Regular readers will know that any aqueous cosmetic product needs a preservative to stop it going mouldy. Preservatives tend to get a bad press, and given that most of them are inevitably toxic they are probably going to carry on getting it. Preservatives get a lot of attention not only from journalists and the nervous, but also from regulators. The EU cosmetic regulations only permit certain preservatives and only allow them at prescribed levels. This means that the job of supplying preservatives is a difficult one. Not only are you always dreading a bad news story, you can also wake up to find that the regulations have changed and you can no longer sell your product.
It isn’t surprising that the list of preservatives that formulators want to use, marketers are able to sell and the law actually permits is getting shorter and shorter. And yet every cosmetic needs to have one. It is a very unsatisfying situation.
One option that a lot of people have found appealing is looking for natural preservatives. This is a great idea in theory, but in practice the results haven’t been very impressive. Faced with real bacteria most fail.
But one extract from American food company Kemin might be an exception. Kemin have expertise in botany and plant breeding as well as chemistry and have come up with an extract of oregano that is claimed to work effectively in the industry standard challenge test. I haven’t tried it myself yet, and I still have a few questions. Will it be inactivated by other ingredients in the formulation? This is a problem with synthetic preservatives as well, but we have been working with them for many years so we know what (most) of the snags are. Also, will it be stable for long enough? Natural extracts are usually pretty biodegradable – which is usually a good thing. But biodegradable is just another way of saying unstable, which when you are relying on it to keep your product in one piece it is a bit less of an advantage.
The other problem is that being new, this ingredient doesn’t appear on the EU’s approved preservative list. This doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but it does mean you can’t promote it as a preservative. So even if it turns out to be a really useful preservative option, it is going to be hard for formulators to find out about it.
I have to reserve judgement at the moment as I haven’t yet had an opportunity to give this product a try. It sounds perhaps a little too good to be true. But a genuinely natural preservative that does the job effectively is something that a lot of people would be very interested in so it sounds at least worth investigating.
If you are interested the best person to talk to is John Darbyshire at Adina, to whom I am grateful for helping with the background information on this post. And let me know how you get on.