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Controversial Ingredients: Setting the Record Straight

Ada Polla and Anne Pouillot February 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
skin cream

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Skin care is very intimate, and the beauty and cosmetics industry has to be based on trust, in addition to regulation. The regulatory framework of the industry changing, as indicated in the United States by the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 20, 2010. Unfortunately, the skin care industry is getting caught up in untruths, half-lies, exaggerations and sometimes misnomers. This article will discuss ingredients that have developed a bad reputation, separating fact from opinion. Indeed, when clients come to you with ingredient questions, it is your duty as a skin care professional to educate, sometimes re-educate, and set the record straight.

Preservatives: Formaldehyde-releasers and parabens

Preservatives inhibit the development of microorganisms in cosmetic products by damaging internal structures and cellular membranes to produce cell death. They serve to enhance the safety of cosmetic products, enabling them to remain bacteria-free for approximately three to five years. The controversy about the use of preservatives stems from the fact that anything that kills microorganisms is potentially toxic to mammalian cells. What needs to be taken into consideration is the concentration of these preservatives, as well as the contact time and point, which are determined to avoid side effects.

The ideal preservative should have the following properties:

  • A broad-spectrum antimicrobial effect at low concentrations and optimal pH;
  • Combination of bactericidal and fungicidal effects;
  • Low allergenicity and toxicity, and be nonirritating;
  • Stability and water solubility;
  • Compatibility with other ingredients (i.e., be both odorless and colorless); and
  • Ease of use.

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