Multifunctional antimicrobials in cosmetics: Preservation 2.0

By Nargiza Cakir and Alexandra Neutsch

september / October 2023


Preservatives play a vital part in almost all cosmetic formulations. Their efficacy is needed in products with high water content as microorganisms present in our environment or on human skin can enter and multiply in products as a result of their production and use. This will lead to a contaminated product which will negatively influence the consumers use experience. Moreover those germs and bacteria in contaminated products can cause various adverse reactions in the skin, ranging from allergies to inflammation or eczema and in rare cases – particularly in immunosuppressed individuals – even life threatening diseases.

Preservatives – State of the Art

There are almost endless options to choose from when searching for the right preservative system – some with better and some with worse standing in the public opinion. The largest market share of the traditional preservatives is still reserved for Phenoxy-ethanol. This substance was once established to act as a solvent and co-preservatives for Parabens in preservation blends and later it was positioned as a stand-alone alternative to Parabens. The latter have lost their momentum because of controversial opinions on their safety, based on concerns that they could disrupt the body’s natural hormonal balance and cause adverse reactions in the body, such as breast cancer. Though those assumption have not been scientifically clearly proven, these preservatives have been heavily phased out and a downward trend in market share can be seen.



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