Preservatives for homemade cosmetics

When making home cosmetics preservatives are usually no problem. If you make a lot of anhydrous cosmetics, preservatives are hardly needed. However, lotions are convenient to use. When you learn how to make them quickly, you just don’t want to use industrial creams anymore.


Lotions are perishable products. This is one of the main reasons why people don’t want to make them. Preservatives are feared because they are one of the most allergenic ingredients in cosmetics. However, when preparing home cosmetics, there is no need to use methyl isothiazolinones (MI or MIT) or formaldehyde release agents. These substances are sensitizing contact allergens when used continuously and they really should be avoided. Methylisothiazolinones and formaldehyde release agents can cause symptoms even at very low concentration.

There is surprising amount of safe preservatives used in home cosmetics. Find out how to protect your product from getting spoiled by using different methods.

The preservation of the cream depends on many things

All raw materials must be absolutely fresh. The oil must have a life span of at least one year, preferably one and a half years.

Sterilize the herbs and other dry ingredients in the oven at about 100 ° C (212 F) for 20 minutes up to half an hour. This is how most bacteria and mould germs are destroyed.

Sterilize also the glass bottles and jars in the oven at 100 degrees for 30 minutes. Caps and plastic jars can be wiped with strong alcohol. 60% proof vodka is strong enough to destroy all microorganisms in cans.

The acidity of the product also prolongs the preservation time

Always dose the cream with suitable tool. Avoid touching the product with fingers as even clean fingers do always contain bacteria.

Keep creams and other products away from light and in a cool place

I always store creams and oils in the refrigerator. Even though you make every effort to keep the cream usable as long as possible, it is sometimes necessary to get to know certain ingredients improving the shelf life of the product and the actual preservatives.

Certain ingredients are not classified as actual preservatives.  They have been found to inhibit bacterial activity in a natural way. In foodstuff preservation, such substances are, for example, sugar, salt and vinegar. They act as flavouring agents in products but also improve shelf life.

Vitamin E is the most common and natural preservative


Products rich in cold pressed oils contain vitamin E naturally. The only preserving agent in anhydrous ointments made by melting hard fats and waxes and then mixed with cold-pressed oils is natural vitamin E.

Vitamin E is destroyed when heated, so always add a few drops to the product after cooling. Especially if you heat the product for 30 minutes at 80 degrees C (176 F) or above, the amount of vitamin E will be significantly reduced.

In home cosmetics we can use herbal extracts to improve shelf life.

Antioxidants inhibit oxidation

All antioxidants are welcome in lotions. Not only do they protect your skin from signs of aging, they also protect the product itself from oxidation. There are countless good antioxidants in creams. Here are  few good ones

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A (retinol)
  • Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
  • Vitamin B5 (Panthenol)

Many cold pressed natural oils are high in antioxidants

Rosemary extract is a very good preservative

Rosemary extract is not the same thing as rosemary essential oil. You can find rosemary extract at online stores.

Rosemary extract acts as a preservative agent in creams. Rosemary extract effectively prevents fats from oxidation. So, it acts as an antioxidant.

Use rosemary extract 20-40 drops / 100 ml (3,38 us fl oz) of finished ointment. It is best to add the drops only after the cream has cooled down at least to  40 degrees C (104 F).

Grapefruit extract or grapefruit seed oil is a powerful antimicrobial product

Grapefruit seed extract is also used internally in inflammation of the mouth and throat as a natural ‘antibiotic’ product. Similarly, grapefruit seed extract works in cosmetics. It prevents the growth of bacteria and moulds naturally. Of course, anyone can also be allergic to grapefruit seed extract. Therefore, it is advisable to test it on the skin before use. Possible allergies usually occur within 48 hours.

Grapefruit seed extract is sold in both liquid and dried powder form in capsules

The liquid extract is sold in a glass bottle with a pipette dispenser. The substance is quite pasty in nature. It is very difficult to dispense with a pipette. A great deal of the valuable paste is lost because it cannot be taken out of the glass bottle.


