There's nothing quite like opening your beautiful jar of natural body lotion, made from non-toxic goodness, and have it crawling with green, fuzzy mold...yuck! Now that product that you thought was so good for you, is not so good anymore. In fact, who knows what is growing in there and how that organism can harm you.
So what are you to do? That's a question I've struggled with a lot the last few months. I have to admit that I was on a toxin-free, preservative-free, ingredients-you-can-eat high horse and utterly disappointed when I realized that my lotions weren't holding up like I would want them to. I ventured out and began researching safe options for preservatives. I knew they had to be free from formaldehyde-releasing substances, as well as not contain parabens, and as natural as possible.
There are a slew of natural-ish preservatives out there, from grapefruit seed extract, to Tea Tree Essential Oil, to Vitamin E oil, but there are drawbacks as well. For example, many are not effective in water containing formulations. Others would need to be present in such high percentage, that it would either make the price not feasible, or the scent way too strong.
Ultimately, we were faced with the decision of either pulling every product that contains water from our product offering, or find a different solution. In my research, I discovered a product called Optiphen Plus. It contains Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, and Sorbic Acid. It offers broad spectrum protection in emollient-based products, such as creams and lotions. I researched these ingredients further on the EWG's Skin Deep database- Phenoxyethanol is rated a 4, Caprylyl Glycol received a 1 and Sorbic Acid a 3. COnsidering that the sunscreen we've used in the past scored a 10 (that's really, really bad), a 4, 1, and 3 didn't seem horrible to me. So we decided we would give it a shot and see how it would work. Most of our products are still 100% preservative-free, except for four water-containing formulations. After all, our customers' safety is very, very important to us.
I've experimented with several concentrations and have figured out that anywhere from 0.5-1% (of water content) doesn't mess with the scent or consistency too much and it appears to hold up. Currently, there are 4 Finny Farm products that contain Optiphen Plus- Nourishing Hand Lotion, Body Lotion, Nourishing Night Cream, and Lifting Day Cream. The contents is less than one half percent of all ingredients- in a 2 oz hand lotion this equates to about 1/4 gram of preservative.
However, know that I will be happy to hand craft special orders with absolutely no preservatives, just like we started. You need to be aware however, that I cannot make any guarantees as to how long the product will keep for you.
Please feel free to post comments, ideas, and messages!
PS- here are some good reads regarding preservatives in natural skin care: