Edit: I originally wrote this post in 2011. Since then many "natural" preservatives have hit the market. I use quotations around the word natural because it is not a regulated word and pretty much anyone can claim "natural". That is for a different post on a different day though. The common thread regarding natural preservatives is that you need to use multiple of them in order for the preservative to actually be able to combat gram positive and negative bacterias as well as mold, yeast and fungi. This seems silly to me when there are perfectly good synthetics out there that do the job just spectacularly. I am placing a link to a cosmetic chemists web site, she explains this perfectly and even has a neat chart of the wide variety of both natural and synthetic preservatives currently available to smaller businesses. At the end of the day though, the only way to know if the product you have made or are using is properly preserved is if it has been tested. Here is her site: http://makingskincare.com/preservatives/ <<< She is one smart cookie ;)
....and my original post begins here, it's still a good read, I just wanted to update about the new preservatives floating around the industry. Enjoy!
Don't be fooled by ingredients that sound too good to be true.
According to The Green Beauty Guide there is one completely natural preservative. It is: Suprapein. The book also states that, Lemon peel oil, grapefruit seed extract, vitamin C and vitamin E can prevent oxidation which is true but makes no sense being squashed into a paragraph about preservatives and is VERY misleading.
The ingredients for Suprapein are: Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract, Thyme Extract, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Bark Extract, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Lavender Flower Extract, Lemon Peel Extract, Peppermint Leaf Extract, Golden Seal Root Extract, Olive Leaf Extract.
I am still looking for an MSDS sheet on this, in the meantime I did find a study done on this ingredient but it was unfortunately done by the company who formulated it. Of course they find this product to be an effective replacement to and synthetic preservative but their patent is still pending. When I find more information and reliable studies I will post the results here.
Let's look at the ingredient names which the green beauty guide so slyly put into the chapter on preservatives as these are commonly mistaken for actual preservatives.
Grape fruit seed extract- ingredients: grapefruit seed extract and glycerin. Normally used as an antioxidant to help prevent rancidity in lotion and lotion bars. This means that it will delay the breakdown of the oils. It will not protect against bacteria, mold or yeast. This is NOT a preservative.
Vitamin E oil- again this slows the oxidation process of oils which delays rancidity. It is also a good anti-oxidant but is not a preservative.
Vitamin C- Same, it will delay oxidation but will not protect against bacteria, mold or yeast, not a preservative.
Rosemary Oleoresin Extract AKA- ROE- This is also commonly mistaken as a preservative but it is not. It is an antioxidant. Pregnant women are recommended to avoid using rosemary due to its abortion inducing properties. Even nursing mothers should avoid its use without consulting a physician. Also, intake of rosemary oil extract in large doses have been found to cause seizures in otherwise healthy people. Regarding the last sentence we remind you that anything taken in large doses (even water) can be dangerous.
Let's look at the last item in green beauty guide's list: Lemon peel oil. This ingredient like many essential oils have natural anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties which will help to delay rancidity of the product however in order to keep a product absolutely safe a lab tested and approved preservative is always needed.
Now, why is a preservative needed if essential oils and base oils have natural anti-bacterial and anti-microbial qualities? The answer is this: if the product you have purchased comes in a little tub, i.e. you dip your fingers into it you are always going to be introducing new bacterias, molds and not to mention air-borne yeast into your product, there is no guarantee that the oils can fight these off, in fact we don't know what bacterias and microbes they can battle against, but I will bet you that they would lose a fight against Staph or even worse MRSA (and even more resistant form of staph if you can believe it!). If your product comes in a pump container it most likely contains water, a lovely breeding ground for all sorts of nasties and remember we can't see microbes with our naked eye and may not know they are there.
Stay bubbly my friends
Milady's skincare and cosmetic ingredients dictionary, 3rd Edition By: Natalia Michalun and M. Varinia Michalun
The green beauty guide By: Julie Gabriel
www.lotioncrafter.com (for the MSDS sheets and ingredients)