A Beginners Guide to Preservatives in DIY Skincare Products

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I always get so many questions about preservatives, so I thought that today, we'd learn a little bit more about them...

When you start making your own products, you very likely start practicing with simple recipes that definitely don't require any preservatives. Perhaps even the word preservatives makes you cringe and feel a bit uncomfortable.

That's because we grew up being told that preservatives are bad, for example many food products are sold as "without preservatives", which of course, in terms of food is a good thing, because what we are eating is fresh and not processed, and does not need to be preserved.

But how about skincare? Do your products need a preservative? If so, when?

Let's find out together, and make sure to download the free PDF with a list of all the most common preservatives you can use in your handmade skincare.

When do I need to use a preservative?

Here is the basic rule of thumb: if your product contains water (or any water-based ingredient, such as glycerin or aloe vera juice) or will come into contact with water, then you need a preservative! That's because germs and bacteria thrive in water. So, when it comes to skincare, using a preservative isn't a bad thing, as preservatives are actually protecting us from the nasty germs, mould and bacteria that could grow in the product.

Examples of using preservatives in natural handmade products

Let me show you some examples:

  • A solid lotion made up of butter and oils doesn't need a preservative because it's made with just oils and butters, and will not get in touch with water.
  • A handmade cream that contains water definitely needs a preservative. If you don't add a preservative in a cream made with water and water based ingredients, it will grow visible mould and hidden bacteria after just a few days.
  • A water-free shampoo bar that will get constantly wet needs a preservative

When to use a preservative in DIY skincare | Bottega Zero Waste

Exceptions to the rule

  • Products with a very high pH (alkaline), such as cold process soap
  • Or a really low pH (acidic) such as vinegar

Can anti-oxidants be used as preservatives?

It is important not to confuse preservatives with anti-oxidants. In the anti-oxidant category, we find ingredients such as Vitamin E and Rosemary Seed extract.

Anti-oxidants do not have any anti-bacterial properties, they are used in cosmetic products with the function of slowing down the oxidation of the oils, that is to prevent the oils from spoiling and going rancid.

I really hope you've found this blog post helpful, make sure to download the free PDF linked down below as a starter guide on the most common preservatives you can use in skincare. 

FREE DOWNLOAD: Preservatives Guide

Preservatives Guide for Homemade Natural Products | Bottega Zero Waste

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