How to keep Aloe Gel as natural as possible for longer?

I'm looking for the easiest way to take fresh Aloe Gel and package it as long as possible at room temp. Normally I'd start some trial and error experiments and keep going until I've learned enough to come up with a solid plan but this time I'd rather start with a solid plan so I've come here to get some advice.

We all know that the vast majority of Aloe products have a tiny amount of aloe in an otherwise unrelated gel substance. I'd like to make a product that is the inverse of this, where the aloe is the primary ingredient and the remaining formula is only there to keep the Aloe from spoiling. Thus making a true "aloe" product rather than a product that just happens to include some aloe for marketing purposes.

I am also aware that fresh is best, so that freezing is the best way to use aloe beyond its one week life expectancy. But selling a frozen product is not gonna fly either, so... What other options do we have?

My research so far has led me to starting with mixing it into glycerin (2:1 Aloe to Glycerin)

To help shelf life without complex preservatives (going for as natural as possible) maybe I can add a touch of tocopherol but as an oil, would that even be effective? What if I added Glyceryl Stearate?

Lastly, to make it a consistent gel texture, adding some HEC instead of a snotty gum.

Unlike some, I don't pretend to be a chemist and I understand that many of you hate it when people like me come here for free professional advice. I'm not going to make a ton of money on harvesting my aloe plants and selling them this way, so I can't justify paying anyone for this information, but if you saw how awesome my aloe plants grow in the sunny passive solar space in my cold Canadian home, you'd want to do something with them too.

Side note: (Skip this if you don't want to hear a rant) I've noticed some  identifiable logos in the thread for formulating services that were obviously NOT designed by a trained or professional graphic designer. Seems like some chemists take the same mentality about just ripping/copying something off the web instead of paying a professional whose livelihood it is to do a thing. Everyone eventually has the notion that "I can just do this myself" instead of always paying someone else at some point. Are we going to do as good a job as someone who does it day in and day out? Nope, probably not even close, but if paying isn't an option, you have to give people credit for showing an interest and trying to learn.

Anyhow, this specific formula is much more of a hobby curiosity than a formula for profit, so if anyone has better suggestions or direction, I'd greatly appreciate it. I do have some products that I may wind up paying for advice on, but those are a different story and I'm still having fun experimenting with them.

Comments

  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Thanks for your question.  Just some thoughts

    If you are really looking to make it last "as long as possible at room temperature" then using synthetic preservatives is the way to go. Parabens to fight against mold & fungi and aldehydes to fight against bacteria.  

    But I suspect you don't really mean "as long as possible."  Rather you want to know how to make it last as long as possible "without using standard preservatives." Correct?

    Well, your options are limited. Microbes are great at contaminating things & nature hasn't evolved broad spectrum based ways to stop it. See the recent discussion here about natural preservatives.  You'll have to decide for yourself what you consider natural enough.

    While you're not a chemist you would find it helpful to develop an understanding of what Aloe Vera Gel is & what it has been demonstrated to do (not just claimed to do). This article may be helpful. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551117/

    In that article you'll find that Aloe is made up "of more than 200 bioactive chemicals". But it is also made up of 98% water. Even if you dilute it with 2:1 aloe:glycerin there is still going to be a >30% water in the system. Tocopherol is not a microbial preservative so it will have zero effect. Glyceryl Stearate is not a preservative either and will have no impact on microbial contamination.

    HEC is certainly an option to provide a consistent texture. However, it is a chemically modified ingredient and does not occur anywhere in nature. Is that natural enough?

    In science, there is a reductionist philosophy where when you find a substance that has an effect, you try to figure out what component of that substance is giving the effect. Then you try to create a product that will maximize the effect while minimizing components that reduce or have no impact on the effect. 

    Synthetic cosmetics were created because the natural stuff found out in the world is not nearly as nice or effective as the synthetic stuff. (e.g snotty gums).
  • Thanks for the input! You're correct that I am trying to avoid the use of Parabens and Aldehydes. So many products emphasizing that they DONT use them these days, seems self destructive to use them (Guess I lump those in with "complex preservatives") I wasn't sure if Tocopherol would have any benefit in extending Aloes shelf life like it does in preventing rancidity, so thanks for clearing that up. I wasn't suggesting the use Glyceryl Stearate as a preservative, just as a method of making the Tocopherol mix/emulsify with the Aloe gel to increase its shelf life. I'm going to guess that an emulsified mix isn't the same as a solution for this purpose though. (Another question I guess, and sorry for using the words mix and emulsify interchangeably, I'm one of those people who don't use technical (accurate) language and I know it causes confusion some times)

    I understand that the vast majority of the Aloe gel is simply water. So you bring up another question. What would I lose from the Aloe Gel (raw product, right out of the plant) by dehydrating it? Are any of the bioactive chemicals lost or changed due to dehydration? Is this essentially what is being sold as Aloe Powder? And then would taking the dehydrated product and mixing it into straight glycerin make it easier to preserve than the raw almost all water material? With straight glycerin being a less appealing option than water and glycerin, would the Glyceryl Stearate help a carrier oil like Hempseed oil to carry the aloe powder into the skin or are the water soluble parts just better left in a water solution for absorption into skin?

