Cosmetic products free of preservatives

Preservatives in cosmetics are frequent subjects for discussions in popular mass media. Many publications are dedicated to how harmful are the substances, which are used to protect cosmetic products from going bad.  These substances easily penetrate into the skin and often provoke allergic reactions.

We all know that foodstuffs go bad in case they are kept for a long time. And cosmetic products also contain sugars, fats, protein components. But in contrast to foodstuffs they are used over a long periods of time (some months or even years) with violations of all sanitary regulations. It is difficult to imagine that a person would dare to eat a potted food if it has been in his bathroom on the shelf for some months with badly closed caps and  from time to time get into it with his fingers. But this is just the storage conditions for cosmetic products.

There is no need to explain how dangerous multiplication of microorganisms in cosmetic products may be. There may be all kinds of consequences, beginning from banal loss of appearance (changes of color, exfoliation, appearance of bubbles, mold and so on) and up to transformation of these products into nursery for pathogens of pustulous skin diseases and saturation with products of microbial metabolism. Among them are toxins, stimulators of irritation and allergens. Therefore the top-priority task for manufacturers of cosmetic products is protection of products form microbial contamination. And what is more, if it were no such a strong pressing from mass media, the manufacturers would prefer to play safe and put more preservatives of wide spectrum but not press towards decreasing the quantity of preservatives or even developing cosmetics free of preservatives. But the thing is that the substances that are able to kill microorganisms are most often rather dangerous for skin cells. Of course, manufacturers take this fact into account and use these substances in sparse distribution. In such a case they are not dangerous for skin cells. Nevertheless, the fact that these substances are toxic makes them a target for criticism.

So the presence of pathogens in cosmetic products is bad. The most realistic, reliable and well-tried method is using the same unpopular preservatives. In order to reduce the risk of allergic reactions and toxicity the manufacturers use various methods for decreasing their concentration without reducing their antimicrobial activity. For example, the products are packed up in sterile vacuum bottles with pump dispensers instead of large-mouth jars. It considerably diminishes the risk of getting bacteria into the product and so diminishes the quantity of necessary preservatives. Besides, it is well known that if one uses special mixtures of preservatives instead of one or two of them, the concentration of each preservative goes down and, consequently, their negative influence is considerably reduced.  Unfortunately, many consumers are frightened if they see many different preservatives among ingredients. For this reason this approach is sometimes limited. It is also important to take into account solubility of a preservative. Since microorganisms live in a liquid medium, preservatives must be water-soluble and oil-insoluble. Then a preservative will be present only where it is necessary. If all active ingredients are incapsulated in liposomes or other lipid micro-bearers, then in such a case all preservatives remain on the surface together with water and lipo- and nanosoms, loaded with active ingredients, penetrate into the skin. Unfortunately, all these  technological nuances are secrets for consumers and journalists. Therefore many of the manufacturers are looking for ingredients, possessing preservative ability, but formally they are not preservatives.

Indeed, many of the natural substances formally belonging to active components (vitamins E and C, herb extracts and their components) and indicated on the label as “fragrance” (essential oils and their components) may act as preservatives. And in case they are used alone a cosmetic product will be to some extent protected from microorganisms but at the same time it can be advertised as a product free of preservatives. Among natural substances with bactericidal effect one might mention extracts of grapefruit, birch leaves, lichen, bird cherry, benzoic acid (cranberry and blackberry) alcohol, lactic acid, propolis, components of essential oils. But since the reliability of these substances is significantly lower as compared with synthetic preservatives, they are used in high concentrations and this makes such “safe” cosmetic products more allergenic. Often cosmetic products, “free of preservatives” contain alcohol which sometimes is more harmful to the skin than preservatives.

Some cosmetic products are made unsuitable for growth of microorganisms. For example, it is possible to make a product which does not contain unbound water (microorganisms are not reproduced without water). In order to bind water and make it inaccessible to microorganisms, it is necessary to use high concentration of sugar or salt or introduce in the formula some chemical substances that bind water. It is possible to produce some cosmetic products without water at all – from fats and silicon or in the form of powder which a consumer can dilute with water at home. But this method suits only for a limited quantity of products.

Into penetrate to microorganisms allow t’won which packaging sterile in cosmetics produce to possible is Itproducts (for example, disposable sterile ampoules). In such a case it is enough to add antioxidants which are necessary to protect active ingredients from oxidation. But this method is very expensive and as a result the price of these products is beyond the potentialities of a middle consumer.

Very likely that in the future somebody will solve the problem of non-perishable cosmetics free of preservatives. But at present the most rational way is one that keep many of the manufacturers of cosmetic products. They are looking for the most safe preservatives and their combinations, try to prevent penetration of preservatives into the skin, looking for substances that reduce their toxic effect and increasing the efficiency of preservatives in order to minimize their concentration.


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