This is not a pretty picture to share with you today. Natural skincare products are always at risk of potential contamination by microbes and as a manufacturer there are a number of steps I take. Consumers also need to do their part.
All products which contain water or will come into contact with water need preservation to prevention microbial growth. Water is the enemy of skin care. Despite what many popular websites may say it is not appropriate to rely on essential oils only for protection. Yes we know that many essential oils offer some protection, but they cannot be the only protection in commercial products. Products can be contaminated at manufacturing through using contaminated ingredients, not sterilising equipment properly (here at From Nature I use a combination of UV sterilisation and alcohol), using containers which have been contaminated in some way. The next risk is transport and storage- extremes of temperature causes condensation in products which increases risk of microbial growth. When I was exporting large volumes of product to Hong Kong one of the early shipments hit a disaster at the border. Ihe container it was in had been tampered with and goods inside thrown about and intentionally damaged in a protest. My few boxes were later indentified upside down in water. The 50 kg of product represented a lot of work and money for me as it was meant to be the start of a new business relationship with a chain of stores. Luckily I had insurance but there was no way I could be assured that product was not contaminated!
The next contamination risk is when bulk product is repacked- agains clean containers, using sterilised implements are all standard good manufacturing practices. The next consideration is the type of container- opaque containers protect product from light which can cause product to break down, bottles with pumps mean product is not handled much by hands compared with jars which have constant finger dipping. Airless containers are the best as they totally protect the product but with the move away from non recyclable packaging these may not be used as much by natural or eco brands.
Finally as a consumer- take note of the use by date once opened (look for an open lid icon on the label)
Next to the lid it will state a number meaning the number of months ok to use once opened (usually 6, 12 or 18)
Don't expect a natural product to still be perfect 2-3 years down the track- if it is then it probably wasn't natural to start with! Don't put fingers in cream, don't store on a window sill and don't contaminate with water (for example opening a tub of body scrub while in the shower puts water in the product).
Here at From Nature I use two different types preservative systems, both are eco cert approved for natural products. Some products have an extra boost for fungi depending on the type of product. Salon use products contain the highest recommended % of preservative as by their nature they need to be more robust and stand up to daily handling. It goes with out saying to use something like a wooden stick to remove product from tubs or jars.
If needed we send off product to independent laboratories for microbial testing (called challenge testing) when microorganisms are introduced to the product to see if they support growth). Other tests include stability tests where product is subjected to various conditions to test the shelf life.
The photo shows the in house testing we can doe. The first tube is somecream intentionally contaminated during production by not washing equipment, not using gloves, not sterilising container and leaving container open while cooling. With in 3 days of testing the paddle started growing this black fungi and by 7 days was completely covered. The second is from a commercial sample prepared for a client which was tested at manufacture. This sample is still contamination free 6 months later showing the product remains safe for use and is adequately preserved. Reember here at From Nature all the product is fresh made (wholesale to order) and retial within last 3 months so it is as fresh as can possibly be.
Be safe with your products- contamination can cause skin reactions, skin or eye infections and reduce effectiveness of the products. Wendy
Posted: Wednesday 31 July 2019