There are over 100 preservatives permitted by Cosmetics Europe for use, but just a few are used in the majority of products.  The most common ones are the parabens, other organic acids or salts (such as benzoic acid, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, dehydroacetic acid, sorbic acid), phenoxyethanol and methylisothiazolinone/methylchloroisothiazolinone.

The paper, “Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours,” by Darbre et. al. published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2004, created an uproar in the preservative industry although many industry experts insisted the paper was without merit.  However, the paper was widely reported which led to a consumer movement away from paraben usage and was the catalyst for increased research and development into alternative preservative systems.

With consumers are becoming increasingly aware of ingredients, and some are linking this unproven relationship between parabens and tumours to any formaldehyde-producing preservatives, the need for more natural effective preservatives is as great as ever.

The ideal preservative must demonstrate:

  • efficacy at low use levels;
  • tasteless, odourless and colourless;
  • effective against both bacteria (Gram-positive and Gram-negative) and fungi (yeast and mould);
  • useable in both hot and cold phases;
  • effective and stable in the pH range of 2.5 to 10.5;
  • acceptable by the regulatory agencies worldwide and
  • cost effective.

This need has led to increased usage of other preservative chemicals however these are also not without concern.

Concern over Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)

MIT was introduced to the market as a cosmetic preservative in 2006, and since then has been widely used for its broad spectrum preservation properties.

Cosmetics Europe Recommendation 12th December 2013

Cosmetics Europe, following discussions with the European Society of Contact Dermatitis (ESCD), recommends that the use of Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) in leave-on skin products including cosmetic wet wipes is discontinued. This action is recommended in the interests of consumer safety in relation to adverse skin reactions. It is recommended that companies do not wait for regulatory intervention under the Cosmetics Regulation but implement this recommendation as soon as feasible.  For more information click here.

After concerns over this preservative, major brands issued press releases that they would discontinue its usage.  These include Piz Buin, Huggies, Nivea, Vaseline and Brylcreem.  This was reported in late 2013 by the BBC here.

After Cosmetics Europe’s recommendation to discontinue the use of the preservative methylisothiazolinone (MIT) there was a call for public comment, which was open until 17 February 2014.  More details can be found here.

It is our opinion at Oxford Biosciences that since Cosmetics Europe has recommended the discontinuation of the use of MIT this will lead to a ban on MIT usage in the near future.  Please  bear that in mind when formulating new products.