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Controversial Ingredients: One Brand’s Perspective

By: Ada Polla and Anne Pouillot
Posted: November 29, 2011, from the December 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Should they be replaced? Probably, although essentially for reasons linked to consumers’ fears and preferences. At this point, the controversy is primarily consumer-based; there are no scientific data to conclusively prove the nefarious effects of parabens. However, there are alternatives that are as safe while enabling the industry to avoid the continued debate with consumers about parabens.

The regulatory framework may also be changing, which is another reason to replace parabens. Indeed, in France on May 3, 2011, a proposition of a law requiring a ban of parabens in all industries was submitted to the French National Assembly and was adopted. While at the time of this article’s printing this is just a proposition of law, it may be an indication of the changing regulatory environment.

Finally, we have recently discovered another concern with parabens, unrelated to the consumers’ misplaced fears about these ingredients. As parabens have a low aqueous solubility, they will dissolve in most systems at temperatures above 70°C. However, as parabens are slightly soluble in cold water, they tend to clump together in cold water and form crystals. Such crystals pose a challenge to formulators and may present one more reason to replace these ingredients. Alchimie Forever has decided to remove parabens from products for commercial reasons.

What are the alternatives? An effective preservative must be nontoxic, nonirritating and have a broad spectrum of action while providing protection at a useful range of pH levels and temperatures. A hostile environment must be created for the growth of microorganisms, which requires optimization of the formulation and compatibility between preservatives.

See COSMOS-approved alternatives and COSMOS preservatives.