DIY skincare products and how to preserve them

So you want to make DIY skincare products.

If so, you have lots of company. The main question here is how to preserve them. This is even more important if you are thinking about making skincare products using natural ingredients and botanicals. Even DIYers should have a basic knowledge of how to preserve their products if they want them to remain safe and effective over time.

Why Is Preservation Important?

  • The ingredients themselves may have been contaminated by the supplier during extraction or transport.
  • You might inadvertently contaminate the product depending on where and how you create it (airborne particles, non-sterile utensils or containers, etc.)
  • The product may be improperly stored (high heat, improper container, exposure to sunlight, etc.)
  • The product may contain ingredients that require preservation like botanicals, clays and hydrosols, and there is none (more on this below
  • The product may have the right pH level for optimal growth (e.g. between 3 and 8)
  • Which Contaminants Do Preservatives Work On?

    There are three main contaminants – bacteria, yeast, and mold. The most common contaminants are:

    • Staph aureus – bacterium
    • E. coli – bacterium
    • Pseudomonas Euruginosa – bacterium
    • Candida albicans (yeast)
    • Aspergillus niger (mold)

    These organisms have the potential to cause serious problems – even more so if you are making DIY cosmetics which go near the eyes. Regardless of where they go, who wants to spread these little guys on the skin?!

    While there are some chemical compounds that protect against all three – like bleach – these are not candidates for skincare products. What usually happens is that manufacturers use a combination of preservatives that, when combined, effectively prevent bacteria, yeast and mold from growing in a formulation. Basically, wherever you have water, you have the potential to have one or more of these contaminants in your finished product. These organisms love water. Therefore, oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsions MUST be preserved. Even if your product is refrigerated, the shelf life will be relatively short. You could get around this by using small containers (1 oz or smaller). However, if your product was already contaminated due to the situations mentioned above, these organisms can multiply in a relatively short period of time. Keep in mind that our skin hosts bacteria, so every time you dip your finger into the product, you are introducing contaminants. Why not be on the safe side?

    Which Preservatives Are Effective Against Bacteria, Yeast, and Mold?

    This requires that you do a little homework. There are many alternatives available to DIY crafters, and it’s important to review the details of each and to know the amounts that must be used. You may be asking if essential oils can be used as preservatives. The short answer is “No”. Essential oils are very potent plant extracts, and as such are difficult to standardize. They can also cause irritation in higher quantities, which you would probably need in order for them to work as preservatives. Thus, an essential oil combination that is effective against all three contaminants may be too overwhelming to be used in a skincare formulation. You will find a list of common preservatives in a link in the References.

    How To Prevent Contamination With DIY Skincare Products

    • Make your product oil-based or anhydrous – without water. Organisms cannot grow in an oil-based medium. The balms are all-purpose, super-moisturizing formulas containing antioxidants like Vitamin E and Rosemary oil, but no synthetic preservatives. Check out our body balms
    • Don’t introduce water into your product – whether it is oil-based or not. With oil-based products, once you introduce water, if they are not preserved, then organisms will grow. This is especially true for products like sugar scrubs. Although many are oil-based, if you use them in the shower and get water into them, they have become
    • Use tubes or airless containers for your products. This is becoming more popular among major skincare retailers for their water-based products, and for good reason. Products in tubes and airless containers are not exposed to dirty fingers or outside contamination. This allows them to last longer with less rancidity.
    • Adjust the pH of your product. One of the reasons why bar and liquid soap do not need preservatives is that their pH is generally 10 or above – not a friendly growth environment. The same goes for a pH below 4. It’s important to know what pH your final product is so that you can choose the right broad-spectrum preservative.
    • Use high-sugar, high-salt or glycerin in your products. Most bacteria and yeast need water to grow, and sugar and salt draw water out of product it’s in. Glycerin works similarly, but must be in too high a concentration (70%) to provide a pleasant feel. However, its moisturizing properties make it a popular ingredient in skincare products.

    Making your own skincare products can be instructional and fun. If done properly and with the right preservatives, you can craft something that you can be proud of, while ensuring safety. So whatever the reason for DIY skincare – whether it’s to avoid problematic chemicals like parabens, formaldehyde releasing preservatives, or fragrance, make sure that you do your homework and use techniques that will keep your product contaminant-free.

