In the world of natural products, preservatives in your skincare are supposed to be dangerous, right? Wrong! In fact, not protecting your product appropriately is likely to be more harmful to the skin. Luckily, we have natural options to provide stability and protection to both your product and your skin, without the nasties.
Why do you need preservatives?Any skincare formulation that contains water content has the potential to grow microbes, including mould, fungus, bacteria and more, which is pretty gross to use on the skin and can cause adverse reactions. In addition, when a product goes “off” it changes in pH, which is also a common cause of skin irritation. Products kept in the fridge are not immune to microbial growth and could possibly spoil before you notice the signs that the product is compromised.
Recipes that only contain oils, butters or waxes also need some protection as oxidation occurs over time. You may have experienced this with an old cooking oil, the odour is sharp and stings your sinuses.
Why is preservative a dirty word?In both the food and cosmetics industry, the norm is to use synthetic preservatives to protect commercial products from spoiling. They do this a) because they work, and b) because they are cost effective.
There are a variety of synthetic preservatives that are used in skincare and some of them have a bad rap, as some studies and anecdotal evidence have linked them to skin reactions and other health effects. There are a lot of questions regarding the validity of this these studies, and both sides can get pretty heated! The great news is, if you prefer to go down the natural route, we can guide you in making your DIY project both effective and safe.
What natural preservatives can you use?We choose to use 3 natural products within our formulations, including Phytocide Elderberry and Leucidal, which are preservatives, and Natural Vitamin E, an antioxidant. Depending on our formulation, we will choose a combination of these ingredients to extend its shelf life and protect against microbial growth and oxidation. We particularly love these ingredients because they give us confidence that our product is preserved, but also have benefits to the skin.
Phytocide Elderberry is derived from the fruit of the Elderberry plant and is a natural antimicrobial. It is oil soluble, so not used in water-only products, but it can be used in an emulsion (moisturising cream) that has an oil component. Phytocide is a great natural ingredient because it not only protects against microbial growth, but has an antioxidant effect and is mildly anti-inflammatory- adding to the benefits of your skincare product.
Leucidal is another natural preservative we use that is derived from the filtrate of fermented radishes. It also inhibits microbial growth, and when used in combination with Phytocide, they form a robust system to protect your product. It is water soluble, so could be used in water-only products such as room sprays or toners. Leucidal is unique in its ability to contribute to the moisturisation rate of your product, which is a major bonus.
Vitamin E is well known as a component of food or your multivitamin, but is also a common skincare ingredient. It is an antioxidant, so helps to keep the oil components of your product from oxidising prematurely. We love using Vitamin E in our products because it also heals, soothes and cools the skin, again having that double action.
How do I know if my product is spoiling?For professional products that you are selling, we recommend that you have your product tested at a lab, to make sure your preservative system is effective.
For the rest of us, some signs you can look for that your product is turning include:
If you see any of these things, we recommend disposing of your product and getting started on your next lovely handmade project!
Many DIY projects that you find online are created to be made without too many professional style ingredients, however they may not have a very long shelf life. Learning how to make products with natural, yet effective preservatives can help you create your handmade skincare with skill and confidence.
For our favourite recipes, go to: https://sagecosmetics.com.au/pages/recipes