Formulating cosmetics without using preservatives is today an essential requirement for cosmetic companies targeting the sensitive skin market. Yet, in formulating preservative-free products, the manufacturer's primary responsibility must be toward the safety of the consumer. One cannot simply remove preservatives and go to the market. Cosmetics are required to pass strict testing (Challenge Test) to ensure the preservation system guarantees safe use of the product.
There is great awareness over the fact that many common chemical preservatives used in cosmetics can trigger reaction of the skin, typically leading to allergy-based dermatitis. Such awareness is based on the vast literature reporting preservative-related skin reactions, and is also reflected in the European Cosmetics Directive, which classifies chemical preservatives as substances to be used only at certain maximum concentrations – clearly leaving space to the industry to continue using these chemicals so not to hamper the related market, yet also warning of the potential damage they can bring to skin.
Among the commonest preservatives used in cosmetics that have proven to trigger skin reaction are:
Given the above, cosmetic formulators that truly aim at making cosmetics that can lower the chances to trigger skin reaction should definitely work to reduce, or better, eliminate chemical preservatives, thereby getting rid of a major risk factor for sensitive skin.
BioNike has developed its own cosmetic preservation system, which is not based on chemical preservatives. Such a system is the result of many years of research and development, which today allows to offer preservative-free cosmetics that provide the same preserving times traditional cosmetics have, thus safety for the user is guaranteed according to European Cosmetics Directive regulations.
Giving up chemical preservatives in cosmetics is a tough undertaking, which involves developing formulations with the aim to reach a stable equilibrium of the preserving means used. How is this achieved?
Preservative-free cosmetic formulations are achieved by developing a number of alternative preservation strategies, which will give a stable preservation system as a whole. Such strategies include:
- Not using any raw material classified as a preservative in the European Cosmetic Directive (76/768/EEC), but rather alternative, safe ingredients of other nature which the literature indicates as having a certain degree of anti-microbial activity.
- Blocking the free water in the cosmetic system: water is a perfect substrate for microbial growth and proliferation. BioNike makes use of cutting-edge techniques to “hide” water away, while still keeping it in the cosmetic system. This is achieved by including special ingredients which retain water.
- Creating a hostile environment for microbial growth, for instance by working on osmotic gradients.
- Including antioxidant and chelating agents which exert a preservative action.
Developing a preservative-free, well-balanced system is costly and time-consuming - this is why few manufacturers pursue this strategy. It is much easier to stay with chemical preservation, for the sake of costs and time-to-market.
Those manufacturers who decide to set cost-saving strategies aside a little and care more for sensitive skin by actually investing in the development of alternative preservation systems are currently being rewarded by the market, because consumers are increasingly aware of skin sensitizing agents that cosmetics can bring to their skin.