and they work. We’re using “work” loosely here since parabens solve one problem, but create a bunch of others, but parabens are very powerful. This means they don’t need to use a lot to extend the shelf life, which further helps keep the cost down.

Our preservative systems costs us quite a bit more to make and use, but our customers’ health is one area where we will never cut corners. And we hope it’s just one more reason you’ll want to give chemicals the bird!

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