SMART HOMECOSMETICS: Or how to avoid preservatives in our home preparations.

SMART HOMECOSMETICS: Or how to avoid preservatives in our home preparations.


Current literature on “Slow Cosmetics” and new cosmetic and hygiene trends aim to preserve the proper functioning of our skin’s natural barrier by avoiding the use of harsh soaps and cosmetics.

In our homemade cosmetic preparations, the ingredient that can be the most aggressive and that we need to watch out for the most are preservatives.




I find it rather sad to observe that when the best cosmetic laboratories of today (Welleda, Colgate Palmolive (Sanex line) strive to improve the composition of their soaps and cosmetic products to make them less aggressive and respectful of the natural bacterial flora of our skin, bloggers and authors of homemade natural cosmetics continue to design recipes for creams and other homemade cosmetic products to which they happily add a gram of synthetic preservatives such as Cosgard, Geogard, Rokonsal…

And some of you will tell me that you make these recipes and that you don’t notice anything aggressive. My question is: do you notice that your skin feels more stiff after a few days of use, have you developed skin redness, is your skin more sensitive to the sun and the appearance of sunspots? All these phenomena are side effects caused by the use of aggressive preservatives or excessive amounts of preservatives in your creams and products for daily use, as synthetic preservatives deteriorate the natural protective layer of our skin and alter its functioning. It is for this reason that today’s soaps strive to use less aggressive detergents with the addition of probiotic ingredients and natural skin barrier protectors. And today’s good creams, which are tolerated by all skin types, such as Welleda’s, do not even contain synthetic preservatives, just a few derivatives of natural essential oils.



Weleda is a Swiss-German company founded in 1921. With 90 years of experience, the company is dedicated to the production of anthroposophically oriented master preparations and natural cosmetics. Compare, for example, the composition of Welleda’s Skin Food cream with some of the conventional creams you will find on the market.


INCI: Water (Aqua), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Lanolin, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Alcohol, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate (emulsifier of vegetable origin), Glycerin, Limonene* , Viola Tricolor Extract, Hydrolyzed Beeswax,  Sorbitan Olivate (lipids derived from olive oil), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract , Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract , Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Arginine, Zinc Sulfate, Fragrance (Parfum*) Linalool* Geraniol * Citral* Coumarin* *From natural essential oils.



We wanted to include here some lines about the philosophy of this brand because we consider that this same philosophy is totally applicable to the natural homemade cosmetics that we emphasize from this our blog.

“Parabens, esters of hydroxybenzoic acid, are one of the most common preservatives in conventional cosmetics due to their low price. They appear on INCI labelling under names such as ethylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben.

Although they are of natural origin, they are produced synthetically and are mainly used to delay the expiry of natural elements. In recent years there has been an increase in cases of skin allergies, rosacea, among others, due to the use of parabens in food and cosmetics (…) Other commonly used synthetic preservatives are benzoic acid, which appears as benzoic acid, or benzyl alcohol, which appears as benzyl alcohol”. Source: welleda

“Preserving a cosmetic naturally is a very complicated task, almost an art, which requires a great deal of experience and knowledge of the principles of natural cosmetics. The process begins with the raw materials, which are subjected to rigorous quality controls.

It is necessary to have a thorough knowledge of natural raw materials, their properties, their character and how to combine them to achieve a natural, stable, safe, effective and long-lasting formula without resorting to synthetic additives.

It also takes advantage of elements such as the type of packaging, natural alcohol or essential oils to contribute to the preservation of the product. (…) Source: Welleda

The most commonly used alcohol, which comes from a long tradition in homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine, is ethanol, which is a completely natural alcohol obtained by fermenting sugars from grains of different plants. It is included in some formulas in very low concentrations, makes the texture lighter and, being volatile, does not penetrate the skin.

Essential oils, in addition to serving as a scent and having multiple physical and emotional benefits, such as stimulating microcirculation, have a fungicidal and bactericidal effect. They are included in very low concentrations between 0.5 and 2%.

It is possible to enjoy effective, safe and 100% natural cosmetics without putting our health at risk by introducing unnecessary chemicals“. Source: Welleda


So, with these ideas in mind, we have intended to write this article on optimising our cosmetic formulations to make them smart like the cosmetics designed by Welleda and thus avoid the use of unnecessary preservatives and chemical additives. That is why we thought we would dedicate this article to “smart cosmetic ingredients” in our homemade preparations.


