natural preservatives

[List] Natural Preservatives for cosmetics

Two days ago, I received an email from a potential client who wanted to hire me for an "intimate parts" product.

We scheduled a phone call to further discuss the project. During our phone conversation, I found out that this client wished to add probiotics to the product . 

My first comment was:

"There's no way probiotics can survive in presence of the preservative".

This is what that prospective client replied: "DON'T ADD THE PRESERVATIVE, THEN. "

There's a new horrible trend going on. It feeds itself on the (false ) belief that everything that is natural is good and vice versa. As a consequence, some brands started making and selling "preservative free cosmetics".

According to some people, preservatives are not necessary and can be even harmful. 

It's true that a high number of skin allergies and reactions are caused by preservatives and fragrances, but...this is not a valid reason to avoid using them.

What you can and should do is to inform yourself about the preservatives that are less likely to cause bad skin reactions. 

Want all natural products?

I get that.

But, even natural products should be safe and include a preservative! Just because you don't see any sign of spoilage, it doesn't mean it's not here. We know cosmetics don't have to be sterile. It would be quite ridiculous. At the same time, you don't want an excessive number of bacteria in them and no pathogen ones at all. Sure, not all bacteria, fungi, and mold are dangerous; however, even the innocuous ones could prevent the product from working the way it is supposed to.

As brand owner, you have the legal and moral responsibility of making sure the products you sell are safe. Period.

Myth #1: is glycerin a preservative?

Every now and then someone asks " is vegetable glycerin a preservative" ?

The question probably arises from the fact that products with a high concentration of glycerin usually don't require a preservative; BUT the glycerin has to be at least 50% which makes the products too sticky.

Furthermore, if you read some DIY blogs, you'll see that some other ingredients are labelled as preservative, yet they're not. To be precise, some might have antimicrobial properties , yet in most cases they're not enough to fully protect a water based product from spoilage. 

Let's see what these supposed "natural preservatives" are: 

  • Vitamin E is not a preservative. It's an antioxidant. 
  •  Essential oils are not ,generally speaking, enough to preserve a product from fungi, bacteria, and mold; however, it's absolutely true that essential oils have anti bacterial properties. The main issue with essential oils is that they tend to have a high affinity for the oil phase of an emulsion, thus limiting their accessibility to the water phase. Furthermore, they might be active against some bacteria , but totally ineffective against other strands. For example, it is well known that Tea Tree oil is not effective against Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. For this reason, if you do attempt to use them as preservative, make sure you use a blend or different oils rather than a single one.  Finally, other ingredients might interfere with their action; before you sell products with essential oils as preservative, make sure you perform the preservative challenge test. 
cosmetics_preservatives

"Omnia venenum sunt: nec sine veneno quicquam existit. Dosis sola facit, ut venenum non fit" (Paracelsus)

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As the wise Paracelsus figured out many years ago, the dose plays a crucial role as well; to exert their function as preservatives, essential oils should be present as combination and at high doses (sometimes more that 3%). These high doses are extremely irritant for the skin; this is why essential oils cannot be used as preservatives.

Are there cosmetics that don't require a preservative?

Yes!

Products with no water don't need a preservative; however, if you suppose they'll come in contact with water during use, then a preservative will still be necessary.

For examples, oils mixtures do not require a preservative as there's no chance bacteria are going to grow in them without water. From a stability point of view, though, oils still need something able to preserve their good qualities over time...they need an antioxidant.

Fats are well known to become rancid without a good antioxidant. 

Vitamin E is a popular and effective antioxidant. But let's talk about vitamin e as preservative...it doesn't work! 

To summarize, vitamin E does help to preserve a product, but from a physical stability point of view only. It is not able to kill or prevent bacteria growth.

Other products that don't require a preservative are those with pH values below 4 or above 8 and products with a high content of alcohol (perfumes), salt, or sugar.

Lotions always need a preservative system especially when the water phase is external.

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Here's your ultimate list of natural preservatives for cosmetics 

cosmetics_preservatives

Bacteria, mold, and fungi can easily spread in a preservative free lotion.

As stated above, you should always add a preservative no matter if you want to keep your product 100% natural.

The good news is that there are many different all natural preservatives for cosmetics. Don't listen to whoever says natural preservatives don't work very well. I've formulated many lotions with all natural preservatives, and they all passed microbiological tests.

These preservatives can be used for skincare or haircare.

This list that also includes  organic & Ecocert approved preservatives. I keep the list updated with only products that I have personally tested and samples passed the challenge test.

Please feel free leave a comment with other natural preservatives options.

