Preservatives & Antioxidants in Cosmetics

Preservatives & Antioxidants in Cosmetics

Preservatives & Antioxidants in Cosmetics

In recent years, the use of preservatives in food and cosmetics has been a very controversial subject. Preservatives are however essential if you want to prevent your products from expiring too quickly. Many talk about using vitamins as preservatives but this is wrong; vitamins are antioxidants that stop products from going rancid but they don't affect and stop the growth of bacteria and fungi.

Preservative or Antioxidant - Which One Should I Use?

Cosmetic products are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and mould. This growth is often invisible to the naked eye at first but can cause skin irritation and infection if these products were then to be applied to your skin.

 
If your homemade cosmetic product does not contain any water, such as an oil blend, ointment or balm, it is not always necessary to use a preservative. Storing these products in appropriate containers and keeping them in a cool, dark place will help ensure that they do not go rancid too quickly.
 
Whenever your product contains water, using a preservative helps to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi and mould which thrive in cosmetic products.
 

PRESERVATIVES

ANTIOXIDANTS

EFFECTIVE AGAINST FUNGI & MOULD
EFFECTIVE AGAINST BACTERIA
DELAYS RANCIDITY OF OILS
USE IN OIL-ONLY PRODUCTS
USE IN WATER-ONLY PRODUCTS
USE IN CREAMS & LOTIONS
 
A preservative works to prevent the bacteria or fungi present in a product from multiplying. A face cream, for example, will stay safe to use for 1-2 weeks if it’s kept in the fridge, but adding a small amount of preservative will extend its shelf life by 1.5 to 2 years.
 
Waterless products such as balms and oil blends can have a shelf life of approximately 1.5 to 2 years as bacteria will not grow in an anhydrous (waterless) environment. This is provided that the formula contains an antioxidant of some kind to protect the oils. Free radicals cause damage to cell structures and in time lead oils to oxidise and go rancid. Antioxidants work by fighting against this free radical damage and stopping the oils present in a product from going rancid too quickly. You can often tell when an oil has gone rancid by the smell, and needless to say, products that have gone off are not going to be of any benefit to your skin and will actually cause more harm than good.
 
It is therefore advised to add Vitamin E (Tocopherol) to waterless products as the antioxidant will help prevent the product from going rancid. You'll often see oils that have 0.5% Vitamin E added to them such as Evening Primrose Oil and Hemp Seed Oil, which helps to extend their shelf life. Rosemary Antioxidant is also often included in formulations to further protect the products.
 

Which Preservative Should I Use?

Some preservatives are more suited to different types of products.
 
For example, Preservative Eco is an excellent preservative that works with a wide range of pH levels, but should not be used with products containing clays or Emulsifan. Preservative 12 is a slightly milder preservative but should not be used in products containing detergents or a large quantity of active ingredients.
 

NAME

PRESERVATIVE K

PRESERVATIVE ECO PLUS

PRESERVATIVE 12

INCI

Benzyl alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Aqua, Tocopherol
Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Glycerin, Sorbic Acid
Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin

% IN FORMULATIONS

Use in formulations at 1% - 1.5%
Use in formulations at 1% - 1.15%
Use in formulations at 1% - 1.1%

pH RANGE

Works with pH < 5.5
If the pH is over 5.5 it will not be effective at all.
Works with pH3 to pH8
Works with pH3 to pH12

SOLUBILITY

Soluble in glycerine
Part-soluble in water
Soluble in water
Part-soluble in water but more soluble in oil-based products

PALM OIL?

Palm-free
Palm-free & good eco credentials
Palm-free
 

NOT SUITABLE FOR

N/A
Leave-on products for babies & children, clays, Emulsifan
 
Shampoos or body washes (not compatible with detergents), clays, large quantities of active ingredients
 

OTHER

N/A
 
Stronger smell than other preservatives
 
Considered a "milder" preservative
 


 
It’s important to check the compatibility of all your ingredients. You’ll find detailed descriptions for all of our products in our online store which will clearly tell you if an ingredient is unsuitable to be mixed with a certain preservative. If you're not experienced in formulating, you can guarantee that all the recipes published by Aromantic are safe to use.
 

Other Ways To Help Preserve Your Products

  • Firstly, make sure that when you make your products, your hands as well as your equipment and containers are fully sterilised. You can use denatured alcohol in a spray bottle to quickly and easily sterilise your material.
  • When storing your products, try to keep as much as possible in a cool, dark environment and use opaque, airtight containers to store them in. This will help prevent contamination and slow down the growth of micro-organisms that will ruin your product.

  • Make sure you label your products properly, especially if making in large batches or to sell afterwards.

 


Products mentioned in this article:

Preservative 12

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Preservative Eco Plus

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Preservative K

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Vitamin E Natural (100%)

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Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract (Organic)

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