What are cosmetic preservatives?

Cosmetic preservatives help prevents the growth of mold, yeast and bacteria in a cosmetic product. However, a preservative is only necessary when the product contains water no matter how small the amount is.

In water-free formulas also known as anhydrous, preservative is not necessary. You can still put preservatives in anhydrous products if you like.

Types of preservatives for cosmetic

They are mainly categorized as:

  • Parabens - Ethyl Paraben
  • Formaldahyde Releasers - DMDM Hydantoin 
  • Isothiazolinones - Salicat MM
  • Phenoxyethanol 
  • Organic acids - Sodium Benzoate

What happens if you don't add any cosmetic preservative?

There are a group of people who declare they prefer to use preservative-free cosmetics. What they do not know is, a product that contains water and is unpreserved - has bacteria growing on it already!

Think of it like the canned or packaged food products - jam, tuna, sauces, pastes etc. If you prefer a preservative-free food products, you will have to cook it yourself. 

With a preservative or a blend of preservatives present, the rate of bacteria growth is slower. Hence, making its shelf life longer for up to 2 years, depending on the formula.

Anyway, the risk of using cosmetics with preservatives are lower than that of unpreserved ones.

As formulators, we do not take any risk!

Will mold, yeast and bacteria stop growing if I add a powerful preservative?

Sometimes, even when you put preservatives like Phenoxyethanol, bacteria still grows. This is because there is presence of water, oxygen and nutrients.

Like it happened to Liz Earle's cleanser.

To prevent such things from happening, cosmetic crafters must do their own challenge test wherever possible.

Any preservative in the world will not stop the growth of bacteria because it is the work of Nature. Preservatives can only slow it down.

How to choose a suitable preservative for my formula?

Depending on what you are creating, there is a plethora of preservatives available for you to choose from!

Here's a guideline on how to choose for a suitable preservatives:

  • What product are you making - oil or water-based?
  • What is your product concept - vegan, natural, organic, Halal, Paraben-free?
  • Check on its solubility - water, oil, alcohol
  • Is it a broad spectrum preservative?
  • Does it have a 2nd or 3rd function such as chelator, stabilizer or other functional properties?
  • What is its working pH range - acidic, alkaline or neutral range?

A preservative does not stop bacterial growth completely. It will only slow it down.

Which cosmetic preservatives can I use?

Here is a list of preservatives that I often use:

  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Euxyl K903
  • Preservative Cap-2
  • Preservative Cap-5
  • Preservative K
  • Cosgard

You can also use others such as:

  • Leucidal
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Preservative 12
  • Optiphen

And if your concept allows, you can also use preservatives that contain Urea and Paraben!

Where to buy preservatives from?

From trusted suppliers that I have listed on the Resources page. 

So what are you making today and which preservative do you plan to include?

Vegan Preservatives

Looking for vegan preservatives for your next product?

Head over here for the list.

❤️ Share with your friends! ❤️