The best natural preservative that can be used in natural homemade cosmetics is, of course, not to use any preservatives at all.


To achieve this, as we always say, there are several strategies:

1.-Prepare a very small amount of product that we are going to consume in a few days and, in this case, we will not need to add anything to our homemade formulation.

2.-Keep our homemade product cool and protected from sunlight and temperature changes, e.g. in the fridge, and package it in dark glass containers.

3.-Design a formulation that will keep well for a few weeks without the need to add any preservatives. As we all know, if our formulation does not contain water, this is very easy to achieve, but the problem arises when we want to formulate a cream or body lotion with an aqueous phase, which are undoubtedly more moisturising.

It is therefore necessary to design our formulation well if we want to do without preservatives.

To achieve this, it is possible, for example, to use in our products oils that have been altered to lengthen their rancidity, such as fractionated coconut oil, derived from natural coconut oil, or squalene, derived from the fatty acids in olive oil.

Better still, it is possible to use partially ozonised oils which retain all the properties of the vegetable oil but do not become rancid or contaminated, thus preserving our formulation.

Oils macerated in balsamic resins also have a longer shelf life.

And, of course, since the problem of contamination of our creams comes from bacteria and moulds in the water in products containing an aqueous phase, we can treat the water we are going to use.

We can start, for example, by using hydrolats to which we can add a few drops of the same essential oil to enhance its preservative capacity or even alcohol (preferably ethanol, or even vodka, which has a high natural alcohol content and is also used to make homemade tinctures) as in Welleda’s cream, which is not absorbed into the skin but prevents our cream from deteriorating.

Of course, if we do not have hydrolats, we will have to use distilled water. And why not? Treated water, for example with ozone, as we do with oils. Instead of using ozonated oils, we can use ozonated water in our preparations to avoid fungi and bacteria and, above all, to avoid the need to use synthetic preservatives.

And, in any case, when designing our products, we can consider the idea of making a solid cosmetic since solid cosmetics, by definition, contain little or no water. We will talk about solid cosmetics in a later post.



Numerous studies have shown that drinking ozonated water provides health benefits and has positive effects on the circulatory system, the nervous system, the skin, the …

Washing fruit, vegetables, fish and other perishable foods with ozonised water guarantees their total disinfection. The same disinfecting and sterilising effect of ozone can be applied to containers, bottles, teats, bottles, contact lenses… Simply immerse them in ozone purified water for 5 minutes.



Ozone-treated water also has a beneficial effect on the gastric mucosa, which is favourable as an adjuvant factor in the treatment of gastritis, gastroduodenal ulcers and some parasitosis.

In general, ozone therapy considers the use of ozone water to be very beneficial for: the circulatory system, the nervous system (depression, stress, insomnia, exhaustion), obesity and cellulite, allergies, eczema and other skin conditions, anaemia, liver problems, rheumatism, arthritis and gout.

Medical ozone therapy eliminates the free radicals that cause premature ageing. Dr. Pérez de León, a renowned doctor from the Biological Institute of Health, includes ozone therapy among his therapeutic methods, stating that it increases immunity by 25-30% and that “it is beneficial for any illness”. Proof of this is that it is currently being used as part of the treatment for AIDS patients.

You can see that your ozonising machine for oils and water can even help you to increase your defences and avoid contagion by coronavirus. Who would have thought it?

On the other hand, if you use ozonised water in the preparation of soaps and household detergents, you will achieve better whitening results than with bleach, as ozone enhances the action of detergents by neutralising the action of other chemical pollutants such as bleach and chlorine, thus preserving the environment.

The cosmetics and hygiene industry has accustomed us to buying synthetic preservatives and synthetic sanitisers based on chlorine, which nowadays, with the technology available to us, are not even necessary and, moreover, pollute. But they do keep the wheel of the capitalist-consumerist system running.



Here are some examples of homemade formulations that can last for several months without the use of preservatives.


Along the lines of what we were talking about how to formulate smart homemade cosmetics without using preservatives or using minimal preservatives.

For example, it is possible to formulate a BB-Cream Facial without using an aqueous phase.

