top of page

Diving into Preservatives

Preservatives in cosmetics play a crucial role in preventing microbial growth. They are added to cosmetic products to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that can contaminate the product. Microorganisms can thrive in cosmetic formulations due to the presence of water, oils, and other ingredients that provide a favorable environment for their growth.

Preservatives work by either killing the microorganisms or inhibiting their growth, thus extending the shelf life of the product and ensuring its safety for use.

Imagine applying a splash of your favorite cosmetic to your skin, only to find out it's been tarnished by microbiological contamination. Not a pleasant thought, right? This is not only potentially harmful to you, the consumer, but it also presents a costly and avoidable quality concern for the company responsible for crafting your beloved products.

Preservatives have two ways of working:

1) by killing micro-organism causing their numbers to decrease.

2) by inhibiting growth and multiplication of micro organisms but not killing them. Growth may occur if contamination enters the finished product beyond its microbistatic capabilities.

Preservatives are completely safe when used correctly within their safety usage rate. I will get into how to chose the right perservative for your formulation shortly!

GMP (good manufacturing practice) is important while formulating cosmetics to ensure that micro-organisms are not introduced into the product while it is being made. As a formulator, you must ensure you are developing products in a clean workspace with sanitized equipment.

GMP includes storing and dispensing ( no cross contamination) your raw materials as recommended by manufacturer.

Don't underestimate the importance of your DIY cosmetics' final packaging! So many product packages are designed in a way that inevitably exposes your carefully crafted product to air throughout its lifespan. Open neck jars, while aesthetically pleasing, come with a high degree of risk - they invite users to dip their fingers into your product, thereby introducing both air and potential water contamination. Imagine this - a consumer casually leaves the lid off in a steamy bathroom, inadvertently creating an environment ideal for introducing water into your product.

Anhydrous body butters have been riding the wave of popularity, but several brands manufacturing them are not considering that a consumer's finger could be wet while applying, or that they might leave the product exposed in a steamy bathroom. Without a preservative in the formulation, this seemingly harmless negligence can transform your beautiful creation into a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. It's important to remember, without proper preservation, even the most luxurious product can become a bacterial banquet!

Imagine this - you've crafted the perfect cosmetic formulation, but where it ends up could majorly impact your selection of preservatives. Does your product need to endure the rigors of transit under high heat? Or perhaps it's destined for an exotic, tropical climate. These are crucial factors you must not overlook.

Fascinatingly, a number of preservatives have heat sensitivity. This means that crossing a particular temperature threshold triggers a drastic change in their profile. Such a shift could rob them of their protective capacity, leaving your meticulously crafted cosmetic product vulnerable. So, keep the journey in mind when you're picking the right preservatives for your DIY cosmetics!

Beyond GMP, packaging, climate and use there are some raw materials that pose a high contamination risk: Botanical ingredients and gums, colors and pigments, talcs and clays.

Antioxidants are NOT preservatives.

When choosing a preservative first think of your brands ethics. Are you formulating to meet COSMOS standards. You cannot claim your product is natural or all natural unless you have formulated it with ingredients that COSMOS has approved. Cosmos has a selection of preservatives to choose from. I am putting together a chart of them to add to the blog later this week.

Should your brand embrace the use of safe synthetics, you'll discover a wide array of preservatives that will meet your formulations needs.

Then you will consider the Ph of your product. Why is this imp