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.


 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.


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. 


  1. Make water based products in small batches so that the product is used within 1 week
  2. Ensure all materials used to make water based products are sterilized (containers, spoons, measuring utensils, etc.)
  3. Wash hands before using the product
  4. Store in a cool, dry, dark area. Refrigerating is a great option
  5. Check product daily to ensure there is no discoloration, off-smell, cloudy material forming or other changes


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.

Want to know what other types of preservatives exist and how to effectively use them? Visit Swift Crafty Monkey’s blog to learn more while diffusing our new favorite focus blend, Awake & Aware.


These comments were contributed by customers without influence from Edens Garden. The opinions expressed in these comments are 100% the authors' own and do not reflect the views or opinions of Edens Garden.

  • Edens Garden says...

    Hi Lisa, there is no hard and fast rule of how much glycerin and grain alcohol to use. It depends on a number of factors. You can learn a lot about formulating products from Swift Craft Monkey’s blog!

  • Lisa Campisi says...

    How would you know how much grain alcohol or glycerin to use in a water product?

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