What you need to know about preservatives
Preservatives. What are they? Are they needed? Which are effective? You might not think about them when making DIY body products, but preservatives are vital to the efficacy of the product and your well being.
WHAT ARE PRESERVATIVES?
Preservatives prevent mold, bacteria and other microbes from growing in products that contain water. Aside from products that contain water alone, other examples of water based products are those that contain lotion, aloe vera and hydrosols. Without preservatives, microbes will grow in water based products rendering the product unusable. If you wish for your water based product to last longer than 1 week, using a preservative is required.
TYPES OF PRESERVATIVES
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “natural preservative.” Grapefruit seed extract (GSE), vitamin E, citric acid, essential oils and Rosemary extract are commonly touted as being natural preservatives, but they are actually antioxidants. These antioxidants will slow rancidity of natural ingredients, but will not prevent bacterial growth in water based products. Two types of preservatives that are effective and familiar are grain alcohol (120-190 proof) and glycerin.
HOW TO AVOID USING PRESERVATIVES
- Make water based products in small batches so that the product is used within 1 week
- Ensure all materials used to make water based products are sterilized (containers, spoons, measuring utensils, etc.)
- Wash hands before using the product
- Store in a cool, dry, dark area. Refrigerating is a great option
- Check product daily to ensure there is no discoloration, off-smell, cloudy material forming or other changes
WHAT ARE ANHYDROUS PRODUCTS?
Anhydrous products are products that are oil based, and do not contain water. Some examples are lip balms, salves, body butters and scrubs. Anhydrous products do not need a preservative, unless there is the possibility of the product interacting with water. If you want to avoid preservatives and water based products altogether, anhydrous products are the way to go.