Talk It Out Tuesday: Preservatives

Welcome to the latest installment of Talk It Out Tuesday! Check out previous TIOTs on melt and pour, bath bombs and colorants. So, you may be wondering, just what in the heck is a preservative? What am I supposed to use them for? Does my soap need a preservative? Preservatives can be a tricky if you haven’t used them before, but fear not, this post will explain the differences so that you can become the expert on preservatives.

What is a preservative?

A preservative is an anti-microbial solution that helps to prevent mold and other yucky things from growing in your products.

This lotion did not have a proper preservative. Yikes.

Why would you use a preservative?

Preservatives are needed in any product that has water in it to prevent bacteria and mold from growing in it.  If you don’t use a preservative something icky like this may happen to your product (bummer, right?).

What kind of preservatives are out there?

Many people like their products and soaps to be all-natural, but sometimes there just isn’t a way to make everything 100% natural. Currently there isn’t a good quality, affordable, all-natural preservative on the market for home crafters. I have done quite a bit of research into this and come up with what I think is a great range of preservative options:

Germaben – Germaben is a fabulous preservative to us when you are diluting Bramble Berry’s Lab Colors, as it keeps any nasties from growing in your colors (go here to learn how to dilute your LabColors using Germaben).  It is also great preservative to use when you are making lotions, as it helps to keep them nice and creamy. Usage rate: .3-1% of the total weight of the recipe and must be used at temperatures lower than 140 degrees.

Optiphen – Optiphen is a paraben and formaldehyde-free preservative. It is best to use in your oil-based recipes like shampoos, conditioners, and some lotions. Found out how to use Optiphen when making your own homemade conditioner. Usage rate: .5-1.5% of the total weight of the recipe and must be used at temperatures lower than 176 degrees.

Optiphen ND– Optiphen ND is a water-soluble, broad spectrum preservative. This preservative works best in surfactant based systems, shampoos, conditioners, gels, creams, and lotions. Usage Rate: 1% of the total weight of your recipe and must be used at a temperature lower than 176°F.

Optiphen Plus – Optiphen Plus is a water-soluble, paraben- and formaldehyde-free preservative. You can use Optiphen Plus in any recipe your are using water in and it helps to protect against bacteria, mold growth and even yeast! Usage rate: .75-1.5% of the total weight of the recipe and must be used at temperatures lower than 176 degrees.

Phenonip –  Phenonip is a liquid preservative that helps to suppress the full range of microbial growth in your cremes, lotions, salt scrubs, dusting powders and liquid soap bases.  When making products at a higher temperature, this is going to be the preservative you are going to want to use. Usage rate: .5-1% of the total weight of the recipe and must be used at temperatures lower than 200 degrees.

What is NOT a preservative!

An anti-oxidant is not a preservative. It lacks the anti-microbial qualities that other actual preservatives (Phenonip, Germaben, and Optiphen) possess. Many people get confused when they are researching preservatives and what is or isn’t a product that can help preserve their lotions and scrubs. We believe that a full-spectrum preservative (like Optiphen, Phenonip or Germaben) must be used to truly prevent mold and bacterial growth in your lotion products.

Grapefruit Seed Extract – Grapefruit Seed Extract (commonly known as GSE) is a thick and golden antioxidant that helps to prevent your oils from going bad in your lotions and lotion bars, but is not a preservative.  We never recommend using GSE as the only preservative in your products. But if you are looking for a great anti-oxidant, GSE is the one to go with!

Rosemary Oleoresin – Rosemary Oleoresin, also known as Rosemary Oil Extract or ROE is an oil-soluble, all-natural extract that is used to prevent rancidity in lotions and oil-products. It helps to extend the shelf life of your product, but as with GSE, will not preserve it.

Vitamin E – Vitamin E is a thick and viscous oil that is super easy to mix into lotions, liquid oils, and even bath bombs for its skin-loving properties. It is a wonderful anti-oxidant, but it isn’t considered a preservative because it has no antimicrobial properties to it. Many home crafters use it thinking it will preserve their products, but all it can do is extend the life of the oils in your product (similarly to ROE and GSE).

What products need preservatives?

You wouldn’t want to find that your fabulous sugar scrub went bad after a few weeks, would you? Any recipe that includes water in it or any product that may get water in it needs a preservative. That includes most lotions and cremes, sugar or salt scrubs, and some types of body powders. Preservatives aren’t generally necessary in liquid soaps, but can be added if desired.

Check out these recipes using Bramble Berry’s preservatives:

Tangle-Free Shampoo & Conditioner (Optiphen)

After Sun Spritzer (Germaben)

Soothing Sunburn Lotion (Phenonip)

Lotion from Scratch (Phenonip)

Skin Firming Cream (Germaben/Phenonip)

Do salt scrubs need a preservative?

Technically, no. Most sugar and salt scrubs do not contain water. When there’s no water in the product then you do not need to add a preservative. Now take a minute to think about where most sugar and salt scrubs are stored and used. Yep! They are stored and used in the shower where water may be introduced, which could potentially start mold growth. Ack! So what does that mean? It’s better to be safe than sorry. Long story short, I would add a preservative to you your scrubs.

Does soap need a preservative?

You never have to use preservatives in your cold process or melt & pour projects.  Maybe you’re thinking, “There’s water in my soap, doesn’t that mean I have use a preservative?” Nope! Both Cold Process and Melt and Pour soaps both have a pH level that does not allow mold or bacteria growth in your soaps. Liquid soap does not need a preservative either but it doesn’t hurt to add a little just to be extra careful.

Using a preservative in your products is not required, but it is a responsible way to ensure that your products don’t reach your customers or gift recipients containing mold or bacteria.

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  1. says


    I make a shea body butter product that is oil based and I add vitamin e to it for anti-oxidant purposes. When I whip the shea butter it comes out white. Over time I notice that when I use it constantly it starts to get slightly darker where my hands have touched. Should I use a preservative in this product? I also made a shea body butter citrus blend and used orange butter. After about a month the color change and it got darker. Do you have any suggestions? Finally what would be some of the best preservatives to use for oil and water emulsions?

    Thank you,

  2. KM says

    I have been reading that if there is no water in a product it does not need a preservative, unless it is likely to come in contact with water. I am making lip products that contain no water, but I am unsure as to whether it is still recommended to put a preservative in them since they come in contact with spit/drinks/any liquids that may be on the lips. If so, I was thinking Optithen would be my best bet. Could you tell me if it would be best, and if a preservative is recommended in lip products that do not contain water?
    Thank you :)

    • says

      Hi KM!

      Usually, lip products that do not contain water do not need a preservative. We have made a lot of lip balm, and have never had any issues when we did not add one :). If you’d still like to use one, Optiphen would be a good choice!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

      • KD says

        Thank you :) One more thing! I have seen a lot of lip glosses that appear to have no water source yet still contain phenoxyethanol as an ingredient. Does phenoxyethanol serve any other purpose besides preservation?

  3. kelly says

    Thank you for your advice Amanda : )

    I had a go with my re batch whipped soap, It’s great :)still whipped days later & it hasn’t separated or anything yet, I used a preservative I had called plantaserve E natural, next time I will get one you recommend, & maybe play around with recipe.
    I did spot your soap paste :( looks great :) what is your shipping to uk & customs fees?

    Thanks kelly x

  4. Crystal says

    As a first time scrub maker, I can officially say that I am confused to all hell. I want to make sugar and salt scrubs to raise money for a charity. However, I want to include a preservative because I don’t want to give the charity a bad name and I don’t want to hurt or sicken anyone. Can you please take a moment to look at my recipe and let me know a.)which preservative to use, and b.) how many ounces/teaspoons to use. I’m not a math or chemistry major and uing percentages and rates is just confusing. All your help is appreciated…thanks.

    5 cups brown sugar
    2.5 cups white sugar
    2.5 cups melted cocount oil (or olive oil)
    5 teaspoons vanilla extract

    • says

      Hi Crystal!

      The first step in deciding what preservative to use, is to evaluate the ingredients of your recipe, and whether or not it contains water. If it does you will need a water soluble preservative. If it only contains oils, you will need a oil soluble preservative. Because you’re recipe does not contain water, you will need a preservative that will combine with oil, aka: oil soluble.

      Your options for oil soluble preservatives are Optiphen, and Phenonip. Phenonip can be used at 0.25% to 1.0% in your creations, and Optiphen can be used at .75% to 1.5%. You may find this blog post helpful, it gives you a rundown on each preservative! :)

      Perfectly Preserved:

      It’s a lot easier to find out usage rates when working in ounces, rather than cups/teaspoons. I would recommend finding the total weight of your recipe, and then find one percent of that total. That’s how much preservative you will need to use :)

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

      • Crystal says

        So I did the math and this would equate to 83 ounces or 2353 grams (I think). 1% of this would be 23.53 grams.

        So…23.53g/2353g=0.01 or 1%

        So do I add in 0.25% to 23.53g or to 0.83oz(1.66tbs)?

        Im so confused and ya’ll make it sound so easy. For this amount of scrub(83 ounces) I’d be adding in 1.66 tablespoons???

        • says

          Hi Crystal!

          That’s okay, it can be a little tricky :). Looking at your recipe, it seems that 83 ounces may be a little heavy for the ingredients you are using. Weight vs. volume is a little confusing, but you may find this blog post helpful!

          Weight Vs. Volume:

          Because of this, it can be hard to find the true weight of your project without actually measuring it. Basically, 1 cup of water will actually weigh more than 1 cup of sugar, which is why the amount of your recipe seems a little high.

          That being said, your math looks good! I think where you are getting mixed up, is that you’re done! You want to add 1% preservative, so I’m not sure what you mean when you say “So do I add in 0.25% to 23.53g or to 0.83oz(1.66tbs)?”

          It’s tricky to say if 1.66 tablespoons of preservative is actually 23.53 grams, because of weight vs. volume. I would really recommend buying a scale to make sure your recipes are as accurate as possible :)

          I hope this makes sense! Please don’t hesitate to ask more questions :)

          -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  5. Kelly says

    One more question, Sorry :(
    How does Lush use so much fresh Juice in their soaps & body washes,
    I love sexy peel – they use their basic soap base, melt it up with an alcohol into water, then add 2/3 FULL Jugs of 3 different kinds of fresh juices mixed with cornflour :0
    Surely It would go bad?
    Can you use fresh juice in Rebatch? Which would be the best preservative?
    I have searched & searched : ( & read about a carrot juice & a lemon, fruit purees, Vodka, some failed stories with lye & juice,
    Experienced Soapers never seem give you a direct answer, I get the feeling they don’t know themselves?

    Really want to make a real juice soap.
    Thank you again Kelly x

    • says

      Hi Kelly!

      It’s tricky for me to say exactly how they make their products, just because I’m not very familiar with them, or their recipes. My guess is that they are using a preservative as well in their body washes. Regarding fresh juice in rebatch, while an additional preservative would help bacteria from growing, it will not protect the juice from going bad (turning brown, etc). While it’s not something we have tested, I would not recommend it.

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  6. Kelly says

    Hi, Wow That a great thread very interesting and you have answered a good few questions in reading everyone’s posts : )bubble bars & glycerine / milk powders : ) Thank you x
    I Just love soaping and everything related I am desperate to make my own CP soap but living in a flat with 2 small kids it is not going to happen soon.
    I have tried melt & pour which I am not Kean on feels rubbery to me & recently started re batching & I love it! & now I want to move on to making a soft cream soap, all the ones from scratch need lye : ( I have used the foaming butter & I just hate the smell of all the chemicals, I have searched everywhere :(
    Can you make a cream soft soap with re batch? grating the soap and adding pure water heating it up etc.
    I found only one recipe which someone used the rebatch melted soap method folded into a whipped shea butter/ coconut oil and it looked great, but no preservative, which I am guessing she would need with that water & butter.
    I really want to try to make some kind of butter-cream soap like Lush’s dream wash & Turkish delight, any advice or suggestions from anyone would be appreciated!

    Please please bring bramble berry to uk :(
    most of The uk suppliers don’t stock some of your products.

    Thank you Kelly x

    • says

      Hi Kelly!

      I’m so glad that you have been enjoying rebatch! It’s a great way to make cold process if you don’t want to work with lye. Unfortunately, making any soap from scratch will require lye. I honestly have never heard of anybody making cream soap with rebatch before. I worry that trying to water down rebatch would not give you the texture you are looking for. The recipe that you found, you’re right, would require a preservative if extra water was added.

      If you’d like to try liquid soapmaking, you may enjoy this E-book from Anne-Marie! It’s full of great tips :)

      Liquid Soapmaking E-Book:

      Another liquid soapmaking option that does not require lye, would be to use a liquid soap paste. The pastes are very easy to use, all you need to do is dilute them!

      High Sudsing Liquid Soap Paste:

      I hope this gives you some ideas :).

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  7. Rachel says

    I am currently adding a preservative to my sugar scrubs. However I’m starting to wonder if it’s necessary. The base starts out as liquid soap that I have made from grating up two bars of cold process soap. To that, I add my sugar and other goodies. So, there is a good amount of water that was used to make the “liquid soap.” BUT, it contains CP soap. With even the smallest amount of lye (using my grated up soaps) can bacteria grow? Out of two bars that I grated up, this will make approximately 100 4ounce jars. So, as you can see, the two original CP bars go along way. Is there *enough* lye to kill anything that might grow? Thank you!

  8. Amanda says

    Hey there, I really enjoyed this article about preservatives. Ive been trying to figure out a way to preserve my self tanning oil I make. It contains water, carrots, sugar, and essential tree and fruit oils so im not too sure which preservative I can use but would Optiphen work? Ive seen a few other people that make tanning oil and dont seem to use any preservative just a ton of oils and they dont use carrots like I do but the thought of maybe getting someone sick freaks me out and for piece of mind sake id like to have a preservative in ther if im selling it. Its stored in a screw top spray bottle so theres no contact with dirty hands unless someone sticks a finger in the bottle and it isnt supposed to be kept around water so it has a slightly less chance of getting contaminated water in it but since its made with water what should I use?

    • says

      Hi Amanda!

      Adding a preservative is not necessary if the product does not contain water. Because your product contains water, I would recommend one. That being said, I would guess that the carrots will still go bad. How do you prepare and add the carrots? Adding a preservative will deter bacteria from growing, but it won’t stop the carrots from turning brown and possibly going bad.

      Because you product contains water, I would recommend using a water soluble preservative like Phenonip, Optiphen ND or Optiphen. You may find this blog post helpful!

      Perfectly Preserved:

      I hope this helps!


  9. TJ says

    I’m needing some help understanding what it means when you say “total weight of the recipe”. So, if the total weight of my recipe is 98.97 and I am to use my preservative at 1.5%. Does that mean that I am adding the preservative at 1.47% (98.97 * 1.5%)?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  10. Levi says

    If i use bath salts when i take a bath, should i still use regular bath soap? How to use bath salts as a scrub?

  11. Troian says

    Hello ,I’ve made my own M&P soap but I got a problem with me.My soaps smell bad after one week,I added 1 tbs of coconut oil & grape seed oil,other than that i added some dried earl grey tea leaves and jasmine essential oil. They smell fresh on the first day ! Now I have no idea why my soap will smell bad as it does not contain any water in it. Need help thanks !

  12. Troian says

    Hello there,i’ve made my own M&P soap but i got a problem .My soaps smell bad after one week,I added 1tbs coconut oil & grape seed oil,other than that i added some dried earl grey tea leaves and jasmine essential oil. They smell fresh on the first day ! Now I have no idea why my soap will smell bad as it does not contain any water in it…Need help!!

    • says

      Hi Troian!

      There could be a few things going on :)

      You can add fixed oils or butters to the melt and pour base and many do. However, I don’t recommend adding much, if any. The bases are already made with luxurious oils and butters. The more you add to the base, the more the consistency will change. The lather will start to decrease or you could end up with a softer bar of soap. Because of this, I don’t usually add more than 1 teaspoon of extra oils per pound of soap base. I would be surprised if the oils resulted in your soap smelling bad, but it’s possible.

      Another reason could be that your melt and pour soap was burned during the heating process. It’s easier to do than one would think, so just be sure when you place it in the microwave, to heat it on extremely short bursts. The additional dried herbs could be contributing to the smell as well, or it could be a combination of all these things.

      I hope this helps :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  13. Nellie says

    Hello there, I would like to make a sugar scrub with some butters,oils, clay, and maybe some botanical extracts. I’m having a hard time choosing which preservative to use that I would preferably like to be paraben and formaldehyde free.. I have noticed that a lot of “natural scrubs” on the market are being preserved optiphen plus, which I though was not for anhydrous products? Or is it okay to use when glycerin or aloe vera even is added into the product? I’m so confused :-(

  14. Ressa LTL says

    I’m in the testing phase of my haircare products and they are all water based. I purchased aloe vera powder and it is naturally a brown color and I hate how it makes my haircare products look (like dirt water) so I wanted to use a REAL aloe vera plant (the inner filet gel of the actual plant) to put in my products so I wanted to know, is there a possibility that the aloe plant will go bad in my products even if I use a preservative? (I decided to use GSB as a preservative system). Would I have to refrigerate it even if I put my preservative in? I’d really like for it to be stored on the shelf not in the fridge. PLEASE HELP!!!

    • says

      Hi Ressa,
      I might actually recommend Phenonip as a preservative. It’s a broad spectrum preservative that will ensure no bacteria grows in your products!

      Aloe vera contains a high percentage of water, so preserving products with aloe in them is no different than preserving entirely water-based projects.

      I’m not experienced with the GSB method, but if you do go that route, I highly recommend having your lotions batch tested to make sure it successfully prevents mold :)


  15. Karen Cotton says

    I’m planning on making sugar/salt scrubs using essential and carrier oils, liquid castile soap, possibly powder (cocoa and/or lemon/orange peel powder)with a preservative for my business. I do not know what measurements to use to put in the scrubs. I’m not sure yet what size jar I’ll be using…maybe 4 or 8oz, and I do not want to put too much or less.

    I am thinking about using a laboratory, but that is going to be expensive. If you could assist with providing correct measurements, I would appreciate it.

  16. Lucy says

    If I create a really raw honey and oil like olive scrub will I need a preservative and if I choose not to use one, how long would shelf life be?

    • says

      Hi Lucy!

      If your scrub does not contain water, then you do not need to use a preservative. If it might come into contact with water (if it stays in the shower) I would recommend adding an oil soluble preservative like Phenonip. Without a preservative, it’s tough to say exactly how long it will last, but I would guess a few months. So much of that depends on how and where it is stored :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  17. Hillary says

    Hello, I’d like to make a facial cleanser for personal use, but I don’t really know what I’m doing (I’m brand new to all this). I have been reading about the benefits of activated charcoal and different clays, and am wondering…if I wanted to just mix some activated charcoal or clay with a liquid castile soap, like Dr Bronners which already has some preservatives in it, would I need to add any extra preservatives? Would that change the shelf life? And could I add an exfoliant like walnut shell powder or some sort of ground seeds to it, or would that call for more preservatives?

    Thanks so much for any info you can give!!! :)

    • says

      Hi Hillary!

      Because you are not adding more water to the product, you would not need to add more preservatives. Also, as a rule of thumb, soap does not require a preservative because the pH level does not allow for bacteria or mold growth.

      You may also be interested in this blog post, it has more information on preservatives :)

      Perfectly Preserved:

      While I have never tried it, adding charcoal or exfoliants would not change the shelf life. I would recommend adding exfoliants per use, because scrubbing your face with exfoliants everyday might be a little harsh! But this would depend on your skin type :).

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  18. says

    Hi, I am currently using Phenonip for sugar & salt body scrub. But I am looking for an alternative preservative, Paraben and formaldehyde-free. My scrub recipe does not contain water, but it use in shower, so I think it’s better adds preservative. Please recommend which Preservative I can use for Paraben and formaldehyde-free? Thank You

    • says

      Hi Stephanie!

      We do not recommend depending on Oregano Oil as a preservative, as it does not prevent mold and bacteria growth. To be safe, if you want to use it in your products, I would recommend using a preservative along with it! :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  19. Kristie Paxton says

    I have a question – are their FDA regulations (and I can’t find anything on their website) about selling a preservative free DIY lotion kit? I’m envisioning selling pre-measured oils/emulsifying wax in a little heat-safe container (maybe a small canning jar) with a recipe attached so people can make their own lotion. I would have a label on top of the jar (and a caution in the recipe) that says “discard 7 days after mixing” or something to that effect.

    Just thought it would not only be a little “science experiement” for anyone interested, but also a way to give people who truly want preservative-free an option.

    I would never sell a preservative-free lotion, but I certainly do get asked frequently for it. I’m just wondering if this is a legal way of doing it – I would technically be selling a kit and recipe, not a lotion.


    • Kristie Paxton says

      Yeesh – I meant “are THERE”. I SO hate when people confuse those words and I just did it. Happy Friday – thanks for any input.

      • says

        Hi Kristie!

        I love the idea of selling kits for people to make their own lotions! While the FDA does not have regulations on this, I would be really cautious doing so without a preservative. I would hate for somebody to make a lotion that starts to grow mold, get sick and blame you for it. Of course letting each customer know the risk involved would be really important.

        I hope this helps :)

        -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  20. Georgina says

    I want to make a body lotion combining both natural veggies and chemical body cream, that is cucumber, carrots, egg white,and banana with Revlon natural body lotion, what preservative should I use?

  21. Erica says

    Can I add any extracts (aloe, calendula..) to the castile soap base or the paste? would that cause any issues with the soap? would I need a preservative if I tried adding those?

  22. Ressa LTL says

    One more question I PROMISE!!!!!!!!!! I’m making a hair gel and hair spray that have the same base (water with infused herbs and aloe vera). What I want to do is make a big bowl of the base and put my preservative in the base and then divide it into another bowl so that one batch will be the gel (and the ingredients for my gel) and the spray (with the ingredients for my spray). Would this be a good idea or should I divide it in separate bowls and THEN add the preservatives as I make the gel and spray? (I really hope you understand what I’m trying to say)

    Also, I’m trying to decide between the optiphen plus or Gluconolactone & Sodium Benzoate. I don’t mind the limiting pH levels because I plan on making my products at a pH of 4-5.5 (healthy pH for hair and scalp). I maybe wanted to do the GSB because it’s food grade and non toxic but people really seem to love optiphen plus in their ingredients…..any suggestions? I’m so confused :(

    • says

      Hi Ressa!

      No worries, I’m happy to help :). In order to keep the usage rate correct, I would recommend adding the preservative after separating your gel and spray into tow different bowls because I am assuming you will be adding a different amount of ingredients into each.

      Choosing between GSB and Optiphen Plus is a personal choice, but because we have tried Optiphen Plus many times and have had good results with it, that’s what I would recommend :).

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

      • Ressa LTL says

        AMANDA YOU ARE THE BEST!!! THANK YOU!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
        Would I need preservatives in a hair rinse? Of course it’s just water with infused herbs but would it require a preservative? (I was also thinking about creating and selling an herbal hair rinse with infused herbs and purified water)

        • Ressa LTL says

          ………..and also, if I decided to do an herb infused oil, would I need a preservative? (if I decide on this I would wanna use fractionated coconut oil since it has an indefinite shelf life…..I would be using an essential oil for fragrance for the herbal rinse or herb oil infusion since I hear some of the herbs stink)

          • says

            Hi Ressa!

            If you are going to be selling your hair rinse, I would recommend using a preservative to be safe. If it is for personal use, you may decide to not use one and simply store the rinse in the fridge to help it last longer. A infused oil would not need a preservative, unless you added a water based ingredient to it as well. I hope this helps :)

            -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  23. Ressa LTL says

    HELLO!!!!!!!!!!!! I’d really like a response to my question!! I apologize it’s so long but I’d like to be sure before I go out and buy my products.

  24. mayra says

    thank you so much for this information.
    i need a good preserved for bath bombs,sea salt scrub,and creams, is there any in particular.please email me thank you

    • says

      Hi Mayra!

      When choosing a preservative, it’s important to consider if your product is oil based or water based. Also, in general, your product only needs a preservative if it contains water. For example, because bath bombs do not use water in the recipe, you do not need to use a preservative.

      For scrubs, it’s a bit of a personal preference to use preservatives or not. If your recipe does not contain water, some people still like to include a preservative because it might stay in the shower and come into contact with water.

      To read more about individual preservatives and find one that’s right for your project, you may find this post helpful!

      Perfectly Preserved:

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  25. Ressa LTL says

    I’m sorry error…….can I google 32 ounces times 1%……..typing too fast and didn’t proofread.

  26. Ressa LTL says

    OMGoodness!!!! I’ve been up all morning reading all these helpful advice posts!! I too, am planning on making and selling natural hair and body products and found very early on “ALL NATURAL” preservatives are confusing and not always good for my tester products (I’m still working on the ingredients). I just wanna make sure I have this right, my hair care products ARE gonna be like 80% water based….so optiphen PLUS is the best preservative right? (don’t wanna use parabens or propylene glycol so I’d love to use the optiphen). And do you all GUARANTEE the performance of optiphen plus in water based formulas (I’ve had VERY traumatic episodes with my “all natural” preservatives)!! Also, I’m making an African black soap (I’m gonna melt the base that I buy from a wholesaler with a double boiler and add essential oils, shea butter and aloe vera to it)…..I’d like to know, am I gonna need a preservative? The pH of the african black soap is 10 and the base is water, cocoa pod ashes, plantain skin ashes and palm oil and it’s a HUGE chunk of hard soap (I bought 7 lbs).

    Last question which is about the percentages of formulas… if an ingredient (I.e. Optiphen plus) suggests a 1% usage and I’m making a 32 ounce batch, can I just google (GREAT tip from an earlier user) 32 times 1%? It gives me the answer in ounces…so I’d just use my converter calculator to change ounces to grams and weigh that “gram amount” on a small scale? (I plan on buying a small scale JUST for preservatives and essential oils!!) would I be doing my math right? I’d really like to know cuz I’ve made SOOOOOOO many errors and wasted money!!

    • says

      Hi Ressa!

      So happy to hear you’re going to make your own hair care products, how fun! When choosing a preservative, keep in mind there are several options, and it sometimes boils down to a personal preference.

      Because your products are water based, Optiphen Plus would be a good choice. As it isn’t heat sensitive, we can include it in our water based creations at 80˚C or lower in the water phase of our process. It is not a formaldehyde donor. We have had great results using Optiphen Plus.

      As regards to the soap, in general soap does not require a preservative because the pH level does not allow bacteria to grow. So you do not need a preservative for the soap you’re making.

      Regarding the percentages of your formula, you don’t need to convert to grams. This is just an extra step for you :). Because you’re working with 32 oz of lotion and a usage rate of 1%, you would multiply 32 X .01 which equals .32 ounces of preservative.

      For more information regarding each preservative and how to use them, you may find this post helpful!

      Perfectly Preserved:

      I hope this answers your questions Ressa!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  27. says

    Hi, Do you think I need to use preservative if I make a scrub with natural liquid castile soap, sugar and glycerin? Following the logic of liquid soaps not likely needing one but adding the sugar and glycerin to the formula could require it? Which of your preservatives is most natural? Thank you:)

  28. Anda says

    Great information! I am just starting to make my own soap and I’m using a shea butter soap base from Michael’s to which I add essential oils, coloring, as well as dry herbs and lemon zest. Should I understand that I don’t need to use a preservative for this? Sorry if it’s an obvious question :)Thanks!!

    • says

      Hi Andra!

      This is a great question! A good general rule is that if your product doesn’t contain water, you don’t need a preservative. Eventually dry herbs will begin to wilt, but there is no way to prevent that. Because you are using a premade base and are simply adding coloring and fragrance, you don’t need a preservative :) Also, in general soap does not require a preservative because the pH level does not allow bacteria to grow.

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

      • Anda says

        Thanks so much for confirming, Amanda! Is this the case also if I use fresh lemon zest or fresh chopped mint or basil? Would they spoil inside the glycerin soap if I don’t add any preservatives?

        • says

          Hi Anda!

          Yes, even thought you are using fresh ingredients, they do not require the use of a preservative. A preservative will not prevent organic materials like lemon zest, mint or basil from wilting. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent that. Eventually all herbs will begin to wilt in soap after a certain point. Preservatives are meant to deter the growth of bacteria in products containing water, but will not preserve your natural additives. I hope this makes sense :)

          -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  29. Jeanne says

    Ok, I’m confused. I bought Optiphen ND because I thought I saw somewhere to use that for LabColors. Did I buy the right preservative? Also, I thought in the earlier comments that Optiphen is for oil based recipes and Optiphen Plus for water based. But when I read the descriptions of Perfectly Presevered it says Optiphen can be used for water based. Help!

    • Jeanne says

      Also, the whole pH thing. Optiphen ND is not good in pH below 6 but a few sentences above says its does poorly at pH 5.

    • says

      Hi Jeanne!

      This is a great point, thank you for pointing this out. I have contacted Susan to clear up the confusion, and will reply with her response soon!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  30. Natalie says

    Which preservative do you recommend for oil based sugar scrubs? optiphen or can i use optiphen plus?

    i also use optiphen plus in my home-made emulsified scrubs.

    do you recommend, optiphen plus to use in liquid castile soap base?

    any info would be greatly appreciated!

    • says

      Hi Natalie!

      If you’re making an oil based scrub that does not contain water, I would recommend using an oil soluble preservative, like Phenonip. If your scrub does not contain water you don’t have to use a preservative, but it’s a good idea if your scrub is going to be in the shower!

      You can use Optiphen in your scrubs. I would not recommend Optiphen Plus because it is not suitable for anhydrous products (products that contain no water). Because of this, you may find Optiphen Plus to be very difficult to mix into your scrub.

      For liquid castile soap base, you don’t need to use a preservative. While castile soap base does contain water, the pH level does not allow bacteria to grow.

      You may find this blog post really helpful! It has a lot of good information regarding specific preservatives :)

      Perfectly Preserved:

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  31. Nik Fauzi says

    Hi again
    A friend of mine used Silver Nano as preservatives in her serum, lotion etc.
    My question is, how is silver nano compared to other preservatives mentioned above?


  32. Heather says

    So, I’m making my own liquid handsoap. I found the directions using a bar of Mrs. Meyers soap (I use her handsoap but it gets pricey!). I though Yeah! I can make the soap I have been buying for years. Do I need to add a preservative? I was thinking of doing so just in case. But I’m not sure on which one to use. Any suggestions?

  33. says

    I have been making natural soaps, lotions, creams, etc. for many years and there are some preservatives I would not touch (literally) and would certainly not use in my products. Germaben and Phenonip are at the top of the list and this is why:

    The ingredients in Germaben are:
    propylene glycol, propylparaben, methylparaben, and diazolidinyl urea.

    Phenonip is a mix of preservatives phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparaben.

    Parabens mimic estrogen, are potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied (Darbre 2004).

    This information on Phenonip comes from the Skin Deep Cosmetics website which rates the hazard level of it as 6-7 (on a scale of 0 being entirely safe to 10 being extremely dangerous).

    Using parabens in my products is not even a question in my mind. I have searched and found reliable preservatives I can use in good conscience. Optiphen has been one of these and I have found others, including one that is 100% vegetable-sourced. Do your homework and always follow manufacturer’s guidelines to remain safe. You do not want to be one of the horror stories about preservatives!

    • says

      Hi Paula!
      Thank you for the information. We often use Optiphen in our soap and other body products. We agree, it’s a great preservative! It’s always good to be knowledgeable about the ingredients you are using and there are a wide range of options out there for preservatives.

      I’ve done the research on parabens and feel comfortable using them in my own products and my family’s products. These three blogs give more information and are more complete than I can be in a comment:

      Paraphrasing from the blogs: “The FDA supports the use of Parabens as does the European Union….and under regimented testing by the cosmetics directive of the European Union they too, found no direct correlation of Parabens and cancer.”

      The type of preservative you choose for your product is up to you and I’m glad that there are effective options for everyone out there that wants to responsibly use a full spectrum preservative, it’s simply a personal preference :). All of our preservatives have been approved for use in body products.

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  34. Louise says

    WOW! This article has been an eye-opener. Thanks so much for presenting it. Knowing, too, that we are not alone in this… even the big guys are having problems with bacteria. That’s pretty scary, though.

    I want to make some body butters, using a recipe that calls for water. Now I’m a bit scared, because I don’t think even a germacide or preservative would entirely safe-guard a product… particularly when there are so many other variables that can affect contamination, such as unwashed fingers dipping in the jar or leaving the lid off a container or someone sneezing near an open container.

    I wonder if I could substitute aloe gel for the water. I would assume that would lessen the possibility of contamination. I don’t want to go 100% oils, butters and wax. I’d like some hydrating material and as I understand aloe gel is a very good hydrator.

    Thank you so much. I value your opinion and judgment.

    • says

      Hi Louise!
      Switching water for aloe gel will not dramatically lessen the possibility of contamination. You can certainly switch out aloe gel for water, but aloe gel is about 90% water, so you still need a preservative.I would recommend Optiphen which is a paraben and formaldehyde-free preservative.


      I hope this helps! :)


      • Louise says

        I do understand that aloe gel is mostly water, and I will still need to use a preservative (thank you for the recommendation of Optiphen… I will use it.)

        However, isn’t the water being retained naturally “within the plant leaves” significantly better than water coming from an outside source, even distilled water? And wouldn’t there be more advantages to using aloe gel, such as enriching the product with its healing benefits? I would think so myself, which is part of why I’d choose to use aloe gel as opposed to distilled water.

        Thank you so much.

        • says

          Hi Louise!
          Aloe gel certainly has a lot of benefits, and I’m sure it would be great in body butter. It’s an excellent moisturizer! It is simply a personal preference wether you choose regular water or aloe gel. If you prefer using aloe, go for it! :)

          -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  35. Kristien says

    Hi! I just read through every question/comment, so I know that my very specific situation has not already been discussed :) I made 2 batches of hot process soap as follows:

    BATCH 1:
    Palm Oil
    Coconut Oil
    Olive oil
    Shea Butter
    Ground Lavender buds in the soap
    Lavender EO
    Whole Lavender buds on top

    BATCH 2:
    Palm Oil
    Coconut Oil
    Olive oil
    Colloidal Oatmeal inside the soap
    Whole Oatmeal on top of the loaf
    *no EOs*

    I used Distilled water in both and had the Lavender batch for 4 months and the Oatmeal batch for only a month and a 1/2 and BOTH developed mold directly on the whole oatmeal and lavender bud on top of the bars. It is white/green fuzzy mold.

    Any idea why!?! If I just don’t add herbs/oatmeal to the top of the soaps going forward do you think that will be okay (using the same recipes, etc)? That really scared me of soapmaking :( I’m now concerned about the ground lavender/oatmeal inside the soap as well…should I be?

    Also, should I throw out both batches of soap (about 10 bars each batch) or can I cut off the tops of the bars & use?

    thank you!

    • says

      Good afternoon, Kristien!

      I am not quite sure why you would have mold on your soaps, as we haven’t had that problem when using herbs and botanicals, but if you want to prevent that in the future, you can use the same recipe, just without the exfoliaters. Do you happen to live in a humid area? The more you can tell us, the more we can help you troubleshoot!

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      • K says

        Hello again,

        It is humid where I live in the Summertime but not right now. However, I do store the soap in my basement, where even when it’s cold, the air is a bit humid.

        What is the best way to store HP soap? Any specific storage containers?

        Also, do you think I need to take the exfoliaters out of the soap completely or would it be okay to just not use them on the top of the loaf? i’m only seeing the mold on the top of the bars where the herbs are sitting on top.


        • says

          Hi Kristien!

          I would make sure to keep your soap in the coolest part of your home (the basement is great)and away from sunlight. Many soapers like to store their soap in shoe boxes or plastic containers. If you head over to the Teach Soap Forum, I’m sure you’d find some great ideas!

