Monday, August 14, 2006

Natural Preservatives in Body Oils and Scrubs and Grapefruit Seed Extract (Natural Skin Care/Aromatherapy)

I've previously blogged on natural preservatives (here and also here), but here is some more information on them.

Do I need to use preservatives in water-less products like body oils, butters, and scrubs?

Many carrier oils and butters are 'self preserving' so have a long shelf life and (when used straight; no water added) don't really need preservation, though using an antioxidant like vitamin E or storing it in the fridge certainly helps extend shelf life. Some carrier oils and butters also have high levels of natural antioxidants present, such as shea butter which has vitamin A. Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax, so is an excellent choice as it has a very long shelf life and doesn't go rancid quickly.

Most essential oils are antiseptic or antibacterial, and are also antioxidants. Tea tree is not only antiseptic, and antibacterial but antiviral and antifungal as well.

Some companies also use herbal extracts like rosemary extract or black willow bark extract, which not only contain bacteria busting herbs, but alcohol (the extracting medium) as well. Alcohol is a well known preservative.

I've never had a problem with my body oils or butters (or scrubs) going rancid/moldy (I always use vitamin E and essential oils) but I tend to make things in small batches and use them up quickly (within a month or two).

If I'm not mistaken, similiar to salt, sugar is also 'self preserving'. I just add a little vitamin E and essential oils since they not only prevent them from going bad, but have skin benefits too! :)

This question was not answered on a forum, but I decided to post about it since I've been researching it recently.
Is grapefruit seed extract natural?

I'm actually still researching this! I used to think it was natural, but the more I read about it, I think it is one of those borderline ingredients that half the people in the natural cosmetic industry considers natural and the other half doesn't. From my knowledge, it depends on the company that produces it and how a person defines what's 'natural'. Many brands that have been tested have actually been found to be contaminated with parabens and other synthetic preservatives :( . There are a few that aren't, and it is even debatable if those brands can even be considered natural. Grapefruit seed extract (not to be confused with grapefruit essential oil or grapeseed oil) starts out with with either the seeds and sometimes the pulp. However, it undergoes a long secretive process involving chemicals and UV light, which some people argue completely changes the natural constitute of the seeds and pulps, and others argue it just refines it and enhances certain characteristics. Whether or not it is truly natural, the good thing is that it has been shown to be non-toxic, and an effective preservative (though its effectiveness has been debated as well). Personally, for the present, I do not mind using grapefruit seed extract because it is non-toxic and safer than most of the synthetic chemical preservatives out there. But I am looking into other alternatives like Suprapein and Biopein (Thanks Jen (Camellia Rose) for the articles!) which are all natural, scientific tested preservatives made from essential oils or herbs. But these natural preservatives are made with some of the same essential oils I already use to preserve my cosmetics so maybe I'll just stick to my beloved essential oils!

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