Off late, we find that preservatives, and the lack thereof, in skincare are the source of a rather heated debate. This is quite understandable. Over the years, there has been a lot of talk about preservatives, whether they are good or bad, and whether they are needed at all. So, to make things simple and easy to understand, we are going to break down everything there is to know about preservatives and why we do what we do at Juicy Chemistry.
As their name suggests, preservatives are compounds that help preserve your product and prevent any spoilage. Now, there are different factors that can affect your product:
- Microbial growth
- Fungal growth
- Exposure to oxygen
Preservatives either kill bacteria or create an environment that is not conducive for any microbial, bacterial, or fungal growth.
Microbes and microbial growth are terms you will hear a lot about. But what do they really mean and why are microbes such a problem? Let us take a closer look.
A microbe is a microorganism. It could be a type of fungi, bacteria, virus, algae, and protozoans. Microbes live in the water, soil, and air. In fact, the human body is home to millions of microbes. While some microbes make us sick, others are important for our health and immune system. Microbes reside on our skin too and are a part of the Stratum Corneum or the Acid Mantle, a waxy layer that protects our epidermis from environmental aggressors.
Preservatives are used to keep the bad microbes at bay. Microbial growth in your products can cause it to go bad, turn rancid, and harm your skin. The enzymes in certain microbes can breakdown the fatty acids, resulting in oxidation.
You will hear a lot of people say that if a product has water in it, it requires a preservative. Firstly, this condition is mostly true. We will talk more about this later. The point is that microbes need water to survive, mostly to stay alive and reproduce. Products that contain a lot of water need something to prevent microbial growth. But here’s the thing - preservatives are not the only way to make sure your products are safe.
pH is an important factor in determining whether microbes can thrive in an environment or not. The optimum pH for microbes growth in cosmetic products is between 5 to 8. Anything below or above this range does not provide microbes with a conducive environment. This is why you will find that, despite some of our liquid products containing water, they are safe. Unless you accidentally contaminate them.
At Juicy Chemistry, our goal is crystal clear -to provide our customers with the best organic personal care and that is what we deliver. We want you to get only what you see - no fillers, no additives, and no preservatives. We believe that products perform their best when they are their freshest, and so we do not add any preservatives. But then won’t the products spoil? Well, you first need to understand how products are made in the first place.
Our carrier oils are extracted by cold pressing. This process requires no heat and thus helps prevent any loss of nutrients in the oil. The concern with cold-pressed oils can be oxidation. Given that carrier oils, depending on the type, contain antioxidants, the oils tend to have a shelf life of 6 to 12 months. We store them in amber glass bottles in order to prevent oxidative damage.
Our facial oils, on the other hand, are water-free formulas, containing only plant and essential oils. Thus, they do not provide a microbe-friendly environment.
Our essential oils are a result of steam distillation. It is a process in which steam is passed through the plant material and vaporises the volatile substances. These vapours flow through a coil and condense back into water and the essential oil.
Essential oils are chemically complex. Their health benefits, or therapeutic actions, are the result of the active constituents in the distilled essential oil like monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenoids, and sesquiterpenoids. Unfortunately, when monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids come in contact with the air, they oxidize.
Our soaps are superfatted and are made using the cold process method. In this, oils and lye (sodium hydroxide) are mixed together. The mixture is then left to cure. The triglycerides in the oils convert to glycerin and the fatty acids saponify. The end result is a superfatted soap with an alkaline pH between 8 to 9.5. This pH is not conducive for bacterial growth and hence the soap remains protected.
It is important to remember that our soaps are made using plant oils and essential oils, that are volatile compounds. Given the nature of these oils, it is possible that the soap changes colour and smell over time. This does not mean that the soap has gone bad. Given that there are no preservatives or stabilisers in the soap, such changes are bound to happen. To make your soap last, be sure to keep it in a well-drained dish and away from sunlight.
If you have ever checked the ingredients list of our liquid shampoos and cleansers, you will find that water is the first ingredient. But wait, is this not wrong? After all, water is conducive for microbial growth. But here’s the thing - this is where pH makes a difference. As is with our gourmet soaps, our liquid shampoos and cleansers also have an alkaline pH that is not conducive for microbial growth! To read more about pH, click here.
That being said, be sure to still be careful with our shampoos and cleansers. You do not want to contaminate them!
Our balms and butters are anhydrous. They are a concoction of plant oils, butters and essential oils. As a result, these products can last without the use of preservatives. However, given that they are in tubs, we urge you to either use a spatula or tiny spoon to scoop out the product to avoid contamination. It is also important to make sure that your hands are completely dry - if you are to directly scoop our product.
With these powder-based products, you are again presented with a water-free environment. This helps the product stay microbe-free despite being preservative-free. However, you require a medium - be it our hydrosols or water - to activate the powder. In this case, we urge you to make use of a spatula and be careful around the product. Do not expose it to a humid environment.
Also, keep in mind that certain ingredients, such as flower products, are sweet by nature and can attract bugs and other insects. Please store it well or keep the powder in refrigerator. This becomes especially true when the face mask or scrub comes in contact with water!
Our mists are a result of steam distillation. They are hydrosols - and are derived from parts such as leaves, stem, and petals. Water is boiled and the resulting steam passes through the plant parts. This steam is then condensed back into water, containing traces of essential oils and the hydrosol. This condensed form is water in its purest form and is sterile. The nature of the manufacturing process and the product’s consequent handling once the condensation has taken place greatly determines its sterility and shelf life. Our suppliers are well-certified and follow strict hygiene guidelines and we too ensure proper hygiene standards when handling our raw materials and products.
We have tested results from approved labs which determine the shelf life of the product before we send them out to our customers. Unless one chooses to offer a longer shelf life it doesn’t need alcohol or preservative. We suggest a shelf life of 6 months once you begin usage.
So now that you have a better understanding of how our products work, here are some helpful tips on how you can take care of your products and keep them microbe-free!
While it is true that our products are preservative-free and have a rational explanation for this, you need to remember that it is best to use up your products within 6 months of opening them. Since our products do not contain any stabilisers, they will not perform their best after a point - even if you keep them from spoiling. To get the best out of your product, use it!
Sunlight can break down the compounds of essential and plant oils. Be sure to store your JC products in a cool dry place away from sunlight!
Water contamination is a risky thing so keep your products tightly closed and far away from water. If you are using a scrub or a mask, use a spatula to scoop out the product, place it in a mixing bowl, and then add your water or hydrosol.
As we have mentioned before, our hydrosols are delicate. While the nozzle spray mechanism is great in preventing contamination, make sure to never touch the nozzle. Spray the mist directly on your face or on a cotton pad.
Exposure to air, rather the oxygen in the air, spoil your product. Air contamination can cause the fatty acids in the oils to break down. It can also turn the product rancid. To avoid this from happening, be sure to make sure the lid or cap of your product is tightly closed.
It is important to understand how products work and what brands mean when they make claims such as ‘preservative-free’. At Juicy Chemistry, we are committed to providing our JC Family with the best of organic products and with educating them about what we mean when we say what we say. For us, terms such as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are not marketing gimmicks. To that end, we want our customers to understand how and why our products work the way they do!