Next time you’re in the bathroom, scan the label of your skincare for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, or EDTA. It is a common skincare ingredient, and you’re likely to find it.
Manufacturers add EDTA to preserve the color of skincare products, which can change over time in the presence of ions and minerals. Conventional logic says: why not? EDTA is used safely in medicine as a “chelating agent.” As a dosed drug, EDTA grabs metal ions – things like iron, calcium and magnesium – and escorts them out of the body. In this way, EDTA is a powerful, safe and important medical technology, especially in the treatment of heavy metal poisoning, or to support those who naturally have elevated levels of iron in their blood.
But in skincare, EDTA is counter-productive, says Silk Therapetics’s co-founder, Dr. Greg Altman, trained in both chemistry and biomedical engineering. Here’s why:
To maintain its strength and firmness, explains Altman, our skin must replenish its store of collagen –the primary protein that makes up skin. And naturally-occurring metal ions are vital to skin’s rejuvenation.
Much like your morning coffee jumpstarts your day, positively charged metal ions act as co-factors, shifting collagen-producing enzymes into their active state. But EDTA, doing what it does best, rounds up these metals ions, too, and in the process, robs skin of their vital role activating collagen production. In this way, EDTA negates the value of other active ingredients formulated into skincare, like vitamin C, which works to activate collagen-producing enzymes, too.
EDTA became a standard addition to skincare to appease customer preference for colorful products that maintain their look over time. It is one among a category of ingredients added to skincare for the purposes of its look and feel, though it has no direct role in skin’s care. In the case of EDTA, however, it is a skincare-enhancing ingredient that works at cross-purposes with both the product and your skin.
At Silk Therapeutics, we prioritize minimal ingredient formulations that support collagen and skin’s own natural processes. And so, we’ve deemed EDTA unnecessary, and formulate without it.
Tell us what you think. Collagen over color? We would love to hear from you at email@example.com