Why do we add preservatives in formulations?

February 26, 2019

Why do we add preservatives in formulations?

There’s a lot of bad publicity about the many chemicals used to preserve cosmetics. So, you may be wondering why don’t companies just stop the use of preservatives all together?


The simple answer is = Cosmetic and skincare products just aren’t as safe without them.


All the preservatives listed in your cosmetic ingredients have been included to prevent micro-organisms causing bacteria and disease. If you’re a big believer that preservatives are nothing but bad news read on to find out the reasons why preservatives have been created and added to help stabilise formulations across the country.


Most cosmetics contain water

Water is included in almost every product on the market today. Whether it’s the form of H2O or in ingredients like aloe vera, floral waters or even goat’s milk. Where there is water there is the danger of mould build-up and bacteria growth.


You can have a sterile manufacturing process and airtight packaging, but the minute water is introduced to the other ingredients the growth of microbes is unavoidable. Whether it’s included in your formulation or introduced by the consumer in the form of steam in their bathroom creating a moisture-rich environment for microbial life. It doesn’t take much to turn your cream into a cess pool of bacteria. Preservatives are there to stop this growth and help with the products shelf life. Without them, your products would be lucky to last the week.


The ideal conditions for the growth of the most common bacteria;

  • Water
  • Nutrients
  • The temperature of the climate it’s stored
  • pH of approximately 3 – 10


Most personal care products consist of

  • Water
  • Nutrients
  • The product stored at room temperature
  • pH of approximately 5 – 6

You can see that it’s the perfect breeding ground for microorganisms!

Why can’t we include essential oils?

Essential oils are natural and contain antimicrobials, unfortunately, the amount needed to protect a product from microbial growth would exceed the safe amount recommended for use on the skin. They also don’t offer a broad enough coverage against the numerous micro-organisms that your products are exposed to over the course of its shelf life.


There is not a perfect preservative that will suit every formulation, this is why there are so many out there to offer a variety of properties depending on each individual product. One thing that you can bank on is that your business is at greater risk by not using the acceptable formula of preserved ingredients. At Aromatic Ingredients we have qualified formulators on staff with years of experience scouring the globe for the best preservatives to help stabilise your products. Call our office today and make an appointment in our sensory lab to find out what you can do to help get the right formulas the first time.


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