Therefore, it is not necessary to add preservatives. We have only taken the precaution of using fractionated coconut oil, which is more stable than natural oil, and will last about 6 months in perfect condition. In addition, this BB-cream includes a high sun protection factor due to the 20 grams of zinc oxide with which we have prepared the line. This makes it an ideal day cream.

Ingredients for 100 g of product:

0.8 g pink ochre pigment (or a mixture of red and yellow iron oxide)

20 g of zinc oxide previously micronised in the ceramic mortar to avoid lumps

63 g fractionated coconut oil

8 g of silica microspheres

8 g beeswax




Put the red iron oxide and the yellow iron oxide in a heat-resistant container. Then add the zinc oxide.

Add the fractionated coconut oil to the mixture, stir and blend. Add the silica microspheres, stir and finally add the beeswax.

Put the mixture in a bain-marie to melt the wax, stir well and pack.

In this first cosmetic formulation we have not used an aqueous phase, which makes it much easier to do without preservatives, but in this second case, we present a body lotion formulation that does contain a lot of water.



This body milk keeps for weeks without adding any preservatives thanks to the combination of lanolin and beeswax. You will certainly finish it before it deteriorates. But if you expect to use it for months, it is best to add a few drops of GSE to your distilled water or use ozonated water instead. Of course, it is also possible to use a mildly ozonated almond oil.

Ingredients for about 250 ml of body milk:

10 grs lanolin

12 grs beeswax

10 grams of emulsifying wax #3 (INCI: Glyceryl Stearate Citrate)

120 g distilled/ozonised water with a few drops of GSE

80 grams of almond oil






Heat the beeswax in a bain-marie until it melts and add the lanolin.

Separately, heat the emulsifying wax No. 3 in a bain-marie in another container and when it melts, add the almond oil and the ozonised water until it reaches a temperature of 70 degrees.

Now add the oil + ozonised water to the lanolin and beeswax mixture while whisking until the mixture is integrated and the emulsion is stabilised. It should be a light emulsion like a fine custard.

If it is too light after whipping, don’t worry, because when it cools down it will thicken much more. If you add more wax, it will be too thick and you will not be able to use it smoothly afterwards.

This is a very interesting body milk because the combination of lanolin and beeswax generates a kind of film on the skin that reinforces its lipidic barrier, thus protecting our skin from dehydration. You will notice it immediately if you decide to make it.



It is advisable to first pulverise the soya lecithin you have purchased with a ceramic pestle and mortar, which usually comes in granulated form.

I say this because crushing the granules well helps a lot later with the process of incorporating the soya into the sunflower oil.


40% cold-pressed sunflower oil (sorry, but supermarket oil is not suitable) or sweet almond oil, in our case, ozonised sunflower oil.

60% non-GMO soy lecithin, usually granulated.


The pulverised soya lecithin is added to a heat-resistant glass container, which is to be placed in a bain-marie.

Then add the sunflower oil that has already been weighed and place in a bain-marie for about 15 minutes.

After this time, the granules may not have dissolved completely. Some people blend them in a blender, but if you find this process too messy and messy, we simply keep stirring for a few more minutes until they are completely dissolved.

Finally, pour the mixture into a glass jar with a lid and leave it to stand for 3 hours. After this time, our lecithin will be ready.



This is an emulsifier that can be used for cold or hot emulsions. However, it is recommended to use another agent that can give consistency to the emulsion (co-emulsifier), e.g. beeswax, which, although it is not an emulsifier itself, helps to make the emulsion more stable. It is also possible to use cetyl alcohol or a thickening gum such as xanthan in the aqueous phase.



The advantage of this soy lecithin emulsifier is that, in addition to being an emulsion coadjuvant, it provides a soft touch and a higher level of hydration and anti-wrinkle protection to our creams due to the phytoestrogens contained in soy lecithin. And, the biggest advantage of preparing it with ozonised oil is, without a doubt, that it does not go rancid as is usually the case with homemade soya lecithin made with conventional sunflower oil.




50 ml of seawater reconstituted from Dead Sea salt, or Celtic salt, or any other salt with properties. As you know, salt is another great natural preservative. However, you can substitute this recipe with ozonated water, of course.

6 drops of Citronella Java EO

6 drops of EO of Eucalyptus citriodora

5 drops of Geranium of Egypt essential oil

5 drops of Immortelle de Corsica or Helichrysum or Immortelle de Corsica E.O.

