If you love natural, preservative-free products as much as I do, then you’re doing your skin, your body and the environment a huge favor. However, I often hear concern from people who are worried about keeping their natural products as fresh as possible, and who feel unsure about identifying when a product has gone bad. So get ready to be schooled!
Preserving a natural product is pretty simple. First, realize that no matter what, time will affect the product. An egg will go rotten eventually, even if you refrigerate it. Milk will curdle. Apples will rot. This is a normal part of the natural world. It’s what doesn’t go bad that you should be worried about!
In order to keep your products in prime condition, keep them someplace cool, dry and dark, as much as possible. By doing this, you are slowing down the process of oxidation. Everything submits to oxidation – even humans. The cooler and dryer you can keep your products, the better. And protect them from the light as much as possible. (That’s why we use amber or frosted glass jars instead of clear glass.)
This can be a challenge, I realize, especially if you live in, say, Miami! I happen to be lucky – I live in a cold, dry part of the country. But if you don’t, there are a few tricks you can try!
First of all, only buy what you will use in a 3-6 month period. If you use your products within 3 months, like I do, you can generally keep them in your bathroom’s medicine cabinet without worry. (Yes, even with the humidity and temperature changes a bathroom experiences.)
If you live in an especially hot, humid climate, try keeping your products in the fridge, if you don’t use them up quickly. It’s a bit moist in there, but cold, dark humidity is better than hot, bright humidity!
If you don’t want to use your fridge, try a closet or rarely-used drawer in a cool area of your house. This works like a charm for me. I keep the products that I don’t use up quickly in a closet, with the door shut at all times. This keeps the temperature consistent, blocks out the light and it’s dry as a bone, thanks to our high desert climate.
It is also very important to avoid contaminating your product with water. Any product that uses water is harder to preserve and if you buy products with water in them, you need to make sure they include a preservative, or be VERY careful in how you store them. (Keep it in the fridge and use it up fast.) I do not sell anything that contains water because products like that, sans preservatives, have a very short shelf-life. Balms, oils and soaps, however, do not need preservatives (so long as they are used in a reasonable amount of time) because bacteria don’t (yes, it’s “don’t” – bacteria is plural) find these products very hospitable. So don’t go and introduce bacteria into your products by dipping into your Flower Balm with wet hands! Keep your hands dry when you dip in and this will help keep your product fresh and safe.
Now the big question: How do you know when a product has gone bad? And what does that even mean? Stay tuned, next Friday, and I’ll answer your question!