Lipids only - preservation necessary?

I've gathered from my reading on this forum that there isn't a lot of support for the 'natural' claims, and I can understand the debate.

But... I am new to formulating, and I am doing it because I have seriously sensitive skin and a lot of allergies (anaphylaxis level for soy and nuts to the point I don't go anywhere without my epipen) - so I can't use the 'normal' products because I seem to always react to the preservatives or other chemicals, and I can't use the 'natural' products because they often mostly focus on nut and soya based oils. So... I'm making my own.  

Everything I am making is entirely lipid based - body oils or body balms with oils, waxes and butters. No water.

I know there's a lot of talk about how all products, even natural, require preservation - but there seems to be a lot of information that also says if it's lipids only that you can get away with just antioxidants and accept that the shelf life will be much shorter.

Has anyone had lipid only products pass / fail microbial testing? I don't want to pay for the testing without a preservative if it's clear it's going to fail.

I haven't finalised my exact formulation and have been testing for about 12 months with different variations - but in general I'm talking about body oil in a glass jar with a glass 'eye dropper' for dispensing, and balms in a glass jar, with a warning on the label to use within 6 months and to keep in a cool, dry spot, using only clean, dry hands when using the balm.

Keen to get your thoughts on whether this is likely to pass testing, and any advice on how to preserve if not. (Note, I tested with tocopheral, but found out very quickly via a reaction that this is soya based).

Also a few other quick questions on antioxidants:

 - Is there any mathematical way to calculate the right amount of antioxidants or is it test and learn?

- Will rosemary powder have the same antioxidant effect as rosemary C02 extract? Both have the same INCI, but I'm not sure if they'll serve the same purpose.

Thanks in advance for your help :)


  • Hi Lisa,
    - I have no experience with rosemary as antioxidant, I use BHT (0,1%) or tocopherol (0,05-0,2%). BHT is a much stronger antioxidant than tocopherol (vitamin E). Tocopherols have the problem that they can be pro oxidizing in higher concentrations, so best use low levels to inhibit rancidity.
    Tocopherols are usually in a mixture with a carrier oil. There are products that don't have soy oil in it. I have this one right now, it's a mixture of tocopherols with sunflower oil. The problem with mixtures is that you oftentimes don't now the exact concentration, in this one it's at least 70%.
    - About preservation. It depends on the anhydrous type of product if you need preservation or not. Take for example a lipstick, molds especially can grow on the surface where it will come in contact with the lips.
    I think the same goes for any anhydrous product that can come in contact with water and/or skin. Keep in mind that there are always microbes on your hands, even after cleaning and drying (commensal bacteria). It's best to choose packaging where there is no contact between skin and product.

    Good luck!
  • I am using CO2 rosemary extract for salvs and balms without water- only oils and  and beeswax inside and I dont have problems. 

  • @curiouslisa - you raise some interesting questions.

    "Is there any mathematical way to calculate the right amount of antioxidants..." 

    Probably. But it's not worth the time and effort to do it since the system is so varied. Better is to use trial and error, erring on the side of using too much. Antioxidant supplier will give you a suggestion.

    "Will rosemary powder have the same antioxidant effect as rosemary C02 extract? Both have the same INCI, but I'm not sure if they'll serve the same purpose."

    Not sure, but probably. Ask the supplier. 

    I wouldn't recommend selling products that don't have preservatives. Even if you can pass a microbial challenge test you have no defense if someone later sues you because of being injured due to microbial contamination.
  • Thanks for your feedback everyone - I'll research BHT and also get in contact with my supplier regarding the rosemary extract :)
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