Cosmetics, like any product containing water and organic/inorganic compounds, require preservation against microbial contamination to guarantee consumer’s safety and to increase their shelf-life. The microbiological safety has as main goal of consumer protection against potentially pathogenic microorganisms, together with the product’s preservation resulting from biological and physicochemical deterioration. This is ensured by chemical, physical, or physicochemical strategies. The most common strategy is based on the application of antimicrobial agents, either by using synthetic or natural compounds, or even multifunctional ingredients. Current validation of a preservation system follow the application of good manufacturing practices (GMPs), the control of the raw material, and the verification of the preservative effect by suitable methodologies, including the challenge test. Among the preservatives described in the positive lists of regulations, there are parabens, isothiasolinone, organic acids, formaldehyde releasers, triclosan, and chlorhexidine. These chemical agents have different mechanisms of antimicrobial action, depending on their chemical structure and functional group’s reactivity. Preservatives act on several cell targets; however, they might present toxic effects to the consumer. Indeed, their use at high concentrations is more effective from the preservation viewpoint being, however, toxic for the consumer, whereas at low concentrations microbial resistance can develop.
Keywords: antimicrobial synthetic agents; consumers’ protection; cosmetic preservatives; microbiological safety; preservatives efficacy; toxic effects.