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Natural Preservatives

 

There are many proven, natural preservatives. They won't extend the shelf life of your lotion longer than 3 to 6 months, but who needs to hold onto lotion that long anyway? In my humble opinion, I would rather deal with sour milk than cancer or the hundreds of other side effects I could get from toxic preservatives. Moisturizers work best when the ingredients are fresh anyway.

If you keep your hands clean and keep your lotions in the refrigerator, they do last... for months. I actually don't use my refrigerator for the lotions and creams I use everyday. My room is usually 70- 85 degrees and my stuff lasts months anyway. I keep my sunscreen in the refrigerator because I don't use it as often and need it to last longer.

There are many other small businesses and web sites like myself that are successful at manufacturing natural lotions and creams without incident. So for the rest of you who have come up with some good recipes and want to start selling your wonderful creations, don't believe the hype! We are not slaves to harmful preservatives like many other web sites you find will claim.

Go for it!

 

Natural Preservative Chart

The biggest challenges are skin sensitivities and undesirable odors when it comes to natural preservatives. And if you are going to use more than one natural preservative, are they going to blend well with each other and your product?

You will need anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties in your preservatives. Each natural ingredient from the list below has one or more jobs. Just make sure each quality is covered and blends well without doubling up too much. I have done my best to list my own experiences but you will have to do your own experimenting. Start simple and build from there. Remember, any preservative that is anti-microbial is just as likely to kill your skin cells as the microbes in large doses. So, the least amount of preservatives should be used in your batch of super good stuff. Start with small batches. Write down everything you do. After each trial, leave a bottle out and put a bottle in the refrigerator to see how long each lasts... until you get your desired result.

A good lotion should last at least 4- 6 weeks out of the refrigerator under normal conditions (under 75 degrees F, dim, dry and clean) and at least 3- 6 months in and out of the refrigerator (clean fingers).

 

~ TIPS ~

  1. Always use sterile tools, containers, working areas and keep hands clean, even when using your finished products.

  2. Always store products- raw and finished- in a cool, dry, dim or dark place (preferably your refrigerator).

  3. Store everything in a clean, air tight container- like a large, inexpensive tuber ware container. I use two. They are tinted a darker color. I put all of my "wet" ingredients in one- oils, butters, bees wax block, (fragrance and essential oils), extracts, aloe vera gel and juice. I put all of my "dry" ingredients in the other- herbs, spices, powders, emulsifying wax beads, solvents, oatmeal and barley, powdered milk and teas. I have a refrigerator designated only for my lotion supplies and products.

  4. Cold- pressed oils last longer.

  5. Use your raw materials while they are fresh. Don't let your herbs get stale or your oils go rancid. Use your raw materials within 3 months and give each bottle of lotion no longer than a 3 month shelf life. Dried herbs and cold-pressed, refrigerated oils may last longer. Expeller oils will stay active and fresh no longer than 6 months, even when refrigerated. It's not just about whether the lotion spoils or not. we need the fatty acids and vitamins in the lotion to nourish our skin. If a lotion loses it's freshness, it will be useless or even cause free radical damage and age our skin prematurely.

  6. Always use distilled water and bring it to a quick boil before adding anything to it.

  7. Products made without water last longer. The least amount of water, the better.

  8. Use a base that includes Vitamin E oils, tea tree oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, olive oil, red raspberry seed oil, green tea, aloe vera or honey because of the naturally long lasting- bacteria, mold and fungus fighting qualities they already possess.

 

Naturally preserving additives are:

  • Benzoin powder - Antioxidant, slows bacterial growth. Not water soluble at all. This resin or gum dissolves in tinctures of alcohol only. You can add it raw to your oil during the melting process, then strain out any grit with a tight strainer or cheese cloth. I recommend NOT using Benzoin resin oil in skin care products at all because it can be very harmful topically and cannot be produced naturally. If you add the powder to your oil, even though you are going to strain it, make sure you do not add more than .25% benzoin to your batch of lotion to aid in the total preservation process. Use caution when handling. Do not inhale or get in your eyes or directly on your skin. If you do, rinse repeatedly with clear water. I do not use this one because it is a common skin irritant and hard to work with. But a lot of people do. It is a matter of personal preference. You can purchase any size from an organic supplier online like ~Mountain Rose Herbs~.

