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A preservative is a natural or synthetic ingredient that is added to products to prevent them from spoiling. The availability of a wide and safe range of preservatives is one of the key challenges to the cosmetics sector.

Preservatives are present in cosmetics to reduce the risk of microbial contamination of the product and to ensure the product remains suitable and safe during shelf-life and the period of its use by consumers. Without the use of preservatives, cosmetic products - just like food and other products handled directly by consumers - can become contaminated with microorganisms, leading to product spoilage, loss of product performance, and possibly irritation, infections or other adverse health reactions to the consumer.

Preservatives must undergo rigorous evaluation, including safety assessments and quality testing, to make sure that they are safe for use.

The European Commission ensures an updated list of scientifically evaluated safe preservatives for their use in cosmetic products and guides national authorities to monitor products on the EU market.

Infographic: What are preservatives and why do we need them?

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