    Having looked into the production methods of HEC, I am personally happy enough with its source and the process it's put through to become what I consider a "natural enough" product. I'm not a hardcore natural over thinker... I understand that nearly every ingredient is derived through processing of some sort, and many use chemical reactions. No different from saying "soap" is natural after it is saponified it's gone through a chemical reaction.

    Here though, I'm looking at trying to keep something as completely natural, as close to its original make up, but removing the short shelf life of one week.

    By pointing out that the Aloe Gel is 98% water, I'm already moving toward putting a "tiny amount of aloe in an otherwise unrelated gel substance" like I said about the vast majority of products on the market. And if removing all the water is truly the best way of taking the benefits Aloe and delivering them in another longer lasting suspension, emulsion or preserved solution, then I guess that's my answer.

    In trying to do things people have said are not worth doing or that can't be done, I've wound up with some great things, so I'm asking the experts (again, thank you for taking the time to provide an answer!) and maybe I'll wind up in the exact same place everyone else got. But I'd still rather ask and understand for myself rather than blindly follow dogma.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    On preservatives...What you need to understand about preservation is that the term is used differently in the food and the cosmetic industries. 

    Food preservation refers to preserving the flavor & preventing microbial growth.  Cosmetic preservation really only refers to preventing microbial growth. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Rancidity is caused by the oxidation of fatty acids and other flavor chemicals in foodstuff. So, in the food industry Vitamin E (or other antioxidants) are called preservatives. But it will have no impact on microbial growth. 

    All you need to remember is that when you hear the term preservative in reference to cosmetics it is always referring to ingredients that kill microbes or prevent their growth. 

    Additionally, an emulsified oil soluble preservative will not work in water based formula. Microbes rely on water to survive. So when you want to preserve a formula you need a preservative that is compatible with water. You need the microbes to interact with the preservative so they will be killed. When you emulsify ingredients you essentially wall them off from the water so they will have no interaction or effect on microbes swimming in the water.

    As to "mix" and "emulsify"

    A way to think about emulsification is that it is a means to combine otherwise incompatible ingredients by using an emulsifier. Water based ingredients do not generally combine/mix with oil based ingredients. That's why oil and vinegar salad dressings come in two layers. Vinegar is water based, oil is oil based.  When you use an emulsifier what happens is you make tiny droplets of oil that get encapsulated (emulsified) in the emulsifier and walled off from the water. They stay suspended but they don't actually interact with the water. 

    When we talk about mixing things together, that is typically in reference to blending ingredients that are compatible. That is what the term "soluble" means. So, when you mix water with alcohol or glycerin they are compatible and they make a solution. The molecules actually blend together and can interact with each other. This is different from an emulsion where the molecules stay separate. 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    On dehydrating...What would I lose from the Aloe Gel (raw product, right out of the plant) by dehydrating it? 

    This is difficult to say without knowing what it is you are hoping the aloe gel will do on the skin. There is scant scientifically based evidence that topical aloe vera gel will have much beneficial impact on skin. So, if that is the case if you dehydrate it then rehydrate it doesn't matter. And even if you are only looking for the aloe to provide humectancy, dehydrating it and rehydrating it probably won't have much effect on it's ability to do that. 

    However, if you are of the belief that aloe will have some benefit on the skin due to the biomolecules then that is a different story. When you dehydrate a plant you break down the natural structure of the proteins & other biomolecules. You jumble the polysaccharides & sugars and you evaporate off some of the phenolic compounds. Rehydrating will not bring back any of the evaporated materials. It will also not reform the secondary structures of most of the dehydrated proteins. The sugars will of course absorb the water but there is no guarantee it will reform the structure it had before you dehydrated it.

    Think of beef jerky. If you take a steak and dehydrate it, you'll get beef jerky. But if you put beef jerky in a bowl full of water you aren't going to get back a steak. It's nearly identical to what happens when you dehydrate/rehydrate aloe.   
  • Wow, between that article you linked me to and your answers I've learned quite a bit. You really have been exceptionally helpful, thank you!

    Based on what you've just mentioned and the information in the article, it's clear that maintaining the original bioactive chemicals is essential if any of the application benefits are to be maintained in the end product.

    So I'm back to maintaining the water content but finding a way to prevent/slow oxidation and reaching a safe level of preservation (microbial) with that amount of water in the product. I'll continue reading the recent discussion on natural preservatives as you suggested.

    Thanks again.
  • Perry said:
    Thanks for your question.  Just some thoughts

    If you are really looking to make it last "as long as possible at room temperature" then using synthetic preservatives is the way to go. Parabens to fight against mold & fungi and aldehydes to fight against bacteria.  

    But I suspect you don't really mean "as long as possible."  Rather you want to know how to make it last as long as possible "without using standard preservatives." Correct?

    Well, your options are limited. Microbes are great at contaminating things & nature hasn't evolved broad spectrum based ways to stop it. See the recent discussion here about natural preservatives.  You'll have to decide for yourself what you consider natural enough.

