3 Natural Preservatives for Cosmetics

We are asked all the time about natural preservatives for cosmetics. So today we are sharing three broad spectrum preservatives, either derived from natural sources or nature identical, that are readily available, easy to use and carry organic certification.

When and why do you need to use preservatives?

Cosmetic products need preservation to prevent microbial growth, spoiling of the cosmetic product and potential skin infections. 

Preservatives play a very important function in products containing water; they kill microorganisms and water borne bacteria and prevent the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast.

If a product contains water (including hydrosols, floral water and aloe vera which all contain water) or will come into contact with water (e.g. a scrub used with wet fingers) a preservative is essential to help prevent microbes growing. Preservatives are not generally necessary in anhydrous products which are not prone to microbial contamination (unless of course they may come into contact with water).

You will need to use a broad spectrum preservative which means it is effective against bacteria, mould and yeast.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the amount of preservative to use; too much or too little could be potentially hazardous.

The only way to know that your preservative working sufficiently is to have a microbiological challenge test carried out by a lab. This is recommended (and in some countries compulsory) if you are selling your products.

Vitamin E, rosemary extract and grapefruit seed extract are not preservatives.

Here are 3 broad spectrum natural preservatives for cosmetics:

The below list are all approved for use in certified organic products. They are either derived from natural sources or are nature identical.

REMEMBER: It is your responsibility to check the efficacy of your preservative system. We strongly recommend having a microbiological challenge test carried out by a lab as this is the best way to be sure that your preservative system is effective.

1) Preservative Eco

Other trade names include Mikrokill ECT, Geogard ECT and Plantaserv M.

INCI: Benzyl Alcohol (and) Salicylic Acid (and) Glycerin (and) Sorbic Acid

(Meets Ecocert and COSMOS Standards)

This is a broad spectrum preservative which contains four different components: Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Glycerin and Sorbic Acid. These molecules are all found in nature in plants such as pine resin, rowan berries and willow bark. It is a non-paraben, non-formaldehyde, non-isothiazolone based preservative system. A liquid that is added to the cooling phase of a cream. It also has a low odour profile therefore ideal for fragrance-free systems. Suitable for use in oil-in-water, water-in-oil and water based formulas so compatible with a wide range of skin, hair and sun care formulations.

Available from Aromantic (UK). Also sold as Geogard™ ECT available from Voyageur Soap and Candle Company (USA) and Plantaserv M available from New Directions (Australia).

It’s usually used at 1% in water based products.

Not permitted in products for children under the age of 3 yrs.

It has a wide pH compatibility of pH 3-8.

2) Geogard 221 / Cosgard

INCI: Benzyl Alcohol (and) Dehydroacetic Acid

(Meets Ecocert and COSMOS standards, NaTrue Certified and Soil Association approved)

An Ecocert approved, multi-use, broad spectrum preservative system that is a synergistic blend of an organic acid and alcohol that can be added at room and elevated temperatures. Dehyroacetic Acid & Benzyl Alcohol are both organic compounds which are accepted for use in natural cosmetics, offering a broad spectrum of stability at a wide range of pH. The organic preservative compound is a non-paraben, non-formaldehyde, non isothiazolone based preservative system.

Available from Naturally Thinking (UK) and Making Cosmetics (USA) and Go Native (NZ).

It is water soluble with an effective pH from pH 2-7.

Typical recommended use level is 0.2-1%.

3) Naticide / Plantaserv Q

INCI: Fragrance or Parfum

A broad-spectrum preservative effective against Gram+, Gram -, yeasts and moulds. Naticide is a vegetable derived fragrance that has a sweet vanilla/almond like scent and this remains in the end formulation. This preservative is popular with natural companies in Australia and New Zealand.

It is effective at a pH of 4-9.

Typical recommended use level is up to 0.3- 1% depending on the type of formulation. Up to 0.6% is soluble in water. Further details can be obtained from the supplier Sinerga.

If this has been useful, you can grab a Natural Preservatives and Emulsifiers Fact Sheet as a free download below…

Get your FREE Natural Preservatives and Emulsifiers Fact Sheet

Skin care formulation: how to make your own fabulous skin care products from scratch

Are you ready to take the step from following recipes to creating your own recipes? If so then you’re ready to learn about skin care formulation and become a product formulator!

It can be daunting at first to design your own products from scratch, and you can waste a lot of time and money too on failed products,  so here are our top tips for becoming a confident formulator.