  • Benzyl Alcohol. Produced by plants, it has a pleasant odor and can be found in some essential oils ,too. It is considered a safe ingredient and helps dealing with Gram+ (Staphylococcus Aerus), Gram- (such as E.Coli, and Pseudomonas Aeruginosa), fungi, and yeast. Did I say pleasant odor? It looks like it is pleasant only for me as every time I ship a sample that contains it people claim they don't like the smell. Give it a try.
  • Dehydroacetic acid: a broad spectrum preservative suitable for Eco-label cosmetics. Can be used alone or in association with another preservative, for example Benzyl Alcohol. There are products that incorporate both Dehydroacetic acid and Benzyl Alcohol, for instance Geogard 221. Dehydroacetic acid has a pH dependent action; works best with pH below 6. It is also a very good anti-fungicide. Other acids effective as preservatives are sorbic and benzoic acid.
  • Glyceryl Caprilate with activity vs bacteria and yeast. It is Ecocert/Cosmos approved and works in a wide pH range (4 to 8).
  • Potassium sorbate is a natural preservative for cosmetics and food. It can be used in a wide variety of products including makeup, skin care products, hair care products, bath products, nail polish, fragrances, oral care products, spermicides, and insect repellants. It is highly soluble in cold water and works best at pH below 6.
  • Caprylhydroxamic Acid (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Glycerin (Spectrastat- Inolex). It's a  complete system for "preservative-free" claims cosmetics. It uses multifunctional agents that have excellent efficacy as biostatic and fungistatic agents.  It performs superbly at neutral pH and is compatible with most cosmetic ingredients. However, it can interact with residual iron found in some clay-type compounds (e.g., bentonite, silicates, etc). This interaction with iron may produce a very mild orange color or color.  It may be added to the water phase, at ambient or hot temperatures.  Lengthy exposure to elevated temperatures should be avoided. Typical use level is 0.7% w/w to 1.2% w/w.
  • Geogard ECT ( Benzyl Alcohol & Salicylic Acid & Glycerin & Sorbic Acid) is a natural broad spectrum Ecocert approved preservative. It's very common among natural products , especially in acid exfoliants due to the presence of salicylic acid which has a double effect (it acts as both exfoliating agent and preservative). The producer states Geogard ECT is water soluble, and it definitely is; however I've noticed solutions don't turn out completely clear. I recommend using it at 1%. Geogard preservative is active in a wide range oh pH (3 to 8). It is sometimes referred as Preservative Eco.
  • Sensicare M4200 or Geogard Ultra (Gluconolactone & Sodium Benzoate) is a water soluble broad spectrum preservative that also improves the moisture content. It is widely used in makeup , especially pressed powders. It is compatible with the most common ingredients including cationic, anionic and non-ionic surfactants. It's stable over a wide pH range from 3 to 7 and at high temperatures. It can be added to the water phase at room temperature as well as at higher temperatures. Use it at a % between 1 and 2 in both leave on and rise off products. It complies with  Ecocert/COSMOS standards for preservatives.
  • Anisic acid is a compound with anti-fungal activity only; therefore, it needs to be associated with other preservatives that have anti bacterial activity. Trade name for this molecule is Dermosoft 688 by Evonik Dr. Straetmans GmbH. Smaller amounts for can be purchased from Essential Wholesale Website. The acid form is a bit tricky to dissolve in water...to increase water solubility, you can use the sodium salt instead.
  • Glyceryl Caprylate (and) Glyceryl Undecylenate: this is a recent preservative system that is quickly gaining popularity. It's present in a large number of natural products probably because it's versatile and effective. The composition has also emollient, co-emulsifier, and skin re-fatting properties. It may be incorporated in the oil or water phase at any point during the emulsification process. For optimal results make sure the final formulation has a pH of  5.5 or lower. Trade name is Lexgard Natural by Inolex. Small amounts can be purchased here.
  • Naticide: with an appealing INCI name of "parfum" this preservative is perfect for whoever doesn't want to list a preservative in the actual ingredients list, supporting the "preservative-free claim".  Naticide has wide spectrum of activity, being effective against Gram+, Gram-, yeasts and moulds in a pH range between 4 - 9.  Naticide has also the COSMOS certification.  Buy it from AmazonAccording to Sinerga , the Italian company that makes Naticide, it should be used at 1% . Furthermore, it should be equally divided in the 2 phases (0.5% in the oil phase and 0.5% in the water phase). If using this Ecocert approved natural preservative, you'll have to list it as fragrance in the ingredients list.
  • Ethyl Lauroyl Arginate: this is a food grade surfactant that also has antimicrobial properties. It can be the perfect natural preservative for hair products as it  exhibits good activity against Malassezia Furfur which is responsible for dandruff. Furthermore, it shows good activity against Propioninbacterium Acnes which, as you can guess, is responsible for acne. This preservative is not skin sensitizing or irritating. ELA shows activity between pH 3 and 7 against bacteria, mold, and fungi.
  • Microcurb (Caprylic Acid / Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract). I've formulated a lotion with this natural preservative last week. While I did not notice any mold , I must say the odor was almost unbearable at 1%. Probably using less would help but Lucas Meyer cosmetics, the supplier for this preservative, recommends an usage rate above 1% ...another option could be to mix it with other aromatic ingredients but...good luck! The herbal scent is so strong that overpowers everything else!
  • Biosecur is a 100% natural preservative made from citrus extract.It's Ecocert certified and USDA organic. Therefore, it's a great option for organic lotions. It's distributed by Sharon worldwide. More information available here.

This is my favorite natural preservative (if something like favorite preservative exists ?).

