Cosmetic Science Blog

Got a cosmetic science, brand management or cosmetic regulation question you’ve been wondering about? Find some of the big trending topics here, or email us with a cosmetic science blog topic you’d like to learn about!

Happy formulating!

Belinda Carli

Director, Institute of Personal Care Science

cosmetic chemist expert
What is the Perfect Preservative?

The selection of a preservative for a formulation is undoubtedly one of the most important, yet most controversial, aspects one can make. With so much choice in preservatives available, and so much misinformation on the internet, how does a formulator make the Perfect Preservative selection?

There is no single preservative that will suit all formulation types and company/product philosophies or product types. Technically, any preservative that is used within limits as specified by regulators in a particular region, and where suited to the product type and end consumer, is suitable for selection. Despite popular (yet misinformed) reports on the internet, preservatives when used within limits specified by the regulators are considered ‘safe’ and suitable for use. So just how does a formulator make the best, if not the Perfect, preservative selection? There are some key elements that need to be considered:

Preservative selection step #1: Company/product philosophy

The first selection step a formulator needs to make is based on the company and/or product philosophies, particularly if there are claims being made about ‘natural’, or ‘avoiding’ the use of certain ingredients and/or if Organic certification (or other certification, for that matter), is required. If a company specifically requests the ‘avoidance’ of certain materials, then preservatives containing those materials must be specifically avoided. If a company is after certification, then only preservatives that comply with the Certifier’s requirements may be selected. As a first step in preservative selection, company/product philosophy and the specific use or avoidance of certain ingredients obviously narrows the choice of preservatives that can be used depending on the selection criteria specified.

Preservative selection step #2: Regulatory considerations

To be used in a personal care product, preservatives must be permitted in the countries in which the product will be sold, and be used within any limits or conditions of use specified. For example, most preservatives have very specific ‘limits’ on addition, and can only be used within the limits specified. Other preservatives may have very specific conditions of use, for example, in wash off products only, or not on mucous membranes. In such cases, conditions of use must be adhered to, to ensure regulatory compliance of the finished product. Limits and conditions of use imposed by regulators have generally been set based on evaluations of safety; so using preservatives in compliance with the regulations is not only a legal requirement but also an important safety consideration to ensure ‘safety when used as directed’ of a finished product.

Preservative selection step #3: Product form

The form of the product will be the next biggest selection criteria, which can impact on preservative selection based on:

  • Finished product transparency required (or in the case of emulsions, this may not be important at all!)
  • Dispersibility/solubility of the preservative: ensuring a preservative can be easily and homogenously distributed is crucial to ensure a product is adequately preserved in all areas of a large vat!
  • Chemical nature of the product: some preservatives are particularly not suited to charged (anionic or cationic) environments while others may work better in these mediums
  • Free water content and Microbial Risk Classification (MRC) of materials used in the formulation: materials with higher risk ingredients will need stronger acting preservatives; this does not mean one should ‘over-preserve’ a product, but that careful selection needs to be made to ensure broad spectrum coverage and synergy of blends used to ensure adequate microbial protection of the finished product

Preservative selection step #4: pH

Finally, and just as importantly, the pH of the finished product is essential to be considered. This includes not just the pH of the finished product when it is manufactured, but must also allow for pH drift over the shelf life of the product. The pH of a product containing water WILL move over its shelf life. It is quite typical for the pH of a finished product to move +/- 10% over its shelf life; sometimes this drift can be up to +/- 20%! Selecting a preservative with a limited pH range of compatibility could leave your product un-preserved should a large pH drift occur – so when selecting your preservative, make sure you consider a potential pH drift of AT LEAST +/-10%, if not a little more, to ensure adequate efficacy of the preservative over the shelf life of the product.

Want to learn how to make the Perfect Preservative Selection?

