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Article: Beauty, Bacteria, and Beyond: Naturally derived cosmetic preservatives.

Colorful illustration of bacteria and cosmetic bottles generated by ChatGPT with DALL·E from OpenAI

Beauty, Bacteria, and Beyond: Naturally derived cosmetic preservatives.

We have an ingredient glossary devoted to sharing information about the ingredients used in our products. It contains interesting summaries and facts along with a list of all of our products that the ingredient is featured in. The glossary is great, but we felt like preservatives deserved a deeper dive. 

What is a Preservative?

Before we delve into the fascinating world of preservatives, let's first establish what a preservative is. A preservative is a substance added to products such as foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals to prevent spoilage. Essentially, these substances work to inhibit the growth of bacteria, molds, and other microorganisms, thereby prolonging the shelf life and usability of products.

Hand Cream flowing from a warming tank into a filling hopper.

What are the Differences Between a Food Preservative and a Cosmetic Preservative?

While both food and cosmetic preservatives serve the fundamental purpose of preventing spoilage, they are regulated differently and often comprise different substances. Food preservatives might include substances like sodium benzoate or citric acid, while cosmetic preservatives can include parabens, formaldehyde-releasing agents, and more. The safety and concentration levels of these preservatives are regulated by different governing bodies depending on their intended use. Small cosmetic manufacturers are actually not regulated at all. In 2022, the FDA took steps to increase regulation over manufacturers, but it only applies to companies selling more than $1 million on average in sales for the last three years. To learn more about the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022, click here. 

As a small business, Lovett Sundries is not regulated, but we do our very best to follow or exceed all of the same regulations that larger companies are subject to. 

Why Do Cosmetics Need Preservatives?

Cosmetics Are a Rich Medium for Bacterial and Fungal Growth

Cosmetic products often contain a mixture of water, oils, and nutrients, which makes them an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. The urge of many small all-natural cosmetic manufacturers is to forgo preservatives in favor of holistic solutions or nothing at all. When you dip your fingers into a jar of cream or a bottle of lotion, you risk introducing new microorganisms into the product. Without preservatives, these products would spoil quickly, leading to both product waste and potential health risks.

Artistic arrangement of botanical plants and cosmetic products

Our Choice: Lactobacillus-Based Preservative

SPOILER ALERT: At Lovett Sundries, we've chosen Lactobacillus Ferment as our go-to preservative. But before we explore the benefits of this unique preservative, let’s talk about what bacteria and fungi are and why you don’t want them in your cosmetics.

What are Bacteria?

Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that exist virtually everywhere—air, water, soil, and even within the human body. They often have a very simple structure, lacking a nucleus and other organelles typical of eukaryotic cells. Instead, their genetic material is found in a single loop of DNA. 

These simple but versatile cells play essential roles in various natural processes, including decomposition (breaking down dead organic matter), nitrogen fixation (converting atmospheric nitrogen into a form plants can use), and photosynthesis (some bacteria can capture energy from sunlight).

While some bacteria can cause diseases (pathogenic bacteria), many others are beneficial. Beneficial bacteria play a crucial role in processes like fermentation and digestion. In the human gut, for instance, they help in digesting food and producing essential vitamins.

Microscopic view of lactobacillus bacteria.

What is Fungus?

Fungi are a different class of microorganisms that include yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. Interestingly, fungi are Heterophic, which means they cannot produce their own food through photosynthesis like plants. Instead, they obtain nutrients by absorbing organic material from their environment (like creams and lotions 😬). 

Like bacteria, they can be good (like yeast in bread) or problematic (like mold in a damp bathroom).

Colorful petri dish of mold and fungus.

Why You Don’t Want Them in Your Cosmetics

Negative Effects

Bacterial and fungal contamination in cosmetic products can lead to a range of issues. Some are less concerning, such as reduced shelf life or unpleasant odors. Others can be much more serious, such as skin infections, allergic reactions, or the introductions of toxins to the skin. 

Consumers should also be cautious, regularly checking the appearance and smell of their products, avoiding sharing cosmetics, and discarding any products that appear or smell off.

Aside from the obvious adverse effects of improperly preserved cosmetics, using cosmetics with preservatives that are not effective can also lead to the growth of resistant strains of bacteria, which are harder to eliminate and can cause more severe infections.

How Can You Find Out More About Any Cosmetic Ingredient?

One reliable source for checking the safety of cosmetic ingredients is the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG offers a database called Skin Deep, allowing you to search for the safety of cosmetics and personal care products. The organization also conducts research, publishes reports, and advocates for healthier living through better choices in consumer products.

How Do Preservatives Work?

There are several mechanisms by which preservatives work:

  • Cell Wall Disruption: Substances like Benzalkonium chloride work by breaking down the cell wall of microorganisms.
  • Protein Denaturation: Alcohols and formaldehyde denature proteins within the microbial cells, rendering them inactive.
  • Interference with Metabolism: Some preservatives like parabens obstruct microbial metabolism.
  • pH Modification: Sodium Benzoate and Lacto Bacillus Ferment (our choice) alter the pH, making the environment inhospitable for microbial growth.

What We Use and Why

When scaling our business, we sought a preservative that was effective and aligned with our all-natural ethos. We found Lactobacillus Ferment, a probiotic-based ingredient created through the fermentation of Lactobacillus. It acidifies its environment and produces antimicrobial peptides called bacteriocins, offering broad-spectrum protection.

Line drawing of the Lactobacillus bacteria.

The product we use, Leucidal Liquid SF MAX, is produced by Active Micro Technologies. It is GMO-Free, REACH compliant, and ECOcert-approved.

Preservative Boosters

Some of our products also include preservative boosters like AMTcide Coconut to inhibit fungal growth and citric acid to adjust the pH level for additional protection.

Glass pipette dropping golden oil into a glass beaker.

In Summary

Finding a suitable, all-natural preservative that aligns with your values is not an easy task. At Lovett Sundries, we’ve done the hard work for you. Our products are fortified with Lactobacillus Ferment, AMTcide Coconut, and citric acid, ensuring that you’re getting the very best in all-natural personal care.

We invite you to explore our range of preservative-protected, all-natural products today.

Preservative Collection

Thank you for entrusting Lovett Sundries with your skincare needs.


* The colorful illustration of bacteria and cosmetic bottles generated by ChatGPT with DALL·E from OpenAI. All other images are either from Lovett Sundries or Adobe Stock Photos. 


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