MINASOLVE GREEN B (more info here). Ecocert/Cosmos Approved. INCI: Pentylene glycol (and) Water (and) Sodium benzoate (and) Benzoic acid. Recommended use level : from 1% to 3%. Works best at pH below 6. 

Don't get me wrong, though. There's no such thing as a "best natural preservative". You need to base your choice on the overall formulation, cost, and availability.

Schedule a one to one session!

Save hours of research and take out the guesswork about preservatives. I'll go over your formulas and recommend what preservative(s) to use.

Formulating with natural preservatives like a pro: guidelines and tips.

I don't know how familiar you are with preservatives, but I am pretty sure you know that there's tons of them out there. 

How to choose the right one (or the right combination)? 

  • Rule #1: pick a preservative among those in the Annex V of the EU cosmetic legislation (regularly updated). Remember, when it comes to cosmetic regulations always take Europe as a reference. The cosmetic industry is highly regulated over there and ingredients are "approved" based on their safety profile. Maximum allowable amounts for a single preservative are also listed. You can find the Annex with the list here. For example , the above mentioned Benzyl Alcohol is allowed at 1% maximum. 

When it comes to cosmetic regulations, always take EU as a reference.

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  • Rule #2: Always include a preservative booster. These ingredients help the preservative to penetrate the microbes cell walls. Some of the most common preservative boosters are: glycerin, ethylhexylglycerin, butylene glycol, and pentylene glycol. If you're looking for a natural booster, I suggest Propanediol (trade name Zemea).
  • Rule #3: don't forget to add a chelator to the formula. Chelator agents such as EDTA are usually added at 0.05%. Nevertheless, they play an important role in the formulation. An amazing natural alternative is Sodium Phytate (highly water soluble as EDTA).
  • Rule #4: check your pH. Some preservatives only work within a specific pH range, so you want to make sure your product's pH falls inside the range. This information should be provided when you purchase the preservative. Remember to ask if it doesn't happen. When you have to calculate small pH intervals, strips are not the best choice. Invest some money into a pH meter. Usually if they're cheap, they're not very accurate...If you don't know what to buy, below you can see two valid options (the second one is perfect for semi-solids such as creams). Remember to calibrate the instrument before each  use, or the measure won't be accurate. For other tools to build your cosmetics lab, check this post
  • Rule #5: work following the GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices). In the pharmaceutical world, it's common to say that "the quality of a product doesn't need to be checked, it needs to be built". Don't waste time by creating a product and checking if it's good enough afterwords (=passes stability tests). Instead, use a set of fixed principles that allow you to create a product you already know will pass stability tests. In the specific case of preservatives, do not add a lot of them to compensate for a poor lab manufacturing hygiene. Make sure you follow the GMPs and periodically check and sanitize working areas and instruments. To sanitize use alcohol or bleach. Avoid tap water and make sure your raw materials are not contaminated/expired.
  • Rule #6: always combine two or more preservatives, a.k.a use a "preservative system" to obtain a broad-spectrum protection. Remember to add an anti-fungal compound as well (for example, sorbic acid).
  • Rule #7: Perform microbiological tests! Send 2 oz of the product to a qualified lab for PET test ( Preservative Efficacy Test). During PET test the product is intentionally inoculated with bacteria to see if the preservative can withstand them.  Lastly, perform one test to make sure your product contain a limited number of bacteria AND NO pathogens (not all bacteria are pathogen). Positivity if the PET test means you need to change the preservative system. Positivity in the 2nd test means the product was already contaminated so make sure you review the production procedure and follow the GMPs. Want to perform a quick, inexpensive, DIY test? Then you might want to check this link out.
  • Rule #8 (lotions only). Add a preservative in the water phase and the other one once the emulsion has been formed (cooling down phase). Do not add the preservative when the lotion is still hot. As said before, make sure the pH of the water phase is acid (you can use citric acid to lower the pH ).

What happens if you don't add a preservative

Nothing good, for sure. 

You're posing a threat to your customer health AND you could be facing serious legal consequences.

Bacterial contamination is not always visible. Even if you don't see it, the product could be contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria such as E.Coli and Pseudomonas Aeruginosa.

This is even more important if you formulate products that go into contact with the eye area.

Please, don't do that!

Natural preservatives for cosmetics: conclusions.

In this post we have learned that water based cosmetics (for example hair products, face masks, lotions, makeup etc) do need a preservative to perform the way they're supposed to and to be safe.

We have also learned what are the most popular natural preservatives for cosmetics and how to formulate using them; my final recommendation is to try those that are aligned with your or brand's values and see which one gives you the longest shelf-life. 

Finally, to test shelf life and efficacy, you'll need to perform PET test (Preservative Efficacy Test). Since this kind of test can be quite expensive, I would recommend to try using a microbial Test kit before. It consists of a plastic slide coated on one side with terrain for bacterial growth and on the other side with Agar for yeast and mold growth.  

Now I want to hear from you! What is your  natural preservative of choice when making skincare? 

192 thoughts on “[List] Natural Preservatives for cosmetics

  1. Laura says:

    A great reference for people who want to explore diy cosmetic in a safe way, thank you! The amount of preservatives can be a little overwhelming at first. Do you have a recommendation for a preservative to use with bentonite clay? I’m looking into using it in a (anhydrous) deodorant.

