Protecting Products from Becoming a Microbial Meal

We use many personal care and cosmetics products every day to help us look our best. Virtually all of these products – including shampoos, conditioners, hair styling aids, facial/body lotions, color cosmetics, makeup wipes, etc. – contain a lot of water, which acts primarily as a solvent. The downside of water? Water is the lifeblood of all living organisms, including microorganisms (or microbes) such as bacteria and fungi (yeast and mold) that could contaminate your products. Other ingredients, such as those that make them thick enough to squeeze from the bottle or smooth enough to spread over our skin, can also serve as a food source for microbes.

Left unprotected, cosmetic and personal care products can become easily contaminated and spoil. A spoiled product may have a noticeably different look, feel or smell, but sometimes contamination due to bacteria and/or mold may be imperceptible to human senses. Even so, a contaminated product may not work as intended to cleanse your hair, moisturize your skin, protect you from the sun, etc. You could even be introducing millions of undesirable, possibly even harmful, microorganisms onto your skin or hair without even realizing your product had gone bad.

Cosmetics and personal care products companies work to reduce our exposure to unwanted microorganisms by adding small amounts of preservatives to our products. These are natural or man-made ingredients designed to help ensure the safety and quality of products by protecting them against the growth of microorganisms during storage and, most importantly, during use by consumers. Although preservatives are just a small part of what goes into a product, they serve a critical role in keeping your cosmetics safe.

We love cosmetics and personal care products because they keep us looking and feeling our best, but don’t forget that microbes love them too! Protecting these products from microbial contamination is essential to maintain the integrity of the products we trust and enjoy every day.

About the Author:
Dolores Shaw is a senior microbiologist within the North American region for DuPont Microbial Control. In her role as an applications manager, Dolores and her team provide manufacturers of consumer products technical assistance in identifying solutions for their microbial challenges. Dolores specializes in the personal care, household, industrial and institutional markets. Dolores is the global Preservation Leader for these markets. Dolores has published technical papers on preservation topics in industry journals, has given presentations at several industry and microbiology conferences and has several granted patents. Dolores is a member of the Personal Care Products Council (formerly CTFA) and has served as chair of the microbiology committee. Dolores is also an active member of the Household and Commercial Products Association’s (HCPA) Microbiology Preservative Committee (formerly CSPA) where she has lead and contributed to the development of industry guidelines / methods as well as preservation stewardship. Dolores is also a member of the Executive Board for HCPA’s Cleaning Division."