Monday, October 18, 2010

Preservatives: Organic acids & sodium benzoate

One of the classes of preservatives we use in our products is the organic acids, their salts and esters. This group includes benzoic acid, carbamates (like iodopropyl butylcarbamate), and variations on salicylic acid and sorbic acid.

The organic acids have moderate bacterial activity and great fungicidal activity. The acids have low water solubility, which is why we generally see them used as a salt or ester. They are best used in products with a pH of 2 to 6, and they can be incompatible with cationic and some non-ionic surfactants.

Sodium benzoate, a salt of benzoic acid, was the first chemical preservative allowed by the FDA for food products. It converts to benzoic acid, which is a good anti-microbial and fungicidal preservative, when it's in an acidic mixture. (Benzoic acid isn't very water soluble, so we use the sodium benzoate in water so it will dissolve and become benzoic acid.)

Sodium benzoate is bacteriostatic, which means it limits the growth of bacteria by messing with its metabolism, but doesn't kill it. It is also a recognized fungicidal ingredient.

The main problem in using sodium benzoate in our products is the pH level - sodium benzoate works best at pH 5 or less (possibly 6 or less), which means its use is limited to products more acidic products like toners or moisturizers with AHA or salicylic acid. You definitely want to own a pH meter if you're using this as your main preservative! Sodium benzoate is approved for us at up to 0.1% for food products and up to 1.0% for cosmetic and medicinal products. You don't want to use this with Vitamin C as studies have shown that together they can form benzene, which is carcinogenic. Geogard Ultra contains sodium benzoate as its preservative.

Sorbic acid is one of the organic acids, and it can be found paired with a calcium, magnesium, or sodium salt to help increase its solubility (see potassium sorbate below). It's about three times more soluble in oil than in water. It's a good fungal, mould, and yeast inhibitor at pH 6.0 or less, and it's an okay bactericide. Its optimal range is at pH 2 to 6, and it's considered ineffective at pH 7. It can be slightly inactivated by non-ionic surfactants like polysorbate 20 and 80 (more about this in the near future). It's generally found in food stuffs at 0.01% to 0.1%. The maximum allowable for cosmetic use in the US is 0.89%. We find this in Optiphen Plus.

If you neutralize potassium hydroxide with sorbic acid, you get  potassium sorbate. It's more water soluble than sorbic acid, but you have to use about 25% more to get the same effect. It's effective against yeasts, fungi, and molds, but isn't great for bacteria, although it has some effect. Interestingly enough, the lower the pH, the less we need to use of this preservative (it's best at pH 6 or lower). It's water soluble, so you'd use it in the water phases of our products, and it's not suitable for anhydrous products. The maximum allowable for cosmetic use in the US is 0.39%.

All of these organic acids work best when the pH of a product is 6 or less, and some are completely useless at above 7. Since most of the products we make are acidic (a shampoo should be at 6.5 or less, for instance), they can be appropriate for cosmetic usage. Having said this, most of these are only okay bactericidal preservatives and will, ideally, be used in combination with a preservative that excels with bacteria.

Join me tomorrow for more information on parabens!


p said...

Great posts!! I'm loving this preservatives series so far...

It's scary that sodium benzoate + vitamin C in a product can result in benzene - yikes! I'm guessing that there's vitamin C in green tea extract and other extracts? From what I understand, vitamin C is pretty widespread in plants... Does that mean we shouldn't use Geogard Ultra with extracts?

It is safe to use citric acid with preservatives containing sodium benzoate, is that right?

Linda D said...

Great post have you come across Biosecur preservative produced by a Canadian company?
INCI citrus extract

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Linda. I can't find this in a google search - can you post or send me a link?

solquartocrescente said...

Potassium sorbate at around 0.3$% is only partially effective on its own, it is a good anti-mold but its much better combined with other preservatives.

Sodium benzoate at around 1% might be a good preservative on its own, and requires acid pH, otherwise it does not work. It protects from molds and bacteria but not against everything. It might give a shelf-life of up to 6 months, but not with total preservation (even combine with potassium sorbate); after a few weeks, minor yeast or bacteria might appear. At 0.5% spoilage is much more probable and worse. Maybe under very clean conditions, a cream could be 100% protected with these two preservatives.

However, they induce allergy on my face even as low as 0.2%!

Anonymous said...

I want to preserve hard boiled eggs in citric acis and sodium benzoate. How do I know which quantities to use?
thank you for a great blog!