Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Few Thoughts On Preservatives

I know it's been several weeks since my last post.  My comp has been in the shop and it's been pretty busy here in my Hall.  I'm just now commandeering my husband's gaming comp to do this.  I can't write about what I truly would like to since it takes a while to research and gather info to write about.  And for me, that can take days to gather, and hours just to compile in a cohesive essay.  But, I need to get this topic off my chest. So this is somewhat of a rant.  But an informative one.

Maybe folks are keeping up with me.  Maybe not.  But in my previous post, I talked in depth about preservatives, especially in regards to the role they play in Liquid Soap (LS).  I'm still very confident in what I've written, and in fact, have made small edits to it just to add a smidge more information, rather than create a whole new post.  Over the months, I've been asked how I felt about this type of preservative, or that type. Am I for chemical preservatives, or for 'natural' methods?  To be honest, I'm for neither.  No, this does not mean I'm not for preservatives of some type, and there are MANY types.  I'm just not for one or the other.  What I am for is responsible use of them.  If you choose to use/ not to use a preservative, that's up to you.    I won't bat an eye either way.  now if you ask for my opinion on a specific product, I'll give you the best informed opinion I can muster, based on my research.  What I don't understand is, why the constant use of chemical preservatives to begin with?  I am astonished at how many people insist on the use of a chemical preservative in almost every single hand crafted bath and body product, especially when it isn't warranted.  Meanwhile, there are plenty of companies with products on physical shelves and in online shops that don't use chemical preservative.  My favorite company, despite how much I hate some of their marketing, makes an amazing conditioner that lacks a chemical preservative like what would be found in Germaben, Germall and Optiphen.  They also make a baby lotion in the same manner that I'm in love with. Their products contain nothing but oils, butters, botanical extracts and water.  The conditioner never lasts long in my house  (3 females with heads full of curly hair).  But that baby lotion lasted me almost a year (yeah, it stopped being just for baby).  Sure, I never got it tested to be certain, but it never grew mold.  Never discolored. Never changed odor. Obvious physical signs of microbial contamination and overgrowth.   I used it on my infant son's sensitive skin, especially the diaper area, as well as mine, with no adverse effects.

Take a look at the big "sugar/salt scrub debate" amongst hand crafters.  Folks are always asking if scrubs need a preservative since it's anhydrous.  Some will say yes, because it gets exposed to water.  I'm on the side that says no, and I site scientific reasons as to why, with plenty of reference material to back it up. From my previous blog post:
"Salt and sugar both draw out water and tie it up within itself, making the water unavailable for any chemical reactions to occur. High concentrations of salt interfere with the growth of microbes, while sugar may also encourage the growth of healthy microbes that prevent the harmful type from growing. High concentrations of sugar also exert osmotic pressure that will draw water out of bacteria, preventing them from growing as well."

 Yet folks still go for the "just in case".  OK, that's fine. But here's where I have issue with this thinking.  When asked if hand crafted soap needs one, EVERYONE (no exaggeration at all) will say no.  Why?  They all site scientific reasons, mainly referring to it's pH. But also because it's anhydrous 

                       But But?!!  ...It's exposed to water!  

It sits in a damp shower/bath area, and is rubbed against wash cloths and bath poufs, or even bare skin, and  thus constantly exposed to the resident microbes there.  And don't tell me you can rinse the bar off.  It's still exposed to water, especially microbes in the water, as with scrubs, and even more so likely to be left in the damp shower area.  Even if you take it out the shower, it's still left out wet until it air dries.  But who actually does that?

See my frustration?  Why are folks using scientific fact for soap, but completely ignore it for scrubs?  

Another instance of 'preservative thumping":  I asked in a Facebook group, folks' thoughts on adding an emulsifier to a body butter.  For those who don't know, body butters are basically a wonderful combination of oils and butters used on the body, very much like a lotion, but without water as a carrier.  So you get all the goodness of the oils,  undiluted. Other things are added, like clays or cornstarch, for added silkiness or to cut back on greasiness.  But it's still an anhydrous product.  I think somewhere in the thread, someone misread.  It was essentially a thread I started as a free flow brainstorm, looking for the added thoughts of others as well, without asking for recipes and such.  I really hate asking for things like that, asking for copies of folks hard work that is. At first, in shower lotion popped in my head, but then I was like, 'nah, those have water in the them as well'.  I reiterated several times that it was to be a body butter with an emulsifier added.  A completely leave on product.  One commenter completely misread everything I said, and on top of that, insisted I ensure the use of a (chemical) preservative.   I asked why, since it was an anhydrous product.  And her only answer was, 'just in case water gets in'.  Well, first, had she read carefully, she'd know water wasn't going near it.  And second, did she care to ask how I'd planned to package it?  If I put it in a wide opening bottle, not jar, it's less likely to be contaminated by water, like some facial scrubs I buy. St. Ives comes to mind, since it has a wide enough orifice to allow it's thick product to be squeezed through.

The use of chemical preservatives seems to be a knee jerk reaction by hand crafters.  Someone, SOMEWHERE said that they are needed in almost everything when water is present, despite conflicting information dictating otherwise.  I think my concern is, the overuse of said ingredients.  Like antibiotics,  microbes can, and will, become resistant if these specific ingredients used too much.  Then what?  What will be the new, trending chemical preservative available to hand crafters all over?  The aforementioned brands are just that: widely used, and overused, IMO. You find blogs everywhere stamping the use of these ingredients into the heads of easily frightened individuals who don't know any better and are obviously confused by the information that is available that dictates differently.  Some folks, sadly, also prefer to be just be told what to do, rather than research on their own. And none of them, I can guarantee, have their products tested to see if their preservation method even works. They, just like myself, assume that since 'nothing funky' is seen or smelled', then nothing is happening.  That may not always be the case folks, and even the most highly recommended chemical preservatives can fail. Just keep that in mind. I also only make small batches, so nothing sticks around long enough for me to find out, to be honest.
 Ssigh, I'm not saying don't use preservatives.  I use one in my hair conditioner, but it's an EcoCert ingredient, and it's none of the above listed either.  And only because my earliest attempts to go preservative free failed miserably, due to my lack of knowledge.  Just do your diligence.  Stop taking the word of this major blogger here, or that major personality there.   If I can sit here, mom of 3(2 special needs), wife of a Navy Vet, now rig wife,  can dig all this up for y'all and write about it once in a while, some of y'all can make a better attempt at researching you ingredients to find out what is and isn't needed. Just sit back for a little bit and think about it.  If you still go the route of wanting that 'extra protection' for your products, again, I won't bat an eye.  But, ask me what I think about it,  I'll give you an answer, and you may not like it either.