In order to regulate the ingredients used for formulating personal care products, there are several agencies set up by different countries, organisations, NGOs and regions to determine what is safe to use in formulation and in what quantity it can be safely used. The FDA (food and drug administration) and the EU list of regulations are the most common and more widely accepted world wide (depending what part of the world you are in).

Here in Nigeria, the agency governing and regulating the use and manufacture of personal skincare ingredients is known as NAFDAC (National agency for food and drug administration and control).

Most ingredients are banned for use in personal skincare because of proven negative health effects associated with such ingredients, however, some ingredients are banned just because certain bodies , NGOs or uninformed bloggers have managed to create a bad reputation for that particular ingredient without any scientific proof.

  1. Preservatives

Pretty much all formulas need preservatives, but lots of cosmetic marketers want to use the phrase “preservative free.” This puts formulators in a bind. Also, since preservatives are meant to kill cells, it’s not surprising high levels can have negative side effects.


Parabens, Formaldehyde donors, and Methylisothiazolinones – have developed such poor reputations that many formulators just avoid them. Even an ingredient like Phenoxyethanol is viewed negatively among some consumer groups.


Some formulators have had success using organic acids and their salts: Benzoic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Potassium Sorbate or Sodium Benzoate. Benzyl Alcohol and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate are other options. These aren’t nearly as easy or effective to work with, but they can work in some systems.

2. Surfactants

Surfactants are the most widely used functional ingredients in cosmetics but some of them have developed poor reputations. Unfortunately, this includes some of the most effective and versatile ingredients.


Some consumers would prefer to avoid Sulfates like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate. Also, you may want to stay away from diethanolamines like Lauramide DEA or Cocamide DEA.


Finding surfactants that don’t include the word “sulfate” or have an “-eth” in its name is one option for formulators. Betaines can be a good substitute for diethanolamines. Expect your formulas to be more expense and not work as well, but consumers may be more inclined to buy them

3. Conditioning Ingredients

Since a number of the best conditioning ingredients come from synthetic chemistry and the petroleum industry, they have naturally developed a bad reputation.


This includes ingredients like Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, and Propylene Glycol. Silicones also get swept up in this anti-man-made ingredient furor, so Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone are not good replacements.


Alternatives for these ingredients include materials derived from plants like natural oils, butters and waxes.

4. Talc

Talc (hydrous magnesium silicate) is a powdered ingredient used in cosmetics to absorb moisture and as a filler. The primary concern about talc is that it is linked to ovarian cancer. This is based on a study published during the 1990s. Subsequent reviews of all the available data has demonstrated that talc is safe when used as directed. However, science doesn’t always matter, as demonstrated by the fact that cosmetic companies have recently lost a few high-profile court cases related to talc.


Some alternatives to talc include Corn starch, Tapioca Starch, Oat Flour and perhaps Baking Soda. They won’t work for all talc formulas but they are worth a shot.

5. Fragrances

We add fragrance to cosmetics to make products smell better or to reinforce a marketing story. Cosmetics without fragrance just don’t sell as well. Unfortunately, some groups have convinced consumers all fragrances are awful.


Synthetic fragrance


Essential oils

You can make some of your formulas without fragrance but they won’t be as well-liked by most consumers as fragrance-containing alternatives.

6.Colour pigments

Without colorants, most cosmetic formulas would be yellow or brown. Colour cosmetics would not exist. Some groups have declared that artificial colorants are carcinogenic. As usual, this claim is not supported by science.

In fact, of all the ingredients in cosmetics, colorants are the most highly regulated. Each batch of colorant must be approved by FDA prior to use. FDA also monitors the safety of colorants. Any colour additive that is found to cause cancer in animals (or humans) may not be used in cosmetics.

That means the alternatives to colour your products are strictly limited. You may be able to find some natural extracts that impart colour but remember if the purpose of adding an ingredient is for colour, then you are only allowed to use approved colorants from the FDA or EU.

Leave a comment