          As for the exfoliants, the lavender will start to discolor eventually on top of the soap and inside. You can see an example if this in this Soap Queen video:

          The oatmeal should be fine if it’s in the soap, and should be okay on top too if kept dry.

          Hope this helps!

          -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  36. jen says

    I have a quick question. I found a recipe for a lemon bar soap that I plan on making as gifts for the holidays. For the recipe, it calls for lemon zest, and later in the post she adds that to use the zest, you will need a preservative. I just wanted to know which would be okay to use in this case (melt and pour)

    • says

      Hi Jen!

      When making melt & pour soap or cold process soap, you don’t actually need to use a preservative, as the pH level of the soap is high enough to prevent mold, microbes and bacteria from growing. If you were to add a fresh item like lemon zest, it will eventually go brown and that the shelf life of your soap is going to be a bit shorter because of that. I hope that this helps to answer your question! =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  37. LeeAnn says

    Question about Optiphen in my body butter. I make a body butter with 70% shea 29% other oils and evening primrose extract and aloe extract which together are 1%. Would the water in the extracts necessitate the use of Optiphen Plus or is it such a small amount that Optiphen is fine?


    • says

      Hi Jennifer!

      We are so glad that this blog post helped out. If you ever use water in a lotion recipe, we do suggest using a preservative so it does help to prevent microbe, mold and bacteria from growing. Let us know how your next batch turns out! =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  38. says

    I am making a rebatched cream soap from my best goat’s milk soap. I have to add quite a bit of water to this to get it the consistency I desired and I need to know what preservative is called for in this situation. I don’t typically use anything other than Vit E, so needless to say..I am lost. Help me.

    • says

      Good morning, Melissa!

      If you are making rebatch from your cold process soap, you don’t actually need a preservative as soap has a high-enough pH level to prevent mold, microbes and bacteria from growing in your batches. Just make sure to use distilled water and don’t add any extra milk or cream. I hope that this helps! :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  39. says

    Good Evening,

    I understand that because of the shelve life of certain oils, this may limit the shelve life of the cold process soap that contain these oils (ex. Flax seed Oil, 3 months). Can this shelve life be extended by adding ROE, Rosemary Oil Extract? If so, what would the shelve life be for the CP soap and what would be the usage rate of ROE in a CP soap that yields 48oz total?

    • says

      Good morning, Latrisa!

      Vitamin E and Rosemary Oleoresin can both help to extend the shelf life of your soap. I am actually going to have to do some research into how long the shelf-life would be extended if you used either ROE or Vitamin E in your soaps. As soon as I have this information, I will get right back to you! =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Hi Latrisa!

      Thank you so much for your patience while I did a bit of research for you on this. It it tough to give an exact amount of time that ROE will extend the life of your soap, but the average has been known to be 3 months against rancidity. I hope that this helps! :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  40. Adrienne Ortiz says


    If I make shaving soap with foaming bath whip, kaolin clay and chamomile extract, can I add either Germaben II or Phenonip as a preservative? I think I can get away without adding any preservatives, but I want to be extra safe because of the water being introduced to the container during use.


    • says

      Good morning, Adrienne!

      With your speicfic formulation you don’t necessarily need to add a preservative. If you want to be safe (especially if the product is going to be used in or near water) adding a preservative is the right way to go. I would suggest Phenonip as your preservative, as it works great all sorts of products. Be sure to stay within the safe usage rate (.5 -1.0% of the total weight of your product) and below 200F degrees when adding it to your shaving soap. I hope that this helps! Let us know how it turns out for you. =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry


  41. Stephanie says

    So if I make a body butter with NO WATER JUST OILS AND WAX ONLY I DO NOT need a preservative to make and safely sell my product? Also if I make body butter with no water, only oils with NO preservative what would you put for the expiration of the product? Thanks so much everyone in advance!!!

  42. Melissa Torres says

    Hi Cindy. I make melt and pour soaps in which I liquify a small amount of either avocado, mango, watermelon, or carrots to add to my recipes. The only thing I mix with the fruit is lemon juice. You said I wouldn’t need a preservative in this? What if I’m adding ground almonds to my melt & pour? Is that dangerous even when they are raw or should they be dry roasted? Thank you, Melissa.

    • says

      Good morning, Melissa!

      We don’t typically add anything (other than color and fragrance) to our melt and pour soaps because anything else can change the consistency and lather of the final product. You would not need a preservative in your soaps, but any fresh fruit or vegetable you add to your melt & pour soaps will eventually go brown, and the shelf-life will be shorter than those soaps without a puree in them.

      Ground almonds would be an exfoliant, and you would not need to use a preservative when adding that to your soaps. If you are interested in other exfoliants, you can check ours out here:

      I hope this helps! Let us know if you have any other questions. =)

      Happy Soaping!
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  43. Cindy says

    I have seen several recipes on Pinterest for body wash. One I found said to use a bar of pure castile soap, water, and glycerin. I had made some castile soap a little while ago and I don’t like it. I was thinking about using it for this body wash instead of using it as a regular bar of soap. Since I would be adding water, would I need to use a preservative or is it okay to go without? I would be using distilled water, of course. I’m not sure if that would make a difference. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Cindy!

      We’ve seen similar recipes to the one you’ve talked about and have found that they really don’t work as well for us as we would like. Anytime you are using water in a recipe (except for CP and M&P soap), you are going to want to use a preservative to prevent any microbes, bacteria or mold from growing in your products.

      If you are interested in making your own body wash, I’d actually suggest checking out our Liquid Soap Concentrate Base which can be made into multiple products (bubble bath, shower gel, shampoo, hand soap and more!).

      Liquid Soap Concentrate Base:

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      • Cindy says

        Thanks Becky! Any suggestions for what to do with the castile soap bars that I don’t like? They seem to get soft and slimy in the shower. My only thought is to rebatch them or make soap balls out of them. Thanks!

        • says

          Hi Cindy!

          The best way to prevent your soap bars from getting soft and slimy in the the shower is to make sure you have a draining soap dish. Castille Soap Bars are already incredibly soft and if they aren’t able to drain after they’ve been used, they will start to get a bit mushy. You can try rebatching them or even making soap balls. Let us know what you end up going with. =)

          -Becky with Bramble Berry

  44. Sophia says

    Could my problem be that the lotion formulation was more water based? The recipe was a new recipe I was trying out and it was 60% water. And I read above that Optiphen is more for oil based formulations. I will watch my recipe next time.

  45. Sophia says

    Yesterday I made a lotion with Optiphen as my preservative for the first time. Everything was all good until I added my Otiphen. I used about 1% and the temperature was good. After adding the preservative, the lotion smelled disgusting. I had used sweet orange essential oil to scent it but when I applied it to my skin, it still smelled really bad. Have any suggestions to avoid this problem in the future?

    • says

      Good morning, Sophia!

      Preservatives can be a bit tricky, but it does sound like you added everything at the proper temperatures and times. Could you tell us a bit more about your recipe so that we could troubleshoot why it smelling? The more information you give us, the more we are able to help! =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  46. Ashley says

    As a natural preservative.. I would trust some. From what I have experienced and learned. I saw that you wrote about how natural antioxidants do not have any antimicrobial attributes. Well.. I have read a ton on coconut oil and I really believe that has a possibility of being a natural preservative. First and foremost.. this oil has antimicrobial properties. Even the bacteria that has become anti-biotic resistant can be killed by the Medium chain fatty acids that coconut oil has. There’s a lot more to coconut oil and its best if its organic and raw to reap all these benefits. I agree that we need to be careful what we are selling to others. I have been researching this preservative stuff for a while now. But I want to give coconut oil a chance before even trying to add some unnatural ingredient like Germall. Because we shouldn’t need to do that, its still not good for our bodies. I’m sure there is a way to do this without adding icky ingredients to our soaps. I hope everyone looks more into using a natural preservative before giving up and saying we need to use these “man-made, bad-for-us” preservatives.

    • says

      Good morning, Ashley!

      Thank you so much for your feedback. Anne-Marie has actually done a lot of research on preservatives, because she wants to provide the best possible products for her customers. Currently, she has not found a good quality (and affordable!) all-natural preservative that stands up to our testing, but she is always looking out for new products.

      We think it is awesome that you are doing your own research on preservatives and can’t wait to hear more about the outcome of your testing. Our suggestion to put your research into action is to get your products tested by an accredited lab for anti-microbial properties. You will want to do this to make sure your products are safe to sell or give away! If you are interested in getting it tested, we can actually give you some recommendations for accredited labs.

      Thank you again for your great feedback and we appreciate hearing from you. Be sure to let us know how your tests turn out! :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  47. Tiana Brooks says

    I love your website and products are so reasonable. I have one question, If you our making a homemade shampoo and conditioner and wanted to add a color what would be the best dye and color choice you would recommend.

    • says

      Good morning, Tiana!

      We are so excited that you are making your own bath & body products and can’t wait to hear more about them. If you are making liquid homemade and shampoo, and want to color it, we would suggest adding just a touch of the LabColors to get a mild hue in your product.


      I hope this helps! Let me know if there is anything else we can do for you. :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  48. Amy M says


    I’m so glad this conversation is still going on. I ordered Optiphen Plus a while back from you all and actually just used it for the first time in a salt scrub. I usually don’t use one but I decided to be safe with it being around the water and people putting wet hands into the jar. Now, I’m reading that the Optiphen Plus is for water based products. Through my research I even found a site that said it was “not suitable for anhydrous” products. My question is… I used it in a salt scrub that contains no water. Is the scrub not safe to use now? Is it wasted? It’s pink sea salt, oils, vit e and peppermint essential oil. The total product weight was 88oz and I used 1oz of Optiphen Plus.

    I was originally thinking that this would be ok, maybe just not going to perform as expected. But now I’m worried that the oil on the top of the scrub is a concentrated mix of the oil and the Optiphen which possibly separated out since its not oil soluble, making it too high of a percentage since it’s all at the top? (although I’m really not sure if it’s all at the top or not – I always have a small amount of oil separated at the top).

    Then, I got to thinking that this might be ideal because the whole point was to preserve when water was mixed in.. So..?

    I made 10 jars and would hate to lose them all because I failed to notice that I was using a water soluble preservative… But I would hate more to sell something unsafe.

    Can you please guide me with this? Thank you so much in advance!!!

    • says

      Hi Amy!

      According to the manufacturer, the Optiphen Plus is rated for use only in aqueous (water-based)and emulsion-type products. Because of that, I believe it’s entirely possible that the Optiphen Plus might have separated on top of your scrub. To be safe, I wouldn’t suggest selling your scrubs. There is no way I can think of to tell for sure if the preservative has separated, and therefore has the chance of not being effective and also being in contact with the skin above the recommended usage rate of 1.5%.

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      • Amy M says

        Thank you Becky! I’ve been thinking while waiting to hear your opinion. If I mixed what I have with some rosewater and polysorbate would this be the correct type of recipe for the Optiphen Plus? I’ve been wanting to try rosewater in my scrubs for a while but have not tried it yet. I’m fairly new at anything other than soap, so still kind of playing with things, trying to find something really nice :)
        I would just keep track of oz that I add and add in the additional Optiphen Plus? Or am I way off on this idea?? Still trying to learn the ins and outs of the emulsions and mixings of things, the preservatives and everything in between!

        • says

          Hi Amy!

          While you can technically add rosewater and an emulsifier like polysorbate to this recipe for the preservative to work, it can be a bit tricky — but you are on the right track!

          Polysorbate will be fine to use, but it is a weaker emulsifier than e-wax, so if you have e-wax around, I would definitely use it in this case! Be sure to keep your temperatures lower than 176, as any higher will render the Optiphen Plus unusable in your scrub. Make sure to keep track of how much preservative you have already used, and keep the rest within the safe usage rate for Optiphen Plus (0.75 – 1.5%)

          Emulsifying Wax:

          I would also consider getting the following video, so you know how emulsified scrubs work and get some great tips from Anne-Marie.
          Keep us updated on the final outcome of your scrub, we’d love to know how this turns out.

          How to Make Emulsified Scrub Online Video:

          -Becky with Bramble Berry

          • Amy says

            Thank you Becky! I will watch the video on the scrub and I don’t have the e-wax but just ordered some.. Along with regular Optiphen!

            I will certainly let you know what I come up with. Thanks again!!

  49. Sara says

    Hi Everyone! I know I’m really late to this conversation but I’m very new to soap making (haven’t actually taken the plunge yet but gearing up to do so!). Anyway, I am planning on making a coffee MP soap and I don’t want to use a colorant. I was going to use either just used coffee grounds or brew a tiny bit of triple strength espresso and add that to the base along with a bit of used coffee grounds. I know that you can’t use much but I really want a deep rich brown. If I add brewed coffee to my base, do I have to use a preservative because of the extra water content? Thanks for any help! I’m really excited to get started!

    • says

      Good morning, Sara!

      Welcome to the soapmaking world, we are really excited for you start soaping. The pH of the M&P soap is high enough that, you wouldn’t actually have to add a preservative if you added something into your batch, but we don’t suggest adding any extra water or oils to your M&P bases as that can actually change the consistency and lather of the final product.

      You can totally add the coffee grounds for that extra scrubberific properties and if you wanted to get a dark brown, you could either use a fragrance oil that discolors brown (like Turkish Mocha or Dark Rich Chocolate) or even use something like Cocoa Powder.

      I hope this helps! If you have any other questions, let me know. :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      Turkish Mocha:

      Dark Rich Chocolate:

  50. amal says

    whenever i make lip balms, after about a month or so this thick skin starts to form. why is this and how can i prevent it?

  51. Michele says

    if i replace the water content in my lotion with an already preserved aloe vera juice, and there are no other water type ingredients…only butters and oils…do i need to add an additional preservative?

    • says

      Hi Michele!

      Even if the Aloe Vera Juice has a preservative in it, it is only sufficient enough to preserve the Aloe Vera Juice and not any additional ingredients that you would add to the product. We would recommend a good broad-spectrum preservative like Phenonip in your batch at .5%, which is the low end of the the usage rate if your aloe already has a preservative in it.

      I would also confirm with the vendor that you purchased the Aloe Vera Juice from to make sure that the aloe does have that preservative in it or not — just to 100% safe. If it doesn’t have it in it, I would go ahead and use the full usage rate for any preservative.

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  52. becca says

    i’ve been interested in trying to do bath and body product with all natural ingredients, and i have come across a youtube channel for lush products. they use fresh fruits and vegetables in their products along with some infusions, extracts, clays, and oils, but they claim there are no preservatives in their products. Do you believe that you wouldnt need a preservative in the products if you are using fruits and vegetables? If you do need a preservative, which one would you use?

    • says

      Good morning, Becca!

      If you are using fresh fruits and vegetables in your bath & body products without a preservative, they aren’t going to last as long and will eventually start to grow mold and bacteria. We always want to prevent your products from growing anything nasty and that is why we suggest using preservative in products with distilled water and pureed food mixes.

      The only exception for this would be cold process soap as the pH is too high for mold, bacteria or microbes to grow in. That being said, cold process soaps with fresh fruit and veggies have a shorter shelf life due to the food aspect.

      The preservative you use depends on the product you are making, but for most of our lotions and scrubs we have either used Optiphen or Phenonip. Is there a specific product that you are looking to make?

      -Becky with Bramble Berry



  53. Chante Thompson says

    I am started a natural hair and body product line. I initially wanted to use a natural preservative like so many others. I was looking into Leucidal, but I saw on previous posts here that Leucidal did not perform well. I am looking at Optiphen and Optiphen Plus instead. If I were to use Optiphen, I could no longer call my product all natural. Any suggestions on how to word or market all natural product containing the preservative Optiphen for customers wanting natural products?

    Thank you, I have found this page very informative!

  54. Elaine Lombardo says

    Hi! I’ll be making some different products soon and want to make sure I get the right preservative. I would prefer only getting one if possible.

    Sugar scrubs (no water added but used in shower)
    Body butters (no water added)
    Bath salts (no water added but used at bath tub)
    Body sprays (using distlled water, glycerin, fragrance and/or essential oils)

    If I substitute Witch Hazel for the distilled water would it still need the preservative? Could I use Witch Hazel along with glycerin or would they not blend together well?

    Thank you!

    • says

      Good morning, Elaine!

      We are so excited that you are making such fun bath & body products and can’t wait to hear more about them. Anytime you are using a bath and body product (other than soap) with water in it, you will want to make sure you use a preservative so that you can keep mold and bacteria from growing.

      For your sugar scrubs and bath salts, I would definitely suggest using Phenonip as your preservative as this will help them from growing any unwanted microbes will not in use. You can also use this preservative for your body spray. If you don’t include water in your perfume spray, you don’t actually have to include a preservative/


      Body butters are my favorite type of product to make because you don’t actually need a preservative as long as you didn’t include any water. If your body butter will be used in/near water or wet hands will be dipping in and out of it, I would suggest using a preservative just to be safe.

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. =)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      • Elaine Lombardo says

        Hi – would Optiphen Plus work the same as the Phenonip? I ordered that today hoping it would work with my products since it says it’s water soluble.

        I also ordered Polysorbate 80 to help emulsify my oils and water too – would it work with witch hazel and glycerin?

        I’m sorry for all the questions, this is the first time I’m making products to sell and I want to make sure I add the right ingredients to the right products – and it’s still so complicated!

        Thank you for all your help! You guys are the best!


  55. janelle says

    great post ! i have been reading different recipes for soaps and creams and such and noticed some use milk in the place of water. do projects that contain milk need preservatives? it seems they would, but i am not certain.

    • says

      Good morning, Janelle!

      We are so glad that you stopped by! If you are using any type of milk in place of distilled water in a cold process recipe, you wouldn’t actually need to use a preservative, because the pH of the soap would be enough to prevent mold or bacteria from growing.

      With lotions and cremes, it is a different story. So far, we haven’t found a perfect recipe for including milk in our lotions and found that it doesn’t stay good (not rancid) as long as we had liked. If you were to include any type of milk in your lotions and cremes, we would definitely suggest using a preservative like you would with any other lotion recipe.

      I hope this helps! If you are interested in learning more about milk soaps, here is a great e-book written by Anne-Marie where she teaches you all about using milk in your cold process soaps.

      E-Book: Making Milk Soap from Scratch:

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Good morning, Marieke!

      Even though it is in liquid form, you will always want to measure your recipes by weight — especially when using preservatives. I am actually using one of Bramble Berry’s scales. The Bramble Berry 10# Scale is so super easy to use and it does both ounces and grams. You can find it here:

      Bramble Berry 10# Scale:

      I can’t wait to hear more about your body scrubs. You’ll have to keep us updated. If you get any pictures of your products, we’d love to see how they turn out. You can share them with us on Bramble Berry’s Facebook page.

      Good luck! And if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask. =)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      • Marieke says

        Good morning Becky!

        Thank you so very much for the feedback!! Yay! That clarifies it for me :-) I am going to check out your scale and as soon as I have photos to show, I will post them on your facebook wall. So glad to have found you!!

        Have a wonderful weekend!


  56. Marieke says

    This is such an informative post! Thank you :-)

    I have a question about the “weight” vs. “volume” on preservatives:

    I just ordered Optiphen Plus for my body scrubs. Keeping it at the low range, I would add 0.75% of the weight of my scrub.

    So, say scrub weighs 8 oz. 0.75% is 0.006. But 0.006 what? 0.006 oz. or 0.006 fl.oz.? The scrub is measured in oz., the preservative in fl.oz. How does one convert?

    • says

      Hi Marieke!

      The easiest way to convert it, is to tare your empty jar on your scale and then see what the scrub weighs inside. You will always want to go by weight when using a preservative in any of your products. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      • Marieke says

        Hi Becky,

        You know, I never knew how math and chemistry would ever be of any use in my life, and here I am. Learning a lesson… :-0

        I am still not sure how much preservative to add though (sorry to be dense).

        If the recommended amount of preservative is 0.75% of the product weight and the product weighs 8 oz., would I then add:

        * 0.006 oz. of preservative
        * whatever 0.006 oz. is converted into either FLUID oz. / ml?

        I guess my challenge lies in whether I need to convert weight to volume, since those are two different things.

        Thanks for the feedback you may have.


        • says

          Hi Marieke!

          I totally know what you mean, I’ve learned so much more math and chemistry since I started soapmaking who knew it would come in handy so often! =)

          Unless otherwise indicated, we always like to go by weight in soap and lotion making. It makes it so much more precise and easy to work with.

          If you have a product that weighs 8 ounces and your preservative recommends using .75% of the product weight, it would be 0.06 ounces (or 1.70 grams if that is easier for you to work with) by weight of the preservative. I often use my handy-dandy scale to measure in these small amounts. I stick my small bowl or measuring cup on it, tare it, and then measure the amount needed for my recipe.

          We have always used preservatives by weight in our scrubs, lotions and other body products. I know the difference between weight and volume can be a bit confusing, but we are totally here to help you out with any questions that you may have. What products are you planning on making? =)

          -Becky with Bramble Berry

          • Marieke says

            That’s great! thanks. So even though the preservative is a liquid, you would still measure it in weight, and not in volume?

            What sort of scale are you using?

            Oh and to answer your question: I make body scrubs and might eventually venture out in lotions, but right now it’s scrubs and bath bombs (although the preservative is not necessary in the bath bomb).

  57. Danielle says

    Can I pick your brain on a subject I have come across recently about adding glycerin in bath and body products. Since glycerin is considered to be a humectant and attracts moisture, would it be necessary to add a preservative to anything that contains glycerin other than soap? For example lipgloss or bubble bars that don’t contain water but do contain glycerin as an ingredient. I just haven’t found any type of credible information stating that a preservative would be necessary in a product containing glycerin. I was hoping to turn to the best at knowing! :)

      • Candace says

        I am curious as to whether or not Optiphen is lip safe. I am looking into making some lip sugar scrubs to give as gifts and have done tons of research on making sugar scrubs, but haven’t seen any information on preserving scrubs made for lips. Would you reccommend Optiphen for a lip scrub preservative?

        • says

          Hi Candace!

          Optiphen is actually not lip-safe, so we don’t suggest using it in your lip scrubs. As long as your lip scrubs do not contain any water, you don’t actually need a preservative in them. Could you tell me a bit more about your recipe? :)

          -Becky with Bramble Berry

  58. Becky says

    Is Optiphen ok to use in Scrubs and Lotion that do not contain water, I seem to be finding conflicting things. I know Optiphen Plus is for those products with water, but I am having a hard time figuring what I can use in a lip butter, body butter, and sugar scrub, none containing water, so that I can buy just one preservative.


  59. Leela Sannyasin says

    Dear Soap Queen Sensi,

    What impact does CP and HP saponification have on the medicinal qualities of additives like EOs, fresh juices, botanical extracts, herbal infusions and decotions, powdered, cut and sifted herbs, nuts, seeds?

    Thank you for all your time and expertise,


  60. Ingrid says

    Can you explain the differences between Optiphen, Optiphen Plus, and Optiphen ND, in particular reference to making lotions and creams? It’s a bit confusing as to which one/s to use and for what.

  61. Heather says

    I want to make melt and pour with some kind of tomato product added in…….possibly powder or paste. Would this require a preservative? I’m scared it would mold without one.

    • says

      Hi Heather!

      We don’t typically add anything (other than color and fragrance) to our melt and pour soaps because anything else can change the consistency and lather of the final product. I wouldn’t suggest using a paste in your M&P soap, but you could try using the powder in a small test batch to see if it works for you. In this case, because it is a powder (and M&P soap) you wouldn’t need to use a preservative as the pH is high enough that it would kill any mold or bacteria that would grow.

      If you want to take a look at other M&P recipes that we’ve done, here is a great link to start out with:

      Melt & Pour Soap:

      I hope this helps! :)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  62. Erica says

    Hello! I am new to the soaping and DIY world. I have been dying to make some lotion bars and liquid soap/bodywash, but I have gotten hestitant from all the preservative vs. non preservative talk. I, for one, would rather be safe(r) than sorry and use the preservative. However now the only question is: Which one do I need!?
    My lotion bar recipe consists of: Shea butter, Coconut oil, Beeswax, and some Vitamin E oil. Now I know that you said that you don’t technically need it but once I told my husband that lotion can mold, he’s pretty much insisting on it (germophobe). So which preservative would work best and when should I add it?