7 Steps to Become a Confident Product Formulator:

1) Use a Product development process

Before you start to make anything or think about ingredients you’ll need to follow a product development process.

At its simplest this is a list of questions that help you get clear about:

  • WHO you are creating the product for
  • The PROBLEM or NEED they have that you are solving
  • The BENEFITS you want your product to have
  • The AESTHETICS of the product (look and feel)

Knowing all this will allow you to choose the best ingredients to create a product that customers will love.

You’ll make something that addresses their problems and delivers the result they want. And that means they’ll be coming back for more!

2) Don’t be scared of %

A formula is written in % rather than grams, or ounces or cups or anything else. This allows for accuracy and consistency and also means you can easily create large batches (or small) depending on how many products you want to make.

Once you get used to seeing formulas in % and working in that way, it really is quite simple.

3) Know your ingredient % ranges

When you have chosen the type of product you wish to make (balm, lotion, body wash etc) you will then need to know the % range at which you can use each category of ingredient.

For example to create a balm with wax you’ll likely want to use somewhere between 5-20% wax.

For a lotion you’ll likely use 3-6% emulsifying wax.

For a body wash your surfactant blend will be around 25-30% of you formula.

You’ll need to understand how each ingredient affects your finished product so you’ll know how much to use.

You’ll also need to know how much is safe to use.

Suppliers and manufacturers can give guidance on % ranges, as can a cosmetic scientist. Helping you understand % ranges is a key part of our Diploma courses.

4) Use a template formula or starting formula

It is hugely helpful to have a template formula or starting formula to follow. Whether you are new to formulating or more experienced a template provides a framework within to work. A good template will list different ingredient types and the % range at which to use them leaving you free to customise it based on the information you gathered in your product development process.

Certain products need certain ingredients at certain % ranges to make them work. This the science of formulating.

Rather than trying to figure this part out yourself, use a template or starting formula. Even seasoned formulators use starting formulas. There is no need to reinvent the wheel each time. Use what works.

Students love the template formulas we provide, as it allows them focus on being creative and innovative rather than worrying if their product will take the form they want and function in the way they want.

5) Try out your formulas

Bring your product to life by making it! The best way to test out your formula to see if it creates the effect you want is to make it!

Not sure exactly what % of an ingredient to use? Make one product with X% and one with Y% and see what the difference is.

Choosing between two ingredients? Make one of each formula keeping everything else the same but making one with ingredient A and one with ingredient B.

Essentially change one thing at a time and you’ll see how this affects your finished product.

6) Tap into the knowledge of others

You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Heard of an interesting sounding oil or butter and wondering what its like? Ask others who have used it before. 

Having an issue with one of your products not turning out quite right? Chances are someone else has experienced the same thing and can share some solutions with you.

Being part of a community of likeminded people who are working on the same products as you is invaluable. That’s why our Diploma courses include an invitation to our exclusive student communities.

7) Ask an expert

At some point you’re likely to get stuck or want some expert advice about something.

That’s why we have a Cosmetic Scientist on hand to support students taking our Diploma courses. 

Cosmetic Scientists tend to be busy formulating for big companies, or charging large sums to provide finished formulations. Not many work in an educational role or are available to assist home formulators.

That’s why we have one on hand to help when you get stuck, and provide advice to help you succeed.

Ready to become a confident formulator?

When you join one of our courses you:

  • Receive template formulas, example formulas and lots of guidance on ingredients and % ranges
  • Get our exclusive Product Development Process, helping you design products your customers love
  • Have the support of a professional Cosmetic Scientist to help when you get stuck and ensure you succeed
  • Become part of a lively and supportive global student community

If you like the sound of formulating your own products then you’ll want to join our best-selling online class… 

Enrolling now: Diploma in Natural and Organic Skincare Formulation

Join us for the Spring 2017 enrollment to benefit from:

  • A brand new, super affordable 3 part payment plan (available for a limited time only)
  • Studying alongside a group of students from all around the world
  • Activities and challenges that help you put theory into practice, learn from others and stay motivated
  • Our current prices (which are rising soon)

Enrollment deadline 17th March. Limited to 100 students. (Over half the places have been taken already)

Find out more and enroll here


Vitamins for Skincare

Vitamins are important ingredients for your skin and are used in all types of cosmetic products. Vitamins are a great addition to your natural or organic products, and this article will explore the role and benefits of the most popular vitamins for skincare.

Benefits to the skin are many including suppression of pigmentation, stimulation of collagen synthesis, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. 

Benefits of Vitamins for the skin

Here is a summary of some of the main benefits of vitamins for skincare.

