New alternative preservation systems for cosmetic products are gaining popularity, according to Organic Monitor’s new Technical Insights [1] report. The move to alternative preservatives is driven by high consumer demand for natural and organic cosmetics. Furthermore, recent concerns regarding the safety of parabens, which are thought to mimic oestrogens, have led many consumers to become increasingly reluctant about these widely used preservatives, and French and Danish legislators are considering the possibility to ban them. As a result, a growing number of formulators are turning to other conventional preservatives, such as phenoxyethanol, or to alternative systems.

Natural and organic cosmetic makers have traditionally used natural preservatives such as grapefruit seed extract, however new materials and technologies are gaining acceptance.

Many companies are using preservative systems that comprise multi-functional natural ingredients,” explains Judi Beerling, Technical Consulting Manager at Organic Monitor. By using such ‘synergistic blends’, the material has anti-microbial properties whilst not having to be registered as a preservative with the respective authorities. Other “self-preservation” techniques include, for example, the hurdle technology, which involves creating hurdles to block growth of micro-organisms in cosmetic formulations. Some companies use materials that reduce the pH of the formulation, or add 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. Packaging also plays an important role, with many natural and organic cosmetic companies using airless packaging to reduce contamination risks.

However, according to Organic Monitor, 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 large-scale production of cosmetic products,” highlights the market research firm.

Eventually, preservation is usually the number one technical issue associated with natural and organic cosmetics, with significant differences remaining between standards in terms of permitted and prohibited preservatives.

Organic Monitor will present key findings from its Technical Insights report in a workshop titled “Formulating Paraben-Free Cosmetics” at the next Sustainable Cosmetics Summit that will take place at InterContinental New York Barclay hotel on 17-19th May 2012.