Most store bought beauty products contain artificial preservatives because the products need to have a long shelf life. However, if you are making your own beauty products at home, you don’t have to add synthetic preservatives to your natural products; there are various types of natural preservatives that you can use instead. Examples of natural preservatives for homemade beauty products include beeswax, honey, vitamin E, herbal extracts and essential oils.
What Do Preservatives Do?
Preservatives prolong the shelf life of a product. If a product doesn’t contain any preservatives, it may start to discolor, change in viscosity or develop bacterial growth. The shelf life of a particular product is affected by a number of things that you do to the product such as:
- the cleanliness of your work place and tools that you use to make the product
- the type of container that you use to store your product e.g. jar vs. bottle
- the amount and type of preservative that you add to your product.
(source: Somerset Cosmetic Company LLC Fact Sheet: The Three Most Frequently Asked Questions About Making Cosmetics)
Refrigerating your homemade beauty products may prolong the shelf life of the product too.
When to Add Preservatives
Liquid homemade beauty products are more susceptible to contamination than those that contain dry ingredients (source: Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, 2nd Edition, Kathi Keville and Mindy Green). Therefore, products that contain oil and water, such as lotions, creams and spritzers will have a longer shelf life if you add in a natural preservative.
If you are making a product from base ingredients, you will be aware of the actual ingredients that go into making the product; if you are using a pre-made cosmetic base that you can purchase from many cosmetic and aromatherapy suppliers, look at the list of ingredients on the product description to work out if a preservative has been added in.
Essential Oils as Preservatives
Perhaps the best natural preservatives for homemade aromatherapy products are essential oils. Essential oils are extracted from plants and all essential oils are antibacterial/antimicrobial, although some are more antibacterial/antimicrobial than others. Essential oils that have a high level of antibacterial/antimicrobial properties include:
However, be aware that many of these essential oils but not all (for example, lavender) are more reactive than other essential oils, so use with caution.
Items in Your Kitchen Cupboard That are Natural Preservatives
You might be surprised to learn that you can find some natural preservatives in your kitchen cupboard! Honey, for example, is an ingredient that is often added to homemade body scrubs; however, make sure that you use natural honey and not commercial honey that is sold by most grocery stores. Borax, sodium borate, is also used as a natural preservative in homemade beauty products such as lotions, bath salts and bath scrubs.
Beeswax as a Preservative
Beeswax is a common ingredient in homemade body butters, lotions and lip balms. It has several therapeutic properties, the most important of which, for preservative purposes, is antibacterial. Beeswax has an aroma of honey and flower pollen so can add some great fragrance to your product too!
Vitamin E Oil as Preservative
You can add in vitamin E either as a separate component or you can find it in several carrier oils, such as wheatgerm, carrot and linseed oil; vitamin E is high in anti-oxidants. Vitamin E goes by several other names, such as tocopherol, and in various formats, so research the ingredient before choosing one that is suitable for your type of cosmetic product.
Rosemary Oil and Grapefruit Seed Extracts
There are various extracts and oils that you can use as a natural preservative too but two of the most commonly used extracts for homemade beauty products are rosemary and grapefruit seed. Rosemary oil extract is high in natural antioxidant components, although it also has its own aroma, which may change the aroma of the product that you are making. Grapefruit seed extract has high antibacterial and antifungal properties. It has a long shelf life and has proven to be effective against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus (source: From Nature With Love: Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE)).
Natural Preservatives Prolong Shelf Life
Other things that you can do to prolong the shelf life of your homemade products once you have made them is to package them in suitable containers, store away from heat and don’t contaminate them with dirty fingers. The above natural preservatives will ensure that your product is 100% completely natural – and it will have a longer shelf life than a product without any preservatives.
Phoyo by Cascadian Farm