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This article was written by Tania Bhattacharya on behalf of Sherley Altidor.
Going all natural and creating your own beauty product is exciting. This is mostly because you know what exactly you are putting into each product and hence on your body. However, making a natural beauty remedy is only half the battle won. The other, and a very important, part remains in preserving the products to maximize their shelf life. Their is hardly a point in creating something from scratch only to find that it goes bad in a few days. Here are a few ways to extend the shelf life of your natural recipes and some tips. Disclaimer: I didn’t try all of it but I have researched quite a bit to bring you a few important points.
Be very careful about cleanliness
Your hands, the tools you use while mixing the various ingredients and even the air all around— everything can be a potential source of contamination. Hence you should be extra careful throughout the process of creating your homemade product, beginning with the containers where you mix the ingredients or even the jars where you store the final product.
Jars and containers: Using clean and sterilized jars is the way to go. Even if you are buying brand-new containers to store your product, it is a good idea to clean them thoroughly with soap and warm water. Follow the same process if you are recycling old containers. It is only natural to re-use empty food jars as containers for storing beauty products. In that case too, make sure that there is no food particle sticking around. Many recommend using a few drops of white vinegar for the cleaning purpose. However, you can take your pick. The idea is to negate the chances of any kind of contamination.
Once clean, make sure to dry out the jars completely before filling in your homemade beauty product.
Separate equipment: Many believe that keeping the equipment separate, especially food prep from lotion prep, is a good idea and cuts down on the chances of contamination by a few more degrees. If you want, you can use separate, designated equipment for making the various kinds of beauty products such as soaps, lotions, salves, etc. Make sure that you thoroughly clean each and every tool after each use.
Always clean your hands: The COVID-19 situation has taught us how harmful and even dangerous unclean hands can be. Even otherwise, dirty hands can introduce a lot of contaminants to your beauty product. We suggest you always give your hands a thorough wash both while working with the various ingredients to create your product and also when putting your hands inside a jar while using the product later on. Not all ‘germs’ can be visible to the naked eye. Similarly, ‘dirty’ hands don’t necessarily mean you have mud or grease on it. So, to be sure, always wash your hands, even if you think they are clean.
Also read: What Is The Point Of Using Natural Products
Use the right kind of containers: This, in a way, is a continuation of the above point. Choose a container wisely, wherever possible, so that you don’t have to directly touch the product every time you need to use it. For example, if you have made body oil or body lotion, consider putting it in a bottle with a pump or a flip top. That way, you can keep using the products while never directly touching it and thus cutting out chances of contamination from your hands completely.
Keep the lids tightly closed: Moisture isn’t the best friend when it comes to your natural beauty product. For example, bacteria and moisture can make oils go bad very fast. The best way to prevent this is to always put on the lid of the container.
Stay away from water
Although this might sound strange, but water is not your best friend when you are trying to preserve your homemade beauty products. Bacteria love a wet and damp atmosphere and so does yeast and mold. However, the catch is, many beauty recipes are water based. Think of those with aloe vera gel, witch hazel extract, tea or water infusions, etc. So, when you have to use water, make sure that you use either distilled or boiled water. When using the latter, allow it to cool completely before you add it to any recipe. For aloe vera gel, hydrosols or witch hazel extract, it is better to refrigerate them. Doing so will ensure that they have a longer shelf life. A good idea is to go for smaller batches when you are using water-based recipes. Apart from ensuring that you reduce the chances of the products going bad, you will also have the satisfaction of using a fresher product, and that’s no mean satisfaction at all!
It might be a good idea to keep two things in mind in this context:
- Use oil-based or anhydrous ingredients. This is because unlike water, oil does not support the growth of organisms. A note of caution here though. Even when you are using oil-based products but end up introducing water by accident or unknowingly, that can also increase the chances of contamination. A case in point is an oil-based product that you use in shower and water finds its way inside it. Under such circumstances too, your product might be contaminated.
- Count on sugar, salt and glycerin when making your products. While organisms such as bacteria and yeast thrive in water, sugar and salt pull out water from whatever products they are put in. You will get the same result from glycerin as well, however, its concentration has to be around 70% for it to give a pleasant feel. As you might already know, glycerin is loved for its moisturizing property as well and is a great addition to any skincare product.
Also read: How I Keep My Skin Clear
Use natural preservatives
The mention of preservatives may raise a few eyebrows, but relax, we are not talking of anything artificial or harmful. Thankfully, there are a few preservatives that are available in nature and can be added to your products to increase their shelf life. Here are a few available options:
- Antimicrobial: Antimicrobials help to kill microorganisms or stop their growth. In the context of preserving natural products, it means killing bacteria and extending your products shelf life. Coconut oil and grapefruit seed extract are both excellent antimicrobial agents. Coconut oil has medium-chained fatty acids such as lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which give this oil antimicrobial properties. It disrupts the cell membranes of bacteria and fungi, thereby causing cell death.
It is believed that grapefruit seed extract can kill more than 60 types of bacteria and yeast. It comes as little surprise that it is a preservative of choice for a number of skin care products. The trick is to use it at a certain proportion. Usually it is recommended to use it at a .5 to 1% ratio of formula. However, we suggest you do your due diligence before mixing it to your products.
- Antioxidants: Using antioxidants to your oils is also a great way to ensure that they enjoy a longer shelf life. However, the role of antioxidants is not to prevent or fight against bacteria or fungi, rather, it is to stop oxidation. The latter is responsible for turning products rancid. Vitamin E is a very popular antioxidant. It contains gamma tocopherols.
Rosemary oil extract is yet another natural antioxidant. However, you should use it at a certain proportion: .15 to .5% of the overall formula. Once again, we recommend you do your due diligence before adding it to your products.
You can add antioxidants directly to your oil. This will increase its freshness. Alternatively, you can add it in your recipe’s oil phase.
Storing your natural beauty product correctly is an essential part of the process of going natural. After all, everyone would want to get the most out of everything one creates at home from scratch. Although we have spoken about cleanliness and the importance of choosing the right kind of containers, it is also important to keep in mind about batch sizes. This is especially true if you are creating things such as face masks or scrubs or any other beauty product using food items. I had to call this out here because I have written a lot about ingredients that are easily available in your kitchen and that you can easily mix to create your own skincare products. In some cases, you may refrigerate these mixes and keep using it for a week or so. But in most cases, you won’t be able to use it beyond that. This is an important bit to keep in mind.
Lastly, just because it is natural doesn’t mean that you can keep using it for months or years. Remember, even the farm fresh organic veggies you buy can and will go bad if kept for a long time. So, please keep monitoring your products and if they smell bad or look unhealthy, please throw it away.
Do you have any tips about preserving your homemade beauty products? I would love to know about it. Please tell me in the comments section below.
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