IPCS has full units with details on Microbial testing, control and GMP as well as detailed training on Preservative selection including Preservatives tables (both natural and synthetic) for easy, confident selection purposes and help you find YOUR formulas Perfect Preservative. Contact us direct to find out about enrolling in these specific units or our full training programs:

Belinda Carli

updated 18th June, 2018

Want to have your own cosmetic brand?

There are several reasons why you may have a burning desire to create your own cosmetic brand. Maybe you:

  • Have a great idea for a cosmetic product that isn’t currently available
  • Want more certainty about the safety of cosmetic ingredients
  • Want more natural, sustainable cosmetic products
  • Are not happy with a cosmetic product that is currently on the market
  • Are not happy with the price cosmetics cost
  • Love cosmetics and want your own brand

While the cosmetics market is one of the most competitive markets out there, we see many small ‘indie’ and niche brands emerging, successfully, all the time. Its’ usually also the smaller and emerging brands that continue to drive innovation in the cosmetic market.

Tapping into the creative drive that propels cosmetic product innovation is something I love to nurture – but there are a couple of pitfalls some people don’t realise in the early stages, that I’d also like to help you avoid. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Don’t have a brand just to try and outdo the big guys on price – you’ll quickly find out their pricing is set for a reason, and is often hard to compete with if you want to build a successful cosmetic brand properly
  • Find a unique selling position – I speak to a lot of people with ideas for cosmetic products, including ingredients and claims, that are not permitted. For example, did you know that cosmetics can’t make claims to treat eczema, wounds or skin diseases? These are just some examples, but there are many more. If you want to create a cosmetic product that doesn’t already exist, there may be a reason why! Check your cosmetic claims and ingredients will be allowed first, and that it is different to everything else already available. If it doesn’t achieve both of these things, then continue your market research to find a unique (and compliant) selling position. This may mean refining your original idea, but could yield an even better and more exciting cosmetic product!
  • Be prepared to invest in marketing – you might love your cosmetic formula, your friends and family might love your cosmetics formula, but it takes much more than that to have a successful cosmetic brand! You could have the best cosmetic product in the world, but if not enough people know about it, it will flop in the market place. So, prepare an effective multi-stream media campaign, utilise social media and on-line platforms, and be prepared to invest time (and money) into building product awareness.
  • Own your formula from the start – invest in good Research & Development to own your formula from the start. Getting private label or modified private label is not the same as owning your formula, even though it may have your logo on the product label, it is not your formula. Private label can seem like a cheap option to get started, but you won’t have a unique selling position and you don’t own the Intellectual Property – which means you will have stunted cosmetic brand growth potential until you do! If you really want a successful brand, make sure it is your unique formula based on your unique concept from the start.
  • You can’t become a successful brand making cosmetic product at home – be prepared to put your time, effort and funds into your unique formula, marketing and brand management, and get your cosmetic product contract manufactured so its made right, quality checked and one less thing you need to worry about, while you focus on building the brand instead!
  • It’s not an overnight success solution – I speak with so many people that think having a successful cosmetic brand should be quick and easy; I mean, anyone can do it watching a few YouTube videos, having a good brain for business and a fantastic product idea, right? Wrong! Get the right learning to formulate cosmetics properly or get someone else to do it. Learn how to manage a cosmetic brand properly to avoid mistakes and issues you don’t even know about yet. Get your cosmetic products contract manufactured so you can be sure of quality and avoid recalls or putting your time into filling hundreds of empty bottles – trust me, your energy is better used elsewhere!

Always remember the great idea and passion that got you interested in having your own cosmetic brand in the first place! You might just need a few tweaks to HOW you’re going to do it, in order to help make sure you are successful. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your cosmetic concept on product shelves (and even more satisfying seeing it move sell off them!), but make sure you build your cosmetic brand right from the start, and keep your energy focussed on what you can do, and love the most, about your cosmetic brand ideas!

Belinda Carli

updated 11th June, 2018

Try watching these videos to support your Cosmetic Brand: