Saturday, October 16, 2010

Preservatives: What can get into our creations!

We use our preservatives to prevent little beasties from growing in our lotions...but what kinds of beasties want to live in our products?

Gram positive bacteria: These are bacteria that turn dark blue or purple when Gram stained in the lab. They lack the outer membrane of the gram negative bacteria. This family includes staphylococcus, enterococcus, listeria, and clostridium. Most of the bacteria that cause problems in humans are gram positive. (Want to know more? Click here!)

Gram negative bacteria: These are bacteria that turn red or pink when Gram stained in the lab. They have the outer membrane the gram positive bacteria lack. This family includes E. coli, salmonella, enterobacteria, pseudomonas, helicobacter pylori, and gonorrhoea.

Fungus: Yes, there just might be a fungus among us! Fungi like penicillium and microsporium can be found in contaminated products, as well as yeast in the form of Candida albicans, which can cause yeast infections and thrush. And mold, which isn't always bad if you like a little blue cheese now and again, can cause respiratory problems and allergic reactions.

When these little beasties get into our products, they can cause all kinds of problems with the product itself - off smells, destabilization of our emulsions, an increase in rancidity - as well as to the health of the end user. Contaminated products can cause skin infections, allergic reactions, and worse.

Take a look at this recall information from a large company (and this is just one of hundreds I could have posted here...)

Arbonne International has issued a voluntary recall on one lot of its Seasource Detox Spa® Foaming Sea Salt Scrub. The recalled products were manufactured by a third party and distributed nationwide through Arbonne Independent Consultants....This voluntary recall was initiated by Arbonne as a result of discovering the presence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria in the recalled lot. No other lots are affected. The organism Pseudomonas aeruginosa may cause dermatitis, soft tissue infections, bacteremia, and a variety of system infections, particularly with users who are immunosuppressed. Because the Foaming Sea Salt Scrub is used to exfoliate the skin’s surface, there is a possibility that inadvertent introduction of the tainted product directly into any skin abrasions could result in infection.

Wow! Preservative free ain't looking so good now, is it?

So how do we avoid contamination? We use good manufacturing practices like heating and holding our products, and we use broad spectrum preservatives that will keep the beasties out and the goodness of our creations longer!

Want to see some mouldy lotion? Click here to see Anne-Marie of the Soap Queen blog's experiences with a contaminated lotion

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at how preservatives work before we get into the specific preservatives themselves!


Marnie said...

That was extremely informative and well stated. Thank you for posting this. I get very leery when I see someone selling their products (specifically water based products such as lotion etc.)and proudly boasting that it's preservative free.

There was one lady who made this claim all over her website. I emailed her and asked what she used to "ensure" the shelf life. You must remember she was selling her products on the web. She replied back and said that a teaspoon of honey was all that was needed to ensure the jar of creme was properly perserved. She also sells lotion and you have to "shake" it before using as part of her instructions. I went back to her site a few weeks ago and she is now using a preservative. Which in my long winded comment here proves your point exactly.


p said...

You've got a little typo - I think you meant "They lack the outer membrane of the gram negative bacteria."

sarah said...

Thanks for some great info as usual, Susan.
One thing I'd like to know is the specifics as to why we preserve anhydrous sugar and salt scrubs - I've had so many discussions with regards this (I say we should, to be safe) and would like it clarified if poss.! I know you've touched on it before but could you do it again please?!!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Marnie! Wow, that lady has two problems - honey as a preservative and shaking a separated lotion - but it's great to hear she's changed her ways and knows the value of a good preservative. I wouldn't think of using a non-preserved product myself, let alone selling one!

When someone says they don't want to use preservatives, I direct them to the anhydrous recipes I've posted! If you're going to use water, you need a preservative!

Hi p. Thanks for the catch! I've corrected it!