  • Cinnamon- Used to slow the growth of mold, yeast, fungi and some bacteria. Some studies show that this spice works better as a preservative in combination with potassium sorbate. Add just a dash to 1/4 teaspoon per 16 ounces of lotion. I use this one always to counteract the bitter taste of the citric acid. I use the regular powder, added to the water or oil mixture, because cinnamon oil can be very irritating to the skin, even at very low doses. Even though this ingredient is found in every grocery store, You can purchase a variety of top quality Cinnamon products from an organic supplier online like ~Mountain Rose Herbs~.

  • Citric acid powder- Add at 0.05%- 0.3% to distilled water just after it has been boiled until dissolved and set aside to cool before getting started with the rest of the recipe. I use this one always to keep the pH of my lotion low. Do not use citrus products in sunscreen. You can order 100% pure anhydrous Citric Acid from crystallized fruit sugar online from ~Mountain Rose Herbs~. Here is a quote from them about Citric Acid:

"Citric acid is used for many different reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • Antioxidant and preservative properties
  • prevents rancidity and bacteria growth
  • Astringency and Acidity
  • Used in sourdough bread for an extra tart taste (known as "sour salt" among bakers)
  • Adjusts pH
  • Stabilizes the ingredients, color, taste, and flavor of a product
  • Rapidly biodegradable
  • Readily metabolized and eliminated from the body"
  • Geranium Essential Oil- Antioxidant. Antibacterial. Used to inhibit mold, yeast, fungi and some bacteria. Oil soluble. It is very mild on the skin. It is beneficial to the skin in other ways as well. It does has a perfume smell. (Bourbon is more lemony and the others smell more like a rose) Most people like the smell but it is very feminine. It isn't as noticeable when used in combination with other preservatives and other fragrances. Add it last in your recipe. Add up to one drop per every 2 ounces of lotion, after the product is blended, during the final mixing stage. You can purchase any size from an organic supplier online like ~Mountain Rose Herbs~.

  • Goldenseal root- Used to slow the growth of mold, yeast, fungi and some bacteria. It is beneficial to the skin in other ways as well. Has a woodsy-herb smell. Soak 1/2 - 1 teaspoon in your 12 oz distilled water mixture like tea when you add the rest of your herbs and strain if you aren't using a tea ball. That's the best way to do it naturally. You can purchase a variety of top quality Golden Seal products from an organic supplier online like ~Mountain Rose Herbs~.

  • Grapefruit Seed Extract- (GSE) Used to slow the growth of mold, yeast, fungi and some bacteria. Soluble in water. It has a pH of about 2.5. Usage rate is .5 to 1%. Wear gloves and use caution when handling this product. It is extremely irritating to the skin in pure form. Keep it away from cuts and away from your eyes. I don't use this one because it can be very irritating to sensitive skin. But this is one of the most popular, natural preservatives. You can purchase any size from an organic supplier online like ~Mountain Rose Herbs~ or ~From Nature With Love~.

  • Green tea extract- A powerful antioxidant. Water soluble. Recommended usage 0.5-3%. It can leave a slight bitter taste in products, but it fights cancer and sun damage and it aides in skin cell regeneration. All of my lotions have some form of green tea in it. You can find this non-toxic at most health food stores, You can use the gel caps with fluid inside by breaking the cap and squeezing the fluid into your water mixture. A 50% concentrated extract is sold online at From Nature with Love. They used alcohol to extract it, so do not exceed 3%. A healthier alternative is letting 1 or 2 green tea bags soak in your distilled water while you are waiting for it to cool down after the citric acid has been dissolved (this alternative may yield as many health benefits but make it only a mild preservative.). You can purchase top quality Green Tea products from an organic supplier online like ~Mountain Rose Herbs~.

  • Green tea leaf powder- The same powerful antioxidant. Water soluble. Recommended usage 0.5-3%. It can leave a slight bitter taste in products, but it fights cancer and sun damage and it aides in skin cell regeneration. All of my lotions have some form of green tea in it. You can purchase top quality Green Tea products from an organic supplier online like ~Mountain Rose Herbs~.

