Natural skin care preservative

Unknown Member, PCF student
We offer a variety of skin care product which use phenoxyethanol as the preservative. We use slightly less than 1%.  Our retail clients are requesting a more natural preservative. We require that it be both anti-microbial and anti0fungal. We have not found a natural preservative which does both well.

I was traveling when the natural preservatives seminar was held.  Is this available for replay?

What natural options would you recommend for our face products? Would the same ingredients work for our body lotions?

Ted W.
Sea Kind


  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    I think I would get on the same page as your retail clients in regards to what "natural" means to them. As it has been pointed out ad nauseum, "Natural" means nothing and is very much a marketing term such as "new and improved" or "now with more chocolaty goodness."

    Since few retail clients truly know what the natural standards mean you will need to educate them and follow a natural standard. For example under many Natural standards (NSF, WF Premium) Phenoxyethanol is allowed.

    It is naive to think you can buy one preservative for all your products. In most cases the preservative is formula specific. They aren't simple "plug and play" substitutions. Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I agree with @microformulation. Many companies consider phenoxyethanol "natural"
  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    edited September 2015
    There is no one natural preservative that will work to control bacteria by itself reliably, let alone also control yeast and mold. 

    You have to realize that by requiring "natural" you inevitably give up a large amount of efficacy and reliability, as well as safety.

    The best that you will be able to do will be to use a "hurdle" system, where 3, 4 or more preservatives work together to preserve your product. The combination of preservatives you will need, their ratios and amounts, etc., will very likely need to be different for each formula you make.

    Please also realize that by switching to a new preservative system, you are making a new product in the eyes of the regulators, rendering every bit of your current stability testing, your safety testing, your package compatibility testing, and your PET/Challenge testing completely invalid. All of those tests will need to be redone after you determine that you have an adequately preserved product.

    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist

    Curious ... Are you currently using Phenoxyethanol or a Phenoxyethanol blend (say, Phenoxyethanol & Ethylhexylglycerin) across the board in all of your products?  Phenoxyethanol is under attack, similar to what happened to Parabens, and this is what your clients are reacting to.

    I would suspect that when your clients are requesting a "more natural" they may be referring to an ECOCert, NPA or other certifying body, of which there are several options.

    Your best approach is, as Bob Z mentioned, to develop a hurdle technology approach to preservation which includes the use of chelants, glycols, pH and preservatives.

    You might consider using a Benzyl Alcohol based preservative such as Benzyl Alcohol (and) Dehydroacetic Acid or Benzyl Alcohol (and) Caprylyl Glycol ... Benzyl Alcohol has a very similar chemical structure to Phenoxyethanol, but is ECOCert certified and is derived from natural, renewable sources.  The final pH of you product will also have an impact on what preservatives you can use ... above pH 6 the options become quite limited.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details
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