Preservatives in cosmetics
Cosmetic and beauty products are made up of ingredients that are biodegradable, and therefore easily inhabited by micro-organisms. Substances destined to perform an effective action against microorganisms in cosmetic products are classified as preservatives.
The definition of preservative in cosmetics differs from that used in the food sector as it does not include other substances designed to prevent or slow down the deterioration of the product, such as antioxidants. Preservatives are substances that are added to the formulation of cosmetics to ensure their integrity and safety over time. They protect products from bacterial contamination, but also from fungi, yeasts and molds, present in the environment, on our skin and in the air.
Without preservatives, the majority of cosmetics – especially those containing water – would remain unaltered after opening and being in contact with external agents for a few days at most, and then deteriorate and become dangerous for the consumer. More specifically, a cosmetic product altered by pathogenic microorganisms can cause irritation, inflammation, infections of the skin, especially of very sensitive skin, e.g. eye area, children’s skin, etc.
The cosmetics industry, which considers the protection of consumer’s health a priority, uses preservatives to protect the final user and to ensure the safety of the product. Nevertheless, these substances are sometimes criticized, which is why the EU Commission publishes a list of preservatives that can be used in cosmetics and the quantities allowed. In addition, a cosmetic product that contains many preservatives is not any less safe than another product – when the preservatives are present in the permitted concentrations.
The 5 most common types of preservatives used in cosmetics are: parabens, formaldehyde releasers, isothiazolinones, phenoxyethanol and organic acids.
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