Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yet More On Natural Preservatives and Antioxidants (All Natural Cosmetics)

I posted a lot of information on natural preservatives on two different forums several days ago, so here's what I posted (I added some more new information) in case you missed it :) You can also see my links (right hand side of this blog) for several more entries I've written on the topic.

I want to make all natural cosmetics; what natural preservatives can I use?

There are several natural preservatives you can use, however, it should be noted that while they are effective, products preserved with natural preservatives will have a much shorter shelf life than products preserved with synthetic preservatives.

For example, in water based products or products where oils and waters are emulsified together (like creams and lotions), the shelf life is only one to several months (be sure to buy from a company that makes their creams fresh!). Though some companies creams and lotions (for example: Aubrey Organics and Dr. Bronnner's) are usually good up to a year. Another thing that helps prolong shelf life is a squeeze or pump bottle since that prevents bacteria from your hands from getting into the product (which is a problem if the product is in a jar). Also what will help is NOT storing your cosmetics in a humid place like your bathroom.

But in products with no water like balms, butters, oil based serums, perfumes, salt and sugar scrubs (oil based, no water), bath/body oils, etc, and also liquid soap (the exception) the shelf life is several months to a year depending on the natural preservatives used, the kind of product, storage, type of bottle, combination of preservatives, and use.

Products preserved with commerical, synthetic preservatives have a very long shelf life of 2 or 3 years.

Some natural ingredients
have a very, very long shelf life on their own with no preservatives like powder mineral makeup (pretty much is fresh forever), and some carrier oils like plain, pure jojoba oil (nothing else mixed with it) which is good for 2-3 years. Many other carrier oils and butters (plain carrier oils and butters that have not been mixed with any other ingredients, with the exception of vitamin E, A, and C) also have a long shelf life. Also honey (nothing else added) has a long shelf life. (If you mix these ingredients with other ingredients, that of course will shorten their shelf life).

I've found that the most effective preservation method (for personal use; I do not run a business, at least not yet! Wicked laugh! ;) ) is a combination of antioxidants and natural preservatives. I use at least three or more in my creams. Most natural companies that I've tried also use a combo.

Vitamin E, A, and C are antioxidants. I like using vitamin E as some forms of vitamin C can be unstable.

Herbal extracts are both antioxidants and preservatives. Many herbs are antiseptic, and most extracts are extracted with alcohol, which is an effective preservative. (One popular brand, Dr. Bronner's uses a combo of alcohol and essential oils and a pump bottle (so no dirty fingers in product) to preserve their products). But its effectiveness will depend on the herb used of course. Some herbs are more antibacterial or antiseptic than others.

Most essential oils are antibacterial and antiseptic, as well as antioxidant. Some are antiviral and antifungal as well (many scientific studies have been done on the antibacterial properties of essential oils). Lavender and tea tree are all of these. They also have many skin benefits (depending on the essential oil), but be careful as some can be irritating especially if used in the incorrect concentration.

Biopein and Neopein and also Suprapein
are supposed to be very effective. They are basically a blend of certain herbal extracts.
Articles on the manufacturer's website contain results/information from tests done on these preservatives. If you are making products for a business, these are probably your best bet.

Grapefruit Seed Extract

There is conflicting info on how natural and also how effective it is. Some brands are contaminated with synethtic preservatives like parabens. But gfs extract (the ones not contaminated with synthetic preservatives) has been found to be non-toxic. There is a debate on whether it is an antioxidant or a preservative. It seems like half the natural industry claims it is natural and effective, and the other half doesn't! A lot of people also confuse gfs extract with grapefruit essential oil and grapeseed oil, which are totally different ingredients (one is an essential oil and the other is a carrier oil).

I personally have never had a problem with my creams going bad, but I craft in very small amounts and also use up my creams within a month. I used to generally use vitamin E with 3-6 essential oils, and grapefruit seed extract. But with all the conflict with gfs extract, I am looking into using the herbal extracts along with vitamin E and essential oils.

I worry about giving people my creams. I have no problem with giving friends balms, perfumes, bath oils, scrubs, etc, but I worry about the creams. Because many people stick products in their cabinet in the bathroom (gasp! The WORST place you can store your natural cosmetics) and forget about it.


Anonymous said...

How much Vit E should I put in for a 1 ounce cream or for that matter grapefruit extract for the same amount.

Solarkat said...

Hi Anon

Sorry for taking a few days to respond (I am finishing my thesis)

For vitamin E, it depends on the IU (since different ones on the market will vary, anywhere from 250 to 1400 IU) and also the amount of cream. So you probably want to ask your vendor to be sure. Most people (if it's in capsules) usually use 1-2 capsules for creams.

For grapefruit seed extract: .5% to 2% (so 3 to 12 drops). I usually only use a few drops.

But these are antioxidants so be sure to use something that will kill germs too, or use the cream up within a month or two.



Solarkat said...


Just reread your message. For one ounce of cream--try a large drop of the vitamin E.

The amount of drops for gfs extract were for 1 ounce of product.


Viva la vida said...

Hi Li-
Thanks so much for this very helpful info. I've been online all day researching but find myself a bit frustrated until I found you :)
I will be a licensed esthetician soon and want to make my own skin care products for when I do my facials and eventually sell my own line locally (have no desires to sell online etc)Can you help advise suppliers for the natural preservatives apart from the one you already gave a link for? By the way serapein really synthetic and chemical free? I go lost in their technical info.
Lastly, any books you would recommend for making my own products that can last longer than a few weeks and w/no refrigeration?

Solarkat said...


For essential oils, if you check out this link, this contains many places to buy essential oils from (scroll down for posts that say 'place to buy essential oils from')

For herbal extracts, Mountain Rose Herbs (either already made, or you can buy herbs and make your own).

For suprapein, the only supplier I knew (my friend Markey at Garden of Wisdom) no longer carries it. You may want to contact the manufacturer (from the link in my blog entry) and ask them if they have a list of vendors you can buy from, or if you can buy directly from them. It has a very distinct smell though. I haven't tried the other two.
Suprapein is completely natural, it is only a blend of certain herbal extracts. It has been challenge tested.

There are also many of the newer preservatives that fall somewhere between naturally derived and natural that many natural companies use like suttocide A (it is synthetic but made from an amino acid). markey carries that.

Also a few others that are closer to natural, still testing them to see if they work.

Links to GOW and MRH are on my main page, right side of blog.

For resources, there aren't that many books out there on natural prservatives, you have to research individual ingredients like herbs/herbal extracts and essential oils. (no books on suprapein, the only info comes from their website. for gfse that isn't a preservative but Aubrey Hamptom's books discuss it. he thinks it is one, but I disagree, because of other articles I have read. but his books are a good resource on natural ingredients). Read scientific articles on essential oil and herbal properites if you have access to them. Some books like Price and Price's aromatherapy for health practioners which is referenced, or Lis-Balchin's book--she is a scientist that conducts studies on essential oils and her book is referenced).

It takes a lot of research BUT naturally preserved products with water will ONLY last a few weeks to months, depends on ingredients.

You cna also use grain alcohol at 15-20% to preserve (will preserve the longest). herbal extracts are usually made with alcohol but not always.

HTH :)


HTH and good luck :)