Natural-based ingredients are currently in vogue due to consumer perception that they are safer and better for the environment. And while it’s true that preservatives and fragrances account for the majority of skin irritations and allergic reactions to cosmetic products, it is unlikely that natural-based materials are milder. An argument can be made that since they are normally complex mixtures, it is more likely they will cause problems.
There are also regulatory considerations when using preservatives or ingredients with antimicrobial activity. In Europe and Japan, you need to use preservatives on the approved lists. In the US, there aren’t any current restrictions. If you use an ingredient with known antimicrobial activity that is not on the approved list, you can face regulatory action unless an approved ingredient is included in the formulation. The best preservation strategy is normally to include chelating agents, polyols, and other boosters to minimize the level of approved preservative needed.
How we define “natural” is also critical since many globally-approved preservatives occur naturally but are produced synthetically. These include parabens, benzyl alcohol, benzoic acid, sorbic acid, o-cymen-5-ol, and phenoxyethanol.
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Naturally produced chelators
Naturally-produced chelators can reduce formulation preservative levels by as much as 70%. Typical use levels are only .05-.1%.
- Sodium Phytate from Deckner Consulting Services LLC dist. is extracted from rice and has a similar chelating profile as Disodium EDTA. It also has sebum-normalizing and moisturizing properties.
Naturally-produced polyols help preservatives penetrate the cell walls of microbes. Typical use levels are 1-5%.
- Pentiol Green+ (Pentylene Glycol) from Minasolve is a renewable alternative of petro-sourced pentylene glycol derived from sugar cane bagasse or corn cobs. It has the best antimicrobial properties of any natural produced polyol. It also has moisturizing properties and is a good solvent.
- Haisugarcane BG (1,3 Butylene Glycol) from Kokyu Alcohol Kogyo Co. Ltd is a natural grade of butylene glycol produced from sugar cane.
- Zemea (Propanediol) from DuPont Tate & Lyle is produced by fermentation and is significantly less irritating than propylene glycol.
The typical use levels of nature-identical alcohols are .5-5%.
- Ethanol is naturally produced by fermentation.
- Methylbenzyl alcohol
- Phenyl ethyl alcohol has a rose-like odor and similar activity to Phenoxyethanol.
- Dermosoft 250 (Phenylpropanol) by Dr. Straetmans has a pleasant hyacinth-like odor and is also a good solvent.
- Origanol (Terpinen-4-ol) from Biocosmethic is a high purity natural terpinen-4-ol obtained by fractional distillation of tea tree oil.
The activity of nature-identical acids is very PH dependent.
- Dermosoft 688 (Anisic acid) by Dr. Straetmans has anti-inflammatory and strong fungicidal activity. Optimal activity is PH 4-5-5.5
- Amiperfect by Alban Muller is derived from oil of wintergreen. Its optimal activity is PH 3.
All botanical blends have better activity than Phenoxyethanol, based on MIC data.
- Biosecur C160S (Glycerin (and) Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Fruit Extract (and) Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Fruit Extract (and) Citrus Aurantium Sinensis Peel Extract (and) Ascorbic Acid (and) Lactic Acid (and) Citric Acid (and) Aqua) by Sharon Labs Dist. contains several citrus extracts and has synergistic activity when combined with benzyl alcohol, phenyl ethyl alcohol, or Phenoxyethanol.
- Biopein (Origanum Vulgare (Oregano) Leaf Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Extract, Cinnamomum Zeylancum (Cinnamon) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Extract, Hydrastis Ca) by BioBotanica
- Suprapein (Origanum Vulgare (Oregano) Leaf Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Extract, Cinnamomum Zeylancum (Cinnamon) Bark Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) from BioBotanica
- Plantservative WSr (Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Water (aqua)) by Campo
- Stabilize-New (Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Leaf Oil, Glyceryl Laurate, Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract) by Sabinsa Cosmetics
Natural colorants approved for cosmetic use in the U.S. include Annatto, Carmel, Carmine, Beta Carotene, Guaiazulene, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide and Iron Oxides. These all are found in nature but most are synthetically produced. They can be used in externally applied cosmetic products including the eye area and are exempt from the FDA batch certification process.
- Annatto (Natural Orange 4-CI 75120) is an orange-red carotenoid-based dye extracted from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana). Annatto has good heat and PH stability (4.5-13) and can be formulated into both water and oil.
- Annatto Powder 7.5% by Wild Flavors Inc. contains 7.5% annatto and is water soluble.
- Annatto Color 3.8% Suspension from Wild Flavors Inc. contains 3.5% Annatto and is oil soluble.
- Carmel color (E150A) is a brown color manufactured by heating carbohydrates, either alone or in the presence of acids, alkalis, and/or salts. Caramel color is produced from commercially available nutritive sweeteners consisting of fructose, dextrose (glucose), invert sugar, sucrose, malt syrup, molasses, starch hydrolysates and fractions thereof.
- Sethness RT175 Powdered Caramel Color Class I - E150A from Sethness Pro
- Carminic Acid (Natural Red 4-CI 75470) is a bright-red pigment which is extracted from the female cochineal insect. Carmine has excellent heat, light, and acid stability.
- ducts Company is a powdered form.
- Carminic Acid Color / Cochineal Extract Color by Food Ingredient Solutions is a water soluble extract.
- Beta-Carotene is a strongly-colored red-orange pigment abundant in plants and fruits. It is chemically classified as a terpenoid (isoprenoid).
- Beta Carotene 22% HSS from DSM Nutritional Products is a brick red suspension of Beta-Carotene in Corn Oil, with dl-α-Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, and Citric Acid as preservatives. It can be added to oils.
- Guaiazulene is a dark blue crystalline material that is found in some essential oils, mainly oil of Guaiac and chamomile oil.
- Titanium dioxide is the most widely used white cosmetic pigment. It is available commercially in the Anatase and Rutile forms. The Rutile form is preferred because of better UV stability and greater color coverage.
- Unipure White (Anatase) from Sensient Color Technologies
- Unipure White (Rutile) from Sensient Color Technologies
- Zinc Oxide is used as a white cosmetic pigment and has less color coverage than titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide should only be formulated in products that have a PH>7 since zinc oxide can dissolve at acid PHs.
- AZO77USP (U.S. Zinc) is a USP grade of Zinc Oxide. U.S. Zinc is the world’s largest producer of zinc oxide.
- Iron oxides (E172) are widely used color cosmetic pigments and are available in available in yellow, orange, red, brown, and black colors.
- Sensient Color Technologies produce the entire color range of cosmetic grade iron oxides (Unipure LC).
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