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Preservatives in cosmetic products

Preservatives in cosmetic products

Preservatives are one of the most controversial ingredients in cosmetics, with a bad reputation and many myths are created around them. One of them is that cosmetics without preservatives are much safer for human skin, and adding them to creams or lotions, for example, can only worsen the composition and negatively affect the perception and effect of the cosmetic. Is there really a reason to be afraid? What is a preservative in cosmetics and what is its real purpose? In this article, we will try to explain what value preservatives have for us.


What is a preservative in relation to cosmetics and what is its role?

A preservative is an ingredient that is added to a product’s formula to prolong its shelf life. It protects the product against microbiological contamination. Cosmetic products, just like food products, can become contaminated with bacteria and fungi without preservation. This can happen, for example, when putting your finger into a jar of cream or applying a cotton swab to a micellar lotion or toner. Hygiene when using cosmetic products is very important.

Most skincare products contain water and active ingredients (peptides, sugars), which are ideal environments for the proliferation of yeasts, mold, bacteria or fungi. In a cream in which no preservatives have been used, bacteria can develop just a few days after opening the jar.

What preservatives do we know?

The list of preservatives that are permitted for use in cosmetic products can be found in Annex V of Regulation No. 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on cosmetic products. Both natural preservatives (e.g. essential oils, plant extracts or additional substances occurring in nature, e.g. citric acid) and synthetic substances (e.g. parabens, urea derivatives or isothiazolones) are listed. In cosmetic products, a mixture of several preservatives is usually used, as it gives greater certainty of efficacy.


Products with low microbiological risk

The quality and purity of raw materials during storage and use affect the microbiological purity of cosmetics, especially the quality of water. In addition, it also depends on the hygiene of the technological process, the physical and chemical properties of the manufactured product, but also on the type of packaging material (the safest are those that do not come into contact with air, such as the tube or airless). Low microbiological risk products mainly include those with low water content or high alcohol content.



From the above article we can conclude that the negative impact of preservatives in cosmetics on human skin is a myth. All substances approved for use in cosmetic products are completely safe. However, we cannot exclude an allergy to any of the ingredients contained in the cosmetics. If redness or other allergic symptoms occur, we should stop using the cosmetic immediately. Incorrect information around preservatives is usually the result of selective use of scientific knowledge or basing it on unreliable sources. Preservatives authorised for use are always marked on the product label, and their amount never exceeds the recommended standards. They are essential for a product to be long-lasting and microbiologically safe, and the list of permitted substances was co-created by toxicologists, allergologists and risk assessment experts, among others.


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