  2. Marcus says:

    Great article and thanks.

    My info may be too vague, but for something like making a flaxseed gel, would I add my preservative (or ph adjuster, like Citric Acid) after it’s cooled down or during the heating phase, since this particular product has to be boiled?

      • Emily says:

        Hi Luisa, great info, thanks! I have an oil-free favourite product preserved with gluconactone and sodium benzoate. It is magic when blended with a facial oil at the time of application. I know sodium benzoate can not be formulated with Ascorbic acid but I’m wondering if you could blend with an oil containing Tetrahexydecyl ascorbate (Which converts to l-Ascorbic acid in the skin) at time of use without causing a reaction with the sodium benzoate in the other product? I understand the reaction requires heat/light/time to occur. Would it happen within the skin?

  3. Jennifer Joseph says:

    I can’t tell you how helpful this section has been. It’s given me a lot to think about and a lot to do (which I am happy to). I am starting out making lotions, creams, soaps and too many video’s do not provide essential information or decent explanations when they attempt to explain.
    Thanks again

  4. Andrea says:

    Brilliantly Said, I put a oil based preservative in my lip balms especially my soft lip balms in a jar. Dirty fingers dip, spread on lips and most people then dip again and spread. ?

  5. Anelia says:

    Hello, thank you you for your article. It is very helpful! What would you suggest for me to use in my facial moisturizing mask. It a few hurbs tea, milk and essential oils.Thank you again!

  6. Lana says:

    Thankyou for the extensive write up! I am making eyeshadow with a drop of natural food coloring (color from fruits/veggies) and shae butter. What preservative would you recommend? I believe there is a potential hazard mixing certain preservatives with vitamin c? Thankyou!

  7. Palomino says:

    Hello. Thank you so much for this article, it is of great of great help and very informative. However I have a question. I want to make body butter, it doesn’t contain any water but I wish to include a preservative anyway (they’ll be in jars). Would the potassium sorbate be a good choice in your opinion? And most importantly, how would I incorporate it as the dosage is a teaspoon in 5 gallons of water. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thank you Luisa.

  8. Esma says:

    Hi there
    Thank you for all the info.
    Which preservative would you recommend in a magnesium spray? Literally purified water and magnesium salts?

    I tried one but it appears it’s not dissolving in the water.

  9. caroline guitton says:

    Hello!! Thank you for the great post . I am formulating a product, no water but lots of plant powders and 50% clay and then some oils. the clay is absorbant and could absord humidity over time, even if it is in a sealed package and the mask is a one time use. Would you think adding a preservative would help keep it microbe free in case of water absorbtion ? of course there are anti oxidants in the product but I am debating on adding a preservative as well. any ideas on this?? Many thanks, Caroline

    • Luisa says:

      Hi Caroline, before you decide whether to add something , I would perform a quick microbiological test on the product to see what it’s going on. You can ship a sample of the product to a lab for this kind on analysis. Feel free to send me a message if you need more details.

    • Siti says:

      Wow. The case is exactly the same with I’m facing now. My product is teeth powder which contains charcoal, powdered spices and herbs. They are indeed dry, but I am aware that they are having moisture content about 10-15%. I’m still wondering if I should add preservatives or no

  10. Maya says:

    Dear Luisa, thank you so much for the informative article! couldn’t be more grateful:)
    Quick Question: you mention to always combine two or more preservatives. I am a bit confused here. For example, I wanna use Liquid Germall Plus (which I read is a great broad-spectrum preservative yet a synthetic one), then should I combine it with the natural preservatives such as benzyl alcohol and etc as you mention above, or with Leucidal SF Complete(which I also read it can be a natural alternative than the synthetic one). If I can do both, how to calculate the preservatives needed then? Liquid Germall Plus has a suggested usage rate at 0.1-0.5% and Leucidal SF Complete is at 2%-4%. Can I use both in one recipe at 0.5% and 4%? Thanks so much and have a nice day Luisa! 🙂

  11. Leticia says:

    Thank you for a very good information on preservatives. Though I am wondering if a body scrub that contains powder milk and salt needs preservative to add more shelf life?

  12. ons says:

    hey Luisa dear you rock !!! i just started researches on how to create my own body scrubs brand derivative of bio natural ingredients and you helped alot so basically i need to put preservatives though the products is not water base because it will be in contact with water eventually …
    hmm wow amazing thanks alot

  13. Phil says:

    This article offered some excellent directions but think author should have defined “natural” and “preservative.”
    For the former, chemicals such as organic acids and some alcohols may exist in nature but commercial sources are typically synthetic. Other chemicals cited as “natural” are clearly synthetic (e.g. Ethyl Lauroyl Arginate, Caprylyl glycol), and even the “vegetable glycerine” is a product of saponification from oils. Perhaps “naturally compliant” to industry standards such as Ecocert might be appropriate for many of those listed.
    For the latter, think author used Cosmetic Directive listing as defining preservatives – for claim “preservative free.” without clarification, this justifies misleading labeling – arguably to functionality in the EU and more so in US where preservative are not listed as such.

