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Highlighting the inventiveness and trends shaping our industry and its future.

Combating Chemophobia with Clean Preservatives


Preservatives are critical to creating safe, effective personal care and skincare products. But, thanks to the recent explosion of the clean beauty trend, consumers are increasingly skittish about any sort of chemicals in their cosmetic products.

In fact, there’s even a new term to describe this chemical wariness – chemophobia, or the aversion to, or prejudice against, chemicals or chemistry. 

James Kennedy explains this new problem in his Aeon article, “Chemophobia is irrational, harmful – and hard to put to bed”:

“The distinction between natural and synthetic chemicals is not merely ambiguous, it is non-existent. The fact that an ingredient is synthetic does not automatically make it dangerous, and the fact that it is natural doesn’t make it safe/ Botulinum, produced by bacteria that grow in honey, is more than 1.3 billion times as toxic as lead and is the reason why infants should never eat honey. A cup of apple seeds contains enough natural cyanide to kill an adult human. Natural chemicals can be beneficial, neutral or harmful depending on the dosage and on how they are used, just like synthetic chemicals. Whether a chemical is ‘natural’ should never be a factor when assessing its safety.” 

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For formulators, rising chemophobia creates both safety and perception problems, especially revolving around the use of preservatives. However, there is a two-fold solution to curing chemophobia: more consumer education in addition to using innovative, clean preservatives to meet both consumer and manufacturer needs.

Fighting chemophobia with education

Chemophobia is defined by the scientific community as a learned prejudice or learned aversion, like xenophobia. This means one of the most important steps in combatting chemophobia is consumer education about the importance of critical ingredients like preservatives.

Preservatives inhibit bacteria, fungi, mold, microbial growth in opened skincare and personal care products. Any product containing water has the potential to become infected with bacterial growth once opened, especially when exposed to hot, humid temperatures. Preservatives prevent these dangerous growths, while also maintaining the color, texture, smell, and consistency of a cosmetic product. Additionally, preservatives help to keep active ingredients, like glycolic acid, stable. In short, preservatives are a vital part of a formulation – consumers simply need more information about their importance, even if only on a product label.

“Preservatives are not all bad, and they need to be listed—along with everything else—so consumers can know what they’re feeding their skin!” said Follain CEO Tara Foley in an interview with Well + Good.

Consumer education on the importance of ingredients like preservatives is critical to reducing current chemophobia.

Appeasing consumers while staying safe

Another solution to converting wary consumers to the importance of preservatives? By using modern, innovative preservatives that fulfill the claims needs of the “clean” consumer – while also satisfying the safety and efficacy concerns of the formulator.

"Preservatives are not all bad, and they need to be listed—along with everything else—so consumers can know what they’re feeding their skin!"
Tara Foley
CEO, Follain

Contemporary preservatives like the Sharon Advanced Preservatives Line are an optimal preservative to use in a green, clean, or natural claims personal care and skincare products. The Sharon Advanced Preservatives Line the line is 100% free of formaldehyde donors, isothiazolinones. Even better? These modern preservatives are globally approved, heat stable, suitable for wide pH range, and offer broad-spectrum protection with a recommended level of use of less than 1 percent.  

Solutions with Sharon

As the market shift continues towards multi-functional preservative free and mild preservatives systems, modern preservatives like the Sharon Advanced Preservatives Line, offer an excellent opportunity to formulators. Mild and preservative free lines like Sharon Advance can provide product stability and safety – while satisfying those “clean-concerned” consumers.

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