Preservatives are important in organic skincare, to ensure the product remains safe (and pleasant!) to use up until its use-by date. Growth of bacteria, mould or fungus is not attractive - or safe - so it's important to prevent that. But it's equally important not to add harmful chemicals to organic skincare products. So what choices do organic skincare manufacturers have?
Potassium sorbate is approved by Australian Certified Organic (ACO) for use in organic skincare products. It is mainly used as a food preservative, but it can also be used in organic skincare products. Potassium sorbate inhibits moulds, fungus and only some bacteria, so it is best to be combined with another preservative. It is mild, non-toxic and non-sensitising.
This organic skincare preservative is a broad-spectrum anti-microbial vegetable-based fragrance which also acts as a preservative. It smells like vanilla and almond and can inhibit bacteria, mould and yeasts. It is approved for use in organic skincare by ACO. It may be listed on labels as 'fragrance'. Confusing, isn't it? There are times when 'fragrance' on a label is OK and times when it represents something synthetic and nasty!
Suprapein, created by Bio-Botanica, is a natural preservative made from oregano and thyme oils, as well as cinnamon, lavender, lemon peel, goldenseal and rosemary extract.
Grapefruit Seed Oil or Extract
There is some controversy around the use of grapefruit seed extract as a preservative in organic skincare. This is because some manufacturers use a chemical process to extract the substance. However, pure grapefruit seed oil or extract added to your own home-made organic skincare products will help to preserve them for at least a month.
Ascorbic Acid & Tocopherol
Natural antioxidant vitamins like ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and tocopherol (vitamin E) may be used as food-grade preservatives and also offer some preserving properties to organic skincare products.
To keep your organic skin care products free from contamination, here are some top tips:
- Do not leave product containers uncapped.
- Do not share cosmetics.
- Do not use your fingers instead of applicators.
- Use most organic products (unless otherwise indicated) have a shelf life of six months. Use them up!
Label Reading for Life!
Label-reading is very important. As a general rule-of-thumb a good organic skincare product will have natural botanical extracts listed highest on the list of ingredients, whilst preservatives will be listed right at the end, as they represent the smallest quantities. If you're reading a label that seems to be the other way around, alarm bells should be going off!