Bugs, Bacteria and Beasties

This fresh tidbit of info on bugs and beasties crossed my path the other day. I know I'm always preaching about bacteria in DIY products and how you need to add broad spectrum preservative as soon as you add plant material to a water-based mixture, and blah blah blah – seriously?

I can already hear loud yawning and eye rolling.

OK, I guess you're allowed to roll your eyes just a little. But let's – for the briefest of moments – celebrate the amazing capabilities of microorganisms, because these teensy little critters are actually quite remarkable.

Too Small to Matter? Not at All.

Although microorganisms are so small you need a microscope to see them, they are vital to ecosystems because they act as decomposers and aid the recycling of nutrients.

They also have an impressive ability to multiply.

(No, not that way...)

This way.

See that little guy with the red ring around him? An hour ago, he was all alone in this unpreserved jar of DIY cream (or skin tonic or other product containing water).

In an unpreserved cosmetic product, some microorganisms can multiply to several billion in just 48 hours.

Yes, you read correctly.

Some bacteria can double in number EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES. So say Cosmetics Test Labs.

Just a little microbial food for thought...

How Bad Could it Be?

For a frightening example of just how wrong a DIY recipe can go, visit this post by Jessica Allison.

More About Bacterial Growth

Introduction to Microbiology
Encyclopedia Britannica: Growth of Bacterial Populations


Christopher said…
When I first started DIY I was under the misconception that I could omit preservatives when making products. I thought that the commercial giants used them for a "hidden" purpose and not actually for preserving. Now, however I won't DIY without them. Even if it's an anhydrous product, I'm still skeptical.

It's about being safe and taking all the necessary precautions we can to ensure that the product is as safe as possible. This is especially important when formulating for friends/family.

Would you rather use a true and tried product with "synthetic" ingredients that are added for your own safety? Or would you rather risk your health because you think preservatives are dangerous? The answer is pretty obvious.
LisaLise said…
Hi Christopher - Thanks for your input. I do agree with you - safety first! That said, if you are making anhydrous products that are not going to be in contact with water - (body butters, lip balms, hair wax etc) - then preservatives are not necessary. I have body butters that have lasted beyond 2 years without problem.
Unknown said…
Thought sure I had left a comment, maybe not. If you are making your own perfume with beeswax do I need a preservative in that too?
LisaLise said…
Hi Kelly - You did leave a comment - but because I have so many spam comments, any comment to a post older than a few days is set to go through moderation.

Now: as to your question - if your perfume is anhydrous (completely free of water or any water-containing ingredients), then you do not need a preservative.
Unknown said…
Thanks hun, I will be adding pure essential oils, so is that anhydrous?

LisaLise said…
Yes, if your mixture is purely oil based and without water - you're fine. Beeswax and essential oils are all water-free. :)