Why are preservatives used in cosmetics?

methylparaben chemical structure

Preservatives are a very controversial topic in the beauty world as some of them have potential safety issues. DMDM Hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl Urea and Quaternium-15 are some of the preservatives that can release tiny amounts of formaldehyde. Although these are too small to pose a threat to human health, a lot of consumers prefer to avoid them anyway.

Parabens have a bad reputation because of a study linking them to cancer. The study didn’t demonstrate that parabens can cause cancer (although further studies need to be done) and even though current research shows they’re safe, a lot of people prefer to steer clear of them.

Natural preservatives, on the other end, don’t work as well as the ones mentioned above. So, a lot of people wonder why these substances are still in cosmetics and skincare products. After all, some companies already produce preservatives-free products (although they come in small containers that need to be stored in refrigerators) so wouldn’t it better if preservatives weren’t used at all? Not really. Here’s why:

1. Preservative-free products don’t last long

Most cosmetics can last up to one or 2 years. Some even more. That’s because of the preservatives. Without, your makeup and lotions would last only a couple of weeks before going bad and may start growing bacteria.

2. Preservative-free products are easily contaminated

When we use makeup and creams, we could be contaminating them with bacteria. Preservatives kill these bacteria and prevent them from growing keeping your products safe. Preservative-free products, on the other hand, can be contaminated more easily.

3. Preservative-free products don’t need to be stored in refrigerators

As I mentioned above, preservative-free products need to be stored in refrigerators to avoid them going bad, just like food. But not many people want or have the room to keep their makeup in their refrigerators and preservatives make sure your products stay safe even at room temperature.

Although preservatives can potentially pose health risks as well as allergies and irritations, they are the only way to ensure our cosmetics and personal care products are safe. Without them, products go bad and become contaminated with bacteria causing negative reactions that are more dangerous than those posed by preservatives.

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Comments

  1. says

    Very nice to see you offering up both sides of the argument here. Generally I try to avoid preservatives, but if I spent a lot on something, say if I bought a cream by La Mer or La Prairie for instance, if I knew that didn’t give me a bad reaction BECAUSE of its preservatives, I’d definitely want one with preservatives in it, so that my expensive investment lasted longer and had no chance of going bad.
    .-= Anastasia´s last blog ..Addicted to the V =-.

  2. says

    Really good post Gio. I remember making a mixing medium and forgot to change it after 3 weeks and it totally went bad. I usually try to look for products that don’t have a large list of ingredients so I would have a lower chance of having any type of allergic reactions.
    .-= Dee´s last blog ..Argan Oil For Beautiful Glowing Skin =-.

  3. says

    Really good post Gio. I remember making a mixing medium and forgot to change it after 3 weeks and it totally went bad. I usually try to look for products that don’t have a large list of ingredients so I would have a lower chance of having any type of allergic reactions.
    .-= Dee´s last blog ..Argan Oil For Beautiful Glowing Skin =-.
    Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

  4. beautifulwithbrains says

    Sherry: they really can, specially with this heat! I don’0t know about where you live, but it’s way too hot here!

    Anastasia: usually I don’t mind preservatives since they’re used to prolong the shelf lives of products. I don’t want my products to go bad soon, esp if I’ve paid loads of money for them. But I stay away from formaldheyde relasing presevatives. I know they only release formaldehyde in very small quantities but still I’m not comfortable in using them esp when there are much safer alternatives around.

    Celeste: yeah, cosmetics are like food, if not stored properly they go bad. I agree, that would be bad, I would probably need one refrigerator just for my makeup lol.

    Dee: thanks. I’m always wary of products with very long ingredients list for that reason.

  5. Danielle says

    Thank god, a real article on preservatives. I hate this whole parabin panic and natural nonsense. Natural doesn’t necessarily mean better and parabins don’t give you cancer! I can definitely understand the allergy part, though.

  6. beautifulwithbrains says

    Danielle: I totally agree with you. I don’t understand the whole paraben scare. Parabens have a history of safe use and because someone twisted the results of a study, people think they’re bad. I can’t stand it when I read a review and the persons like, avoid this because it contains parabens which will give you cancer. How am I supposed to take them seriously when these claimes aren’t based on any scientific studies? The only good reasons not to use products containing parabens is if it causes you an allergy or irritation.

    Dao: Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant, can be used as a preservatives. But as all natural preservatives it doesn’t work for long. :(

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