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There are no fillers in cosmetic products

It’s difficult to know where the claim or idea comes from but I frequently hear people say that there are “synthetic fillers” in cosmetics.  You even get some natural marketing brands who tout the fact that they don’t use “cheap synthetics or exotic fillers“.  Somehow this is supposed to make their products better.  Of course, it doesn’t make them better.  Less might be more in the food world, but not in the cosmetic world. fillers

I want to dispel the myth right now…*fillers are not used in creating cosmetics!

It makes absolutely no sense.

What are fillers?

The term filler comes from the food industry.  Food fillers are additives that increase the weight/volume of a food with less expensive ingredients.  This keeps production costs down.  For example, some flour-based fillers are added to meats to increase the bulk.  That’s how fast food places can make more burgers using less actual meat.

But this concept makes no sense for cosmetic formulations.

Cosmetic formualtions

If we want to reduce the cost of a formula while increasing the weight / volume we add more solvent.  And for most cosmetics that means adding more water.

However, you can’t simply add more and more water to the formula.  While fillers in food can be seasoned to reduce the impact, solvents can not be modified to reduce their impact on the final formula performance.  And if a cosmetic doesn’t perform well people will not continue to buy it!

While there are a number of ways to reduce the cost of a cosmetic formula, adding fillers is not one of them.

Potential cosmetic fillers

There are some ingredients that are like fillers in that they are added to a formula but aren’t expected to have any impact on the performance.  These are called “claims” ingredients.  They are the natural extracts, sciencey sounding materials, and special feature ingredients that are added simply to support the marketing story that the company wants to portray.

Although even these ingredients aren’t properly called fillers because while they have no impact on the performance, they also have almost no impact on the formula cost.  They are used at such low levels that they are hardly noticed in the bottom line.

So the next time you hear someone asking about fillers in cosmetic products just tell them no.

There are NO fillers in cosmetic products.

*After writing this I thought about color cosmetics and indeed fillers are used in these formulations.  Powdered cosmetic products do contain fillers.  They are used for very good reasons because they improve performance but they also increase the cost of the formula.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Ivan Souza 07/28/2013, 10:52 am

    Hi Perry,

    Once I heard some companies use calcium carbonate as a “filler” in bar soaps to reduce the amount necessary of soap base, as well as the cost!

    But I agree with you in general!

    • Perry Romanowski 07/29/2013, 7:21 am

      Soap is pretty cheap to make so I doubt any big company would use calcium carbonate to reduce costs. At the company I worked, if a project didn’t result in at least a $200,000 a year savings we wouldn’t even do it.

  • Minnie 07/26/2013, 7:16 pm

    Good to know :)

  • Jessica 07/26/2013, 1:07 pm

    I think you are misinterpreting the meaning of ‘fillers’ used in this context. People who seek out natural products are aware of the numerous antioxidants, fatty acids and other phytonutrients in botanical ingredients that have an impact on skin health. They see ingredients such as solvents as ‘fillers’ because they have no impact on the skin.

    • Perry Romanowski 07/29/2013, 7:24 am

      Thanks for your comments. In reality, the antioxidants & phytonutrients in botanical ingredients have no impact on skin health.

      • Nayaka 07/30/2013, 12:27 am

        Hi Perry,
        Is it true that the antioxidants & phytonutrients in botanical ingredients have no impact on skin health? I read a book titled Anti-Aging Prescriptions, and it’s written that fruit acids are added in cosmetic products because they can remove dead skin cells and hydrate living cells.

        • Perry Romanowski 07/30/2013, 6:57 am

          Certain antioxidants can have an effect (e.g. vitamin A) but the scientific data shows that most do not when applied topically to the skin. In a lab setting using skin cell cultures more effects can be shown but these are not replicated under real-life conditions. Fruit acids can remove dead skin cells but not better than purified glycolic or lactic acid. When a cosmetic chemist wants the most effective ingredient they use the ones that are most potent. These are almost always synthetic ingredients. Botanicals are added merely to support the story that marketing wants to tell.

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