1 g vegetable glycerine



First, reconstitute the seawater by adding a teaspoon of salt to 50 ml of a mineral water that you have at home.

Now, we will calculate one gram of glycerine* which will serve as the basis for dissolving the essential oils and combining them.

So, to this gram of glycerine we will add the EOs and stir.

Finally, we add the glycerine mixture with the essential oils to the seawater and package it in a spray bottle, preferably in dark glass, to keep it in good condition for a longer period of time. Although, as you have probably gathered from our clever formulation, this combination of water with salt and essential oils needs virtually no additives to keep it stable indefinitely.

*If we did not use glycerine, we would have to use a natural solubiliser to emulsify the essential oils with the seawater to avoid having to shake our bottle every time we use it.




Avoid adding more EO than indicated because, although you may think that this will make your spray more effective against mosquitoes and other flying beasts, this is not entirely true and you may also cause a skin reactivity problem for children or sensitive people.

Although the ingredients used are all natural, as we always say, just because they are natural does not mean they have no effect. This spray contains essential oils, which are powerful therapeutic weapons that should be used with caution and respect.

In this case, we will avoid using higher doses than those recommended for the 50 ml of product and, at the same time, we will avoid direct contact of the EOs with the skin. This is why we have diluted them in the glycerine and water contained in our spray bottle.



As we have been talking about, ozonated oils, ozonated waters and hydrolats, sea salt added to our waters, oleates based on balsamic resins, essential oils added to our compositions, tinctures such as benzoin tincture or propolis tincture; all these options constitute authentic natural conservation strategies for our homemade cosmetic products as long as we include them in our formulations.

In the event that it is essential to use some kind of preservative in our preparation, as is perhaps the case for the preservation of natural aloe vera gel or some creams and lotions with aqueous phase, we can look to the natural cosmetics industry and the organic food industry to find preservatives that are less aggressive to our skin but still do their job effectively.

Natural preservatives such as potassium sorbate are, in principle, not harmful to the body. Potassium sorbate (E202) consists of the potassium salt of sorbic acid and is used as a preservative in both the cosmetics and food industries. It is considered safe because it is converted to water and CO2 in the human body. It protects cosmetic products against yeasts and moulds and is very skin friendly. The dosage of this preservative would be between 1.5% to 2%.

We prefer to use mild preservatives such as potassium sorbate combined with ethanol or preservatives of natural origin that also contain probiotics, such as Leucidal, as well as those used in naturopathy to fight infections, such as grapefruit seed extract and propolis tincture, which is also used to disinfect wounds and as an adjuvant in infectious processes.

Using potassium sorbate as a preservative in dermo-cosmetics is certainly an option, although as is often the case with milder, biodegradable options, it is not a very effective option.

“Potassium sorbate inhibits the growth of yeasts and moulds, but has only moderate efficacy against bacteria. It is therefore useful to use potassium sorbate in combination with natural alcohol (ethanol) for a wide range of applications. Potassium sorbate is one of the few preservatives accepted by the BDIH. The optimum pH value of the final product should not exceed 5 for proper functioning. Up to a pH value of 7, the operation is also safe. Lactic acid can be used to achieve the correct pH level. Potassium sorbate is also soluble in water”.





The following study analyses the preservatives used in conventional dermo-cosmetics and also in herbal dermo-cosmetics. Unfortunately, as far as preservatives are concerned, there is not much difference.

Approximately 6% of the population is sensitised to some cosmetic ingredient, especially preservatives and fragrances. When a risk of sensitisation to a preservative is described, expert committees (Scientific Committee on Consumer Products and Cosmetic Ingredient Review, in Europe and North America respectively) issue opinions that lead to legislative changes determining restrictions on maximum permitted concentrations or even a ban. As a result, the cosmetic industry promotes preservative alternatives (new molecules or combinations). Occasionally, newer preservatives end up triggering new cases of sensitisation, as serious or more serious than those secondary to the preservative they replaced. Thus, over the years, there have been several “epidemics” of sensitisation to preservatives: formaldehyde (1950s and 1960s), methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI) (1970s-80s), or methyldibromoglutaronitrile (1990s). We are currently immersed in an “epidemic” of allergy to MI since its use in cosmetics was approved in 2005, at a concentration <100ppm, in the belief that it was less sensitising than MCI, and despite the fact that the first cases of dermatitis to methylisothiazolinone had already been reported at the time“.


