There are many ways to define what a “natural preservative” is, so I’ll give you my definition.
Natural preservatives are those that can be used in products with a “natural” or “organic” certification because they use ECOcert certified ingredients. (There are other similar certifications, but for the sake of keeping things simple, I chose one and stuck with it.)
These preservatives have been developed to replace parabens and preservatives with formaldehyde or other ingredients that many people, looking for safer alternatives, want to avoid in their cosmetics.
In an effort to use more natural ingredients, though, some people look to natural ingredients that aren’t protecting us adequately.
When talking about preservatives, we need to use broad-spectrum preservatives, those that will inhibit the growth of a variety of unwanted bacteria and molds.
Common Natural Preservatives.
Grapefruit Seed Extract – a natural broad spectrum preservative used to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other nasties. It is not, in itself, a full spectrum preservative and must be used in conjunction with other broad spectrum preservatives to be effective. Note that it can be sensitizing to some individuals. When added to a soap formula, it will speed up trace considerably.
Rosemary Extract – an anti-oxidant that slows down oxidation of natural materials. Oil based recipes containing oils that have short shelf lives can benefit from this product. Be aware that rosemary extract smells like rosemary and may add scent to your final product. Luckily, a little goes a long way.
Vitamin E Oil – another anti-oxidant. Usually a mix of tocopherols blended in an oil. Try to purchase one with at lease 50% mixed tocopherols for better protection. For use in anhydrous products.
Germaben II – is effective at preserving water and non-water based products. Consists of Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.
Germall Plus – a broad spectrum anti-microbial preservative. For use in anhydrous and water based products. Consists of Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
Optiphen Plus – a world wide approved paraben and urea free broad spectrum preservative that is effective against bacteria, yeast and moulds. Optiphen Plus also imparts emolliency to finished products making it a great addition to lotions and cream rinses. Consists of Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbic Acid.