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.
Have an idea for a future Talk It Out Tuesday? Leave a comment!