In manufacturing products like personal care, cosmetics, and cleaners, water is often a necessary component. Where there’s water in a product, preservatives are necessary to prevent the growth of yeast, mold, bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. In today’s global marketplace, we recognize that many products are expected to have a long shelf-life and last for months or years without degrading, separating or spoiling. Preservatives are necessary to keep products shelf-stable.
Most people want the performance of a good preservative without the side effects of a preservative. The issue is that viable preservatives with zero human, environmental, or aquatic toxicity are very hard to find and don’t always work in some mixtures for complete coverage. This is why you’ll often see more than one preservative listed on a label. There can be a primary preservative and multiple boosters.
Preservatives can often be harsh and have a range of toxicity issues for humans and the environment. For example a common class of preservatives known generally as parabens are linked to increased risk of breast cancer whereas Methylchloroisothiazolinone, which is an isothiazolinone type of preservative, is incredibly toxic to aquatic life according to the EPA.
Many preservatives are controversial and some are problematic by the very nature of what they do. And yet most people would agree that we need products to be preserved and to last a reasonable length of time. For these reasons, we are very careful about the preservatives we allow in certified products. Using essential oils in products can be a good option because they have natural preservation properties. However, they don’t necessarily work as effectively in all types of products and may still need to be mixed with other preservatives. We think it’s a good challenge for people to reduce the amount of preservatives they use on their skin as well as in their food, and to vary the preservatives by checking ingredient labels.