Does My Product Need a Preservative?

This is a question I get regularly.  The answer is fairly straight forward.  I tell anyone that asks me this question to treat every end user like an idiot and cover your butt. The reason I say this is because if you are selling your product you have no idea who is using your products and what they intend to do with them, where they store them, etc.  The best way to cover your butt is to think that it may just be an actual idiot using your product.

So with that said... back to the original question... does my product need one?  I can answer this question with a series of questions.


Does your product contain water or any water based product?  

If so, yes it needs a preservative! 


Is your product used in such a way that water might get introduced into the product? 

For example, you make a sugar scrub... odds are it will be used in the tub, shower or at the sink.  Odds are someone will be introducing wet hands into the product.  This is one of those instances where you would want to treat that end user like an idiot...  assume they will be wetting their hands and then reaching into the container for the product.  At this point there had better have been a preservative in it because as soon as that lid gets closed it is a breeding ground for bacteria. 


What if I label the product with "Do not store in bathroom?" Or "Do not use with wet hands?"

Well... once again treat everybody like an idiot... and what if they are illiterate?  Cover your butt and add a preservative.  And to be honest... when was the last time you read the FULL label on a bath and body product, unless you were bored in the shower?  And then if you were reading it in the shower, it would be too late, because that product should have a preservative in it.


Does soap need a preservative?

Cold process and HP Soap... definitely no.  Superfatted bars can benefit from an antioxidant though (not the same as a preservative, see  Antioxidants versus Preservatives).  Liquid Soap I am not sure.  I have asked and have been told that the ph might be enough to keep the ickies at bay.  However nobody I have discussed this with has been 100% sure.  So if in doubt... cover your butt and treat everyone like idiots!


Lip Balm or herbal balms... do they need a preservative?

If you make a balm that contains no water or water based products and it is not meant for use in the tub or after wet hands... no it does not need a preservative.  It would definitely benefit from Vitamin E though.


How far does the idiot thing go?  

Well if you make a lip balm that is anhydrous and someone accidently washes it (thus water is introduced) and then they use it without throwing it in the garbage... well that is beyond the preservative thing... you have no control over that... 


Hope this helps...


Randi Carr


(P.S.  I mean no offense by using the word "idiot"... it really was the best way I could think of to get my point across).

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