Natural Preservatives In Homemade Skin and Hair Products

Generally speaking, homemade skincare products do not last for a long time. Especially if they are water-based.

However, there are several natural ingredients with preservative properties that you can add to homemade skincare and hair care products to extend their shelf life.

Examples of Natural Preservatives

  • Vitamin E Oil: Vitamin E oil is a strong antioxidant that helps prevent oxidation and rancidity in oils and fats. Add Vitamin E oil to your oil-based products like serums, balms, and moisturizers to extend their shelf life.
  • Rosemary Extract: Rosemary extract is a natural antioxidant and antimicrobial agent that helps prevent bacterial growth and oxidation in skincare products. You can easily add this extract to both oil-based and water based products.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE): Grapefruit seed extract also stops the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeast in skincare products. Use this natural preservative in creams, lotions, and cleansers.
  • Citric Acid: Citric acid is a weak organic acid derived from citrus fruits. It has antimicrobial properties that help prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. Use citric acid for water-based skincare products like toners and creams.

Image of a small bowl with citric acid with lemons on background

  • Essential Oils: Certain essential oils have natural antimicrobial properties that can help preserve skincare products. Examples include tea tree oil, lavender oil, and rosemary oil.
  • Neem Oil: Neem oil has antibacterial, antifungal, and insecticidal properties and can help extend the shelf life of skincare products. However, I don’t use this oil in beauty products. To be honest, I just cannot stomach the smell. It is just so bad in my opinion. So if you can sample this oil in the store to see if you can use this oil as a preservative.
  • Honey: Honey is a natural humectant and antimicrobial agent that can help preserve skincare products and provide additional hydration to the skin. I add honey to all my beauty products.

As you can see there are few ingredients that we can use to prolong shelf life of our homemade products.

However, keep in mind – adding these ingredients to your products will not extend shelf life tremendously.

How Long Natural Preservatives Extend Shelf Life By?

It all depends on what kind of base your product has.

Water-Based and Emulsified Products

Examples: toners, cleansers, serums, moisturizers, masks etc.

If it is a water-based or emulsified product, natural preservatives will not significantly increase product’s self life. You will either have to combine few natural ingredients or add commercial preservatives.

I personally just make a very small amount of such products, keep them in the fridge and use them up within 3 days.

Oil-Based Products

Examples: creams, body butters, make up removers, salve etc.

Natural preservatives help to prevent the oxidation of oils and fats in your skincare products, and can extend their shelf life by protecting them from becoming rancid. Combining few ingredients (for example, vit E and rosemary extract) can protect against microbial contamination (bacteria, yeast, and mold).

Adding Natural Preservatives to Homemade Skincare Products

When making homemade skincare products, adding natural preservatives at the right stage is essential to ensure they last longer and stay safe to use. Here’s a simple guide to help you add preservatives to your DIY skincare creations.

For Creams and Lotions (Emulsions)

  1. Heat and Mix:
    • Heat your oil ingredients (like oils and butters) in one bowl.
    • Heat your water ingredients (like water and hydrosols) in another bowl.
  2. Combine Phases:
    • When both bowls reach the same temperature (around 70°C or 158°F), mix them together well to create your cream or lotion.
  3. Cool Down:
    • Let the mixture cool to below 40°C (104°F). This is important because high heat can make natural preservatives less effective.
  4. Add Preservatives:
    • Add your chosen natural preservatives (such as vitamin E oil, rosemary extract, or grapefruit seed extract) and mix well.
  5. Add Fragrances and Essential Oils:
    • After adding the preservatives, you can mix in any essential oils or fragrances.
  6. Packaging:
    • Pour your mixture into clean, sterilized containers right away to keep it safe from contamination.

For Oil-Based Products (Serums, Balms)

  1. Combine Ingredients:
    • Heat and mix your oils, butters, and waxes until they are melted and blended.
  2. Cool Down:
    • Let the mixture cool down a bit but keep it in a liquid state.
  3. Add Preservatives:
    • Add natural preservatives like vitamin E oil or rosemary extract and mix well.
  4. Add Essential Oils:
    • Stir in any essential oils after adding the preservative.
  5. Packaging:
    • Pour the mixture into sterilized containers before it solidifies.

For Water-Based Products (Toners, Hydrosols)

  1. Combine Ingredients:
    • Mix all your water-based ingredients together.
  2. Add Preservatives:
    • Add your natural preservatives, such as grapefruit seed extract or citric acid, directly to the mix and stir well.
  3. Mix Thoroughly:
    • Ensure the preservative is evenly mixed into your product.
  4. Packaging:
    • Pour your mixture into clean, sterilized containers immediately.

Safety Tips

  • Sterilize Equipment:
    • Always sterilize your mixing bowls, spoons, and containers before you start to keep germs away. The easiest way to sterilize you equipment is to boil it for 2 minutes.
  • Storage
    • Products should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture to prevent degradation of preservatives and minimize the risk of microbial contamination.
  • Test Small Batches:
    • Always make a small batch first to ensure the preservative works well with your recipe.

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