When it comes to taking care of your skin, you probably pay a lot of attention to the active ingredients in skincare products that promise to make your skin look younger and healthier. But have you ever thought about the role of preservatives in cosmetics? In this blog post, we're going to dive into the world of preservatives, their importance in skincare, and how they can affect your skin's health and appearance.
What are preservatives and why should I care?
Think of preservatives as the superheroes that keep your skincare products fresh and safe to use for a long time. Just like you want your food to stay fresh in the fridge, you want your skincare products to last without going bad. Preservatives are the ingredients that make this possible. They extend the shelf life of products, which means you can store and use them for longer periods without worrying about them spoiling.
Preservatives play a crucial role in protecting skincare products from harmful bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that are present everywhere around us. Every time you use a skincare product, especially if it comes in a jar where you dip your finger in, there's a risk of introducing harmful microorganisms from your finger into the product. Once inside, these microorganisms can grow and multiply, eventually contaminating the product and causing irritation or, in the worst-case scenario, infection! By including preservatives in skincare formulas, manufacturers ensure that their products are safe from harmful microorganisms from the moment they are shipped until their recommended use-by date.
What effect, if any, do preservatives have on skin health and appearance?
You might be wondering if preservatives have any effect on your skin. Well, here's the deal: your skin is home to trillions of microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. They form what we call the "skin microbiome." Recent scientific research has shown that the skin microbiome plays a vital role in maintaining skin health and appearance. While the skin microbiome contains both good and bad microorganisms, so long as the good ones do not outnumber the bad ones and there is a good mix of different types of microorganisms (think diversity), everything is in balance. The microorganisms in the skin microbiome communicate with each other and with your immune system, helping to keep your skin healthy. However, when the bad microorganisms start to outnumber the good ones, the skin microbiome sends signals to your immune system, triggering an inflammatory response. This inflammation can compromise your skin's barrier, leading to dryness, flakiness, and irritation. The skin barrier is essential because it keeps harmful external elements out while locking moisture in. When inflammation causes it to become compromised, your skin's health and appearance suffer until the barrier is repaired.
Effects of Cosmetic Preservatives on Healthy Facial Skin Microflora
What do the skin microbiome and inflammation have to do with preservatives?
Let's talk about how preservatives fit into all of this. When you apply skincare products with preservatives on your skin, some of those preservative molecules stay on your skin even after you’ve washed, kind of like houseguests that just don’t know when to leave. These preservative “squatters” can affect bacterial balance and diversity within your skin's microbiome. Since the purpose of preservatives is to eliminate microorganisms that may be present in products, it makes sense that they could also eliminate them in your skin's microbiome, including the good ones! This not only disrupts the natural balance within the microbiome (number of good versus bad bugs) but also reduces their diversity (types of good versus bad bugs). Research has shown that unhealthy skin conditions like atopic dermatitis are associated with poor diversity in the skin microbiome. That's why cosmetic scientists have been working to find ways to maintain and enhance diversity within the skin microbiome.
Are there any workarounds to this preservatives-skin microbiome-inflammation ripple effect problem?
At Codex Labs, our R&D team took on the challenge of developing a solution to this preservative-initiated ripple effect problem. The team’s goal was to try and create a “biotech-derived” preservative system that would be gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin while at the same time effectively preserving both our products and the skin microbiome. We also committed to only using those ingredients that were considered by the FDA to be “edible”, i.e., GRAS(Generally Recognized As Safe) and were not believed to be endocrine disruptors. After numerous trials and failures, our scientists ultimately developed a preservative system based on ferments from the bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus as well as edible yeast and mold inhibitors, that was not only effective at preserving our products but that was also so surprisingly hydrating, skin calming, and microbiome supporting, that global patent offices deemed it innovative and worthy of patent protection. Thus, Codex’s patented PreservX® system, comprised of a unique blend of various plant-based, biotech-derived ingredients, was born!
Our patented preservative system not only keeps our products safe from unwanted contaminant (bad bugs), but also helps to preserve skin microbiome diversity and health. How do we know? Because an independent, globally recognized testing facility (MyMicrobiome™), has certified them as being “microbiome-friendly”. Products that pass their rigorous testing protocols receive a "Microbiome-friendly" certification. If maintaining the balance and diversity of your skin microbiome is important to you, look for skincare products with this or a similarly well-recognized certification. At Codex Labs, all our water-containing products rely on the patented PreservX® technology to keep them contaminant free, and your skin microbiome diverse and well balanced. Whether your skin is dry and in need of extreme moisturization (the CODEX BIA COLLECTION), your skin barrier is compromised, irritated, and in need of repair and protection (the CODEX ANTU COLLECTION), or you suffer from oily, inflamed, acne-prone skin (the CODEX SHAANT COLLECTION) you can rest assured that your product will do what is says AND is safe to use!
In short, preservatives are essential for keeping skincare products safe to use by preventing unwanted microbial growth. However, if you’re REALLY serious about the health and appearance of your skin, you should absolutely consider the impact of preservatives on your skin's microbiome and the troubling ripple effect they can have on your skin barrier and inflammation. Look for products that have been tested and certified as being microbiome-friendly to ensure they won't disrupt the balance and diversity of your skin microbiome. At Codex Labs, we prioritize the safety of our products, the health and appearance of your skin, the preservation (pun intended) of your skin microbiome, and the well-being of the planet.