Grapefruit seed extract is added about 20 drops / 60ml (2.029 us fl oz) to finished ointment. Do not add and mix the extract with the cream until its temperature is below 40 ° C.

Grapefruit seed extract capsules are easier to use

I always use them myself. I don’t know if the liquid version is more effective but the powder is so much easier to use.

You can add 2 capsules of grapefruit seed extract to 60 ml of finished ointment. Open the capsules and pour the powder into the finished cream when the temperature is below 40 degrees. Mix the powder well with the cream. Grapefruit seed extract lumps are not nice in the finished cream.

Essential oils and hydrolats also improve the shelf life. However, the essential oils cannot be added to the ointment enough to function as a preservative alone. However, essential oils do improve the shelf life generally.

There are a few actual preservatives you can use in home-made cosmetics

Geogard 221 Cosgard is an eco-certified preservative


Geogard is certified by COSMOS and ECOCERT. If you want to make genuine natural cosmetics, Geogard 221 is the right choice. Geogard can be used in all cosmetics.

Geogard 221 contains a chemical called dehydroacetic acid, which has been found safe in cosmetics. The substance is an inhibitor of microorganisms. It is commonly used in cosmetics as a preservative.

Geogard also contains benzyl alcohol

Benzyl alcohol is not actually a preservative. It acts as a supportive agent to preservative. Benzyl alcohol has a pleasant, mild aroma. Benzyl alcohol is naturally present in jasmine and clove oils. It has been found to be slightly irritating to the skin. Therefore, benzyl alcohol must always be included in safety data sheets.

The dosage of Geogard 221 preservative is 0.2-1%. Here again, I would remind you of getting the most accurate scale or other measuring equipment. In fact, I have used a pipette for dosing. Each pipette is different. Therefore, I cannot directly report the number of drops per millilitre. Here is a handy way to measure really small volume measurements

Do like this

  • Get a measurement cup of 10 ml
  • Using a pipette, drop the cup full
  • Count each drop you drop and divide the number you got by ten
  • Now you know how many drops is 1 ml – using the same pipette

PCG preservative

PCG is a mixture of phenoxyethanol and caprylic glycol. It is recognizable by its sticky, bright appearance and the scent of the rose. Phenoxyethanol is not a natural cosmetic. It is a chemical that has been found to cause skin irritation and nervous system symptoms in children. Therefore, phenoxyethanol should not be used in products intended for children. In the case of products intended for adults, the content may not exceed 1%.

Another component of PCG is caprylic glycol

Caprylic glycol is prepared from caprylic acid obtained from coconut oil. Caprylic glycol can also be manufactured synthetically. Chemically caprylic glycol is alcohol. It is a moisturizing and caring ingredient for the skin. Caprylic glycol can be used in natural cosmetics if its origin is natural.


If you will decide to use PCG preservative in your product, you need to obtain a very accurate scale or measuring equipment. The product is dosed at 0.5-1.5ml / 100ml. 0.5 ml is such a small amount that it is very challenging to measure. Overdosing is very easy to do.

What if you only want to make 60ml of cream. How do you manage to measure the preservative correctly?

This is the most challenging problem in home cosmetics. If you decide to use synthetic chemicals that have side effects, how can you make sure that the dosing is accurate.

Consider carefully what chemicals you would like to use in your products


You will sometimes come across other preservatives in home cosmetics too. However, here were some of the most common ones that can be obtained fairly easily.

Be very careful with preservatives

However, you should always be very careful with preservatives. Carefully study the various ingredients of the product and its effect on humans and the environment. If you have any doubts about the product in question, you should not buy it. However, there are enough safe products available and good storage and care at the manufacturing process will guarantee a sufficiently long shelf life for your product.

I myself try to make non-preservative products mainly.

Do you have any experience using preservatives in cosmetics? Do you prefer an anhydrous product or you want to make a safe preservative cream?

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