Using preservatives to extend the shelf life of homemade lotions, salves, infusions, and elixirs can be a double edged sword. On one side, you want your recipes with natural ingredients to last longer. But, on the other side, certain preservatives can be toxic chemicals. So, what are your choices? First, you could just not add any preservatives at all, but water based recipes would only last a few days. Kept in a refrigerator, they may make it up to a week. Using distilled water versus tap water in a recipe may increase the shelf life of products a small amount.
You can’t always see spoilage and microbial invasions. So use your sniffer. Smell test because spoiled or rancid products wont smell right!
Try making balms, salves, and oil infusions over creams, lotions, and emulsions with water.
Packaging is a very important way to lengthen shelf life. Choose seal tight colored glass or high quality plastic jars. And, VERY IMPORTANT: Make preparations in a sterile environment with ultra clean utensils and equipment.
Preservatives have either an antimicrobial and/or an antioxidant action. Antimicrobials kill nasty bacteria, yeast, and molds that can form in home products that can be very dangerous for our health! Antioxidants reduce spoilage. The natural preservatives listed below will help prolong the shelf life of products, but they are not as effective as commercial brand preservatives.
Look for brands that are paraben free, formaldehyde free, and do not contain isothiazolinone. Many products will also have emulsifying action, blending water with oil effectively. Some are aromatic and some are odorless. Here is a list of a few options: