Cosmetics and Preservatives

Cosmetic products need a preservative. There is a claim that if your product doesn’t contain what, it doesn’t need a preservative. It doesn’t matter if your product doesn’t have water. It still needs a preservative. Lip balms made with oils, can go rancid and usually do. Can you honestly say that you’ve never gotten a lipstick wet? How about those eyeshadows that you spray with a little bit of water to get better pigment pay out? That’s water. Now your formula that you didn’t preserve because it “didn’t have water” as water in it. 

Anyone on Etsy or that has a ‘natural’ line of cosmetics that is claiming to not use preservatives is either lying or making cosmetics that are probably going to get contaminated. 

In our quest to find the perfect DIY formulas, we have stumbled across quite a few ladies whipping up lipsticks in their kitchen for profit. We find this deeply disturbing. Do these ladies have a degree in chemistry? How clean is the kitchen? In one video the woman had open bottle caps of her ingredients, which is an OSHA safety and sanitation violation. We haven’t come across one homemade lipstick product that has a preservative, yet all cosmetics made in a lab have preservatives. That should tell you something. 

Perhaps you don’t want to use parabens because you heard they are found in breast cancer tumors or they are hormonal disruptors. If that is your reason, ask yourself if you take birth control? Ask yourself if you eat boxed, canned, even fresh foods because they most likely contain a preservative. 

Different preservatives will deactivate in certain temperatures. It is crucial to know what that temperature is so that you can guard against contamination. It’s critical for formulators to add a preservative to a solution at the final stages where the liquids are cooler. A good rule of thumb is to keep temperatures below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over and you risk deactivating the preservative.  

People leave their makeup and lotions in cars on a hot day. Cosmetic companies know this and guard against it. It is why there are usually more than one preservative in each cosmetic formula.

In a laboratory, testing is done on all new cosmetic formulas to ensure preservation. These are called Challenge Testing and is rigorous. Check EcoMundo’s page about the cosmetic testing

What are the different types of preservatives?

Here are a few that are the most common

1. The Parabens

Parabens are the most used preservative in the cosmetic industry. They are considered broad spectrum because they preserve against bacteria and fungi (yeast and mold). Most are approved for .02%-1% of a formula. 

-Germaben II




2. Formaldehydes

-Germaben Plus

-DMDM Hydantoin

3. Natural Acids

Guard against fungus. They are not broad spectrum. 

-Sorbic Acid

-Citric Acid