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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What is the Best Preservative?

I repeatedly get asked “what is the best preservative to use in my natural product?” so I thought I’d address it here. Basically, there is no ‘best’ preservative and preservatives will behave differently in different formulations. So, unfortunately, there is no way to predict whether or not your preservative will work. It really is a matter of trial and error.

Preserving a product means to inhibit growth of microorganisms. These microorganisms are broken up into two categories; bacteria and fungus (including yeasts). For identification purposes, bacteria are categorized as either gram positive or gram negative. This is dependent on their ability to take up a certain dye which is determined by characteristics of their cell wall. Some preservatives work better at inhibiting one or the other. The term broad spectrum means that the preservative is effective at inhibiting a wide range of microbes in both categories.

Some of the new preservatives, although considered more natural, need to be used at much higher concentrations than some of the ‘tried and true’ preservatives. This may increase the possibility of irritant reactions due to the higher amounts. So please try to use the lowest amount possible that will work in your product.

That said, I’ll go over some of the preservatives that I use for natural products.

Trade Name

Geogard Ultra (sold by Lotioncrafter as Neodefend)

Sodium Benzoate and Gluconolactone
Broad spectrum
Approved by ECOCERT. Requires a slightly acidic pH (below pH 6)
Sodium Benzoate
Sodium Benzoate
Up to 1%, lower amounts work fine
Primarily anti-fungal with less anti-bacterial
Requires acidic pH, around 4 - 5
Biguanide 20
Polyaminopropyl Biguanide
Cationic broad spectrum but sometimes weak on fungus
I like it for clear products like distillates, toners. Do not use with xanthan gum or liquid soap.
Leucidal Liquid
Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate
Broad Spectrum
Approved by ECOCERT. For me this has not worked well in many formulas. I’ve had some luck using it with rather clear toners though.
Potassium Sorbate
Potassium Sorbate
Primarily Anti-fungal
Most active at pH 4-5
Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol
Use between pH 4-8. Broad Spectrum
Has worked well in most products for me
Optiphen ND
Phenoxyethanol (and) Benzoic Acid (and) Dehydroacetic Acid
Works best below pH 6, broad spectrum
Works well in most products
Optiphen Plus
Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid
Works best below pH 6, broad spectrum
Works well in most products
Most active against gram negative bacteria
More soluble in oil than water which is why it is often sold in a combination.
Plantaservaitve Wsr (Honeysuckle)
Lonicera Caprifolium Extract, Lonicera Japonica Extract
Broad Spectrum, Must be neutralized with citric acid first.
Has worked well in some situations.
Phytocide OS
Sambucus Nigra Fruit Extract
Broad spectrum
This is oil soluble and I’ve found it to work in limited products.
Linatural NLPO
Citrus Aurantium (orange oil), Cymbopogon Citratus (lemon grass oil), Sesamum Indicum (sesame oil)
Broad spectrum
Has worked in some products. Has a quite citrusy aroma.

There are other so called natural preservatives besides these including aspen bark, willow bark, and various fermentation filtrates as well as preservatives based on essential oils.
Some products are just harder to preserve than others, particularly those that contain a lot of herbs and nutrients. Bacteria and fungus love herbs and nutrients as much as we do.

I never recommend silver or Tinosan products. I fear that it builds up in the environment and will cause problems with time. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong but I am just not comfortable using a heavy metal.

There are many other so called natural preservatives that you can learn about initially by browsing supplier’s websites. If you want to try several, you’ll just have to buy a few, use them in your product and see what happens.

Before paying for expensive challenge testing, try challenging them yourself initially. To do this, make your product, split into several jars and use a different preservative in each jar (measuring each carefully). Stick your dirty fingers into the jar daily over several days and let it set for several weeks to see if visible fungus develops. But remember, just because visible fungus doesn’t grow does not mean your product is not contaminated. The word microbe is short for microorganism. These are things that cannot be seen with the naked eye, sometimes they are even too small to see with a standard microscope. But that does not mean they are not dangerous.

Remember that preservatives are necessary to make a safe product. You don’t want your customers rubbing bacteria and fungus on themselves.

