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Natural Preservatives Vs Letting Nature Do its Thing.

July 27, 2021

Three months ago I prepared a large batch of this natural cream. I split the cream into several portions and to each portion added one of nine different natural, nature identical or naturally derived preservatives/ preserative blends. The tenth sample is the one on the right which I left with an incomplete preservative strategy while sample zero, the unpreserved base is shown as the one on the left. After adding the preservatives I re-adjusted the formula pH to a suitable level so I could compare the samples against each other fairly.

All of the other samples in this trial worked well and preserved the cream adequately based on the measures I undertook. A full report of that is being uploaded to the New Directions Website to act as a teaching aid. However, it was these samples which intrigued me most. The way they nourished different microbes because of that one change – that being potassium sorbate 0.5% on the right and nothing on the left in a formula base set at pH 5.5.

It’s not a great idea to grow your own microbiological weapons under your desk so I didn’t keep these for longer than I had to. I kind of regret not sending them off for analysis but am also not sure I want to know what grossness was existing in these cream samples. What I am happy about is that these two failures made my good guys look oh so much better and made me feel proud that the other options I’d chosen had (as far as I could tell) been able to defend its self against this horror show.

I often get people tell me how they don’t need to preserve their product as they keep it in the fridge or only make as much as they need and then make another fresh batch. This makes me cringe on the inside…

I ponder how I must have by now earned the right to call myself the champion growner of mouldy cosmetics due to the fact I do so much experimenting (not because I’m crap of course although some days, I actually can be) and maybe that’s a good thing. I’ve got plenty of lived experience of just how fast your beautiful creams can turn into a shit show of epic proportions when you don’t know what you are doing. That said, I’ve also got plenty of evidence to show that following a few simple steps and being somewhat sensible is all you need to ensure this doesn’t happen to you – there’s really no need for a full body suit and end-of-lease cleaning squad each time you get the cosmetic chemicals out just don’t lick anything or pick your nose while on the job.

Questions around product preservation still top my in box each week with many people taking extreme positions aroud what they will and won’t use and can and can’t try. While I respect that paper research on one level, I know that it’s only when the theory hits the practice that we start to see what your ideas are made of. I just wish people would experiment more. It is for that reason that I put together this little experiment, to encourage people to experiment more and to take my starter-for-ten and run with it. So what if you end up with a few failures, the below samples are not nothing, they are beautiful lessons in their own right. They show us the microbes that were hiding in the formula all along, of what Potassium Sorbate had to kill before it met its match in black hairy land. This is the stuff epic lab tales are made of.

And with that I’ll go back to my work as I’ve got more samples to process and more reports to write up. Oh and if a microbiologist does see this post and comment ‘oh wow, your hands must have been covered in poop when you made those’ I really don’t want to know. Thank you and goodbye 🙂

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