Any product which contains water and will be kept for any length of time, including natural skin care and other aromatherapy products, must be preserved. This prevents micro-organisms growing from bacteria introduced to the jar eg when wet or dirty fingers are dipped into it.
Think of what happens to a piece of fruit when it's left on the bench - it deteriorates. This is what happens to all the lovely natural ingredients in products containing water (and it'll happen more quickly if it has a high water content). The difference is, with fruit you can see, smell and taste the changes happening. Many changes in your product can't be seen or smelled. This isn't always the case, though, so it's still a good idea to keep a close eye, and if you do notice a change in colour, smell, texture, thickness, if it's split, or if you see mold growing in it, or start to experience any irritation when you use it, it's time to throw it out. Because you can't always rely on this, it's crucial to have it properly preserved. This will protect you and extend the shelf life of products you're using. This is especially important for people with skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis or acne, and also for those with weakened immune systems, as broken skin or a lowered immune system makes you more susceptible to infections.
Speaking of extending the life of the product, the use of an antioxidant will also help. This slows down the oxidation (deterioration due to exposure to oxygen) of the ingredients. This is different to preserving, which helps to kill and prevent microbial growth. Anhydrous products (these don't contain water, such as balms and oils) don't require preserving, although the ingredients will still oxidise, so the use of an antioxidant is necessary.
What do we use in Galaxy Aromatherapy products?
Until recently, we were using a locally made totara-based preservative. This is now unavailable, so we're on the hunt for a replacement for it. Completely natural broad-spectrum preservatives aren't easy to find, so we're searching for an as-natural-as possible preservative which fits with our range. In the meantime, to keep our products safe for you to use, we’re using Microcare DB. This is a synthetic preservative containing benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid & aqua, which is ECOCERT compliant. While not plant-based, the benefits outweigh the risks. It’s a broad spectrum preservative, active against bacteria, moulds and yeasts, which will keep your products safe to use until their best before date. This is used at only 1% or less in the recipe - equivalent to 1gm or less in a 100gm jar of product.
As far as the antioxidant is concerned, ever since we began back in 2002, we've used rosemary antioxidant in our recipes. Derived from rosemary, this is in a base of sunflower oil, and slows the oxidation of oils and fats.
There are also other ways to extend the life of your Galaxy Aromatherapy products. They're made using sterile equipment and bottled in sterile blue glass or plastic or white plastic containers, to protect them from the sun. See below for tips to help you give them the best shelf life possible.
- If you're dipping your finger into the jar, make sure you wash and dry your hands first, to avoid introducing bacteria.
- When you have the option, choose a pump top or other dispenser, to reduce the chance of bacteria getting into the jar
- Always fasten the lid properly when it's not being used.
- We recommend you store any of our skin and body care products in the fridge (The exception to this is our Himalayan Bath Salt, which should be kept sealed properly, as follows). If you can't store them in the fridge, at the very least they should be kept in a dark room or cupboard which stays cool all the time - definitely not in your car or on a sunny windowsill. Remember, the sun moves, so a shelf or cabinet which is in the shade in the morning may not be in the afternoon, and bathrooms heat up when you're taking a shower or bath.
- Make sure you use them up before the best before date.