Paraben-Free Cosmetic Formulations Gaining Popularity

New alternative preservation systems for cosmetic products are gaining popularity because of high consumer demand for natural & organic cosmetics, as well as the growing trend of formulators avoiding parabens.

Parabens are the most widely used preservatives, present in thousands of personal care products that include moisturisers, shampoos, toothpastes, lubricants, and gels. However, a growing number of formulators are avoiding them because of possible safety concerns. Although not scientifically proven, parabens are thought to mimic oestrogen and have been associated with breast cancer. The French and Danish governments are considering a ban on parabens in cosmetic products because of these possible links. Concerns over a possible ban are leading cosmetic companies to develop paraben-free formulations.

Natural & organic cosmetic products do not use conventional preservatives, such as parabens. Natural & organic products have traditionally used natural preservatives like grapefruit seed extract, however new materials and technologies are gaining acceptance.

According to a technical researcher at Ecovia Intelligence (Organic Monitor), “many companies are using preservative systems that comprise multi-functional natural ingredients”. By using such ‘synergistic blends’, the material has anti-microbial properties whilst not having to be registered as a preservative with the respective authorities. Examples of such preservative systems are blended botanical extracts.

Another development is self-preservation techniques, with some methods originating from the food industry. Hurdle technology involves creating hurdles to block growth of micro-organisms in cosmetic formulations; for instance, using materials that reduce the pH of the formulation. Some companies are adding emollients with membrane disrupting properties in cosmetic formulations, whilst others are boosting natural preservative systems by the use of chelating agents or a glycol alternative.

Research shows these new alternative preservative systems are usually not as cost-effective as parabens. Most alternative preservatives have prices in multiples of that for parabens. There are also stability and safety issues associated with natural materials. Supply could also be an issue for some cosmetic products.

As has been shown in Organic Monitor workshops, preservation is usually the number one technical issue associated with natural and organic cosmetics. The differing stances of certification agencies add to the complexity of the preservative conundrum. Significant differences remain between standards in terms of permitted and prohibited preservatives.

Developments in green preservative systems are regularly covered in the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit. More details on upcoming editions is available from the website

Related Report: Technical Insights: Paraben-Free Preservative System for Cosmetics

Posted: May 2nd 2012

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