Which Preservatives

People ask me which preservatives I use in my own products. There were a few of these I haven't yet written about in detail (it's on my to-do list – promise).

Meantime, here's a list of the preservatives I use and/or have used in my products.

INCI names, listed alphabetically

benzyl alcohol
sodium benzoate

Not Sexy!

I realize this isn't a very sexy sounding list.

I could try and wrap it up in 'green-speak' so it sounded a bit more appealing. Instead of the parabens, I could have written Japanese honeysuckle extract or blueberry and mango extracts, and instead of benzyl alcohol, I could have written extracts of jasmine, but that wouldn't be 100% true.

I did try an all natural preservative once. It didn't turn out well. That was an understatement. It was a full out disaster, The story can be found under 'grapefruit seed extract' in this post.

Originally From Plants - Kind of

Even though they may have have their origins in plants, no preservatives today (that I am aware of) are made by processing plant material. Preservatives for use in cosmetics and foods are man-made in a controlled environment. They also work every time.

I definitely prefer that to slathering myself with a bacteria-infested product. (do read the grapefruit seed extract story in the link above if you're not convinced)

Why so Many?

People have asked me why it is necessary to have several different preservatives in one product.

This is a great question.

Some ingredients are already preserved when they are delivered for use in cosmetics (and food). For example, the Aloe Vera I use is preserved with sodium benzoate, which is adequate to preserve aloe vera on its own. Sodium benzoate is not a broad spectrum preservative. As soon as the aloe is mixed with other ingredients, the sodium benzoate becomes inadequate to preserve the entire product. This is why there is often a 'cocktail' of preservatives in creams, gels and other water-based products – both mine and commercial brand products.

Preservative Free

There are a few products I don't add any preservatives to - at all. These are the anhydrous (water-free) products. If there is no water, bacteria doesn't have anywhere to start partying and doing other undesirable bacteria-like things like developing into a cityscape of yuckiness.

Lip balms, butter & clay cleansers, lipsticks, and powder make-up are all anhydrous. Body butters (the kind I make) are completely water-free as well.


Unknown said…
Hi how long will the butters, scrubs and other such products without water last ?
Anonymous said…
Grape seed extract does work, but you have to combine it with citric acid and potassium sorbate, which are all natural. You would also have to add vegetable glycerin to prevent from freezing, or separating in the heat.

All the "ben's" are synthetic, and are rated a ten on toxicity. The highest. They are also endocrine disrupters, and exactly what we are trying to stay away from.

With no preservatives... 7 days,
LisaLise said…
Hej There Sashwillpower - with anhydrous products, the life of the product will be dependant upon the ingredient with the shortest shelf life.
LisaLise said…
Hey there Anon - The fact that you have to add a preservative to grape seed extract to make it work kind of negates your argument that grape seed extract works as a preservative. Grape seed extract is not a preservative - no matter what you add to it.

I'm afraid you are incorrect about 'the bens' as well. You write they are rated a 10 on toxicity? Where? It sounds a lot like you are quoting some of the misinformation that has been circulating the net over the past several years.

Endocrine disruptors? No, they are not. There is no evidence of this anywhere. There are 2 parabens still undergoing study at this time, and these haven't been used by anyone in cosmetics since 2009.

You are quoting misinformation.