To ensure the conservation and stability of cosmetic products over time, as well as their safety, it is inevitable to use cosmetic preservatives. They protect products against bacteria, light, pollution and contamination for users.
A poorly preserved product can have serious consequences (allergy, irritation, etc.) or deteriorate in terms of its appearance or its properties.
Cosmetic preservatives are used to protect the aqueous or oily phase of a product.
There are antibacterial and antifungal preservatives to neutralize the development of microorganisms and antioxidant preservatives to protect the color, smell, virtues, properties and active ingredients of products.
Antimicrobial and antifungal preservatives
Bacteria and microbes feed on nutrients and water which are the main assets of a product. That is why, in the absence of preservatives, cosmetics are unprotected and can cause harm.
Here is the list of antimicrobial and antifungal preservatives authorized in organic cosmetics.
- Benzoic acid or benzoic acid
Benzoic acid is found in certain natural plants such as benzoin. It is used as a cosmetic preservative for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. It has the power to effectively kill microscopic fungi that can grow in cosmetic products.
- Sorbic acid or sorbic acid and its salts
Sorbic acid is a natural antimicrobial preservative. You can find it in the berries of the mountain ash. Its role in the manufacture of cosmetic products is to inhibit the growth of a number of bacteria.
- Benzylic acid , Cosgard or benzyl alcohol
Benzylic acid is a preservative of plant origin which is found in certain plants (jasmine, ylang-ylang, etc.). It is authorized in organic to neutralize microorganisms in cosmetic products. It is also used as a perfume agent in perfumes and aromatic raw materials.
- Dehydroacetic acid or dehydroacetic acid
Dehydroacetic acid is a chemical preservative authorized in bio. It has antimicrobial properties and can stop the spread of microorganisms in cosmetic products. Despite its chemical nature, its risks to health and the environment are low, because it is biodegradable.
Isocide is a cosmetic preservative for the aqueous phase. It is a very powerful antimicrobial and antifungal, it prevents the growth of yeasts, bacteria, molds… in products. It is tolerated by all types of skin.
- Potassium sorbate
Potassium sorbate is a potassium salt of sorbic acid that is present in rowan. It is authorized in cosmetics for its ability to neutralize the contamination of a product by air, bacteria, fungi, yeasts and molds.
There are also purely natural preservatives that some manufacturers use in cosmetic products.
- Natural alcohol or ethanol
The alcoho l or ethanol is a conservative natural, non-toxic, made from wheat grains. It is allowed in cosmetics, only when it is undenatured. It has become an important ingredient in the manufacture of various cosmetic products (lotion, perfumes, etc.) thanks to its power as a preservative to fight against product contamination and its bactericidal effect.
- EPP or grapefruit seed extract
The natural extract of grapefruit seeds, also called EPP is a natural preservative known in cosmetics. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It neutralizes the growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds in the aqueous phase of cosmetic products. And it has the power to extend the life of the products.
- The Leudical
Leudical is a 100% natural preservative widely used in the conservation of organic cosmetic products. It is obtained by fermenting radishes. It contains peptides with antibacterial properties which are effective in preserving the aqueous phase of products… It is tolerated by all skin types and even sensitive skin.
- Naticide or plant aserv Q
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of naticide or plantaserv Q allow it to be a broad spectrum preservative for products that contain an aqueous phase. It is of natural origin. Its composition remains secret, but they are aromatic compounds. It makes it possible to keep all emulsions of products such as creams and milks for example.
Are essential oils natural preservatives?
Although some essential oils generally contain antibacterial and antifungal properties, these do not make them preservatives. They are not suitable for making cosmetic products, they can just improve their preservation.
Preservatives to avoid in cosmetics
You have to choose the products you buy carefully. Choose organic cosmetics. Most of them are non-organic. Synthetic preservatives can have serious health consequences.
Here is the list of synthetic preservatives to avoid.
Parabens are the best known synthetic cosmetic preservatives for their carcinogenic effect and their endocrine disrupting power. The more important parabens are in a product, the more toxic they are. Risks are therefore determined by quantity.
The most dangerous parabens are butylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparaben. There are less harmful parabens, but that should still be avoided such as methylparaben and ethylparaben.
Tricolsan is a synthetic antibacterial preservative. It can have harmful effects on health, because it is known as an endocrine disruptor by acting on the functioning of the thyroid by causing carcinogenic residues that the body cannot eliminate. But still, it can cause allergic reactions.
The harm caused by tricolsan is long-term, known as the cocktail effect.
- Cetrimonium bromide
Cetrimonium bromide is a preservative of synthetic origin. This chemical preservative is mainly used for preserving cleaning products. It is dangerous because it can lead to allergies and irritation.
- Formaldehyde or the formalin liberator
Formaldehyde liberators are slowly acting preservatives in the form of formaldehyde gas. They are known to be class A allergen and carcinogen. Its consequences are more harmful if they are in direct contact with the skin or in close contact with the eyes.
Methylisothiazolinone is the most widely used preservative in non-organic cosmetics. He is also known by the names MIT and Kathon CG. It is most often present in products such as shampoos, shower gels, lotions … However, it should be avoided, because it is a strong skin irritant.
Phenoxyethanol known under the names phenoxytol or EGPhE is a very common preservative in cosmetics. Besides being dangerous for the liver and blood, it also has carcinogenic effects and can lead to dysfunction of the hormonal system in men.
Phenoxyethanol is also a very well known allergen. It can cause eczema and hives in intolerant people.
The roles of antioxidant preservatives in cosmetics are to protect products against oxidation and to protect the skin against free radicals.
Here is the list of antioxidant preservatives authorized in cosmetics.
1. Vitamin E
Thanks to the antioxidant effect of vitamin E, it is considered a natural preservative for all products that contain an oily phase. It is composed of a mixture of natural tocopherols from sunflower, diluted in soybean oil. It protects oils and butters against oxidation and optimally preserves cosmetic products.
2. CO2 extract of rosemary or rosmanirus officianalis leaf extrat
Rosemary CO2 extract is a 100% natural preservative and antioxidant. It is extracted from the leaves of rosemary using supercritical carbon dioxide. Only at low doses, it can extend the life of a cosmetic product thanks to its antioxidant power.
3. Ascorbic acid or vitamin C
Ascorbic acid or vitamin C is a very powerful natural antioxidant preservative. It is present in certain foods, fruits and vegetables. In addition to being an antioxidant, vitamin C also has the ability to preserve, over a very long period, products that contain an oily phase.
Thanks to the antioxidant property of polyphenol, it is considered as an antioxidant preservative, of natural origin in cosmetics. It is present on red fruits such as strawberries and berries or raspberries. It is allowed in cosmetics because it can fight against oxidative rancidity in products.
5. Synthetic antioxidant preservatives that should be avoided in cosmetics
There are also antioxidant preservatives of synthetic origin, which are not recommended in cosmetics, because they can be very harmful to health.
Here is the list of synthetic antioxidant preservatives to avoid in cosmetics.
6. The BTH
BTH is an antioxidant preservative of synthetic origin. It is considered a danger because of its carcinogenic effect.
7. The BHA
BHA is an antioxidant preservative to be avoided in cosmetics. It can have harmful consequences for health. It is toxic to the skin. It has an allergenic effect and in addition, it is a hormonal disruptor.