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To ensure that your sales are as healthy as your product, don’t avoid the preservative controversy; instead, address it directly. Because your clients won’t be moved by a long-winded rationale, consider posting a brief explanation on your website, and placing a shelf-talker near your product display with words to this effect: “The products we sell contain nonparaben preservatives. In the interest of the health, safety and well-being of our clients, we specifically choose products that contain preservatives in order to reduce microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, molds, fungi and yeasts that may cause skin irritation, eye infections and other health complications.”
"Natural" is a commonly used word that leads to tremendous misunderstanding. In the general thinking of many consumers, natural is synonymous with healthy and good, while the term “chemical” is associated with toxicity and danger to health. There is even a moral value assigned to these two words.
This quickly becomes a cautionary tale; one in which estheticians and other spa professionals should study so that they can educate their clients. Consider all of the things that are purely 100% natural, defined as “coming from nature”: poison oak; bee stings; rattlesnake bites; malaria, spread by mosquitoes; bubonic plague, spread by fleas; or Lyme disease, transmitted by ticks. Nothing could be more natural. The fact is that the natural world is filled with peril.
The bias against the word chemical is equally misguided, because the entire world depends upon chemical interaction. Chemistry is like physics—there is no denying its presence, and it has no inherent moral value judgment attached. Chemistry is what allows for fertilization and photosynthesis in plants, the metamorphosis of insects, the reproduction of animals, and a million other processes that are defined, correctly in this case, as natural.
Of course, what most people mean when they use the word chemical is a substance synthesized in a laboratory. The real issue—from a health standpoint—is the safety of substances instead of their place of origin.
Today’s women demand more from their skin care products—and makeup—than ever before. In particular, the anti-aging boom of the past decade has brought skin function into sharp focus for discerning consumers.
Makeup and skin care products now are seen by many in a long-term context, as part of a lifelong strategy to prevent and minimize damage and wear to the skin. And thus, women have grown increasingly wary of cosmetic ingredients, including the preservatives commonly used to keep the products fresh, free of spoilage and perfectly blended for product consistency.
As part of this quest for makeup that supports skin health while still offering coverage, color and textural features, mineral makeup, especially in its dry powder form, has become the darling of many eco-advocates. (See Natural vs. Chemical.) Mineral makeup is typically more sheer and subtle than its nonmineral counterparts, giving the skin a glowing finish with translucent titanium and zinc oxide that also provide broad-spectrum sun protection. Although some of the popularity of minerals is based upon scientific accuracy, other aspects are founded upon myth and misinformation that can, in fact, be dangerous to skin health, and may also lead to consumer dissatisfaction.
Key among these misguided beliefs is the idea that mineral makeup requires no preservative component. Many consumers seek out preservative-free mineral makeup, but this choice not only diminishes the shelf life and therefore the dollar value of the product, but also poses health risks to clients.
“Cleanliness” is a relative and subjective term. Dermatologists and skin care product manufacturers, among others, realize this, but consumers may not. This, in turn, leads to misunderstanding. The human body, and in particular human skin, is a teeming microbial zoo. It is estimated that microbes on and in the body outnumber human cells ten-to-one.1 Many researchers consider human skin, the body’s largest organ, the final frontier of unexplored science, much as the ocean depths or the reaches of space were once viewed. Experts currently recognize at least 182 species of bacteria—fondly called “normal flora” by bacteriologists—as common residents of human skin. In fact, recent research revealed that 19 species alone live in the warm, shadowy areas behind the ears.2