How Preservatives Keep Cosmetics Safe

If you’ve washed your hands, put on mascara, or applied lotion today, you’ve likely used a product that contains preservatives.

Preservatives are a ubiquitous and necessary part of thousands of cosmetic products, but many people would be hard-pressed to say what they actually do. And although there has been a lot of discussion about the role of preservatives in personal care products, the actual purpose of these ingredients is often missing from the debate.

To summarize: Preservatives are ingredients that protect products against the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeast. Since bacteria, fungi, and yeast naturally occur on our skin, in the air, and in our water, you expose your cosmetics to these elements every time you use them. To keep these products from becoming harmful, many contain preservatives.

Did you know? Parabens are identical to an acid that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables.

What would happen if our personal care products didn’t contain preservatives? For one, products could become moldy, discolored, or develop an unpleasant smell. Microbial growth in products used around the eyes and skin can cause serious health problems like infection or irritation.

Our products would look and function very differently without preservatives. Check out this video to compare products with and without preservatives.

The next time you look at the ingredient list for your favorite product, there’s no need to be confused by ingredients like phenoxyethanol, parabens, formaldehyde-releasers or methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone.

We’re always here to help you learn about the science and safety behind your favorite products.