An insight into a scrutinised industry

Preservatives are vital for all aqueous formulations, but the range of options is limited. MSL presents an overview of the current situation.

Preservatives are defined as “substances which are exclusively or mainly intended to inhibit the development of micro-organisms in the cosmetic product”. Natural or synthetic ingredients, they are added to a wide range of products, from foods to pharmaceuticals, to prevent spoilage – whether from microbial growth or undesirable chemical changes. They are essential in personal care and cosmetic products to stop products being damaged by microorganisms and to protect the product from inadvertent contamination by the consumer during use.

Acting as the antibiotics of the cosmetic industry, they keep products from developing unsightly changes or spoiling, as well as protecting consumers themselves. Without them, cosmetics would have a much shorter shelf life, which would ultimately impact day to day skin care and beauty routines. For example, without preservatives, users could not take their favourite makeup or daily moisturising cream away on holiday with them. They also help to reduce the amount of packaging required, as they enable products to be sold as multi-use instead of single use doses.

To safeguard health and safety, there are stringent rules in place. The EU Cosmetic Regulation requires that all cosmetic products be safe for human health and preservatives within them must be listed on Annex V.1 Currently there are 60 preservatives on the EU list but only a limited number are in common use and many of those are facing regulatory review and uncertainty.

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