    Folks should note changes to Annex III in Directive limiting such free from claims. https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/24847/attachments/1/translations/en/renditions/native

  14. Alpha says:

    Hi, Which preservative would you suggest for an herbal tea rinse with just natural herbs and maybe 1,3propanediol added I am currently thinking about optiphen plus but want to be sure and also is there a more natural one you may suggest?

  15. Colleen says:

    I make body butter with Shea & Kokum butter , aloe Vera , sweet almond oil a very small amount of distilled water , ess oils and eco preservative ..
    What would shelf life be please ?

  16. christie says:

    Hi! Thanks for all your wonderful knowledge! Quick Question, where could we go to get our final products checked for Stability? Are we able to use PH Strips to check PH balance?

    Thanks!!

  17. Princess says:

    Hi!

    I really enjoyed this article, thank you!
    I’m creating a foaming sugar scrub and a salt soak, both with essential oils. What natural preservative(s) work well in these two type of formulas? And is it ok to package it in clear glass/plastic containers instead of amber?

    I also purchased your ebook, but I don’t know where to go to download it.

  18. Manisha says:

    I really felt this Article was so Right for someone like me who wants All Natural Non Toxic n is overwhelmed by Preservatives ?Thank you for sharing and I have been making my own Face n Body Mists with Hydrosols EO n Carrier Oils n keeping in Fridge without preservatives so I guess I should start adding Preservatives to them now…

  19. Tal B says:

    Thanks so much for this wonderful article!

    What a very confusing place the internet is when it comes to trying to find accurate information regarding which preservatives are best. I ended up purchasing Plantaserve E (phenoxyethanol and ethylhexylglycerin) and potassium sorbate, but, of course, now I have discovered sites that say that this is not a safe choice. After reading this article, I felt like you’d be the best person to consult regarding its safety. I’m simply trying to make skin and hair care for my own use, but still want to make sure it’s safe.

    Thanks!

    • Luisa says:

      Thank you for the trust. It’s a good preservative blend, it should be enough, but it really depends on the formula so I can’t tell. Use it at 0.8%. You can send a sample of the product to a lab for microbiological testing when you decide to sell your products (if ever). If you don’t perform the test, being for personal use only, use the product quickly . don’t leave it in the shower for months.

      • Trisha Beckmann says:

        Thank you so much for the information! So very helpful! I would not have thought about what happens if it sits around for a long time, so I appreciate that as well. You have made the daunting task of making homemade body and hair products less terrifying!

        All the best!

    • Luisa says:

      Plantaserve E is a good preservative system, but it’s not natural. I can’t say whether it’s a safe choice without knowing the formula. You can always send a sample to a lab for a quick microbiological test ($35).

  20. Margaret says:

    Hi, I am making liquid African Black Soap. What preservatives will you recommend? The soap will consist of raw honey, castor oil, olive oil, aloe vera oil, and essential oils.

  21. Roxanne says:

    Minasolve Green B appears to no longer be available. Would Biosecur be your current top choice for a certified organic option? Are there any newer products you could suggest since writing the initial article? Thanks!!!!

      • Cee says:

        Great article. Thank you! I should probably be able to figure this out but I don’t want to screw up since I’m unsure of the ph of my serum — I want to make my own hyaluronic acid serum. I have the powder and I mix it with purified water to my preferred consistency but it quickly goes bad. One recipe said to add vegetable glycerin but seems like the ratio would need to be 50/50, which I really don’t want. What preservative would you recommend and in what amount (ratio or %)?

        • Luisa says:

          I sell hyaluronic acid serum myself so I performed microbiological tests with different preservatives. The ones that work the best were benzyl alcohol + dehydroacetic acid and phenoxyethanol. Potassium sorbate alone wasn’t enough. Good luck!

  22. Mjf says:

    Hello Dear,
    Your article is great ??. Very informative.
    I am formulating an organic face mask at home. I would like to know which natural preservative can be used to extend its shelf life without adding label of added preservatives. It’s water based using rice.
    Another is flaxseeds Gel, for which I need your advice for natural preservatives.
    Kindly also share the maximum shelf life upon adding preservatives,
    Can you please help me out.

    Thank you

    • Luisa says:

      It’s almost impossible for me (and it wouldn’t be professional) to tell you what preservative to use not knowing the formula. With that being said, the preservative Lexgard natural is one of those of “preservative – free” claims, yet it’s an effective one.

  23. Anna says:

    Hi there!

    Thank you for the information. For making a toner – base is hibiscus, with olive leaf extract – what preservative would you recommend?

    Do most essential oil serums also need a preservative? Is there a straight forward guide how to figure out how much to add? I’m very new at this – so thank you for the advice!

    • Luisa says:

      I can’t recommend what preservative to use without knowing the formula. Essential oils serum do require a preservative if they contain water or water derived elements.

  24. Johanna Green says:

    Great article! I’m on 3 pages of notes lol! (Yes people still use pen and paper!) lol anyway… I noticed up above a girl asked about what preservatives would be best used in a flaxseed gel as well. That’s what has brought me here and honestly i have more questions now than ever lol!

