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Consumer demand sees paraben-free cosmetics increase in popularity

By Andrew McDougall , 03-May-2012
Last updated the 03-May-2012 at 12:49 GMT

High consumer demand for natural and organic cosmetics and the growing trend of formulators to avoid parabens has led to the increase in popularity of alternative preservative systems.

In its new Technical Insights report, market analyst Organic Monitor claims that paraben-free formulations have increased in popularity.

Parabens are the most widely used preservatives, present in thousands of personal care products that include moisturizers, shampoos, toothpastes, lubricants, and gels.

Safety concerns

However, a growing number of formulators are avoiding them because of possible safety concerns, following many claims and scientific studies which questioned their safety, although nothing has been proved.

It is thought that parabens mimic oestrogen and have been associated with breast cancer. The French and Danish governments are considering a ban on parabens in cosmetic products because of these possible links, despite no concrete evidence.

However, concerns over a possible ban have led to cosmetic companies to develop paraben-free formulations.

Natural and organic cosmetic products do not use conventional preservatives, such as parabens and phenoxyethanol. Instead they have traditionally used natural preservatives like grapefruit seed extract, however new materials and technologies are gaining acceptance.

Multi-functional

According to Judi Beerling at Organic Monitor, “many companies are using preservative systems that comprise multi-functional natural ingredients”.

By using such ‘synergistic blends’, the material has anti-microbial properties whilst not having to be registered as a preservative with the respective authorities. Examples of such preservative systems include blended botanical extracts and spice extracts.

A major finding from the Technical Insights study is that these new alternative preservative systems are usually not as cost-effective as parabens.

Most alternative preservatives have prices in multiples of that for parabens. There are also stability and safety issues associated with natural materials. Supply could also be an issue for large-scale production of cosmetic products.

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