How to Preserve Natural Skin Care Products
So you’ve decided to go all natural with your beauty routine and you’re ready to switch out your skin care. That’s great! Your health is about to improve in ways you never though possible. But what about preservatives? Natural preservatives in skin care are an absolute must!
A natural and healthy lifestyle involves heavy amounts of fighting things you cannot see. When it comes to DIY Skin care, unless you use a preservative in a water-based product, you need a preservative. Otherwise, you’ll be spreading heavy amounts of bacteria on your skin that could result in sickness or infection. I’m going to show you what needs a preservative, natural options, and how to use them. Let’s get started!
Pin this image for later!
This post contains affiliate links. You can learn more here.
Aren’t Preservatives Bad for You?
Depending on the preservative, yes, it can be. But other preservatives can also be perfectly fine to use in your DIY lotion. We have plenty of nontoxic options out there that can prevent bacteria from growing in our DIY products. And most companies are hopping on the natural preservative bandwagon! But we’ve still got a long ways to go.
One very popular preservative you should stay away from are parabens. I could write a whole post on why they’re the devil of skin care. Parabens have been linked to hormone disruption, infertility, and birth defects, among many other things. This is because parabens are quickly absorbed into the skin and act very similar to estrogen. (source) Basically, any product that has parabens is a hormonal treatment that you don’t need!
Parabens are typically disguised as a big word with “paraben” at the end. There’s methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben and isobutylparaben. (source) If you see a product with any of these ingredients, run the other way! Luckily, parabens are one of the most popular ingredients for companies to take out of there ingredient lists. That’s why you see “paraben free” on so many labels these days.
Common Natural Preservatives in Skin Care Products
A pretty common rule of thumb in the natural living community is that you shouldn’t buy a product where you can’t pronounce everything on the ingredient list. This is a great rule, but it’s not realistic for every situation. There are plenty of “safe” ingredients that can be made in a laboratory and are used in many clean products.
Some of these safe preservatives include:
- Propylene Glycol
- Benzyl Alcohol
- Potassium Sorbate
- Dehydroacetic acid
If you see these preservatives in an ingredient list, don’t panic! I’ve seen most of these before. In fact, they’re in most of my favorite beauty products that I like to buy instead of make. And that’s a good thing! These ingredients are telling me that they won’t grow bacteria or mold over time. Almost all of them are made in a laboratory and have been tested for sensitivity and toxicity. (source)
Why You Need Preservatives in DIY Skin Care
It all has to do with creating an environment that allows mold and bacteria to thrive. And one of the biggest things that allows microbe growth is water. It is one of the most important requirements to sustain life! So any water-based skin care products absolutely must have a preservative of some kind. Water-based ingredients usually include:
- Aloe Vera Gel
- Flower water or herbal teas (duh)
Not all cosmetic products are water-based, though! Products like lip balms and my DIY vapor rub don’t need any water-based ingredients. The word for these kinds of products are anhydrous. There’s your vocabulary lesson for the day! Some products can even be semi-anhydrous, because of the possibility of water contamination. A sugar scrub is a perfect example. If you apply it in the shower with wet hands, some water is bound to get into the jar and allow bacteria to grow. So most sugar scrubs would need a preservative as well.
It’s very common for DIY lotion recipes to have aloe vera, so a preservative should always be present. Preservatives have a bit of a bad rap because there are more toxic versions than natural versions. But if you want to avoid contracting something from your homemade lotion, you need a preservative!
The Dangers of Not Using Preservatives
I’ll admit that I only discovered the necessity of a preservative very recently. And by recently, I mean a couple weeks before this post was created. I want to give you well-researched information here at Essential Moves to Wellness, and I’ve been investing a lot more time in what actually goes into proper DIY skin care.
When I found out the truth about natural preservatives, I was mortified! My homemade non-greasy lotion recipe is one of my most popular posts! And I’ve been missing one of the most important ingredients for literal years. But I’ve since cleaned up that post, and it’s completely safe to make now. And as if that wasn’t enough, I noticed this growing in my last jar of lotion:
Let’s just say I threw that lotion out real quick! While it may not seem like an issue to have some bacteria in your lotion before it starts growing fuzzy stuff, there are hazards to be aware of. Like expired food, you run the risk of exposing yourself to infection or sickness. Especially if you accidentally get that stuff in your eyes or mouth! This can be incredibly dangerous for people with a compromised immune system. You’re trying to get healthier, not catch the plague!
These Things are NOT a Natural Preservative!
Some sources will say that vegetable glycerin and certain essential oils count as a preservative, and that unfortunately isn’t true. While there are antibacterial essential oils out there, like tea tree essential oil, they are actually antioxidants. What that means is they do in fact kill germs and slow the aging process of a product, but that only goes so far. You need something much more heavy duty if you want your product to last a few months.
Some popular false preservatives include:
- Vegetable glycerin
- Grapefruit essential oil
- Rosemary essential oil
- Vitamin E oil
As for the vegetable glycerin, it doesn’t work very well as a preservative because over half of the content of your product needs to be glycerin to be effective. And that doesn’t make a very good product, does it? True, it would stop bacterial growth to a certain degree, but there’s better options out there!