However, we are happy to see that new generation preservatives are starting to be seen in online home cosmetics shops whose naturally sourced compositions are not only more environmentally friendly but also, in some cases, 100% biodegradable.

This is the case with the above-mentioned Leucidal, whose INCI is Lactobacillus Ferment. It is a probiotic-based preservative created by the fermentation of Lactobacillus in a defined growth medium. Lactobacillus is one of the species of microorganisms used to produce fermented products, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, a staple of the Korean diet, from cabbage. Like many members of the lactic acid bacteria family, Lactobacillus is able to restrict the growth of other microorganisms by acidifying its environment. However, Lactobacillus also produces novel antimicrobial peptides, known as bacteriocins, which are able to provide broad-spectrum antimicrobial protection capable of restricting the growth of other microorganisms by acidifying their environment.



It is best incorporated into our formulations during the cooling phase of the process at temperatures below 70°C. Suggested use levels are typically between 2-4%.

Dermorganics 1388 (INCI: Glycerin, Aqua, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate) is a natural preservative approved by ECOCERT that not only increases the shelf life of our cosmetics, but also provides important skin care properties as it helps to moisturise and reduce inflammation, making it suitable even for irritated skin or skin with acne. It has a mild odour that does not interfere with formulations, just like Leucidal.  In addition, all components are also of vegetable origin (star anise, sugar cane, non-GMO soy/corn) and glycerine.




Its most effective application would be at a dosage of 2-4 % of the final product and its shelf life is up to three months, more or less the same as Leucidal. And, of course, it meets the ECOCERT criteria (100 % natural and 46 % organic/ecological origin). Dermorganics is available in the online shop.

However, be wary of preservatives based on benzyl alcohol and advertised as environmentally friendly when it has been known for years that benzyl alcohol is an allergenic substance that can cause skin irritation as stated in the EU classification of allergenic substances.



The French Aroma-Zone shop of course has Leucidal and GSE, but also offers an environmentally friendly preservative alternative known as Plantaserv Q, which they call Naticide. It is a broad-spectrum antibacterial and antifungal preservative that ensures the preservation of cosmetic preparations containing an aqueous phase. This colourless-yellow liquid with a sweet vanilla smell is of natural origin and its composition includes aromatic compounds with antibacterial and antifungal properties. That is why its INCI is as simple as this: Fragrance.



It is mainly used in milks and lotions and in shampoos and shower gels at a maximum dosage of 1%. It is difficult to dissolve in water, but it can be added when the emulsion is still warm (it can handle the temperature well) so that it integrates better and dissolves in the oils.

And of course, of course, we cannot forget the famous grapefruit seed extract that has caused so much controversy (include link to grapefruit seed extract article) and which is known as ESP in Spanish (GSE in English). If possible, try to get it like this one (for example, in the Aroma-Zone shop) which is specially designed for use as a dermo-cosmetic preservative and contains an addition of organic acids (lactic, citric and ascorbic acid) that make it especially suitable for use in home cosmetics.

This one by Aroma-Zone in particular is of natural origin, contains no benzethonium chloride, no parabens, no triclosan, and is completely biodegradable. However, it cannot be used internally as an antibiotic, although it can prolong the life of our “homemade” water-based cosmetics for approximately 1 month.


We also found this other GSE product especially for home cosmetics in a Dutch shop. In this case, it contains 60% GSE and 40% vegetable glycerine.

Those normally found on the market contain a maximum of 33% GSE and, of course, no added glycerin if they are not designed for cosmetic use. INCI Nomenclature: Grapefruit (Citrus Grandis) Extract (and) Glycerin.




Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) for internal use is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent based on citrus seeds and pulp. It is blended with vegetable glycerin to be non-irritating to skin and mucous membranes when used in cosmetic formulations. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of grapefruit seed extract make it an ideal cosmetic preservative in products such as shampoos, creams, lotions, scrubs and soaps.

This therapeutic agent, in its internal use version, is used worldwide for its natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. In laboratory studies, this particular extract has shown activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including E. coli, Staph. Aureus, as well as fungi such as Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Aspergillus Flavus and Aspergillus Niger. It is very safe to use and is completely biodegradable. It has a 30-year track record of safety and efficacy as a human therapeutic agent. GSE for internal use is even safe enough to use as a drinking water disinfectant when necessary.





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