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Hand Hygiene Products and Preservatives

May 02, 2019

Soap Preservatives

Many cosmetic products, a category that includes hand hygiene products, are close to a neutral pH and contain a considerable amount of water. Under these conditions, any environmental contamination could cause rapid bacterial growth and spoil the product.

Proliferation of bacteria is particularly problematic with regard to regular and antibacterial hand soaps and cleansers, as bacteria can overwhelm any active ingredients and render the product ineffective, ultimately leading to increased spread of potentially harmful germs.

In order to inhibit undesirable bacterial growth, preservatives are commonly used in hand hygiene and other cosmetic products. To properly defend products against contamination, it is important that manufacturers use a preservative package that is effective against a variety of bacteria, yeasts, and molds. One of the most common preservative packages is MCI/MI: a combination of methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone. The MCI component provides quick initial protection from contamination, while the MI component holds off bacteria in the long term. 

Although preservatives like MCI/MI often get a bad reputation, these and all other ingredients in cosmetic products such as soaps and cleansers are regulated by the FDA to ensure the safety of consumers. It is true that MCI/MI has been associated with skin irritation, but those associations were largely formed in previous decades with relation to leave-on products and when MCI/MI was used at higher concentrations. Now primarily used in rinse-off products and at much lower concentrations, rates of contact allergy or irritation from MCI/MI in rinse-off products are extremely low. Indeed, MCI/MI has been repeatedly proven safe for use in rinse-off cosmetic products at concentrations up to 15 ppm.

Beyond the FDA, MCI/MI has been ruled safe for use in rinse-off products at appropriate concentrations by other organizations, such as the Cosmetic Ingredient Review and the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety. Neither MCI nor MI have been listed by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a known, probable, or possible human carcinogen.

MCI/MI is an effective preservative package that plays a crucial role in maintaining the efficacy of cosmetic products, including hand hygiene products. When products that contain preservatives are manufactured as stipulated by regulatory agencies and used as directed by consumers, the preservatives therein are not only safe, but are furthermore necessary to safeguard the health of consumers. Betco is committed to using preservatives to maintain hand hygiene products that are both safe and effective for the end user. 

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