A Boutique GMP Factory That Makes Handmade Natural Products. Formulated By Pharmacist


Are preservatives safe for skin?

I got asked this question lately and so i decided that i probably should write something about it. As you know; in the handmade cosmetic world; the word ‘preservative’ is a no-no. I dont know how it came about but somehow; the ingredient that is used in such minute amount (less than 0.5%) is making such a big ‘huha’. It all started with paraben. There were few cases that it was ‘hear-say’ to have caused cancer; and so now everyone just doesnt want to use preservatives.

Well; you do know that paraben is not the only ‘preservative’ right? Its one of the 100’s of preservatives available. There are still so many more that you could use! Just got to find the right one that is broad spectrum. 

What does broad spectrum means?

Broad spectrum means it can cover / protect your products againts a wide variety of microbes including gram negative and positive bacteria, moulds and fungus. In SoapLab Malaysia; we love to use germal plus as our broad spectrum preservative in most of our water based product.

Whats the myth around preservatives?

Heres some of the myths that i could find around the internet:


It causes cancer- err; not much data about that. If you check back the study that started all these; it was sometime in early 2000 where a researcher tested his hypothesis that paraben causes cancer. He tested on 20 person with cancer; where 18 of them didnt have any ‘paraben’ in their tumor; only 2, and he concluded that 10% of paraben user has cancer; like are you serious! There are millions of ppl getting cancer; but instead he just tested on 20 tumors and concluded everyone gets it from paraben! not much studies can be found after that but researchers keep in ‘quoting’ this same research. Many also tested the hypothesis but couldnt come up with the same conclusion; but by then the damage was alresdy done. And of course after that; people use the same study (non scientist); big companies who wants to make more money; just used that research again and again to say: paraben/ presevative causes cancer: and so go natural. And general population; just believes it; all based on one study of 20 people.

Fine if you dont want to use paraben its ok; but there are many more preservative thats available so dont dismiss it. The cancer causing study was only on paraben. The reason im so strongly againts people not using presrvatives in their products is because ive seen worst case scenario when inwas working in the hospital. Most handmade cosmetics are used on babies or people with troubled dry skin. Their skin is damaged and cant really ‘protect’ them; causing bacterias amd microbes to get into their blood stream. Now imagine putting on a disgusting ‘infected’ cosmetics on their skin! Instead of helping; you are making things worst for them! 

Skin conditions becomes worst:

Heres another myth; that using preservatives will cause skin condition to worsen. Yes it does; if use in amount more than allowed. Example germal plus is to be used between 0.2%-0.5%, anything more than that can cause skin rashes. But i know of few handmade cosmetics owners; who puts way more (either intentionally or unintentionally) and they get skin reactions after that. Upon question and recalculating their formula; turns out because they put way more than there are supposed to. So guys; for this; make sure you calculate the percentage properly. Just like what i mentioned in the blog post yesterday; always use weight and not ‘drops’ to measure!

So heres the myths that surrounds preservatives and steps on how to prevent them. Now the next question people usually ask is; is there no natural preservatives? Yes there are few; but unfortunately they are not strong enough or not broad spectrum; which means it doesnt really help in proloning a shelf life of product. There was one that i used before; very expensive; but could only prolong shelf life by 3 months ( yes i did a lab test; you cant see the microbes in naked eyes) so it was kind of not ‘useful’ in preserving.

Are Vitamin E & Grape seed oil preservatives?

No they are not. They are antioxidants. It prevents the oil from getting rancid (smelly). Since its oil based it doesnt protect any part of the water based product. And in water is where all the microbes are; not in the oil. 

How do i read more about preservatives?

 Click here for our older write up about it.

Thank you for reading;

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