The Best Natural Preservatives for DIY Skin Care
To me, the best natural preservatives are made from something within nature and processed into something better. With their natural properties intact, of course. These preservatives have been made from nature to extend the life of our homemade products without endangering our health. I have my top three recommendations below that have great accessibility and effectiveness.
My personal favorite preservative that I use in my homemade lotion recipe. It prevents bacteria and mold from growing better than most preservatives out there. It’s made from probiotics organisms called Lactobacillus, which are the little organisms responsible for fermenting foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, or any other kind of cabbage, for that matter. (source)
I know it sounds crazy that you’re putting little microorganisms in your lotion to prevent mold and bacteria. But these little guys make the lotion more acidic, which inhibits the growth of all the bad stuff we don’t want to deal with. Sadly, no, they don’t eat the mold and bacteria. It’s also one of the most easily accessible preservatives, because you can easily find it on Amazon.
Phytocide Aspen Bark Extract Powder
As you can guess from the name, Aspen Bark Extract comes from the bark of the American Aspen tree. The bark is full of salicylates, which act as the tree’s immune system. It kept invading parasites out of the tree’s inner bark layers, and people even used the bark for medicinal purposes before modern medicine. These antimicrobial properties will also keep your lotions and creams fresh for longer periods of time. (source)
This preservative made the list because it’s ideal for fragrance-free recipes. It’s made up of four total preservatives that make it the super preservative it is. These ingredients are Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Glycerine, and Sorbic Acid. All of these ingredients are perfectly fine to use in home and beauty products. (source) They work okay on their own as preservatives, but the four of them combined makes for a great natural preservative.
What is an Emulsifier, and Do I Need One?
If you read through the outside information I linked to in the preservatives I recommended, you might have seen the word “emulsifier.” What the heck is that? An emulsifier is a special kind of bonding agent that will help water and oil mix together evenly. And there’s a lot of water and oil in lotions and creams!
In the past, I’ve had my readers use beeswax pellets to bond everything together. And you still can, of course! The problem with beeswax is that everything will separate over time, so you’ll have to blend everything back together once or twice before you run out. I’ve had to do it a few times myself. An emulsifier is a stronger bonding agent, so your lotions and creams won’t separate. You can buy my favorite emulsifier below.
There are several kinds of emulsifiers out there, but for the sake of simplicity in this post I recommend emulsifying wax pellets for your lotions and creams. It’s almost exactly the same as beeswax pellets; the only difference is it just works better. Emulsifying wax is made of vegetable oils and treated with a safe alcohol so it can easily bind oil and water together.
How to Use Natural Preservatives in DIY Skin Care
Now that we have a preservative and a good emulsifier, it’s time for some tips on how to use it all properly! I know it sounds a bit complicated, but it’s just a matter of doing a couple things a little differently than before. You’ll still have fabulous, chemical-free lotion by the end!
Before I was educated on preservatives and emulsifiers, I just had you throw all of the ingredients in a double boiler and let it cool a bit before whipping up the lotion with a mixture. Now things must be boiled in two separate stages: the water-based ingredients and the oil-based ingredients. Don’t use a preservative yet! It’s best to use two glass mason jars that contain the two types of ingredients in one big pan partially filled with water.
Once everything is melted down, slowly pour your water ingredients into your oil ingredients and whisk together. Allow the mixture to cool a bit, keeping an eye on the temperature. When your mixture reaches a certain temp, add in your preservative and stir. Allow the mixture to cool, and whip with a hand mixture. And that’s it! You should have luxurious, natural, safe-to-use lotion. You’ll see what I mean in my DIY lotion recipe.
When you add your preservative depends on which one you use! Each preservative is different, so be sure to read the provider’s instructions. For example, Leucidal Liquid SF is safe to add under 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Adding it before the mixture cools to that temperature with mess up the lotion’s consistency. How much you use also depends on the preservative. Please make sure you read instructions carefully before adding to your mixture!
Final Thoughts on Natural Preservatives in Skin Care
I know that this was a long and complicated post, but now you have the knowledge of how to make skin care just like the pros! Seriously, you could make some lotion now that would rival even the best of natural skin care companies. And you don’t have to worry about it smelling weird, or finding fuzzy things growing on it a couple months from now.
Although preservatives aren’t seen in the best of light right now, there are plenty of safe nature-derived preservatives out there that you can use in your homemade skin care. And you don’t have to worry about putting a preservative in everything you make. Just use preservatives in products that have water-based ingredients.
I’m happy to say that my new and improved lotion works like a dream now! My skin is moisturized and healthy, and I can rest easy knowing that I’m not spreading bacteria all over my face. Just remember, to make good lotions and creams, you always need a natural preservative and an emulsifier. That way, your product will have a longer shelf life, and the ingredients won’t separate over time.
Have you worked with natural preservatives at all? Let me know in the comments below!
Related to Natural Preservatives in Skin Care:
- The Absolute BEST DIY Makeup Setting Spray Tested!
- Rocky Mountain Oils Review | Ditch Your Low-Quality Essential Oils for this Brand!
- 10 Gifts for Essential Oil Lovers Actually Worth Giving
- 15 DIY Self-Care Gift Ideas for Your Stressed-Out Friend
- Simple DIY Hair Oil You Need In Your Routine Right Now
- DIY All-Purpose Cleaner You Can Make Right Now
- All-Natural DIY Vapor Rub to Fight Congestion and Moisturize!