    The formula i use is a quarter cup of flax seeds cooked with 2 cups of water. That creates the gel… I strain and then add some glycerin tea tree rosemary vitamin e and a little help oil. I keep it in the fridge but Im wanting to add a preservative as well but here’s where the confusion comes in. The geogard ect seems like a great one but i have no idea at what point in the process to add it lol. I looked into liquid germall plus but saw that is has formaldehyde releasers which threw me off. I feel great that I’m finally asking questions about science… But have no one to talk to that actually understands! Lol

    One more thing! Is sorbic acid… The same thing as calcium ascorbate? I bought powder vitamin c to add into face masks etc. Just curious if it can be added that way in hair products as well! Hopefully i didn’t ask too much of you! Can’t wait to check my email. You’re so smart!

    • Luisa says:

      Hi Johanna, I can’t recommend a preservative specific for your product which I don’t know. I suggest you try different ones to see the differences. Sorbic acid is basically potassium sorbate.

  25. Abby says:

    Hi Luisa!

    Thanks so much for the very informative article! I am doing my research to figure out which preservatives will meet my requirements, but I am feeling unsure how to figure out which ones will blend well for a preservative “system”. Right now, Geogard Ultra seems to work best with my needs, but I’m not sure how to tell which other preservative would work well with it or not?
    On a seperate, I am making paint and pigment particles are unavoidable. How would you suggest I avoid the affects of the particles absorbing the preservative?
    Or are there specific preservatives that work better in that situation?

    Thank you so much,
    Abby

  26. Walter O. Bliss says:

    Well said here. Keep teaching people. The massive amount of misinformation out there has become an aggravation to me. Clients wanting the impossible is a problem. The cost of the preservative is a serious concern as well. I think people don’t stop to consider there are also economics involved.

  27. Jessica Hall says:

    Hi Luisa, I have been trying to research the use of Glycerin in an otherwise completely anhydrous face/body cream, as I’d like to make my own. Tried a body butter type formula with just oils and butters but would like to explore something I can use on the face and sinks in well. I came across a product that uses oils and butters and then Lecithin and Glycerine are in the formula. I know the specific functions of Lecithin and glycerine in products but I can’t work out for the life of me why they are in this product in this way. Could you lend a hand? If I use Vegetable Glycerine, I don’t want to get it wrong. P.S. there is no preservative in the product I’m referring to; it’s just butters, oils, Lecithin, Glycerine and some essential oils. Please help 🙂

    • Luisa says:

      Hi Jessica, lecithin is a water in oil emulsfier and this is why it allows glycerin to be inserted in an anhydrous product. You can’t have glycerin mixed together with oils and buttes unless you use one.

  28. Farida says:

    Hello just came across your page. Very informative. Thank you
    One question. I have 3 glycerine extracts with licorice, mulberry and papaya. Can I mix with an oil serum? Also would like to add septic white and b3. Help please and preservative. For myself

  29. Elizabeth says:

    Hi, thank you so much for sharing this information. I’ve been learning about making butters and hair creams at home. I want to create products to use within my family. Is there any preservative that I can use in all products I make. Some are with a flaxseed gel. And others are not, rather I’m using butters such as mango, kokum and oils like jojoba, vitamin e, neem, and other oils.

    • Luisa says:

      Hi Elizabeth, you don’t need a preservative if there’s no water in the product. As far as the flaxseed gel, it might already contain a preservative. Check on the ingredients list. The kind and amount of preservative depends on the formula. It’s impossible for me to tell you what to use with confidence.

  30. Sierra says:

    Hello Luisa,
    After reading your article, I’ve felt I learned tons of information, in comparison to my frantic “Google searches”. I noticed you mentioned Microbial Testing, for products you plan to mass produce. May you have a specific recommendation for a lab, that you know doe their work throughly? Also, do you happen to have a recommendation or guidance on how to have a PET test? Lastly, Do you know if you are able to copyright certain formulas for your cosmetics, scrubs etc? I apologize about all the questions, but my gut trust your wisdom and insight. Thank you again, for taking the time to share all of this. I truly needed this information.

    • Luisa says:

      Hi Sierra. I work with and trust Abich lab. They’re one of the largest cosmetics lab in north America. They can definitely perform the PET test. I don’t think you can copyright a formula but you can definitely trademark it. Lastly, thank you for your support. For more detailed answers to other questions you might have, you can access this FB group where I answer questions live every Wednesday at 1 pm PST https://www.facebook.com/groups/luisafanzani

  31. robbin says:

    hi luisa , iam interested to launch deodorant diy product which contain baking soda, essential oil, coconut oil, corn starch like regular diy deodorant,my question is which preservative should i used ,and.how many percent, is it need to combine 2 preservative? since the deodorant might contact water in the human body …..thank you

  32. John Khazenie says:

    Hello Luisa. My name is john. I find your website excellent. I am reading your blog on preservatives. I hope you can help me on this question. I am trying to make a very simple facial mask. 55% bentonita 45% distilled water. every thing I read says this can not be preserved for long. This is from a lot of diffrence sources. I am trying to solve the problem. Most preservatives work with a pH of about 5.5 to 6.5. As bentonite clay has a pH of about 8.5 to 9.0 . I belive this may be why most can not preserve it ( I am not sure – at this high pH you should not need a preservative) . So I have two options 1) add a few drops of citric acid to bring down the pH to about 6. Or 2) add a preservative that work with a wide pH range (such as preservative ECO). And add a chelator (EDTA). Can Germall plus help? I look forward to your advice.