  • Potassium Sorbate- Used to inhibit mold, yeast, fungi and some bacteria. One of those "naturally occurring" or "naturally derived" chemicals. Potassium Sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid. You can order either fairly easily. The difference to consider in lotion making is that sorbic acid is soluble in fats, oils and some solvents but virtually insoluble in water. Potassium sorbate is very soluble in water (58.2% at 20 °C) . It is a personal choice. Used in MANY natural skin care products successfully. Usage Rate: 0.1 - 0.5% for lotion. Do not exceed this. Works best when the pH is 5-6, 6 is a good pH for lotion. Use with citric acid to keep the pH low. Some studies show that this mineral works better as a preservative in combination with cinnamon. It has been used for over 100 years "in quantities at which there are no known adverse health effects. Potassium sorbate is considered to be safe because of its long term safety record and non-toxic profile. Potassium sorbate is non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Allergic reactions are rare." Source Wikipedia. It is the only preservative that is generally regarded as safe by the FDA. Please use caution when handling these chemicals in their pure form. Do not inhale, get into eyes or get directly on your skin when adding them to the mix. If you do- flush with cold water for several minutes.

  • Rosemary oil extract- (ROE) Natural antioxidant. Oil-soluble. Adds it's own color (greenish tint) and aroma to your mixture so it may only be compatible with some of your creations. Add at 0.1% to 0.5% to your oil mixture. That ends up being about one drop per ounce of lotion, I use this one as my main antioxidant. It is beneficial to the skin in other ways as well. You can purchase a variety of top quality Rosemary products from an organic supplier online like ~Mountain Rose Herbs~.

  • Rosemary extract powder- Again, natural antioxidant. Adds it's own color (greenish tint) and aroma to your mixture so it may only be compatible with some of your creations. Add at 0.1% to 0.5% to your oil mixture while melting everything down. I use this one as my main antioxidant. I use about .3%, or 1/4 teaspoon per 16 ounce batch of lotion. It is beneficial to the skin in other ways as well.

  • Vitamin E T-50 Mixed Tocopherol Oil- Naturally mixed tocopherols, isolated from vegetable oils. It is a heat stable and powerful antioxidant. It can be used at a rate of 0.04- 0.5%. Protects oils from rancidity, or separating and turning yellow- or even smelling like mayonnaise. Although T-50 is not an organic product, it is allowed for use in "organic" or "made with organic material" products. I use this one only when I can't use rosemary. You can usually purchase Vitamin E T-50 from an organic supplier online like ~From Nature With Love~.

 

 

As you can see, there are many fungus, yeast and mold fighters- as well as antioxidants, but the best ways to prevent bacterial growth without going toxic and without having an unpleasant smelling or irritating lotion are:

  1. To have clean conditions

  2. Keep your product refrigerated

  3. And give it a shelf life

 

 

Good lotion is perishable like food. It's ok. Natural, healing lotions and creams make wonderful gifts. You and everyone else will enjoy using them up. You won't have to throw away as much as you think, if any at all.

Good luck! Lotion making is fun and very rewarding.

These calculators may be useful.

Example- You are going to make 16 ounces of lotion and you want to add potassium sorbate at .3%, So you fill in "What is .3 % of 16?" and press calculate. That = .048 ounces. Then you convert .048 ounces (sometimes you may have to use dry even though it is wet and visa versa) to teaspoons. That = .29 or a slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon potassium sorbate for your 16 ounce batch of lotion, added to your water mixture after the citric acid.

 

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BEFORE WE MOVE ON... LET'S TALK briefly ABOUT PRODUCT TESTING...

According to the US agency that regulates cosmetics—the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors—"a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from the FDA".

Big companies stand behind that statement. But when making natural products, there is an unwritten code of honor. It is important to test your products before bringing them to market. You don't have to worry about natural products being deceptive and causing unseen or hidden long term damage like the toxic lotions at the department stores, so it is not always necessary to send your product out to expensive labs. Also, I would like to add... most major lotion manufactories don't stop selling their lotion when the lab tells them it is toxic. All they care about is how long it lasts because that is cost effective.

For most of us, we can give away our product to a select and diverse group of friends and family and just give them a call back in a couple of months to ask them a handful of questions. Use their feedback on your next product and continue to test until you get something flawless. Only use fresh ingredients that have proven themselves safe and helpful in skin care. Have fun with it. In no time you will be confident about your creations and ready to make a little profit from them. The world really needs us small lotion makers right now.

Good luck everyone. It's time to start making lotion!

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Page 2

Glossary of Natural Ingredients

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Glossary of Natural Preservatives

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