Special thanks to Crunchy Betty for today’s post about making homemade products (lotions soft soaps, creams, etc) that contain water. She makes an excellent point about the fact that preservatives are a necessary thing if you make anything that contains water.
Most of the water that we have easily available is definitely NOT sterile. What that means is that the water that you use may very likely have some sort of cooties in it. This is why many products on the market have preservatives: To help keep the cooties under control.
There are a lot of hand made skin products available on the Net, especially in places like Etsy. The Any of them that contain water (such as most lotions and creams, for example) damn well should have something in them to act as a preservative of some sort. I happen to use tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) in the stuff that I make to help keep the oils from going rancid. However, I also don’t use water for much of anything, and most bacteria do not grow well in all oil environments.
This is also why I prefer to use salves and ointments: They are heavy on the oils and light on the water. As in, they don’t have water as part of their make-up. Crunchy Betty talks about a number of ways to help prevent cooties from forming in your all-natural whatever-it-is. One of the big ones, though, is to make only as much as you can use in a reasonable amount of time.
This is different if you’re making stuff to sell, though. I’ve seen Etsy shops that claim to have a 2 year shelf life, but the product is half water. Not likely, unless they’re using a boat-load of preservatives, which then calls into question the “all natural” claim (which is a null statement, anyway. There is no regulation of it. Not even any industry guidelines) that they tend to have.
That’s why it’s a good idea to include something like grapefruit seed extract (not grapefruit essential oil, which is completely different) in any formulation that has water. It has been shown to be effective against a wide range of bacteria, fungi, and molds even in relatively low concentrations. The down side is that grapefruit seed extract can be toxic to humans, so should not be taken internally except under careful guidance of a qualified professional.