    • Luisa says:

      Yes, you can add a preservative and an acid to lower the pH. Or you can try the preservative alone at a higher amount. It’s not that preservatives don’t work at pH 6 or higher- they’re just less effective. I would ship to the lab for micro test 3 samples: #1 no preservative and high pH. #2 preservative at whatever ph #3 preservative + citric acid to lower the pH at 5.5

  33. John Khazenie says:

    Thank You very much Luisa. It helps a lot. I will send three sample to the lab.

    Among the preservatives in your blog, is there one that you would recommend?
    Geogard 221,
    Glyceryl Caprilate,
    Geogard autra,
    Germall plus? •
    Glyceryl Caprylate (and) Glyceryl Undecylenate:?
    Also do you recommed a Chelator?

  34. Brianna says:

    Hi there again! So I’m s beginner and just found out geogard 221 is a sulfate. Is there a broad spectrum preservative I can use for a hair tonic made of herbal tea and essential oils and also face Creams?

  35. Severe says:

    Hello Luisa,

    Thank you so much for all the information.
    I read that oil mixtures don’t need preservatives. However I’m using fresh orange skins in oil in a double boiler. Should I use a preservative? I’m afraid the freshness of the orange skin might make the oil go bad!!
    Thank you so much.

  36. ZaCloud says:

    Benzene-based preservatives may be natural, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe or good for you. It’s a carcinogen. And if you think it’s safe as long as it’s a compound, well, it breaks down into its smaller parts in a LOT of circumstances, including when contacting antioxidants and sunlight. Letting the free benzene run rampant on your skin cells (and in your digestive system when sodium/potassium benzoate are used as food preservatives).

    Ever wonder why, with the vigorous campaigns to wear more sunscreen, the carcinoma type cancers (very slow-spreading and non-aggressive) has gone way down, but melanoma (fast-spreading, aggressive, and invasive throughout the body) has gone way up? Because most standard sunscreens use benzene compounds as their active ingredient (along with some more as preservatives, often). Benzene + UV light = more risk of melanoma.

    I’d rather take my chances with carcinomas if anything, though of course thankfully there’s a handful of natural sunscreens out there using zinc oxide or other somesuch compounds to block the sunlight instead. Some may be a bit visible, and they’re expensive… but I advise against touting benzene compounds so enthusiastically.

    Also I recently discovered that I’m allergic to benzoyl peroxide, which keeps me from using a lot of recommended treatments for some of my skin conditions, due to breaking out in severe hives. Might want to warn of that as being a possibility with other related compounds too.

  37. Brit says:

    Hi Luisa!
    Loved your article:) I am making a toner with Essential oils, floral water, etc. Do you suggest a good preservative and what is the rule of percentage to product? I had been looking into 190 proof alcohol but getting really confused.. Thanks!

  38. Lisa says:

    Hi Luisa! Thanks so much for this article! Which natural preservative would you recommend for a lip line? For lip scrubs, lip balm, and lipstick? Thanks!

  39. Nusayba says:

    Hi Luisa, this was so helpful. I am making “padsicles” for post partum. Essentially, just pads with witch halzel and aloe vera gel solution on it, which I would throw in the freezer before using. I am making them a couple months in advance. Would I need a preservative in addition to the witch hazel and aloe vera?

  40. Adjoa says:

    That’s a great piece.
    I’m forming a deep conditioner for natural hair with;,shea butter,coconut oil, moringa powder,MSM powder,castor oil,peppermint oil. Please what preservative will I need?
    Thank you

  41. Millie says:

    I was going to ask about preservatives if there is no water and I found the answer in the comments. So I’ll just say thank you so much for your amazing information! One thing if making an emulsified Oil is there any kind of preservative needed?

  42. Lizza says:

    Hi Luisa. Thanks for your help. Im starting to use a solution of 0.2% potassium sorbate and 0.1% sodium benzoate, to make a basic face cream. But I try it on my face and I have a bad reaction (redness and irritation). I use this basic formula: 60% water, 10% emulsifiers and 30% oils. Could you suggest me a better formula with potassium and benzoate, please? And what could be a good range of this preservative formula for an hydrolate? It is lower than the face cream?

  43. Alexandria says:

    Great post! Interested to know if you’ve ever used probiotics in any of your formulations, and how. 🙂

    • Luisa says:

      In the past for a deodorant. It didn’t work…I’m about to start a new project that involves probiotics and it’a intimate parts wash.

  44. Briana C says:

    Great info, I was a tad bit overwhelmed considering I’m new and I’m looking into starting my diy hair oil mixtures. I’ve also seen where vitamin e is not a preservative. As a suggestion, which one or two of the preservatives would be best to use? I was thinking to use grape seed extract or rosemary extract but after reading your post, I don’t think that would be a good idea ?

