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Preservatives in Cosmetics

What Are Preservatives, & Why Are They Used in Cosmetics?

The answer is simple, really. The use of Preservatives in cosmetics is essential to prevent contamination and spoilage of a product. A Preservative is a synthetic or natural ingredient that is added to a product to prevent spoilage and contamination. An (Antioxidant) Preservative may be added to a cosmetic product to help prevent damage and degradation to natural ingredients (sugars, lipids, proteins) that is caused by exposure to oxygen over time.

In other words, these help to increase the shelf life of your product, and keep the product looking and feeling the way it should. Common antioxidant preservatives that may be seen on an ingredient list include Vitamin C and Citric Acid.

An (Antimicrobial) Preservative is added to protect the product from growth of microorganisms. Water, the most abundant compound on Earth, acts as a breeding ground for both bacteria and yeast/mold. These preservatives keep the water that inevitably comes in to contact with your product from acting as a growing ground (? maybe better word like incubator lol) for these microorganisms.

Without the use of Preservatives, cosmetic products (whether they contain water or not) can be contaminated. This can lead to spoilage, and potentially cause irritation or infections. Think of it as an extension of food product safety, you wouldn't want to eat food that could harbor mold.

What Are Parabens, & Why Are They Used in Cosmetics?

A Paraben is a type of preservative that are commonly used in cosmetic products. There are various types of Parabens used in cosmetics. A Paraben is used to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeast. Many Parabens are plant based, which means they are derived from Parahydroxbenzoic Acid (PHBA) which comes from fruits and vegetables.

Are Parabens Safe For Use in Cosmetics?

There are numerous contradictory statements in regards to Parabens on the internet. Some sources claim certain types of Parabens and exposure to them has been linked to hormone disruption, and others claim certain Parabens are safe. Many studies at this time are inconclusive, but parabens are one of the most rigorously tested ingredients. The best bet is to do your research, and do what is best for your company and your clientele base.

FDA Regulations on Preservatives?

The FDA doesn’t have special rules that apply only to preservatives in cosmetics. The law treats preservatives in cosmetics the same as other cosmetic ingredients. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, do not need FDA approval before they go on the market.

However, it is against the law to market a cosmetic in interstate commerce if it is adulterated or misbranded. This means, for example, that cosmetics must be safe for consumers when used according to directions on the label or in the customary way, and they must be properly labeled. All ingredients, including preservative systems, must be included within your ingredient list.

What About All Natural Preservatives?

There are a variety of All Natural Preservative systems available. If your product contains water, you need a preservative. Presence of water and room temperature settings are a breeding ground for microorganisms including bacteria and yeast/mold.

All Natural Preservatives can be effective, but it is best to discuss their efficacy with a cosmetic professional or a cosmetic chemist. There are some ingredients that claim to have preservation properties, but really are not technically a preservative, and most must be combined with others to provide broad spectrum protection for your product.

Going with an All Natural Preservative has it benefits, but it is strongly recommended to conduct a Preservative Efficacy Test in order to conclude the stability of the all natural preservative you are using in your particular formulation.

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