Please note: although some vitamins have properties that may protect against damage from the sun, we don’t advocate creating your own sunscreen and we always recommend wearing a high factor SPF.

Vitamin A:

  • Normalizes keratinization which helps reduce roughness & wrinkles;
  • Regulates sebum production;
  • Reverses and treats photodamage;

Vitamin B3:

Read more

Orange blossom, Grapefruit and Geranium Face Lotion with Coenzyme Q-10 and Provitamin B5

A light natural & organic face lotion recipe

This face lotion, is a light easily absorbed lotion that contains ingredients to help keep the skin hydrated, toned and moisturised. It also contains some excellent high performance anti-ageing ingredients plus ingredients that protect against and repair damage from the sun.

Ingredients | Properties & Benefits


Raspberry seed oil – Absorbs UV-B and UV-C so useful as a broad spectrum sunscreen*
Anti-aging benefits due to content of ellegic acid (an anti oxidant). Studies show that elegiac acid “reduced the destruction of collagen and inflammatory response, both major causes of wrinkles.”  Very high levels of phytosterols that can help reduce trans epidermal water loss thereby helping to keep skin moisturised & repair skin damaged by environmental factors including sun damage.
*Please note, its reported sunscreen-like characteristics need to be further studied and concluded before relying upon. 

Jojoba Oil – Balancing, softening, soothing, light and well absorbed, leaves a silky feeling on the skin.

Glycerin – Humectant; draws water into skin from atmosphere to increase hydration of skin.

Hydrolyzed Silk Protein  – Humectant, emollient & occlusive; draws water into skin from atmosphere to increase hydration and softness of skin; smooth & soften look of wrinkles/fine lines; provides silky-soft feel.

Neroli (orange blossom) hydrosol – Healing & regenerating; toning; provides light aromatic scent.

Read more

Wild Rose Anti-aging Facial Serum Recipe

Here is a simple formulation for an anhydrous face serum, specifically formulated with ingredients to improve the appearance of aging skin by hydrating, enhancing elasticity, tightening and toning, boosting skin cell regeneration and providing a rich source of antioxidants.

Carrier Oils:  Camellia oil, rosehip oil, olive squalane, meadowfoam oil, 

Essential Oils:  Frankincense, palmarosa

Supercritical C02 Extract: Seabuckthorn

Facial Serum Ingredients

Camellia oil offers emollient, occlusive and astringent and cytophylactic qualities, while offering a light, hydrated feel on the skin. 

Rosehip oil (wild rose) contains trentinoin (vitamin A), to reduce wrinkles, boost elasticity and firm, while fading discolorations. 

Olive squalane feels very light and absorbs rapidly, yet penetrates deeply to hydrate, improve elasticity, boost cell regeneration, while offering humectant qualities by drawing water from the surrounding environment into skin. 

Meadowfoam oil is a great emollient and occlusive, which reduces wrinkles and hydrates without a heavy feel on the skin. 

Frankincense essential oil is astringent and cytophylactic; it tightens and tones, while stimulating cell regeneration and smoothing wrinkles and fine lines. (Best avoided during 1st trimester of pregnancy)

Palmarosa essential oil hydrates and promotes healing, while softening, smoothing and encouraging cell regeneration. (No known contraindications.)

Sea buckthorn regenerates, repairs and retains moisture, while reducing trans-epidermal water loss.  It enhances skin elasticity and is a very rich source of a variety of antioxidants like carotenoids, tocopherols and flavonoids.

Facial Serum Recipe / Formula

46% Camellia oil

20% Rosehip seed oil

15% Meadowfoam seed oil

15% Squalane (olive)

1% Vitamin E

1% Seabuckthorn C02

1% Frankincense essential oil

1% Palmarosa essential oil



How to make the facial serum

Use only clean equipment and tools, and always following good manufacturing practices (GMP) when making any natural product. 

Measure the plant oils listed above by weight (grams), into a clean glass or stainless steel bowl, according to the following measurements provided in the chart below (for a 100g batch). 

Once all of the oils have been measured and added, gently mix the oils together until well blended.

Decant the Facial Serum into dropper bottles, and clearly label.

Shelf-life & Storage

The Facial Serum will last for 6-12 months, as vitamin E has been included in the formula as an antioxidant to slow the rate of rancidity.  This is an anhydrous product which does not contain a preservative, so be careful not to contaminate the product with water or microbes from hand contact.  If contamination of the product is suspected, dispose of immediately.