Forever and always. That’s a promise which cosmetic products simply can’t keep: no formulation can be used indefinitely. Preservation is necessary in order to maintain the quality and efficacy of the raw materials contained in a product. But did you know that parabens, for example, do not only keep germs at bay but also come with questionable disadvantages?

Parabens are contained in many INCI lists of conventional cosmetic products. You can, for example, find them under the names methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben and phenylparaben or oxybenzoic acid/oxybenzoate, hydroxybenzoic acid/hydroxybenzoate, PHB and parahydroxybenzoate. Facial care, deodorant or hair products: Parabens are commonly used in cosmetic products as they effectively prevent the spread of mildew and bacteria. These reliable synthetic preserving agents are even contained in medicines and food.

An unpredictable risk

However, their reputation is questionable: On account of their similarity to the female hormone estrogen they allegedly also have problematic side effects which are regularly examined in scientific studies. The estrogenic effect is, however, comparatively low and thus irrelevant for the advocates of the substance. Their arguments are based on official threshold values for the use of different parabens in cosmetic products, which are, in turn, based on the effect on hormones found in animal tests. Is this, however, sufficient as a precaution? The German government informs that every third conventional cosmetics product in Germany contains parabens and that most people use several of those products daily. This considerably increases the absorption of parabens! Moreover, the preservatives are deemed to be contact allergens.

Of course, it is your choice whether you want to take such an unpredictable risk… BUT: There are alternatives!

Natural preservation

The best possibility to produce cosmetic products without synthetic preservation is hygienic processing. The use of clean raw materials and a microbiological check of the manufactured products is a basic requirement. The packaging, however, is also very important. In tubes, creams hardly have any contact with air or skin. Even more hygienic are so-called airless dispensers which are used for many BIRKENSTOCK NATURAL SKIN CARE products.

[Photo by BNSC]
As a basic rule: bacteria and fungi require lots of water to reproduce.. Thus, rich products are automatically better protected against spoilage. For sensitive formulations, alcohol and essential oils are extremely popular as they can prevent contamination of cosmetic products in an effective and natural way. It is also permitted that natural cosmetics contain selected nature-identical preservatives such as benzoic acid, salicylic acid, sorbic acid and their salts.

What is the shelf life of natural cosmetics?

What many people don’t know: also most natural cosmetics products can be used for at least 30 months after the date of their manufacturing! Should this not be the case, a best before date must be indicated on the packaging. An open cream jar with a number indicates the number of months for which you can use your cosmetic product after opening it. But it’s also up to you how long you can happily use your beauty product:

  • Simply close the tube or jar directly after using it to prevent unnecessary air from entering.
  • Only use products with clean hands!
  • Always use up a product within the recommended period.


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