Is preservative-free formulation realistic?

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Preservative-free formulation: is it realistic?

Related tags Cosmetics Skin

With consumer demand for ‘truly natural’ beauty products continuing to grow, Cosmetics Design considers whether preservative-free formulation can be realistic for the industry.

Water offers microorganisms the opportunity to multiply and grow, and so limiting the amount of free water in personal care formulations is essential when looking to create products that don’t need preservatives.

Another approach is to use natural alternatives to preservatives in combination with reduced water levels.  Natural ingredients that can absorb water, can make a formulation alkaline rather than acidic, or are naturally antimicrobial all offer ways to formulate in this manner.

One major stumbling block for formulating without preservatives is the impact doing so can have on the sensory aspect of a product, with products often needing to compromise on the touch and feel of application in order to be truly natural. With good sensorial benefits still very much a key consumer requirement,​ can preservative-free formulation ever really take off?

Who’s making strides in preservative-free formulation?

Lush, with its focus on a natural and fresh product offering, is one global personal care player investing its efforts into creating preservative-free formulations.

At its recent creative showcase, open to the public, the company announced that its winter product range is now entirely ‘self-preserving’, meaning that the products do not contain any synthetic preservatives: indeed, the company boasts that over 70% of its products are self-preserving.

Instead, Lush uses natural agents such as clay, calamine, talc, honey and glycerine, and also produces its products in solid rather than water-based formats, such as shampoo bars.

It’s not just about taking those [synthetic] preservatives out, it’s also part of our continuing mission to create ever-fresher products that keep fresh and are able to be as effective as possible on the skin or the hair​,” a Lush formulator said during the recent product showcase.

“It takes time to get a self-preserving formula right, but we like the idea idea of using natural ingredients to keep our products fresh,”​ the company has said.

In confirmation, though, that the question of how to maintain products’ sensory benefits remains unanswered, Lush continues to offer some of its products in both self-preserving and synthetic preservative formulation versions.

JooMo: ‘third wave’ formulation

Another player looking to make strides with formulating products that avoid synthetic preservatives is skin care company, JooMo.

In a recent exclusive interview with Cosmetics Design, the company’s co-founder and director, Nick Wallen asserted that the time has come for formulators to be working towards creating natural products that actively work in collaboration with the skin’s bacteria.

The ‘3rd wave’ cosmetics revolution of ‘truly natural’ products focuses on enhancing the “good” bacteria attached to our skin to restore and maintain natural, healthy skin. This is based on research into the little studied, complex field of the skin microbiome, where preserving the bacteria balance on the skin is vital to skin health​,” he explained.

The company recently launched a stability system called SaponinJ, which it claims allows it to put the world’s first 100% natural facewash, free from synthetic preservatives, on the market.

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