Cosmetic preservatives are essential to commercializing a product. They rid formulas of unhealthy microorganisms like yeast, mold and bacteria and prevent the product from spoiling.
The following is a list of the most common preservatives on the market.
Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben)– This is the most widely-used preservative in the industry. It has earned a bad reputation made evident by many cosmetic companies wearing the ‘paraben-free’ badge of honor. The bad rap stems in part from a study that found parabens in breast cancer tumors. Research has also suggested that they can cause hormone disruption by mimicking estrogen also adding to the breast cancer risk. Since we don’t know what causes breast cancer, we need to take this information very seriously.
Phenoxyethanol – There are growing concerns about this substance being carcinogenic. The FDA has recently issued a warning about babies ingesting it from a nipple cream.
Tocopherol (vitamin E) – This is an anti-oxidant so it will prevent the product from spoiling but it has no anti-microbial action. It must be combined with other preservatives in water-based formula but is fine for oils, balms and butters that don’t contain water. It is a safe ingredient.
Disodium EDTA– This chemical is toxic to our water systems. We really don’t need to contribute to water pollution with an ingredient that can easily be substituted.
Diazolidinyl Urea & Imidazolidinyl Urea – These two ingredients slowly release formaldehyde into a formula. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.
Rosemary Extract – A soft resin extracted from rosemary with strong anti-oxidant properties. Like vitamin E, it needs to be used in conjunction with anti-microbial ingredients in a water-based formula.
Natural and organic cosmetic companies face a challenge when it comes to preservatives. They have to be healthy enough for human use yet still be effective at inhibiting the growth of harmful organisms. There is always a solution and I am happy to see healthy alternatives becoming more and more prevalent. Look for products that use lactobacillus ferment, leuconostoc/radish root ferment, or our favourite at Cocoon Apothecary, sodium levulinate and sodium anisate.