Learn more about Sagescript microbiology testing here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Blogging Challenge

I may be getting in over my head but I just signed up for blogging coaching and strategy through my professional network “Indie Business Network”. I have been blogging here since 2007 and two years ago I started a second blog dedicated to my brand of skincare products, Colorado Aromatics. Keeping two blogs is a challenge and differentiating between the two is also challenging. Being part of the ‘Blog Your Brand’ group has several requirements including that 

1.   I post weekly to my blogs (yes, every 7 days!!)
2.  Make comments on other blogs (should be fun)

Donna Marie of Indie Business Network has a lot of good reasons we should blog,  including that it will develop entrepreneurial discipline. I’ve already learned that marketing and selling takes more of my time than to actually make products. I hired help to make products several years ago because I had run out of time to do both.  Believe it or not, she also says it will make my life easier – I can’t wait to see how that will work. Sometimes life can be hard for an entrepreneur who wears so many hats. 

Donna Marie says that blogging will help organize my thoughts which is something I desperately need. Thoughts are constantly whizzing through my brain at sonic booms speeds.

Blogging helps improve mood and decrease stress. Who doesn’t need that?

Most importantly she says that a blog increases visits to your site and increases search engine optimization; something that we all hope will translate into increased sales. 

Perhaps the most important aspect of blogging is that unlike Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media platforms, we own our blogs and the content on those blogs. So whatever paths Facebook or the others decide to take (along with our followers), we will still have our blogs.

Have you ever participated in a blogging challenge? Tell me about it below.

You can read more about why Donna Marie Johnson of Indie Business Network things blogging is so important here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Does Skin Do?

We see our skin everyday and we always read about it being the largest organ of the body, but what exactly does it do? It must do something if it is an organ. What is the role of skin? Here are seven important physiological roles for skin.

1. Regulation of Body Temperature (Thermoregulation). The skin helps the body maintain its desired temperature of 98.6F or 37C. It does this by dilating (opening or enlarging) blood vessels on the surface to release heat, or by constricting blood vessels to retain heat. A second way is by secreting sweat which evaporates on the skin's surface so that in evaporating it has a cooling effect. Finally, the hypodermis layer of the skin provides insulation to maintain heat. The hypodermis is the deepest layer of skin under the dermis and is composed mostly of fat .

2. Protection. The skin is physical barrier that prevents not only bacteria, viruses, and fungi from entering the body but also keeps most things from the environment or that you put on your skin from entering the body. Yes, you may have heard differently but the skin absorbs very little of what goes on it. This is often called the Skin Barrier Function and it provides a barrier between the inside of the body and the outside of the body. If the skin surface becomes compromised, however, due to abrasion, pathogens and toxin can enter the body more easily.

Besides preventing things from getting into the body, the skin also prevents water from leaving the body thus preventing dehydration. In situations like severe burns to the body, preventing excessive dehydration becomes a major, life threatening challenge.

3. Sensation. The skin is a sensory organ that we use to evaluate the outside environment. Receptors in the skin transmit information on temperature, pain and pressure.  In some cases this can be very enjoyable, even sexual.

4. Excretion. Through the process of sweating the skin can secrete products of metabolism from the body as well as drugs and toxins. The skin also contains enzymes that process toxins helping to break them down.

5. Immunity. Cells of the immune system called Langerhans cells can be found in the skin ready to be called into action when necessary to prevent infection. The skin also participates in the inflammatory response to protect the rest of the body from potential pathogens.

6. Blood Reservoir. Approximately 8-10% of the total blood volume of the body resides in the skin. When necessary this blood can be sent to the skeletal muscles to increase oxygen and nutrients there when needed it is directed to the more central parts of the body to maintain warmth.

7. Endocrine gland.  The skin acts as an endocrine gland by making hormone vitamin D or more specifically vitamin D3 from 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC), a process that requires sunlight or UVB radiation. This vitamin D3 is then sent to the liver for additional processing. Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium from the intestines as well as other less defined roles.

Want to learn more about skin physiology? You can purchase our downloadable class notes here.


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