The Truth About Natural Preservatives in Skincare


The reassuring use of natural and organic preservatives is a major reason many people are turning to organic skincare. More and more of us are shunning the kinds of toxic preservatives found in regular skincare products, which is fantastic.

But there are two potential problems with organic and/or natural skincare and preservatives. Firstly, some supposedly natural and organic skincare products might appear to be natural, but still contain toxic preservatives (check your labels, make sure it's CERTIFIED organic as that is your guarantee of purity).

Secondly, the bona fide natural and organic skincare products that don't contain those harsh preservatives might not be properly preserved.

Inadequate preservation can be hazardous to our health. Not only do contaminants smell bad, they’re unappealing to the eye. They also might be pathogenic and require medical treatment if applied to dry, fissured and cracked skin.

For makers of organic skincare, it's paramount to find the correct preservatives in order to control microbial activity, as well as retard and eliminate the growth of topical pathogens and microbes.

Cosmetics are often stored in warm and moist environments such as bathrooms, which are a breeding ground for bugs. Our skin also contains microorganisms and with the addition of tap water, which is not sterile, it makes it very easy for products to become contaminated and start to degrade.  

Unless a product is completely oil based, it will require some form of preservation, natural or otherwise. Oil based products also deteriorate and oxidise, giving off a rancid odour. Ideally oils, nuts and seeds that are applied to the skin and orally ingested should be refrigerated to prolong their shelf life.

Some of the common preservatives found in skin care products include ascorbic acid, castor oil, phenols, vitamin e, salt, vinegar, alcohol, sorbic acid, rosemary oil extract, oregano extract, benzoic acid, tocopherol, germaben ii, diatomaceous earth, grapefruit seed extract, and sugar. Unless you have a degree in chemistry, it may be easy to assume that some of these natural sounding preservatives are far from it. Below we will look at what to look for on the ingredients list.

A rule of thumb for all jarred products that are organically or naturally formulated, is that they should always be used with a spatula and within three months of opening to prevent cross contamination.

When I first began formulating back in the late 90s with the intention of creating certified organic skincare products with minimal or natural preservatives only, there really wasn’t a lot of choices available. Over the years of tweaking and reformulating the products I have trialled many different plant based preservatives. Some were successful and others failed miserably.

Fortunately, as the demand for natural and organic products has increased, so have the number of natural preservatives that actually work. Thankfully, our blessed mother nature has provided us with a vast array of natural preservatives with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties to combat microorganisms, fungi, bacteria and contamination.

I'm happy to say we’ve now achieved stabilised formulations to British Pharmacopeia standard with full preservative efficacy testing (PET) and a shelf life of up to 18 months. 


We take a two-pronged approach to preservation: biophotonic glass and natural preservatives. We keep our natural preservative levels to the bare minimum while providing transparent and easy to understand ingredient labeling.


To us, our packaging serves as more than just a storage vehicle. It plays an integral role in maintaining the potency, efficacy and freshness of our products with minimal preservation. The science of biophotonics offers maximum protection and serves to preserve against degradation by blocking out the harmful rays of light while enhancing the resonance of our bioactive ingredients. By only allowing the ultraviolet light spectrum to penetrate the glass, products can remain stable and unpreserved for up to seven months. 


This product’s active principle is an aromatic. Pure, naturally occuring phenethyl alcohol is found in nature in many flowers. It has a delicate rose-hyacinth-like scent and is therefore also used in the perfumery industry as a natural fragrance component. The good antimicrobial activity gives a contribution to yield self-preserving products with no further need for traditional preservatives.

Which Mukti Organics products is it in? Balancing MoisturiserHydrating Moisturiser, Tinted Moisturiser with Sunscreen, Daily Moisturiser with Sunscreen, Hydrating Cleansing Lotion, Rose Blossom Hydrating Mist, Orange Blossom Balancing Mist, Rosehip Eye Gel, Deep Cleanse Antioxidant MasqueBotanique DeodorantBotanique Lotion


Produced using only plant materials. Glyceryl monoesters are versatile antimicrobial additives. It has moisturising and re-fatting properties that assist with improving and maintaining the moisture and balanced environment of the skin. It can also help to combat impurities due to its strong activity against propionibacterium acnes.

Which Mukti Organics products is it in? Balancing Cleansing Gel, Age Defiance Eye SerumAge Defiance Day Serum, Age Defiance Night Serum, Blemish Control, Aloe Vera Moisturiser2-in-1 Resurfacing Exfoliant


This product’s active principle is a blend of compounds found in many plants in nature and are antimicrobial preservatives derived from corn and fennel respectively. The gentle ingredients improve the natural acidic environment of the skin and also assist with moisturisation. Interestingly, bees also use one of the naturally occurring plant acids for the difficult task of protecting their pollen and nectar against microbiological spoilage. 

Which Mukti Organics products is it in? Botanique Shampoo, Botanique ConditionerBotanique Wash


Given that natural, non-toxic and extremely effective preservatives now exist, it’s inexcusable that so many skincare and personal care companies continue to use cheap paraben preservatives (methyl, propyl, butyl, isobutyl, and ethyl) and potentially harmful synthetic chemicals derived from a petroleum or crude oil base. 

It’s been known for some time that parabens can mimic the effect of estrogen, rendering them endocrine disruptors, and they have been found to be present in the tumors of breast cancer patients. Significantly, research shows these parabens are readily absorbed through the skin, not taken orally.

Other potentially dangerous chemical preservatives you should avoid include:

BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), C12-15 alkyl benzoate, diazolidinyl urea, disodium EDTA, DMDM hydantoin, EDTA, formaldehyde,  methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, quaternium 15, tetrasodium EDTA, germaben ii, and some .

Do you read the labels and look for natural preservatives on all the products you purchase? Are you aware of just how many potentially harmful preservatives are found in mainstream products?

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published


By Mukti

Mukti has been actively involved in the beauty and personal care industry for over two decades. Her varied career has encompassed a common thread focusing on health and wellness. Her aim is to reconnect people to nature, creating health and happiness via toxin-free lifestyles and beauty regimes.