The importance of using Preservatives in homemade products

Hi Everyone,

I make hand-crafted toiletries and soaps and I have a background in microbiology, mycology, and virology. I noticed that some have concerns about using preservatives in their products. I just wanted to pass out some info about preservatives if any one was curious.

Preservatives are NECESSARY in cosmetic products. They are the only thing that's keeping something from making your product into their own cozy home . We transfer a lot of bacteria into a product everytime we go to dip our hands in it. Even when we open a jar, we are giving fungal spores an opportunity to dive in and make themselves at home. Preservatives are the only thing that stop these products from becoming an overgrown petri dish.

The second thing is that, despite a lot of folks saying otherwise, there are NO natural preservatives whatsoever. None. The person that can come up with one is going to be one extremely rich person. Grapefruit seed extract doesn't work. Other things like tocopherols, rosemary oil extract, etc., are antioxidants. These are things that keep oils and vegetable butters from going rancid, not spoiled. They won't keep bacteria and fungi growing in products. Some people feel comfortable with not putting a preservative in their anhydrous (without water) formulas and just use an antioxidant to keep the oils from breaking down and becoming rancid.

If you really, really want to steer clear of preservatives, then you might try making a very small amount and putting it in something like a malibu tube. That way, some of the product can be squeezed out and the hand won't come in contact with the rest of the stuff in the tube. Even so, it would need to be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days.

Preservatives make up an extremely small amount of the formula that goes into making a product. They are not the ogre that some reports have made them seem. There's really no advantage to not using them--it's better to use them than smearing a handful of bacteria or fungi onto your skin or hair (what if you have a small cut on your skin or scalp? You can use your imagination....). I know everyone has the sense not to dip their hands in some cream that is turning into a blooming, green pouf but there's a lot of growth present before we can see it with the naked eye. The only way to be sure is to use a preservative.

You can order preservatives from cosmetic and toiletry supply houses.
Proud to be Metis!


  • one way streetone way street Registered Users Posts: 772
    Thank you!
    mod. CG 2C-3A/M/iii
    Fotki album and journal updated: 10/01/07
    password: springlet

    Currently: Trying to stop straightening so much. Using Elucence conditioner and whatever works for me.
  • AyurBalanceAyurBalance Registered Users Posts: 4
    Hi Redbone!
    What about and essential oils (s)that are anti-fungal, anti-microbial, such as tea tree, lemon, thyme ect?
    I know I tried and loved an herb shampoo recipes but it spoiled in a couple days. I've meant to go back and experiment more.
  • RedboneRedbone Registered Users Posts: 9
    Hey AyurBalance,

    Sorry it took me so long to reply :(

    Those eo's do have wonderful anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Oregano eo can kill just about anything. Unfortunately, none of them can stand alone as a preservative, though. If I'm not mistaken, it's because they lack broad-spectrum anti-fungal/microbial properties.

    If you want to keep making your herbal shampoos, then just try a preservative from somewhere like The Herbarie--they even tell you what percentage to use.

    Forget alternate fuel sources--let's put our heads together and find an all natural preservative--$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    Proud to be Metis!

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