    Also with the liquid soap, the big trend of grating up a bar of soap, melting it with water and ta-da! From what I’ve read it’s a big no-no without a preservative, so which one would I use with that and also when should I add it?

    Thank you SO for all the help and sorry for having so many questions! I’m not familiar with the soap making lingo yet and couldn’t figure it out on my own. :)

  63. Erin says

    Hi! I’m a major newbie when it comes to soap making and all that…in fact, I’ve yet to make anything at all! I’m in the research phase right now. I plan to sell soap and lotions in order to raise funds for a mission trip I will be going on in a year. The last thing I want to do is sell something that could be harmful to people down the road. Does this recipe for lotion need a preservative:

    1 cup of aloe vera gel
    1 teaspoon of lanolin oil
    4 teaspoon of pure vitamin E oil
    1/3 cup of coconut oil
    1/4 ounce of beeswax
    3/4 cup of almond oil
    (recipe from

    If so, what kind? How long of a shelf life does it have with and without a preservative?

    Please forgive me for all the questions! I’m totally clueless!

    I appreciate your help!

  64. Anna says

    Hi there. I’ll be making and selling lotion with goat’s milk in it, and I was wondering if Optiphen or Optiphen Plus would work well as a preservative. If so, how long of a shelf life would the lotion have?

    • Anne-Marie says

      Optiphen Plus is good for formulations of pH of 6 or below. Optiphen has no such restrictions. Because of this, I tend to go with Optiphen. Though Lotion tends to be around 6, it’s nice to not have to test every batch! =) I usually add my Optiphen at 120 or below (even though it can go higher for temps).

      Here’s a link to the Optiphen:

      Let me know if you have any other questions! =)

  65. melanie says

    I loved this post to say the least. But my question is if I purchase the beeswax lotion base from can I add that to my shea butter to protect it from mold and bacteria. I use the shea butter on my hair and sometimes my hands are wet . I thought this would work if I mix the two because the beeswax lotion has the preservatives in it. What do you think? Thanks!

  66. CJ says

    Hi! I am thinking of adding diluted milk powders to my melt and pour soaps. Is tere a preservative needed for this? If so, which would you recommend?


    • says

      Hi CJ!

      I’d actually recommend just buying our Goat’s Milk Melt and Pour base. It does much better when the product is added during the soapmaking process, not after it.

      Goat’s Milk M&P Base:

      There is nothing in a M&P Soap or preservative that would keep your milk from spoiling over time. If you were to use it in your soap, I’d suggest making a slurry with liquid glycerin before adding the powder to your soap. Just be aware that anything extra you add to your M&P bases can change the consistency of the soap and the decrease the lather.

      I hope this helps out! =)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  67. Lauren says

    I am making salt & sugar scrubs, bath salts & lotion bars. What would you reccomend me to use? Thanks!

  68. Sean says

    What a Great site you have!
    I have been making a lip balm that contains only beeswax, powder honey,butters & oils; no water. I have used them myself & for friends & family. I have never used any preservative & they seem to last between 9-12months before the oils go bad & they have that ‘bad oil’ smell. Over the last couple years i have never noticed any mold, bacteria etc..even jars that are a couple years old…they just don’t smell good anymore. The response I’m getting is so positive I’m thinking of selling them, one of things people like is the “all natural” no preservative thing. I’m concerned though about going commercial without a preservative but then I may e destroying the very character of the product. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated!

    • says

      Hi Sean!

      What a great question. Because your product doesn’t contain any water, you don’t actually need to add a preservative. We have many customers that sell body butters and other products that have no preservatives in them and they are doing just fine. Just make sure to use preservatives in the products that need them, and you should be just fine! :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  69. says

    Just wondering if your making home made shampoo, do you need to use a preservative ? Also when making coconut butter do you need a preservative ? The shampoo would have water added but the butter would not. Just wondering, thanks in advance for your answers :-)

    • says

      Hi Kylie!

      Whenever you are using distilled water in a product (other than soap), you will need to add a preservative to keep any microbes or bacteria from growing in it. If you body butter is just oils and butter, you won’t need to use a preservative because there is no water. You can if you’d like, but it isn’t necessary! I hope this helps. =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

        • says

          Hi Kylie!

          Many people like their products and soaps to be all-natural, but sometimes there just isn’t a way to make everything 100% natural. Currently there isn’t a good quality, affordable, all-natural preservative on the market for home crafters.

          -Becky with Bramble Berry

  70. Mary says

    hi thsnks fo the information i am looking for a preservative that i can use for my hair leave in conditioner which contains both water and oil. I would like it to have a long shelf life as i would like to sell them and set up a business.

  71. Angie says

    What about companies like 100%pure that don’t use any sort of preservatives? Reading their ingredient list for children’s body creams there are just a bunch or essential oils… Is it because there is no water? Although, they have aloe juice…

    • Anne-Marie says

      That’s a question we’re often asked. I actually have some of their products. They didn’t have the shelf-life stability of many bigger brands (nor would I expect them to with their ingredients list) and while I can’t speak to their line specifically, I do know that I have personally been offered ‘extracts’ at Bramble Berry that were hiding full preservatives in them. That extract would in effect preserve the entire formulation when used at 1%-2%. Again, I can’t speak to the company you asked about in question but I do know that preservative hiding is a loophole that some companies do exploit. For example: A popular ‘natural’ preservative? “In all of the antimicrobial active grapefruit seed extracts, the preservative benzethonium chloride was detected by thin layer chromatography. Additionally, three extracts contained the preserving substances triclosan and methyl parabene.”

      Aloe Juice needs to be treated just like water in all formulations. However, Aloe Juice often has its own preservatives added to it so that could be a way for an entire formulation to be preserved without additional preservatives added. Again, this is just a general observation and not a comment on a specific company.

      Finally, there are a variety of ‘natural’ preservatives on the market that DO show some really impressive anti-microbial activity. We’ve tested them all, under normal usage conditions that a GMP-complying home crafter would be using. Unfortunately, without some of the whiz-bang-awesome manufacturing that the ‘big guys’ have (negative air pressure rooms, airless packaging etc…), they simply weren’t shelf-stable reliable options in our testing.

      Science does make amazing strides every single day though so maybe in a few years, we might see some more natural alternatives for us out there. =)

  72. kim says

    it says ‘some lotions’ for optiphen. i am wanting to use this since it is paraben- and formaldehyde-free. would this be suitable for body butters and scrubs? thank you! i just want to be safe!

  73. Leslie B. says


    I plan to make individual sugar/coffee scrub cubes and I have a question about preservatives in regards to a clear melt and pour glycerin soap base. First, is a glycerin soap base considered a 100% natural product? And next…if i am making scrubs that are being used individually (and not having the user dip wet hands in and out the container) do I need to use a preservative in that case with the glycerin soap base?? Sorry if this is a repeat question! :-)

    Thank You!

    • says

      Good morning, Leslie!

      We can’t wait to hear about your sugar and coffee scrubs, that sounds delightful. “Natural” can be a bit of a confusing term since the FDA doesn’t actually regulate it. But, we do try to use natural ingredients in our products.

      The standard ingredients in our house melt and pour bases are Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Safflower Oil, Glycerin (kosher, of vegetable origin), Purified Water, Sodium Hydroxide (saponifing agent), Sorbitol (moisturizer), Sorbitan oleate (emulsifier), and Soy bean protein (conditioner).

      While the Sorbitan oleate is naturally derived, in staying true to the spirit of the word, we don’t consider this particular ingredient to be all-natural. But, it is only in the soap base at less than 1% and our melt and pour bases are far more natural than most commercial detergent-based soaps you may find out there.

      If you are making your scrubs to be used individually and there will not be any chance of them staying wet for an extended period of time, you do not need a preservative. We always like to add one just to be safe, but if they are being made for single-use, then you should be just fine!

      I hope this helps. Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you. :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  74. CJ says

    I emailed my question before I saw comments were still open ( oops) ! I would like to add fruit & vegetable purée to M&P. I read above that no preservatives are needed in M&P, is that the case even with the addition of the purée?

    • says

      Hi CJ!

      That’s a super great question. Typically we don’t like to add anything to our M&P bases because it changes the consistency too much for our liking and can cut down on the lather.

      Anytime you add a water-based product to your M&P soap, you do run the risk of it going rancid and spoiling. If you were to try this out, I’d suggest keeping the bars for a couple of weeks to make sure they aren’t growing anything and don’t go rancid for your customers.

      I hope this helps! :)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  75. Natasha says

    So if I use an extract I will need to use a perservative in my lip balm? I’ve noticed bramble berry has flavor oils, is that the same but with oil or is it totally different?

    • says

      Good morning, Natasha!

      If you use any of Bramble Berry’s extracts in your lip balm, you wouldn’t need a preservative because they are all oil-based now. If you were using a water-based extract, you could use a preservative if you wanted to be extra-safe.

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      P.S. When adding a flavor oil into your lip balms, you don’t need to add a preservative.

  76. Karen says

    I’m trying to make little jars of salt scrubs for Christmas gifts en masse, and I am hoping there’s an easier way to mix in my Phenonip and essential oil than to do it 15 times (the number of jars I have).

    Can I just put the preservative and essential oil into the big bottle of oil before I pour it into the salt? How do I figure out how much to use in the oil?

    I have 48 oz of fractionated coconut oil and the jars hold 5 oz. From what I understand, I almost fill the jar up with salt and pour the oil over it.

    I’m sorry I have such a basic question, but I flunked chemistry in college, and this seemed like such an easy project on Pinterest!


    • says

      Good morning, Karen!

      You can definitely put your preservatives and essential oils into a big bottle of oil before you pour it into the salt. The easiest way to figure how much to use it to weigh out ONE jar of salt + oil and then figure out the 1% (preservative) from that. Good job on wanting to be accurate, that is so important when using preservatives. I hope this helps. :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  77. Tish says

    Hi Becky! I’m making shampoo for dogs to sell. I read that if they are not going to be near water, they do not need to have a preservative. But I’m using Dr. Bronners liquid Castile base for now, and adding different oils and essential oils, etc. Because some water will get into it, what preservative should I use?

  78. Anonymous says

    Is there any rhyme or reason in choosing the exact percentage of preservative within the given recommended range (ex: 0.5% vs. 1% in a recommended range of 0.5-1.5%)? For example, when would 1.5% Optiphen be needed over the minimum recommended 0.5%? This is a little confusing to me! TIA for any help!

    • says

      Good morning!

      This is a range given so that people can choose the amount of preservative they would like to use in their products and it is more of a personal preference. If you feel comfortable using more, you can go with the higher usage rate and if you want to use a little less, you can do that too! I hope this helps. :)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Hi David!

      We always suggest using a preservative in your lotions to prevent any microbes or bacteria from growing. If you are using a recipe that doesn’t have any water in it, you don’t have to use a preservative, but it is always good to prevent anything icky from growing in your product. Could you tell me a little more about your recipe and I can help you figure out what preservative would be the best for you to use?

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  79. Debbie says

    OK, I am so confused!!!
    I would like to make sugar scrubs for Christmas gifts.
    In the original post, it says to definitely use a preservative in them, since sometimes water is introduced into the scrub in the shower, etc.
    But, which one?? Optiphen, Optiphen Plus, Germaban, Germall…I have heard about so many.
    Please help me figure out which is best for sugar scrubs and how much of the recommended preservative I should use.
    Thanks, in advance,

      • Debbie says

        Thanks so much! I will order some today!
        I will be putting 7 oz of sugar scrub in each jar.
        Can you tell me how much Phenonip to put in each?
        And, how long will the scrubs last, with the Phenonip?
        Sorry for the many questions…I am new at this!

  80. Linda says

    I am so please I found your site, I was about to head into the kitchen to make my first batch of sugar scrub. I would have been very disappointing to find yuck growing on it in a matter of weeks. If using the Germaben in a scrub that uses 1 1/4 cups of sugar and 6-8 tablespoons of coconut oil how do we work out the quantity of preservative that’s needed? I was also planing on making a body cream with shea butter, coconut oil and sweet almond oil, would I also use the Germaben in this as well?
    thanks so much for such great information.

