Shelf Life of Your Homemade Products

Good morning, Hackers!

I have posted a lot about DIY and homemade products like bath salts and body scrubs, but I want to stress in today’s post that these products are made from natural materials. Unlike those store bought products, natural ingredients and can and will go bad so, for your health (and the health of anyone you sell or give your products too), it is important to understand what the shelf life of your products will be.

Today, I’m going to focus on two things that can affect your products. The first is mold and bacteria. We all know about these lovely little buggers because we all have bathrooms and no matter how meticulous you want to be about cleaning it, somehow, mold still occurs. That is because water is present. There is nothing mold likes more than moisture.

If you are making products that have water present in them (like lotions or emulsified scrubs), mold and bacteria are likely to occur. In this instance, a preservative should be used. There are a number of preservatives that you can buy to add to your product but if you want to stay as natural as possible in your product, there are two things you need to help preserve you product; antimicrobial preservatives and antioxidants. Coconut oil is an antimicrobial as is the carrier oil apricot kernal seed oil. There is some debate on if grapefruit seed extract is an effective preservative due to the revelation a few years back that most grapefruit seed oils contained other, harmful products. As with anything, be sure you know what you are using/buying. Read the labels, ask questions, sometimes you might even want to call the company that produces the product to find out what may not be listed on the label.

Antioxidants like vitamin E and rosemary oil extract are also great things to add to your products not just for the mold/bacteria repelling properties but because they are good for your skin. Just remember that if your product has food in it, like avocado, a preservative is not going to prolong the shelf life of the product. Make these types of things in small amounts that can be used well within the few days shelf life of this type of product. And remember to refrigerate these types of products or they’ll just go bad all the faster.

The second thing you want to be aware of is rancidity. A lot of people think that bacteria and something being rancid are the same thing but they are not. Your product can grow mold and bacteria at ANY time (because of the water). However, if you use a preservative to prevent mold/bacteria in your product, that product can still go rancid. Rancidity doesn’t necessarily mean your product isn’t safe to use, it just means that the benefits of the natural products may have depleted. (Mold and bacteria on the other hand, DO make the product unsafe and you should chuck it out immediately if you find mold.)

So now you’re probably asking yourself, “how do I know when I should use a preservative and when I don’t have to?” Just remember the water. Anything that doesn’t have oils, butters, waxes, etc in it but is a cream or lotion should have an preservative. Basically, creams, lotions, toners, moisturizers, emulsions…those need preservative. Things like lip balms, salves, ointments, body and facial oils, oil-based body butters… those do not require a preservative.

You can also extend the shelf life of your products by following a few simple steps in your making and storing process. Use clean, sterilized containers and tools, use distilled of boiled water (or water substitutes), and store your products in dark or opaque containers in a cool, dry place.

Making your own products can be fun and easy and safe when you understand what to watch out for.

Stay safe and healthy, Hackers!

~Scribe Sarah~


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