why we need preservatives, thickeners, and more

they’re not as scary as they sound!

Long time cocokind fans know that our OG formulas are much simpler than our newer ones. One of the first products that put us on the map, our mymatcha all-over moisture stick, is made of 3 ingredients and 3 ingredients only: coconut oil, beeswax, and matcha tea powder. Our rosewater toner, another of our original hero products, contains literally one ingredient...rosewater. These products, though simple, are nourishing and effective - we love them now just as much as we did then! 

As we’ve grown, we want to continue to reach more and more people. For us, that means developing new kinds of products - some of them with a more “traditional” form and feel (though always remaining clean, conscious and accessible).

A lot of our newer formulas are more complex and require more ingredients, some with names that you might not recognize. But that doesn’t automatically make them bad!

Simply put, there are two main types of ingredients that we formulate with: active ingredients and functional ingredients (although some of our ingredients are functional actives). Active ingredients have direct benefits to your skin: turmeric, bakuchiol, vitamin C, etc. Functional ingredients have direct benefits to the formula. These are ingredients that deliver actives, dictate the formula’s texture, improve its consistency, kill bacteria, etc. Functional ingredients include preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, and the like. 

Some of our more complex formulas require functional ingredients to keep them safe and consistent. Here are a few you might see on our ingredient lists, why we need them, and why they’re nothing to worry about. 

emulsifiers

An emulsion is a mixture of oil and water, which are two things that naturally separate. Emulsifiers are substances that hold said waters and said oils together, and keep them combined. 

For example, our turmeric tonic has a water and ginger water base. It also contains turmeric extract, tea tree oil, and witch hazel extract, all of which are either oil or oily substances. That’s why our formula requires emulsifiers (in this case, plant-derived polyglyceryl-4 caprate and polyglyceryl-6 caprylate) to keep our formula blended and homogenous. 

Without these emulsifiers, the product would separate, with the oils sitting on top of the water. 

And without emulsifiers, every roll of turmeric tonic would contain different amounts of our actives - one roll might deliver tons of ginger water and no turmeric, and another might deliver way more turmeric than we intended. 

Thanks to our emulsifiers, every roll of turmeric tonic delivers the exact same ingredients at the exact same potency with the exact same benefits to your skin. And consistency is key!

preservatives

We’ve all heard of these! People tend to think of preservatives negatively, thanks to associations with formaldehyde and other harsh or toxic chemicals. However, there are actually tons of gentle preservatives out there; naturally-derived ones that are easy on the skin but still able to actively kill bacteria and prevent its growth. 

Preservatives are almost always necessary to ensure the safety of formulas that contain water. This is because water in formulas allows for bacterial growth, mold, mildew, fungi, and the like, which we certainly don’t want. 

For example, take the radish root ferment that we use in our glow essence and our vitamin C serum. Made with the same lactic acid bacteria traditionally used to make Korean kimchi, this preservative offers antimicrobial benefits. And unlike harsh, synthetic preservatives, it helps kill pathogens WITHOUT irritating your skin or disturbing its microbiome.

Of course, there are exceptions to the preservatives-in-formulas-that-contain-water rule - for example, our toners. Our raspberry vinegar toner is so naturally acidic that it’s self-preserving - although our formula contains water, bacteria cannot survive or grow in it. Our rosewater is made by steam-distillation and the steaming process completely sanitizes the water, killing all bacteria. 

After that, every single batch of our toners is tested for microbiological activity, so we can verify that they’re 100% safe and bacteria-free. To date, we’ve never had a failing batch!

thickeners

Many tend to think of thickeners as filler ingredients, or ingredients included in formulas purely to make them cheaper to produce. However, thickeners can have a huge impact on the effectiveness and sensorial experience of a formula. 

Thickeners can essentially dictate the consistency of the product in question. An earlier version of our resurfacing sleep mask was thinner and more watery than the formula we use now. Adding cellulose (a natural thickener commonly found in plants and algae) to our formula allowed it to provide more of a cushion against the skin, and to hold actives to it more efficiently. That single ingredient greatly improved the form of the product as well as its function.

Furthermore, lots of thickeners, like cellulose, also offer skincare benefits like increased hydration.

pH balancers

We talk about the pH of our skin aallll the time at cocokind, but the pH of the products we use are important too. The wrong pH can be extremely disruptive to your skin’s microbiome. If the pH of a formula is too high, the preservatives won’t work as well and the formula will be at risk of bacterial growth. If the pH of a formula is too low, it can irritate the skin and cause sensitivity. 

The ideal pH of a given formula is close to neutral but slightly acidic. Some ingredients can cause a formula’s pH to swing drastically in one direction or the other, and pH-balancing ingredients reign them in. For example, our resurfacing sleep mask uses citric acid, a natural alpha hydroxy acid, to adjust the pH of our formula and keep it at a level that the skin loves. 

the takeaway

The key takeaway here is that ingredients like preservatives and thickeners aren’t automatically bad - at cocokind, we only use the ingredients necessary to keep formulas safe, effective, and consistent, and we only formulate with clean ingredients. And you can rest assured knowing that we’ll always be here to explain what we use in our formulas and why.

we hope you found this helpful! for more skincare education, tips, and tricks, make sure to subscribe to our emails below!