Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Using Preservatives: PART 1.

I recently came upon another blog (non bath and beauty) stating that using she so put it...things she couldn't even pronounce was a bad thing. She spoke as though she was an authority on the subject, instructing people to look for products that were preservative free. While that is not necessarily a bad thing....sometimes a preservative is necessary. But when? What kind of preservative is safe? Are there natural preservatives? So I thought I would attempt to give a little bit of information about the use of preservatives. Today, I will touch upon when preservatives should be used...and tomorrow, I will address the types of preservatives.

So I stive to use as many natural ingredients in my products as possible. Although I try to live that lifestyle as much as possible...I whole heartedly support the use of preservatives in beauty care products. We believe our preservative philosophy embraces safety first, over what is trendy.

So, do all products require preservatives? The answer to that question is no, of course not. The only products that contain water need a preservative. Dry or powdered items need no preservative. Products that contain only oils do not need to be preserved. There are also ingredients, such as honey and vinegar, that when used (without the addition of water) are self-preserving. Handmade, natural soaps that are made using the old fashion process will list water on the label because it is included during the soapmaking process; however, this water is used up in the process of soapmaking and does not exist or need to be preserved in the final product. Also, high amounts of alcohol in a product (such as perfume) act as a preservative, needing nothing additional.

Of course there are no cut and dry cases of when one should use a preservative and when not to, that is totally up to the creator. So that is not to say that oil based scrubs do not need a preservative. The chances for an oil based scrub are low....BUT...scrubs are generally used around water....once water is introduced into the mix, the chances for spoilage increase. All of our scrubs will be oil based and will not contain a preservative, however if you would prefer one to be added all you need to do is ask!!

Why is it that water based products need to be preserved? Water is one of the friendliest substances on earth -- vital to the life of many creatures. Therefore, a product that contains water with no preservative would over time "naturally" become infested with bacteria, yeasts, fungi and molds. This infestation would therefore, make the product unusable, even toxic to you.

Even if a product does not list water as an ingredient on the label, there are other words that indicate the presence of water such as Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, "Distillates", and some "Extracts" (other extracts that are alcohol-based would not need to be preserved).

The contamination process happens much more quickly then you might expect, taking only a couple weeks. What is most frightening is that an unpreserved product that has gone bad might look and smell perfectly fine, but it could be filled with microorganisms that are dangerous for your skin and health. These products may look okay, but when they are micro-tested, the bacteria, yeast, fungus and mold counts are off the charts. Other times, the signs of contamination are more visually obvious -- a rancid odor or discolorations could be indications that a product has gone bad.

To be safe, a water-based lotion or cream with no preservative would need to be refrigerated and tossed after a week or two. So unless you're planning to make the lotion at home, this refrigerate-and-toss-after-a-week idea doesn't work. That is where a preservative comes in.

So, why is it that other brands do not list or use preservatives? We believe that there are a number of explainations for this:

ONE: Some companies may hide the preservative in the ingredient itself. For example, they may use an Aloe Vera Juice that was already preserved, and then on their label they only disclose the use of the Aloe Vera but not the preservative.

TWO: Some companies simply do not fully disclose their ingredient list as required, leaving off those items that they think "look" bad.

THREE: They could be using extracts in one or two different methods. For example, Tinctures used at the right percentage create an effective preservative option because they have such a high content of alcohol, but this alcohol also makes them very drying to the skin so not very useful in moisturizing products.

FOUR: They might be using ingredients that do not require preservatives. As we explained above, a product that does not contain water does not require preservatives. Our company also does NOT use preservatives in products where it is not necessary.

So I hope I have dispersed some of the myths of preservatives...they are not the bad guys some people make them out to be. Tomorrow, I will address some of the different types of preservatives used as well as some "natural" preservatives.


  1. I saw the poll and must say I love my cuke/melon balm from you!

    Deb, I awarded you the Friend Award! : )