  81. I NEED HELp says

    I want to make Coconut Oil Deodorant,Lotion Bar,Lip Balm,Shea whip body lotion.I will add Arrow root,baking soda 100 Orangic Coconut oil, . I want a long shel life so what preservation do i use

    • says

      Generally, products that don’t contain water and won’t be exposed to water (ie: used in the shower) don’t need preservatives. Preservatives prevent mold and bacteria growth in products containing water, but don’t prolong shelf lives by preventing rancidity in oils. The shelf life of your product is as long as the shortest shelf life of your ingredients.

      -Kristen with Bramble Berry

    • Anne-Marie says

      We’ve tested it here and have not found it to be an adequate preservative under normal manufacturing conditions for home crafters. Our product molded rather alarmingly quickly.

      Cindy Jones (from Sagescript, a fantastic resource for challenge testing etc… for lotions) had an excellent point on another site about showing effectiveness in actual product (versus in a petri dish). I’m copying her comment verbatim below:

      “When I am looking at preservatives I always want to see challenge test results that the manufacturer has done. One problem with some of the newer preservatives is that they have just been shown to have antibacterial activity but have not been shown to actually work in a product. Of course each product is different and you need to do your own challenge testing, but I want the manufacturers to first show that it has the potential to work in a product.”

      If you’re going to use the product, definitely request that extra information – and be sure to get your formulation fully challenge tested if you’re using the preservative.

      • says

        Thanks for that. Greatly appreciate it. I did purchase some, but have yet to use it. I think I may switch over to the Optiphen Plus.

        Thanks for all you do!

  82. Maria says


    I have been making sugar scrubs for awhile now and NEVER use preservatives because all of my recipes use oils only.

    I plan to start giving these away as gifts but after reading about everything that can happen if water is introduced to the scrub, I definitely want to add a preservative to be on the safe side. I know my friends will be tempted to dip their “wet” hands in the container to scoop out the scrub.

    My question, can I use the Optiphen in my oil only recipes and if so how do I figure out how much to use??? I sure hope I can use the Optiphen cause I just received my Brambleberry order that includes it.


  83. Sara says

    Thanks so much for the reply! I didn’t realize that bar soap mixed with water may not carry a higher pH! Good to know! I’m assuming the potassium vs. sodium alkali used is a big determinate in the liquid vs bar soap and also the pH. I did actually order the castile/castor oil liquid soap paste from y’all and am anxiously awaiting shipment! Thank you to you and your company for offering a coconut oil free product for someone like me! Also, thanks for the help. Do you think I can rely on the pH strip testers when I complete this bar soap batch? It may not even come out right! I also ordered Microguard (I believe) and it’s a stronger preservative, however, I’ll have to make sure it will hold up in the pH, since it’s glucotamate and sodium benzoate.

    The only remaining question is, could I possibly mix part of this soap bar base with the liquid suddsing base or am I risking ruining the whole batch?! I wondered if I did that if I’d have a stronger concentrate and could then go from there. I’m hoping to have a thick concentrate so that I could store said concentrate using it when needed to make laundry, dish detergent, and also hand and body soaps. I know it’s possible to use Bronner’s Castile soap for all these things, do you see a problem with making a base from the sudsing paste you sell to do the same? I’d buy other bases like Bronner’s and save myself the headache, but I’m so incredibly allegic. Thanks again for everything, I understand if you don’t have the time to reply. You and your company seriously rock and I can’t wait to tell everyone about you when I blog about this soap paste! Have a great day!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Yes, you can use the pH strips. They are not as accurate as the expensive testing machines but they’ll get you in the right range. Geoguard Ultra (which is what you bought) has a narrow pH range it works in and I’m guessing the liquid soap won’t fall within it. Additionally, it’s usually used as part of a total preservative system and not used on its own. Here is more information about it:

      You can mix two different types of bases together – no problems at all!



    I made a mixture of melt and pour shea butter soap and added fresh herbs. with in a week the soap looked moldy. should i have used a preservative?

    Also, can i add other oils like, olive and coconut oil to my melt and pour soap?

    • says

      Hi Antoniette!

      When you look at your soap, is it actually mold, or does is it just the herbs going brown? When you add any herbs or botanicals to melt and pour soaps, they will eventually turn brown because they are plant material.

      Adding any extra oils or butters to your melt and pour soap may change the consistency. But, if you really wanted to, I wouldn’t go anymore than 1 tablespoon per ounce combined of the butters or oils that you want to add.

      I hope this helps!
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  85. Sara says

    Hi there. I know I’m a little late, but I keep coming back to this post. I have a severe coconut allergy and will be formulating my own lotions, creams, soaps, etc so that I can enjoy the benefits without the reaction! Since almost ALL soap contains coconut oil, I’m stuck with olive oil soaps that are 100% pure castile. I also just found you all offer a castile/castor oil soap paste blend w/o coconut oil and have ordered it and raved to all coconut allergen people about how excited I am!

    My questions is this: I plan to melt down the castile bar soap into liquid soap concentrate – almost like Dr. Bronner’s soap concentrate and then make products from said concentrate as needed – hand soap, bath wash, etc. I will be sanitizing and using distilled water. Even after melting down, it appears the soap will still have a pH greater than 9, so I won’t need to use preservative. When I add more water later for the hand soap, if I add Vitamin E, Rosemary, glycerin, and other oils, if my pH stays high will I still not require preservative? Could I make the soap now, then add the oils (haven’t received that shipment yet) to the finished product and shake? Also, is it possible to add a little shea butter as well (a tsp or so) without using an emulsifier, or will it separate? Lastly (I understand if you can’t answer all of these 😉 ), have you ever heard of the Leucidal natural preservatives that use fermentation technology to prohibit mold, bacteria, and fungi growth? I’ve ordered the Leucidal SF and Leucidal Bamboo but have yet to try them. I’d love to have an all natural preservative option and this seems legit! Thanks, I think your Talk It Out and Company are really great…you’ve inspired me to take this project on and I look forward to making products for myself and others – you rock!

    • Anne-Marie says

      The preservative assertion is from Catherine Failor’s book on making liquid soap with potassium hydroxide and she was referring to it with regards to making liquid soap from scratch, not necessarily with what you’re trying (which is bar soap which uses sodium hydroxide). I can’t verify that the pH will be above 9 so I’d be cautious about storing it for very long outside of the fridge.

      I don’t want to be a ‘debbie downer’ but I do want you and your family to be 100% safe so just check with the people/friends/book that you’re getting the recipe/technique from re: the pH. =)

      Now, onto the other questions, if you make the soap and it is water based, oil based products like the Vitamin E might not (probably won’t) mix in without an emulsifier.

      I have heard of Leucidal and have tested it personally here for potentially bringing in to Bramble Berry. It molded on us in multiple tests, some as early as a week, some later, using typical methods commonly employed with home crafters. That doesn’t mean you won’t have success with it but I would STRONGLY recommend if you are going to sell product with it that you do the $600 challenge testing for the recipe/formula that you have settled on. We use Sagescript ( for our challenge testing and have found them reliable and easy to work with.

      You could also buy pre-made castille base already diluted here: or the paste:

  86. Devi says

    Hi, I’m new to this lotion-soap-scrub making and am excited to try out a few recipes.
    It’s kinda hard for me to get hold of the chemical ingredients here from where I come from. How long do you think a lotion/scrub can hold up without preservatives?

    And about other recipes out there that doesn’t use preservatives, how much preservative should we add to them if it’s not listed in the recipe? Thanks! :)

  87. Monamur says

    Dear Anne-Marie,

    what do you think can I use fresh fruit purees in body and face lotions? What is the best preservatives for it and how much quantity is needed?

    If I make such face cream with preservative what is the shelf life of products?

    Thank you for your help,
    Have a nice day, Monamur

  88. Lucy says

    I had a odd preservative thing come up when I made a custom product for a customer, N was purchasing 2 baby gift packs for a Mom who was Organic and Natural in everything she is. I created 2 soaps from glycerin SLS free and used minute amounts of Lavender and Chamomile EO. FINE. I made up 2 hemp lotions using the same process , but then I HAD to use some type of preservative …I chose Gemaben plus which is paraben free …guess ?? go ahead…. The Mom refused to use it because it had a preservative in it. !!! This is the moms choice I know , but what is a lotion maker to do ??? not use anything and put the child and the company at risk ? Is there something else I could have used ??? Thanks again for being my go to place for all things soap/lotion related !

    • says

      Hi Lucy!

      It can be hard when your customers refuse your product due to lack of knowledge. But, the best you can do is inform them that at the current time there isn’t any all-natural preservative available for the small-batch, handcrafted nature of our products.

      And, you can even explain that any product that has water in it does need preservative (except for soap), which includes: lotions, creams, and some sugar & salt scrubs. After that, it is really up to the customer whether or not they want to purchase products without preservatives.

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      P.S. You are totally doing everything right with your lotions! :)

    • Kim says

      Just happened across this in a google search.
      You could always offer a body butter or solid lotion which doesn’t require a preservative. I make preservative free lotions for myself (not for sale and use them within a week) which I love but now that I’m thinking of selling my lotions, it will need a preservative.

  89. Vaun says

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but, i can’t find an answer to the correct preservative for using milk/powdered milk in scrubs, lotions etc. As I’m not fighting specifically water (but will be, as it’s stored in the shower/bath) it’s fighting the nasties that the milk can bring.

    What do you suggest I use, and the self life of this product?

  90. Sherine says


    I am curious to understand more about what you say “Preservatives aren’t generally necessary in liquid soaps, but can be added if desired.”. I thought all liquid soaps that have water in them require preservatives. I just made 2 liters of liquid soap at home for personal usage now for the first time, so I would be really happy not to have to use preservatives, so it would be great if you could tell me just a bit more about why I would not need preservatives for liquid soap.

    Many thanks.

    • Anne-Marie says

      That’s a great question Sherine. The book “Making Natural Liquid Soaps” by Catherine Failor has a fantastic explanation on this issue: “Many people assume that [handmade liquid soap needs a preservative]. This assumption is based on the chemistry of the synthetic soaps that predominate the market. Those soaps typically fall within a pH range of 6 to 7, close to the neutral pH of water. Neutral pHs are microbe-friendly; synthetic soaps are consequently bolstered with plenty of antimicrobial chemicals. True soap doesn’t suffer from this problem because it possesses a pH hostile to microbial growth. Bacteria shun alkaline environments above a pH of 9; neutral potassium soaps fall within a pH range of 9.5 to 10. Unless your soap is overacified with a neutralizer such as citric acid, you needn’t worry about bacteria growing your homemade liquid soap.”

      I hope this helps answer your question! Always, of course, use distilled water AND disinfected equipment.

      • Sherine says

        Thank you very much, Anne-Marie, for the detailed and very fast response. I believe my liquid soap should be fine than wthout preservatives. Again, many thanks.

      • Stephanie says


        I have a question not necessarily related to preservatives, but about the pH of soap. I am a novice soap maker and just made some castile soap using olive oil, coconut oil, and sodium hydroxide. I then turned my solid soap liquid by letting it sit in distilled water for a week. I thought that the soap was supposed to be a neutral pH after it sat for a few days, but my liquid castile soap has a pH of about 9 or so. From what you said above, that is normal? I wanted to use the liquid soap to make dish washing liquid and laundry detergent, but I thought since it is still alkaline that would not be safe, and definitely wouldn’t be safe on the skin. Any thoughts on this?

        • says

          Good morning, Stephanie! Liquid soap does not actually have a neutral pH, only synthetic detergents have a neutral pH. The pH of 9 you are finding in your soap is perfectly fine! :)
          -Becky with Bramble Berry

  91. Melissa says

    I see where a lot of commenters are saying you HAVE to use preservatives in your lotions etc.
    Most lotions etc. that have preservatives are intended for a long shelf life, and for the creator to be able to have it made before it is sold.
    I have chosen to NOT use preservatives in my lotions, and ALWAYS put a best by date 4-5 months out from the date of order as it is made fresh to order. Each environment is different, so the place it is stored, if condensation forms under the lid, if it is in a dark damp place or a warm bathroom etc. the potential for mold is there! Not washing your hands before dipping into the jar introduces other bacteria etc.
    So pressing others with the fear of…. “It happened to this one lady….” is not the be all end all that preservatives HAVE to be used in order for it to be fit to use/sell.

