Friday, September 16, 2016

Weekday Wonderings: Are companies hiding preservatives in other ingredients?

Thanks for joining me again today as we continue to look at Dedra's question about a product she wants to buy.

I also read on another site some time back that many companies "hide" the fact that their products have preservatives in aloe gel. The article said that aloe gel cannot be produced without using a preservative, therefore any product that has aloe gel likely already has enough preservative and you may not need to add additional preservatives due to this. Could it be that they are getting their aloe gel from a supplier who already is using a preservative, therefore they do not have to use any additional preservatives? Or, because there is no water in their product, perhaps they don't need a preservative??? But I thought if a product has aloe, you HAD to have a preservative??? 

The short answer to this question is this - if you have a product in which you are using water or water soluble ingredients, you must use a broad spectrum preservative. If you have a product that will come in contact with water, like a sugar scrub, you need a preservative.

This product contains's part of the other ingredients, like the aloe vera gel and witch hazel extract. In fact, these ingredients need more preserving because botanical ingredients can go bad faster and create more contamination than something we'd think of as synthetic, like propylene glycol.

So how do companies get away with not declaring preservatives? 

There are a few differents ways I have seen:
  • Put it in another ingredient. (See below...) 
  • Use something you can call "parfum", like this preservative, Naticide
  • Add a bunch of alcohol to it. I have seen it said that 20% to 25% alcohol could preserve a lotion. We see this quite a bit with the organic or natural products, like Dr Bronner. 
  • Leave it out and risk problems in the future. (This happens far more often than we think!) 
If we go back to the ingredient list, we see something interesting...

Aloe barbadensis (aloe) gel*, Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) extract*, Zinc oxide, Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil*†, Sage extract (neutral cane alcohol*, Salvia officianalis*), Glyceryl stearate, Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), Cetearyl alcohol, Citric acid, Sodium stearoyl lactylate, Glycine max (soy lecithin)*, essential oil of: Aniba rosaeodora (rosewood).

There's one ingredient that confuses me in this list. It's the aloe gel. If we are talking about the liquid that comes from the aloe leaf, that isn't referred to as aloe vera gel in cosmetic products. The proper INCI for aloe vera gel is Aloe Barbensis Leaf Extract or Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, not Aloe barbadensis (aloe) gel. When I look for the INCI of aloe vera gel, I get those two INCI names over and over again. 


Having said this, I have a feeling that this might be aloe vera gel - the juice turned into a gel by adding a carbomer. 

When I look for the INCI for aloe vera gel, I get this (from Voyageur Soap & Candle)
INCI: Aloe Barbensis Leaf Extract (and) Aqua (and) Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Cross-Polymer (and) Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate

Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Alcohol, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Benzyl Alcohol, Magnesium Nitrate, Magnesium Chloride, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.

These aloe vera gels are aloe vera thickened with a carbomer or gelling agent - for instance, Ultrez 20 from Voyageur and just plan carbomer from Oshun - with a preservative in it.

If this is what the company is using, then there's a preservative in the mix there. Is it enough to preserve the entire product? No, it isn't.

So to answer the question - could the company be hiding the preservative in aloe vera gel? This is most definitely possible! I can't say for sure as I don't know their recipes or practices, but it is definitely possible. It could also be a part of the witch hazel extract.

Having said that, there definitely needs to be a preservative in this product as it contains water. 

Could this product be "naturally preserved"? Sure, there are preservatives that are ECOcert or greener than others, but I don't see those in the list of ingredients. They could be in the aloe vera gel or the witch hazel as well.

Having said that, here's no definition for the word "natural", so I can say anything is natural. I could use liquid Germall Plus, which I don't consider natural in any way, in a product and call it natural. When I've seen a label declare that dimethicone is natural because it's "derived from sand", I've seen it all.

Why blueberries for a picture? I was looking for something natural and I came upon this picture. I like blueberries - they're my favourite fruit! - and thought it would look nice. 

As an aside...I am wondering if the witch hazel extract contains a bunch of alcohol, because that's a way to preserve an oil-in-water lotion. I've seen it said that you need 20% to 25% alcohol to preserve. I wouldn't try it, but others would.

After writing all of this, I have a few questions myself...
  • Why is there baking soda in a lotion? I'm guessing it's for the idea that this is an underarm lotion and it might help with odour? It's feels like a strange inclusion.
  • Also, what's up with all that zinc oxide? That's a lot. If we figure they are using 6% to 8% Ritamulse SCG in this product - that's the emulsifier here - and coconut oil is the only oil in here, then they have to be using at least 6% zinc oxide here. I make a lotion with 20% and it makes it very thick and white. I don't expect it to be that extreme, but it would definitely leave some white behind. 
  • Is the product very thick and white? With this emulsifier, a solid oil, and zinc oxide, that's the only conclusion I could reach. I would think it would have a slightly gritty feeling from the zinc oxide and baking soda. 
I hope I've answered your questions, Dedra! Thanks for the inspiration!


Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Susan - Funny you say you added the blueberries on a whim. They have a natural content of ethylparaben - I'm guessing your subconscious made you choose the most appropriate fruit.

Great post - as usual. :)

Dawn Campbell said...

Great information! I'm pretty much a neophyte when it comes to cosmetic manufacturing, though I've been noodling around the edges for years. I've always figured there were ways in which manufacturers could hide ingredients that would make 'naturalists' shy away from their products, now I know some of the ways. It would never have occurred to me to look twice at something labeled 'aloe vera gel' or 'witch hazel', or to wonder why other natural ingredients such as baking soda and zinc oxide are included. This gives me a lot of food for thought. Thank you!


So what about a product such as this? Its a face wash and it contains no preservatives.

Ingredients for face wash:
Witch Hazel (filtered fluoride-free water, witch hazel bark*, vodka**), Filtered Fluoride-Free Water, Castile Soap*, Aloe Vera*, Castor Oil*, Carrot Seed Oil*, & Vitamin E***. Essential Oils: Lavender*, Patchouli*, Frankincense*, & Geranium*.

I'm pretty sure the owner of this company is against using preservatives so I don't think she's necessarily hiding them within something so how does this not go bad? Is it the alcohol contained in the witch hazel?

Sabrina K. said...

Great article, thank you!

p said...

I bet they're using alcohol to preserve this lotion. The second ingredient is witch hazel extract, which can be alcohol-free but is often 14% alcohol. And the fifth ingredient is sage extract, made with neutral cane alcohol which I'm guessing is 95% alcohol (and note they don't mention that the cane alcohol is diluted with water). Between those two ingredients, I bet they've managed to get the abv up high enough to preserve.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Ha, Lise! Now get out of my head! :-)

I think you're right, p!

Hi Nicole! I think they're doing what p suggesred - using the alcohol in the witch hazel to preserve the product. They aren't using a solubilizer here to integrate the oils because they're using the castille soap for that reason. Those are my thoughts, anyway...