While preservatives help to extend the longevity of skincare products, they’re also said to speed up skin ageing. ANNIE TAN finds out more from the experts at Fancl.

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While preservatives help to extend the longevity of skincare products, they’re also said to speed up skin ageing. ANNIE TAN finds out more from the experts at Fancl.

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Just as the rest of your body absorbs whatever you eat, your skin does the same with the ingredients in your beauty products. Most contain beneficial vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients. However, experts from Fancl, which doesn’t use preservatives in its products, believe that many also contain the skin equivalent of junk food in the form of preservatives and other harmful additives.

“Applying skincare with preservatives is like eating instant noodles every day. Studies show that their effects accumulate within the skin, causing harm in the long run,” says Candy Chan, head of communications, product research and development at Fancl. “On average, one woman uses 18 to 20 products daily, including cleansing, skincare and hair products, and makeup. Can you imagine the amount of preservatives accumulating in your skin over a month?”


According to studies by the Fancl Research Institute and Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, methyl paraben, one of the most common preservatives in skincare, can cause your skin to age more rapidly than normal. Constant exposure to it increases skin sensitivity and hinders cell renewal and repair.

When its protective layer is formed with damaged cells, it is less able to defend itself against external aggressors such as UV rays, pollution and friction, explains Candy. Preservatives also contribute to sagging skin and wrinkles, she adds. Methyl paraben, for instance, causes the skin to lose elasticity as well as firmness as it affects the production of collagen, and damages cells at the DNA level.

Candy adds that methyl paraben has also been found to cause inflammation, which leads to increased melanin production. In other words, preservative-laden skincare products could inadvertently cause more pigmentation. Fancl Research Institute experts say that because the effects accumulate and manifest over time, they may not be immediately apparent on your skin.


Taking a less is more approach to skincare, Fancl, founded in the 1980s, is the first and still the largest preservative-free beauty brand in Japan. Besides eliminating preservatives, bactericides and harmful additives, it has also cut out other frills, like fancy fragrances, from its ingredients lists. In lieu of preservatives, Fancl uses ingredients with antibacterial properties such as hydrating polyols to inhibit the growth of microorganisms, while moisturising your skin.

Every ingredient fulfils an important function, and undergoes extensive tests to ensure it is gentle on all skin types, including sensitive skin. “While many brands usually do general patch tests with their products, we test each ingredient separately to ensure that none of them cause inflammation in sensitive skin,” says Candy.


If you’re worried that this no-preservative approach will compromise the freshness of your skincare, you can rest easy. All Fancl products are produced in a 100 per cent closed plant production system factory that meets stringent pharmaceutical standards of cleanliness. This minimises contamination and ensures optimal freshness.

You’ll find, too, that Fancl products not only have expiry dates, but manufacturing dates as well, so you know exactly when your cleansing oil or moisturising lotion was produced. High-quality seals ensure ingredients remain fresh and have not oxidised. And all products are designed to dispense the exact amount of product you need, so the product isn’t tainted by skin contact or air exposure.


If you love travel-size bottles, you’ll appreciate Fancl’s clever packaging. Candy shares that its small, handier bottles are not merely designed for convenience, but created to last and keep fresh for an optimal period of 60 days after they've been opened as well. While many other brands usually have a three-year shelf life, regardless of when they were opened, Fancl believes that different products have varying freshness periods and expiry dates that are determined by product stability and antibacterial properties.

For instance, products with antibacterial ingredients tend to last longer, and their freshness period is marked clearly on all Fancl bottles. “Many products, including those from Fancl, contain active ingredients with a golden period of 60 to 75 days. This is when you will experience optimal efficacy,” explains Candy.

“Beyond this period of freshness, many users notice that their skincare doesn’t work as well after a few months as the active ingredients have simply lost their efficacy,” explains Candy. To keep your skin in optimal health, it may be time to rethink your beauty philosophy, read ingredient lists more carefully, and clear out products with too many junk ingredients that could compromise your skin’s barrier function and accelerate visible signs of ageing.


If you’re thinking of switching to a completely preservative-free skincare brand, like Fancl, you’ll need to star t with these essentials.

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1 Mild Cleansing Oil, $30 (120ml) This gentle product is formulated with nanotechnology to melt away longwearing makeup, sunscreen and impurities on your face, eyes and lips in 15 seconds.

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2 Facial Washing Powder, $26 (50g) The revolutionary formula lathers up and cocoons your face in the finest bubbles that delicately lift away dirt, grime and sebum without stripping away natural oils and essential moisture.

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3 Moisturizing Lotion, $28 (30ml) The lightweight formula smooths and preps skin for better absorption of active ingredients. It also drenches skin with raffinose and rice ferment extract, and enhances moisture retention for a soft, dewy complexion.

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4 Moisturizing Emulsion, $28 (30ml) This deeply hydrating moisturiser plumps skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines. It also enhances the penetration of other skincare products.

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5 Tense Up, $58 (10 x 50ml) Fancl’s bestselling collagen drink contains tri-peptide collagen, which has smaller molecules and is absorbed quickly and completely to effectively help to replenish collagen, address problems and rehydrate skin. Taken daily, this delicious supplement contributes to smoother, more resilient skin.