    Making Skincare website article on preservatives and resources
    Scientific American article on salt and sugar preservation
    Natural News article on parabens

    Silicones in skincare and haircare

    Why Silicones in Skincare and Haircare?

    You may have noticed that many different silicones can be found in skincare and haircare products today. There are a number of reasons why formulators – and customers – like products containing silicone. With many names, some ending in “oxane”, they are in cosmetics, as well. There are also reasons to be cautious when using skincare and haircare products containing silicone. It’s important to know, first of all, what silicone is and how they are used in skincare and haircare products.

    What Is Silicone?

    Silicone – also called polysiloxane – is a synthetic polymer derived from the element silicon and oxygen atoms. Silicon is extracted from common sand with a variety of chemicals, most of which are recycled or inert (e.g. water). It’s been used in personal care products for more than 30 years, which comprises about 15% of all uses for silicones. It is now used in everything from breast implants and beauty blenders to products found at Home Depot. Because it repels water, it’s useful for projects that require a waterproofing substance. Two types of silicone are commonly used; water soluble and non-water soluble.

    Silicones In Skincare

    If you look at the labels on most skincare and cosmetic products, you’ll find ingredients like Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane and Cyclohexasiloxane. These silicones are not water soluble. Silicones are popular in primers for their ability to leave skin feeling silky smooth, and they tend to reflect light. Most recently, polymers like Polybutene and Polyisobutene may appear on your product labels. It’s becoming more difficult to identify silicones in beauty products. For those of us who are looking to avoid synthetics, it’s becoming almost impossible to avoid them in skincare products. That, in and of itself, is troubling. Consumers should be able to choose whether or not to use products containing synthetic polymers that don’t benefit the skin in any long-lasting way.

    So what’s so wrong about silicone in skincare? The answer often depends on your skin type and personal preferences. The moisture-trapping nature of silicone may mean that it also traps other substances (like dirt and oils) that may cause breakouts. And while everyone loves smooth-looking skin, it’s a short-lived effect rather than the result of a product’s impact on the skin. Their water-repellent nature can also make them more difficult to remove, which requires more intense cleansing at the end of the day.

    We’ve decided to avoid using silicones in our Whole Earth Body Actives Vitamin C Face Cream. Instead, we’ve incorporated isoflavones derived from bamboo to smooth and enhance the skin’s appearance.

    Silicones in Haircare

    At first, the benefits of using silicones in haircare may seem obvious. They serve to smooth our frizzines, and who doesn’t love that? However, the water-repellent nature of most silicones can cause them to accumulate in their hair, making it heavy. Removing this product from their hair then requires the use of a deep-cleaning (e.g. harsher) clarifying shampoo. For dry, curly hair, this can do more harm than good. For many, the use of a nourishing oil like coconut or argan would be preferable to smoothing a synthetic all over the hair. Recently, some products formulate with water-soluble silicones that are easier to wash out. Examples are hydrolyzed wheat protein and ingredients that begin with PEG.

    Finally, there’s a question of sustainability and eco-friendliness with this ingredient. Petroleum by-products are used to create silicones, which begs the question: do we want such a by-product in our skincare and haircare products? There may also be a question of bioaccumulation in the environment and what this means for wildlife. Given the furor over the use of plastic beads, it’s something to think about.


    Silicone discussion in Wikipedia
    Dow Corning Information about Silicone
    Health Canada’s webpage on the safety of cosmetic ingredients

    cruelty free skincare is catching on

    Why is cruelty-free skincare catching on?

    Compassion for animals is one of our guiding principles, and we’ happy to see that support for cruelty-free skincare and cosmetics is growing in the U.S. and elsewhere. So much so, in fact, that some companies have changed who they do business with to demonstrate their support for cruelty-free around the world.