    While you're not a chemist you would find it helpful to develop an understanding of what Aloe Vera Gel is & what it has been demonstrated to do (not just claimed to do). This article may be helpful. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551117/

    In that article you'll find that Aloe is made up "of more than 200 bioactive chemicals". But it is also made up of 98% water. Even if you dilute it with 2:1 aloe:glycerin there is still going to be a >30% water in the system. Tocopherol is not a microbial preservative so it will have zero effect. Glyceryl Stearate is not a preservative either and will have no impact on microbial contamination.

    HEC is certainly an option to provide a consistent texture. However, it is a chemically modified ingredient and does not occur anywhere in nature. Is that natural enough?

    In science, there is a reductionist philosophy where when you find a substance that has an effect, you try to figure out what component of that substance is giving the effect. Then you try to create a product that will maximize the effect while minimizing components that reduce or have no impact on the effect. 

    Synthetic cosmetics were created because the natural stuff found out in the world is not nearly as nice or effective as the synthetic stuff. (e.g snotty gums).
    Does it mean if we mix 2g aloe Vera powder with 98g water it will be like aloe vera juice?
  • Abdullah said:
    Does it mean if we mix 2g aloe Vera powder with 98g water it will be like aloe vera juice?
    No, that's actually exactly what we were just discussing. The dehydrated powder does not maintain many of the biomolecules and rehydration does not restore the lost components. This is exactly why I'd rather preserve it in its original water based state as long as possible.
  • Have you thought how are you going to gel it? Aloe gels on the market use carbomer. Also, fresh aloe contains aloin which is much more controversial than parabens. Aloin ideally should be removed.
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • Yes, the processing includes three measures implemented to remove and reduce the possibility of Aloin in the gel.

    @ Microformulation - I can only imagine that the carcinogenic aspect of the "whole leaf extract" would be the the Aloin mentioned by ngarayeva001
  • Perry said:
    On dehydrating...What would I lose from the Aloe Gel (raw product, right out of the plant) by dehydrating it? 

    [...]
    When you dehydrate a plant you break down the natural structure of the proteins & other biomolecules. You jumble the polysaccharides & sugars and you evaporate off some of the phenolic compounds. Rehydrating will not bring back any of the evaporated materials. It will also not reform the secondary structures of most of the dehydrated proteins. The sugars will of course absorb the water but there is no guarantee it will reform the structure it had before you dehydrated it.

    Think of beef jerky. If you take a steak and dehydrate it, you'll get beef jerky. But if you put beef jerky in a bowl full of water you aren't going to get back a steak. It's nearly identical to what happens when you dehydrate/rehydrate aloe.   

    I just want to clear up some things about dehydration. Not always proteins in a dried extract are denatured. A good examples are bromelain proteases and papain. They retain their enzymatic activity so the protein tertiary structure is preserved. A lot of plant proteins of course are sensitive to dehydration and especially heat.
  • TheStrand said:
    Abdullah said:
    Does it mean if we mix 2g aloe Vera powder with 98g water it will be like aloe vera juice?
    No, that's actually exactly what we were just discussing. The dehydrated powder does not maintain many of the biomolecules and rehydration does not restore the lost components. This is exactly why I'd rather preserve it in its original water based state as long as possible.
    Interesting
    Thanks
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @michalby - agreed, not all proteins are going to be denatured by dehydrating them. That these guys can manage to continue living under extreme circumstances is proof of that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tardigrade

    But dehydrating and rehydrating aloe is not going to bring all of the proteins and their structures back. 

  • I totally agree. Rehydrated plant extract is never going to be the same as a fresh one. And I'm not a fan of either of them :smiley:
    The closest you can get to providing your customer a preservative free, shelf stable aloe is to sell the dehydrated juice as a powder, to mix with water or cosmetic products for immediate use. You can pack individual portions in capsules or provide a scoop, maybe add a fancy glass dish for mixing and sell that kind of story :wink:
  • Great thread!

    My sister has an excess of aloe vera in her garden and asked me how she can preserve it. It doesn't have to be a 'natural' preservative/product.

    Is 1 % Euxyl PE9010 (Phenoxyethanol and Ethylhexylglycerin), 99% aloe vera gel likely to work?

    Or 1% Geogard 221 (Benzyl Alcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid)?

    Can she put fresh aloe vera straight into an emulsion/moisturizer or serum formulation in place of some of the water, or does it need to be prepared somehow?

    Thanks!
  • An idea, more directed at OP though: why not treat the aloe as a food product? Put it in a jar, pasteurize it, and have instructions to refrigerate after opening and a recommended shelf-life. Sodium Benzoate or Potassium Sorbate and pH adjustment to activate it should extend the shelf-life in the fridge as well.
    ⚠️ I have a lot of ideas, but not much experience! Please keep this in mind when reading my suggestions. ⚠️
  • Mayday said:
    An idea, more directed at OP though: why not treat the aloe as a food product? Put it in a jar, pasteurize it, and have instructions to refrigerate after opening and a recommended shelf-life. Sodium Benzoate or Potassium Sorbate and pH adjustment to activate it should extend the shelf-life in the fridge as well.
    Good thought, the heat will undoubtably do some damage but I'll do some research and see how much. Thanks!
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