    • says

      Hi Melissa,

      We may have to agree to disagree on this one. I do not believe that a 4-5 month shelf life is a safe factor for a non-preserved, made-with-water lotion. Maybe if it was stored in the fridge? But even then, I’d probably err on the side of 3 months, even stored in the fridge.

      You are right though that every customer use is different – which is why I strongly advocate for preserving for a wide variety of customer environments – not just a best case scenario.

  92. Dawnia says

    Hi –
    I just got to a website from a friend. They are making homemade liquid soap by grating a bar of soap in water, letting it sit overnight and blending. No mention of preservative. Isn’t this at risk for mold and bacteria? It’s on a Mom’s Natural website and I would hate to see entire families get sick from this.
    I want to mention this tactfully, but they need to know.

    • Anne-Marie says

      That’s a great question. It’s entirely possible that the pH of the mixture is too low to grow microbes (as is the case with many liquid soaps) so my guess is that the chances of mold growing are low. That said, always better safe than sorry when it comes to children and their growing immune systems. So, I probably wouldn’t do it but that’s me and I can’t say with certainty, because of the pH thing, that it’s a surefire terrible idea =)

      • LadyDamonayde says

        I’m curious about this too. I’ve seen a lot of ppl online doing this. I made some myself with distilled water (for safety) and a homemade castille soap. It’s been about a month and i”ve noticed there’s small “beads” in it. at first I thought it was just maybe the soap solidifying, but now I wonder if it’s spoiled. Any suggestions?

  93. Nesma says


    Thanks for the precious info!

    I just can’t find everything where I live, I have Sodium benzoate and Methylparaben.

    can I use these in scrubs?

    Do bath fizzy, bath salts, body butters and lip balm need any?


    • Anne-Marie says

      From the significantly smarter blogger, Swifty Crafty Monkey, re: Sodium Benzoate

      The main problem in using sodium benzoate in our products is the pH level – sodium benzoate works best at pH 5 or less (possibly 6 or less), which means its use is limited to products more acidic products like toners or moisturizers with AHA or salicylic acid. You definitely want to own a pH meter if you’re using this as your main preservative! Sodium benzoate is approved for us at up to 0.1% for food products and up to 1.0% for cosmetic and medicinal products.

      Methylparaben is commonly used as a food preservative and is an excellent anti-fungal, anti-bacterial. I think in your case, the Sodium Benzoate would be pretty useless because of the pH issue but the Methylparaben would be a good choice for you if that’s all you have access too. Using a combination of parabens and preservative options is stronger than just a single paraben (which is why Germaben II was created) but in a scrub that has very little water in it or introduced to it, use the Methylparaben at .5% by weight.

      No preservatives needed in bath fizzies, bath salts or lip balms. If the body butters have water in them, then yes, you need to preserve. If they are balms (oils + waxes), no preservative needed.

      • Stephanie says

        So if I make a body butter with NO WATER JUST OILS AND WAX ONLY I DO NOT need a preservative to make and safely sell my product? Also if I make body butter with no water, only oils with NO preservative what would you put for the expiration of the product? Thanks so much everyone in advance!!!

      • Stephanie says

        So if I make a body butter with NO WATER JUST OILS AND WAX ONLY I DO NOT need a preservative to make and safely sell my product? Also if I make body butter with no water, only oils with NO preservative what would you put for the expiration of the product? Thanks so much everyone in advance!!!

  94. AJ says

    Anne Marie – have you looked at the ECOCERT preservatives that are on the market such as Gluconolactone & Sodium Benzoate (GSB), Aspen Bark Extract, Glyceryl Monocaprylate (and) Glyceryl Monoundecylenate.

    I see these ingredients listed in Lotions and Body Balms I see at the natural grocery store. If these preservative can work for them – can’t it work for the small-batch producers like us?

    Like most people, I am on the fence about this issue. I personally do not mind using a product that is not 100% natural – gosh, my hair dye is filled with chemicals. But I would like to give my customers an option.

    Currently, I don’t make any products that use water (except bath bombs) – but I might want to expand the product line.

    Thank you

    • Anne-Marie says

      I have. I’ve even tested two out of the three. =)

      My short answer is that they can and will work when used in very strict usage rates, pH levels, clean kitchen environment, negative air pressure clean rooms, no-air containers etc… For the home crafter, that level of precision and detail is sometimes not available.

      Here is what a much smarter blogger than I says about Geoguard (failed at 9 months with testing) I didn’t like it because of the fussiness of the product.

      Aspen Bark – Have not used nor tested. The blog above has several links to data sheets etc… on it.

      Glyceryl Monocaprylate (and) Glyceryl Monoundecylenate is a fine anti fungal but in my opinion, not an effective product to prevent against mold and bacterial contamination.

      Cindy Jones (from Sagescript, a fantastic resource for challenge testing etc… for lotions) had an excellent point on another site about showing effectiveness in actual product (versus in a petri dish). I’m copying her comment verbatim below:

      “When I am looking at preservatives I always want to see challenge test results that the manufacturer has done. One problem with some of the newer preservatives is that they have just been shown to have antibacterial activity but have not been shown to actually work in a product. Of course each product is different and you need to do your own challenge testing, but I want the manufacturers to first show that it has the potential to work in a product.”

      I agree – educating your customers can be difficult. Just keep in mind that preservatives are used at 1% or less, parabens naturally occur in nature (you actually eat them in several fruit and vegetables) and it is better to use a safe and effective preservative than it is to accidentally allow potentially serious bugs to inhabit your lotion.

  95. Dawnia says

    Great Topic! As much as we don’t want to use preservatives, they are absolutely necessary in some formulations. I was just wondering, is ROE the same as Rosemary Essential Oil?


    • says

      Hi Dawnia!

      The use of preservatives is so important in order for products to not grow anything yucky in it. I know I certainly don’t want mold and bacteria in my lotions.

      ROE is actually Rosemary Oil Extract and isn’t an essential oil like Rosemary Essential Oil is. It isn’t going to have the same smell and you aren’t going to use ROE to scent your products. Does that make sense? =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Definitely. You can use either Optiphen (which is oil soluble) or Optiphen Plus (which is water soluble) in your lotion and cream recipes. They are both formaldehyde and paraben free!

      Courtney with Bramble Berry

      • says

        I’m glad this was answered. I’ve always just used Optiphen in my creams that had both oil and water. I’ve never found any of my products to spoil or go bad. And although I keep to a 6-8 months expire safety rule I have found my recipes keep MUCH longer than that.

        But lately to be even more cautious I have been using a bit of your Germaben as well. Is it okay to use a bit of both in the same recipe???

        Lastly is there one you prefer more than the other; Optiphen or Optiphen Plus?

        • says

          Hi Heather!

          I’m glad to hear that your products are staying for such a long time, it’s always a great feeling knowing that you made them properly! =)

          There isn’t a reason that you would add two different preservatives to your products as one is enough. Just make sure you are within the correct temperature range for the preservative you are using. If you do want to use both, ensure that the total usage rate is less than 1% with both of them added in.

          We don’t really prefer one (Optiphen vs. Optiphen Plus) over the other and find that both works fabulously as the other one. It’s really more of a personal preference for people.
          -Becky with Bramble Berry

  96. Stacey Hoffstot says

    Thank you so much for this TIOT post! I have been wanting to branch out to lotions and the like but had no idea what to use as a preservative. Now I definitely feel more knowledgeable about what to look for! :)

  97. Sisi says

    % are really easy, if you have say 5% of water or oils then the 5% are 5 grams sorry don’t use oz, and if you want to double the recipe then the 5% will be 10% so 10 grams :) I actually read a post that a-m posted here and learnt from her 😉

  98. Bonnie says

    I have a suggestion for a “Talk It Out Tuesday” post. How about a handy dandy guide or something on how to figure out these percentages! “Use 1% of this or 5% of that”. Math is my worst subject! :-)

    • Bess says

      For calculating percents, try following the following three rules:

      1. Convert your total recipe weight to ounces. This makes it easier to figure out the weight of individual components. So, say you want to make a 5 lb soap recipe. 1 lb = 16 oz, so 5 lb = 5 * 16 = 80 oz.

      2. Convert your percentages (%) to real numbers. “Percent” means “per 100″, so to convert a percentage to a real number, you divide the percent by 100. An easier way to think about it is just to move the decimal point to the left two places. 100% is actually 100.0%, so move the decimal point to the left two places, and you get 1.00, or 1. 10% is 0.1, 1% is 0.01, and 0.1% is 0.001. So if your 5 lb soap recipe calls for 5% avocado oil, that would be 0.05 for your avocado oil. Similarly, if it calls for 20% olive oil, that would be 0.2 for your olive oil.

      3. Multiply your total recipe weight by the real number for each of your ingredients. Using the values we calculated above, for a 5 lb soap recipe that calls for 5% avocado oil, you multiply the total weight of the recipe in ounces by the real number for avocado oil, 80 oz * 0.05 = 4 oz avocado oil. Similarly, for the olive oil, you multiply the total weight of the recipe in ounces by the real number for olive oil, 80 oz * 0.2 = 16 oz olive oil.

      It’s easier to do calculations (and weights) in grams, because the metric system is, well, metric, and you don’t need to worry about that funky 16 oz in a pound thing. 1 kg = 1,000 g (move the decimal place to the right three places), so a 0.5 kg recipe would be 500 g. The rest of the math is the same. If you want to convert between grams and ounces, 1 oz = 28.35 g, or, to put it another way, 1 g = 0.035 oz.

      Hope that helps.

  99. says

    I have heard of all of those listed but have never used any of them, I use Germall and it seems to work in all lotions, butters, and creams I make, and have never had a problem with it – don’t know why it was not mentioned here. Any thoughts?

    • says

      Hi Fred!

      Thanks for your patience! Sometimes it can take us a day or two to get to blog questions since we have so many, but we always answer them!

      We didn’t list Germall in this post because it is not one that Bramble Berry carries and we aren’t very well acquainted with it.

      But I am so happy to hear that you have found a preservative that works for you. Let us know if you have any other questions! =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  100. says

    This is a great topic! We were just discussing this in my soap group the other day. Someone was speaking to a woman who was in the hospital for a life threatening infection that the doctors couldn’t pinpoint. By chance the woman mentioned that her lotion that she had made herself had recently changed color and the nurse (who thankfully was on her A game) asked if they could test the lotion. Sure enough, the woman had not used a preservitive in her lotion and it contained the bacterial source of the infection!

    How scary is that? It really solidifies the point that we must all be safe rather than sorry and use preserivtives in out products!

    • says

      That sounds super scary! I’m glad they figured out what was going on. It is so important to make sure you have preservatives in your products. If there is an open wound, anything nasty can get in!
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  101. Fuchia Skay says

    Great post, I’ve always used Optiphen Plus for lotions or water based body butters. It works great with butters but in the past (just started using a new lotion recipe) I’ve had a problem when using it to make lotions in that after the lotion was made it would become watery and some of the water would separate. I read somewhere on a forum but have no idea where that you use Optiphen Plus for lotions you have to use more then a certain percentage (from memory I think it was 8%) of either Ewax or Stearic (can’t remember which one but think it was Ewax).

    Have you made a lotion with this before? Notice you listed a lotion recipe with Germaben. My problem seemed to happen when I used your lotion recipe (you posted awhile back) and used Optiphen Plus as the perservative.

    • Anne-Marie says

      If you add it at less than 100 degrees (F), that should solve the issue you’re having with the emulsion breaking down =) Sorry I missed this comment earlier. =)


  1. […] At this point the lotion is probably cool enough to add the preservative.  If you are making this for home use, and don’t mind keeping it in the fridge, the preservative is totally optional.  However if you are planning on giving some of it away, or keeping it out of the fridge, anything with water in it needs a preservative.   For a good discussion on preservatives take a look at the soap queen’s discussion on this topic. […]