    Labels can be confusing, however, so how does not go about finding cruelty-free skincare products? There are a few places where you can begin your search:

    How to Find Cruelty Free Skincare

      • Look for the bunny on the company’s website or packaging. This symbol certifies that the company has met the requirements for using the “Cruelty-free” bunny logo.
      • Visit the website to find a list of almot 500 companies that participate in this initiative.
      • Search for bloggers who review cruelty free brands. Articles like this on on can assist you in your search.
      • Visit the cruelty-free makeup page at They also talk about the brands that test on animals.
      • Read labels to learn which skincare and cosmetic products contain animal ingredients. For example, many soaps use tallow, obtained from beef, pig and sheet rendering plants. Another name for it is “sodium tallowate.” Honey and beeswax are easy enough to spot. Others are not so easy, like glycerin (plant and animal origins), lactic acid, squalene (plant and animal origin), Vit. E, Carmine (dye derived from crushed cochineal bugs – ugh!), Lanolin, etc.

    The good news is that more and more companies are dedicated to sourcing plant-based ingredients for skincare and cosmetics. Even major brands like RMS Beauty and Kat Von D Beauty have chosen to be cruelty-free. Of course, we will always be commited to remaining plant-based, sustainable, and palm oil free not just because of animal testing, but because of the impact that using certain products has on indigenous wildlife.

    We know that it’s the right thing to do. And lucky for us, customers are catching on.

    Reference:’s list of animal-derived ingredients’s list of vegan cosmetic companies

    Why we don't use animal ingredients

    From the beginning, WEBA Natural Products has taken a firm stand with regard to the use of animal ingredients in our products. While many personal care, clothing and food manufacturers may think differently on this topic, it is an ethical and aesthetic choice that makes sense for us.

    Many consumers have argued that some ingredients don’t involve hurting animals, but we feel that this is a slippery slope. After all, how do they know? Are they expecting the cow or goat or bumble bee to scream “Don’t take that!”? We’d be surprised if they did. Let’s explore this practice and we’ll tell you why we feel the way we do.

    A History of Using Animal Ingredients
    Animal products have a long history in the personal care industry. The first soaps were made as far back as 2800 B.C. almost by accident. The basic recipe called for using wood ash and tallow, which consists of rendered animal fat (usually beef or pork). Many commercial “beauty” bars still use tallow (often labeled sodium tallowate), as it is an inexpensive by-product of factory farming. The same goes for gelatin, which is rendered by boiling animal cartilage and bone.

    At first, these ingredients would be used in order to avoid waste and to save money. Before factory farming, local farmers made use of whatever was on hand, and they no doubt sold these products for a profit. Back “in the day” there were very few options for cleaning and bathing. Once these ingredient properties were found to be beneficial, they became more popular in many products, from soaps and skincare to cosmetics.

    Can We Avoid Using Animal Ingredients?
    Absolutely! Today, technology has made it possible for us to utilize plant-based and synthetic alternatives for many of the animal products that have been used in the past. As more and more consumers embrace a cruelty-free lifestyle, they want to be sure that the businesses that they support don’t use animal ingredients to create their skincare and cosmetic products. Below is a list of common animal ingredients alternatives that you will find in the marketplace.

    • Tallow – many plant-based oils, including palm oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter, can substitute for this ingredient. We’ll explain at a later time why we don’t use palm oil.
    • Gelatin – Agar is a suitable plant-based alternative to this animal ingredient.
    • Lanonin – Derived from the wool of sheep mostly. Again, cocoa butter would make a good substitute, and it smells great!< .li>
    • Squalene – Extracted from shark livers – yuk! Luckily, olive squalene is perfectly fine.
    • Collagen – Derived from animal tissue. While very popular as an anti-aging ingredient right now, its effectiveness in building up collagen is questioned; it is a large molecule. Oils like olive and amla are suitable.
    • Allantoin – Found in uric acid secreted from animals (usually horses). Fortunately, there are plant-based sources of allantoin.
    • Alpha-Hydroxy acids – There are both animal and plant sources. It’s important to read the label or contact the company to know what source they use.
    • Royal Jelly – Derived from the throat glands of honeybees. Its value is questionable. A good alternative is aloe vera gel.
    • Retinol and Retinoids – This only comes from animals. It’s used in many anti-aging creams, however, and it can cause irritation and sensitivity. As an alternative, try rosehip oil or Vitamin C, and eat more beta-carotene.

    The list can go on, of course, so please check the References below. We hope that you’ll consider using products (like ours) that are free of animal ingredients and rich in plant-based oils and extracts.

    One Green Planet post on common cosmetic ingredients post on animal ingredients
    Article on Alternatives to Retinol