Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist September 2014 Contents Australian Pharmacist September 2014 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
SUPPORTING PHARMACY PRACTICE
In recent years, there has been considerable interest in the development
of preservative-free or self-preserving cosmetics.
highly effective when added to products with high water content
(e.g. creams, lotions and gels) to inhibit the growth of moulds or bacteria
and prevent spoilage.
Unfortunately, a certain number of
individuals will become sensitised from
contact with preservatives.
preservative, which is both effective and
devoid of irritant or sensitising potential,
is however, yet to be discovered.
All preservatives are capable of
producing irritant or allergic contact
Dermatitis, also referred to
as eczema, is a nonspecific inflammatory
response of the skin to a combination of
endogenous (individual susceptibility)
and exogenous (external) factors.
The issue of sensitivity to preservatives
is a complex one, exemplified by the
‘paraben paradox’ where patients
with positive patch test responses to
parabens do not develop skin problems,
when using paraben-containing
One explanation is that
inflamed or irritated skin can allow
increased penetration of allergens,
therefore dermatitis can occur more often
when products with parabens are used
on irritated skin.3 Further adding to the
complexity of sensitivity to preservatives
is that individual patients may react to
one preservative, but not another.
Preservatives have been previously
divided into two main groups:
compounds that slowly release
formaldehyde, such as imidazolidinyl
urea) and non-formaldehyde related
preservatives, such as parabens. It is
beyond the scope of this article to review
products for sensitive skin
BY DR ALISON HAYWOOD & PROFESSOR BEVERLEY GLASS
Dr Alison Haywood is Senior Lecturer, School of
Pharmacy, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus.
Professor Beverley Glass is Professor of Pharmacy,
School of Pharmacy, James Cook University, Townsville.
After reading this article, pharmacists should be
• Recognise the requirement to compound
preparations to meet the needs of patients with
sensitive skin, and the precautions to be taken
by pharmacists in undertaking this task
• Explain the terms ‘preservative-free’, ‘self-
preserving’ and ‘natural preservatives’ in the
context in which they are used in topical
• Explain the preparation of self-preserving or
preservative-free topical preparations, including
components, method, packaging, storage,
labelling, and appropriate counselling for
patients with sensitive skin.
Competency standards (2010) addressed: 4.2,
5.1, 5.2 .
Accreditation number: CAP140909C
all classes of preservatives. The Martindale
currently has 149 monographs for
A useful resource,
regularly updated and available online,
is the European Commission Cosmetics
Annex VI of
the document contains a list of
58 preservatives, which are contained
in cosmetic products, including their
maximum authorised concentrations,
limitations and conditions of use.
This includes warnings which must be
printed on the label. Annex II contains a
list of substances, including preservatives,
which must NOT form part of the
composition of cosmetic products.
Ironically parabens, which the industry
has sought to replace with ‘safer’
alternatives, are still the most frequently
used preservatives in cosmetics.
Parabens are well-known for having
weak sensitising properties and for
their absence of toxicity, whereas their
newer substitutes are not as well-known
and may thus lead to new cases of
7,8 Recently, there have
been reports of a putative link between
parabens and endocrine disruption,
however this issue has been thoroughly
reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient
Review and found not to be relevant to
parabens as used in cosmetics.9
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