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The Current State of Preservatives

By: Ahmed Abdullah, MD
Posted: July 1, 2013, from the July 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Although the industry remains optimistic about the opportunities afforded by these emerging ingredients, there are challenges associated with their use.

1. Newer preservatives do not have an extended track record. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that they are safe. Parabens, for example, have been used for more than 80 years and have caused minimal irritation. It is not yet known what adverse effects may result after prolonged use of newer preservatives.

2. Alternative preservatives that offer a similar level of broad-spectrum protection have yet to be found. Traditional preservatives are capable of defending a formulation against a range of microorganisms and are quite adaptable to a variety of formulation conditions. Meanwhile, newer preservatives must often be bundled together in greater numbers to offer a similar level of protection and can be quite finicky about the types of formulations in which they are effective. Additionally, natural substances, such as essential oils and organic acids, must be added in high concentrations before they will begin preserving a product. This can cause the product to be irritating to many consumers.

3. The use of alternative preservatives may drive up product cost. While traditional preservatives are inexpensive to produce, alternatives—especially those that are natural—are far more costly to produce. What’s more, it’s difficult to consistently maintain the quality and characteristics of natural preservatives from batch to batch.

Continued exploration

The current state of skin care preservation demonstrates that research must continue exploring the safety of traditional preservatives, just as, simultaneously, chemists must continue searching for efficacious and affordable alternatives. Meanwhile, those employed in the skin care industry must not sit idly by. Rather, your responsibility is to continue monitoring the developments on these fronts so that the safety and satisfaction of your clients can be ensured.

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