Hi Sarah. We preserve sugar and salt scrubs because you never know how the end user will contaminate the product. I give my friends and family a little spatula to use with my manicure scrub to keep their wet and icky hands out of it, but you know they're dipping their fingers in there every once in a while and leaving behind beasties! And I know that I dip my wet hands into my sugar scrub in the shower all the time - I do dry them off, but there's water everywhere and some of it is bound to get into the jar! I know some people think salt or sugar should preserve the product, but I don't trust it. I'd rather use 0.5% to 1% of a nice oil soluble preservative and ensure we won't be seeing mould growing on the top of the container any time soon!

Sarah said...

Thanks, Susan, my thoughts exactly but how do we explain to people that sugar and salt won't necessarily prevent contamination? 'Experts' have stated that the amount of water entering the product is negligible and will be contained within the salt and sugar content, and won't be a problem, but how do we know for sure? I always use a small amount of preservative, as I don't want to take any risks.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sarah! I've expanded upon your question in this post - why are we using preservatives in our scrubs? It's a great question and I thought it needed a longer answer!

Danny A said...

I am loving this information . Best blog I have found ever .

Thank's and

Science will prevail ! : )

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Vic! Remember a few years ago when you visited my blog and started advertising without permission, like you're doing now? You promised me a sample of your product, which never arrived.

Here is fair warning. I charge $1000 per comment to advertise on my site. Do this again, and I will invoice your company and I will be paid. Oh, and I get to write whatever I want as a response to your comment, which, I warn you, will likely be sarcastic.

A quick note: Please stop using the word "chemical" wrongly. You're embarrassing yourself.

Thalia Waldvogel said...

Hi Susan, I'm new to your blog and to making your own lotions. I have to say I really love your blog. My question had nothing to do with cosmetics. I also make my own cleaners using distilled water, vinegar, castile soap, baking soda and borax. I wonder if I should also include preservative when I make those. I don't want to spray beasties on my countertops when I'm supposed to be cleaning them. Would cosmetic preservative work in my cleaning mixes?Thanks, Thalia

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Thalia! I've answered your question in today's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer is yes, I would use a preservative. Something like liquid Germall Plus at 0.5% would work nicely.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Vic! You're wrong about the MSDSand you're wrong about the data sheet! So, you're just wrong!

And you owe me $1000 for advertising your product on my blog! You can send the money via PayPal to in the next 7 days. Please don't try to say you didn't see my declaration above and embarrass yourself. I look forward to doing more business with you! At this rate, you'll be paying for the rest of my university education!

Doreen B said...

Do you recommend any other preservstive besides germall plus?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Doreen! Honestly, no. I have had nothing but great results with liquid Germall plus. I've tried Leucidal and it doesn't stand up to a lot of testing. However, I've written about other preservatives you might like. My favourite isn't necessarily your favourite! Check out a few other choices in the preservatives section of the blog!

Catherine said...

Hi Susan,

I am allergic to cosgard. I am looking for a broad Spectrum blend of préservatives for my lotions.I have Geogard Ultra at home and I am not allergic to it, do you know with whatelse preservative I could mix it ? Also, I can get Germal Plus, Optiphen plus, sodium benzoat and potassium sorbate. Witch blend would you recommend to me to have a broad Spectrum preservative?

Thank you very much Susan!!!!!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Catherine! Check out the preservatives section of the blog to see posts on individual preservatives as well as a comparsion chart. I think those would be helpful in figuring out which is a broad spectrum preservative, which isn't, and how to mix and match them to create one. As an aside, liquid Germall Plus is a broad spectrum preservative that is my personal favourite.

Unknown said...

I do not know why I keep getting emails when I have unsubscribed from your list several times. I do not want to keep reading about your promotion of non-natural preservatives. Get me off your list.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

You aren't on any lists. Either you've commented on this thread and asked to be informed of new posts by e-mail or you signed up for the blog updates by e-mail. Either way, it's in your control to stop the e-mail. I can't as I don't have a list to which I can refer. You can easily unsubscribe either way.