it's only natural...well not really

The organic skincare industry is pretty serious about keeping skincare organic.  Seems kinda obvious huh.  As more and more consumers are more informed and interest in simple, clean, & food or organic based skincare, natural skincare companies are popping up everywhere.  I think this is great.  It's amazing to see so many options for all of us and keeps us in the biz creating and inspired.  But recently I've been posed a few questions by my customers.  Hey I bought this natural lotion/cream can you look at the ingredients.  Sure no problem.   I was pretty sure I already knew the answer but still found the actual chemical makeup of the "natural" preservative unsettling.  
            Optiphen is a preservative that is used worldwide now as a preservative in skincare products.  It's used primarily in creams, lotions, & balms.  It is not naturally occurring and in fact is three different compounds:  Caprylyl glycol, phenoxethanol, & polysorbate 20.  If Optiphen is listed as the ingredient on your skincare product it is probably listed this way to avoid the chemical breakdown and make the product appear more natural than it actually is.  Let's break it down.  Caprylyl glycol when plant derived is an acceptable natural preservative with few known risks.  It's used as a moisturizing & wetting agent in products. (It is completely unacceptable when petroleum derived and unfortunately you may have no idea how it is derived.) Phenoxyethanol, however, has a couple potential health risks.  It is a known skin irritant & possible estrogen mimicker, but still not too horrifying.  Polysorbate 20 is an ethoxylated compound.   This means it was made using ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen.  The finished product contains cancinogenic traces as well as a carcinogenic bi-product called 1,4-dioxane.  This Optiphen is much less toxic than formaldehyde and is deemed safe to use world wide including in Europe.  I won't use it.  
                The standards today in skincare in the US have not changed since the 30's.  In Europe they have outlawed over 1000 chemicals that we still allow in our skincare and self-care products.  At Healthy Home and Heart I agree with Europe and raise them a standard.  There are so many unknowns with many preservatives & additives that it's not worth the risk.   The only preservatives I use are: T-50 Organic Naturally occurring Vitamin E, & rosemary oil/extract.  Technically in many of the products I don't need the vitamin E but add it for your shelf life and extra emollience for your skin.  I use process to achieve glide, texture, & ease of use.  This means it can take an entire day of process to achieve the best possible face cream, or body butter.  But I wouldn't have it any other way.  
        I hope this was helpful and educational about an ever increasing marketplace of natural skincare.  Below is an amazing link to Bumble Bee Organic a great resource for those who need help deciphering what the heck is on your ingredient list.  It's extremely helpful and informative although this is only one source and I have on occasion disagreed with some of her findings.  If in doubt I and you should ask a chemist.         

 I use a series of all day whipping, chilling, & emulsifying to achieve the lovely texture of Glow Face Cream, and other whipped products.  I could throw a couple chemicals in and pop it in a jar to achieve a similar glide & save time but it's not worth the risk.  The number of products and load of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis is staggering.  We ultimately have no idea the effects the new preservatives will have long term on our bodies.  So at HHH we keep it truly clean, simple, & luxurious without compromising performance.  


  • I really hope you’re using some type of preservative in products with water if you’re selling them. Otherwise, you’re selling a product that can grow fungi, mold, bacteria and opening yourself up to a lawsuit.

  • Please be careful not using preservatives in products that contain water (vitamin E and rosemary are not preservatives, they’re antioxidants that prevent oils from going rancid sooner).
    This can be very very dangerous as it can introduce consumers to bacteria and fungi that can cause serious systemic infections.
    And often, you cannot see these bacteria and fungi…it’s not just mold that you can see.
    Please consider using one of many of the natural preservatives available. There are several that actually are naturally derived.
    This is really important and truly not something to take lightly. If you are selling your products, please use a preservative.

  • Vitamin E and Rosemary oil/extract are not preservatives. They are antioxidants. Which are used to help prevent oxidation in oils. If a product contains water, such as lotions, creams, liquid soaps or even anhydrous products used in a humid bathroom with wet hands, Vitamin E and Rosemary oil/extract will NOT prevent bacteria, mold or yeast from developing in a product. This is a well known fact that you should understand before making such bold claims.
    Where there is water… there is life. Certain bacterias are easily capable in growing in a product that is not preserved that are exponentially more dangerous to our health than any of the health risks you mention. “Natural” is technically just a marketing term so you must educate yourself properly in order to discern for yourself. I suggest citing your sources on future blog posts to substantiate any claims you are making and checking your facts with peer reviewed scientific evidence. There are plenty of effective natural preservatives that are actually natural. You can look for products that contain those preservatives. Here are some resources that may help you: and

  • Hello, where did you find Polysorbate 20 to be included in the preservative you’re speaking about here. Please respond by email,


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