      • Briana says:

        Thank you so much ?? doing the research for my hair oils has been a bit of a whirlwind. And I wasn’t sure if or which preservatives to use. I just want to protect not only myself but everyone else that may choose to use my mixtures.

  45. Maryam OLAITAN says:

    Thanks for this insightful article. I made a body butter with Shea butter, beeswax, aloe vera, carrot, aloe vera oil, carrot oil, coconut oil and almond oil. But I don’t know which cosmetic preservatives to use.

  46. Barbara says:

    Hi Luisa,
    I have just come across your article about preservatives, and I would like to know if you have some tips on how to add 1% Geogard Ultra to a hair conditioner. I have been told that it often causes separation, and although Geogard ECT is much easier to use, I like Ultra INCI much more!
    Thank you so much for all your interesting articles!

  47. Brendan says:

    Hi there, do you have a recommended preservative for something that is strictly water? I’m making a toner with hydrosols, aloe gel, and a few other extracts. It will have a 4-5% glycerin content as well.

  48. Sunil says:

    Thank so much for your article, well. I am formulated eyekajal with oils , waxes, carbon black and some oil infused with herbs. Do I need to add any preservatives. If required antioxidant like Vit E, how much % is suggested?. Also requires any chelator.

  49. preeti says:

    Hi Luisa,

    I came across this article when I was trying to find a natural preservative to be used in L-ascorbic acid vitamin c serum. My formula keeps the LAA separate from the solution (Distilled water, glycerine, Aloe vera, tocopherol, ferulic acid) until you activate the formula. Could you pls guide me which preservative is good and how much should i add to the solution?

  50. Linda says:

    Hi Luisa Love your articles, great information.
    I am making a bug repellent for my horses which consists of Apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, neem oil, lavender oil, and tea tree oil and water. what would you suggest as a preservative and emulsifier.

  51. Chanel says:

    Great and informative post! For 100g batch of 100% flaxeed gel to use a a hair product what would be your recommended preservative for a shelf life of more than 6months, preferably 1 year at normal room temperature? Second question for a hair butter product of 100g batch, mainly consisting of unrefined shea butter, castor oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, lavender oil and maybe 5 to 10% water for a less sticky and smoother consistency, what would be your recommended preservative and dosage for 1 year room temp shelf life? How do I upscale my batch sizes and include correct preservative dosages based on info provided for these 2 products?I would prefer preservatives that are not sticky and do not leave a residue. Its must be like it’s almost jot there and doesn’t change the consistency of my base ingredients.

  52. Sarah says:

    Hi Luisa, thanks for this insightful article. Was trying to make a DIY conditioner using Shea butter, mango butter, funegreek and moringa powder infused in olive oil , aloe Vera oil, carrier oils, essential oils and vitamin E. Do I need a preservative for this. Thanks again

  53. natural handmade soap says:

    I am so happy I found your blog and I absolutely love your information about natural preservatives for cosmetics! I liked and it is wonderful to know about so many things that are useful for all of us! Thanks a lot for this amazing blog!!

  54. Sonya says:

    Hi, so much great information! Thank you! I have made myself a face mist (1 ounce bottle) with distilled water, mint oil, vitamin e oil. Do I need to add something like Germall Plus to it? Thank you

  55. Clara says:

    Hello luisa…thanks for adding more knowledge to me about preservatives.Quick question tho,I’m a little confused about the geogard ECT,do I buy the preservatives differently and mix together myself or can I get one that is already mixed?

  56. Peter says:

    First of all thanks for a very interesting article 🙂

    We are making a pro-biotic + pre-biotic facial mist. Which preservatives would be suitable in your opinion?

  57. Rebecca says:

    Hi Luisa, I understand that a preservative is not needed if there is no water present. What about honey? I made a facemask made of turmeric root, whole wheat flour, oils, and honey.

    • Luisa says:

      Honey is like a syrup. If there’s absolutely no water no need for a preservative. You don’t add preservatives to jams or honey bottles , am I right?

  58. Mathilda says:

    Hello,
    I am in the process of starting a cosmetic beauty line. I aim to make it as natural as possible. Right now, I am confused about which natural preservative is best. I am looking for something that has a shelf life of at least 4 years. Any recommendations.

  59. yash patidar says:

    This article was very helpful , I am making beetroot lip balm with ingredients beeswax, shea butter, beetroot juice , glycerin , coconut oil, vitamin e oil, n peppermint essential oil so what preservative used i use in my product to extend its shelf life

  60. Nea says:

    OMG, such great information. I am a hairstylist that specializes in Loc (Dreadlock) maintenance. I am venturing out into making my own ( as natural as possible) skin and scalp combo products. Are there any ingredients that you recommend that should be a must in my formula to achieve the best benefit for the skin and scalp? Also, with my Loc’d community in mind, what would be considered a lightweight natural gel or cream? From experience, A Lot of well-known twist gels or creams create nasty build-up within the loc.

  61. Xiao Yin says:

    Hello,
    I want to ask whether powder face masks actually need preservatives? because, powder face masks do not use water in the formula, but when used, it must be mixed with water. If a preservative is needed, which type is best? The formula is: Zea mays starch, kaolin clay, cocoa powder.

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