Does My Product Need a Preservative?

Does my product need a preservative?

Does My Product Need a Preservative?


Preservatives play a vital role in products containing water, they help prevent the growth of or destroy mold, fungus, gram-positive or gram-negative bacteria. I cannot stress enough how important  it is for your health to make sure your products are properly preserved as they can be potentially hazardous.

Preservatives are necessary for any water- based products, I’m talking teas, hydrosols, plant extracts, etc. or products that contain water including lotions, conditioners, creams. For these types of emulsions, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the amount of preservative to use and the correct pH to use the preservatives. Additionally, for oil/water emulsions a broad spectrum preservative is necessary.

Products that don’t need a preservative

Anhydrous products or products with no water (water based) do not need a preservative; however, if they have the possibility to come in contact with water (sugar scrubs, butters left in the bathroom) then a preservative will be necessary.

Oils and butters can go rancid so using an antioxidant can help extend the shelf life of these fats.

Natural Preservatives

Optiphen Plus (Caprylhydroxamic Acid (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Glycerin)- natural broad spectrum preservative for oil/water emulsions, use at 1% can preserve between the range of pH 4-7.

Geogard ECT ( Benzyl Alcohol & Salicylic Acid & Glycerin & Sorbic Acid)- natural broad spectrum preservative, water soluble, use at 1% can preserve between range of pH 3 to 8.

Geogard Ultra (Gluconolactone & Sodium Benzoate)-  natural broad spectrum preservative, water soluble use between 1% to 2% , can preserve between range of ph 3 to 7

Geogard 221 (Dehydroacetic acid and Benzyl Alcohol) -broad spectrum preservative works best with pH below 6 use between 0.2-1%

Synthetic Preservatives

Liquid Germall Plus (Propylene Glycol (and) Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate)-broad spectrum preservative used in water/oil emulsion use 0.1 -0.5%, use between pH range 3-8.

Germaben II (Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben)- broad spectrum preservatives used for both oil/water emulsions and aqueous formulations up to a level of 1%.   Use between pH range 3-7.5

What are not preservatives?

Antioxidants are commonly and mistakenly used as preservative for many products. However, antioxidants can only reduce the rate of oxidation in oils that oxidize quickly. So they have the ability to extend the shelf life of fragile oils such as sweet almond, flaxseed and hemp oil.

  • Vitamin E

  • Grapeseed Extract

  • Rosemary Oil Extract

Paraben based Preservatives

Parabens are family of preservatives  commonly used in the cosmetic industry found in hair and skin care products. They are cheap to make and mimic anti-microbial agents in plants and work very effectively. When applied to the skin, they can make it into the bloodstream where they are metabolized and excreted( Soni 2005). So why the bad wrap?

In 2004, a study revealed that parabens were found in the breast tissues of patients with breast cancer. While the authors of that study acknowledged that the presence of paraben did not prove that they cause cancer, they hypothesized that paraben containing deodorants may have played a role. This ignited a huge backlash against parabens in general, with regulatory bodies in some countries banning their use altogether. Additionally, the assumption was that since parabens can mimic estrogen, and estrogen plays a role in the development of breast cancer, there was a clear relationship between the two.  However, subsequent studies showed that the estrogenic potential of parabens is weak and implausible to increase the risk of breast cancer or disrupt the male reproductive tract. “Then another study came out that compared the breast cancer risk of women who used paraben-containing deodorants to those who didn’t.  There was no difference in the chances of developing breast cancer between the two groups. “

Most of the research on parabens is on single- exposure studies, however many types of parabens are found in numerous hair and personal care products more studies are needed to assess the cumulative risk of multiple paraben exposure.

So, all this is to say, more research is needed, if you want to use paraben-based preservatives use them, if you prefer natural based preservatives use them.

What are my personal thought on paraben-based preservatives?

I’ve used them and found them to be highly effective for preserving my “hard to preserve products”. Prior to using them, whenever I used fresh plant extracts or hydrosols they would mold over time ( 1-3 months)  even with the use of a natural broad spectrum preservative. If I can find a natural, broad spectrum preservative that can extend the shelf life to a full year in my “hard to preserve producst” I would definitely switch to a natural preservative.