How Cosmetics Companies Substitute One Nasty Chemical for Another

I came across an interesting article the other day at Chemists Corner, probably the largest community of cosmetics chemists on the web. It discusses the pressure to replace some very nasty preservatives with more natural alternatives. What caught my eye was this:

Why use parabens & formaldehyde donors?

Now that we’ve established that you need preservatives, it’s just a matter of figuring out which to use. By far the most effective, broad spectrum preservatives you can use include

  • Parabens
  • Formaldehyde donors
  • Halogenated compounds

Other preservatives just aren’t as effective against as many possible microbes.

Additionally, these ingredients have been used for many years with tons of safety data supporting their use. Any new or alternative preservative you would use will not have as much supporting safety data. When all these considerations are added together, there is very little reason to use an alternative preservative.

But if your marketing department insists on handcuffing your formulating efforts by limiting your preservative choice, you can consider some alternatives.

Unfortunately this is an all too common problem – cosmetic chemists, trained in a chemical-heavy style of cosmetics formulation, don’t see the value in removing synthetic parabens or formaldehyde donors at all. So when they’re asked to do it, they’ll often substitute something that’s even worse.

As bad as it is to see one bad chemical substituted for another, what’s even worse is that some companies don’t even remove the chemicals they say they do. Check out this study by the California Environmental Protection Agency, in which a bunch of nail polishes that advertised themselves as “three free,” that is, free of dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde, actually weren’t.

This is why it’s so important to support companies who really do care what goes into your cosmetics, and there certainly are a few of them around. Kid Licks is of course one of them, and so are a few of our friends, like Raw Paleo Melissa. In making Kid Licks, it has certainly been hard to put together a nail polish that’s totally organic and yet shelf-stable, and throwing in a little bit of DMDM hydantoin sure would help but we’re committed to making a polish that’s truly healthy and natural, words that have lost their meaning for a lot of cosmetics companies.

Kid Licks and our kindred spirits at other natural cosmetics startups are really creating a new industry. The old industry is unfortunately full of institutional biases that are preventing it from putting real healthy products on the shelves. Hopefully you guys will work with us to change that. And if you’re a cosmetic chemist who truly is interested in making safer, more natural products, get in touch with us, we’ll be formulating new cosmetics in the future. We know there are plenty of you out there, even on Chemist’s Corner.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published