Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Keeping our lizard skin safe and germ-free

Vivianne raised some very important points in the comments on my post yesterday, thanks Vivianne, and because of this I am going to take this opportunity to tell you everything I know about Bacterial Contamination of Homemade Cosmetics. Bear with me, gentle readers, because knowledge can only make us stronger. Now, although most of us apart from Partner pick up some idea about food hygiene along the way, i.e. don’t rub your crudités on a raw chicken (no that isn’t a euphemism but wouldn’t it be marvellous if it was), don’t let the dog go for a walk through mud and then put his paw in the tiramisu, that kind of thing, with homemade cosmetics we are often not expecting to ever make our own and we only have commercial ones as a yardstick: these stand for months on the shelves, and so we (and when I say we I mean I) tend to think ours should do that, too. Wrong! This is the excitement of homemade cosmetics, they are nothing like the commercial version. It is like comparing homemade mayonnaise to Hellmann's, Hellmann's will sit in the cupboard for 6 months and so will homemade but then if you ate it you would die whereas with Hellmann's you would just feel vague disappointment.

So I am going to share with you what I have picked up along the way about shelf lives. Everyone feel free to correct me if I am wrong!
Mr Bacteria, mocking us. OK, it may be rubbish. You don't read this blog for the pictures, though, you read it to see if Home Improvements are going to break me. Yes, yes they are
Homemade soap: when you make soap, all your oils go through a saponification process, and this stops them going rancid, as far as I know, although, if they are rancid to start with then your soap will smell dodgy. However, (this is the science bit), often soaps are superfatted, which means you put in a bit of extra oils and it doesn’t all get saponified. Since there are unsaponified oils floating about in the soap, I would presume they could go rancid eventually. Your oil will have a sell by date, so I would think your soap is fine until then, then keep an eye on it after that. The scent fades a bit if you store it for too long as well.

But I think generally your soaps are good for a good few months and do not have to be refrigerated (and I am sure there is some homemade soap that has been hanging about for years). My mother drinks wine, becomes lively, and then steals all mine as soon as I make it, so this is entirely academic to me, indeed, would that I had this problem.

Homemade cosmetics with water: to make cosmetics which have a texture which is anything like the bought version, you have to use water and emulsifier. The presence of the water means bacteria can grow. So, if you do this, you have to use preservative, or you have to store your cosmetics in the fridge and use within a few days. Otherwise you are risking mould. Eeeeeeek! Vivianne shared this link with me which shows what happens. So, it is not possible to make an all-natural hydrous product, unless you are making it yourself to use immediately: commercial producers who use preservatives have no choice, and do it to make their products safe. If you scroll down to the comments, though, you will see the risk is not the same with…
Hydrous product, with chemicals, without mould. It's out of focus, it's not you, don't start worrying
Homemade cosmetics without water (anhydrous): if your cosmetics don’t contain water, there is not the same opportunity for bacterial growth, and you are safe to leave out preservatives (or use an antioxidant), and store them outside the fridge. This is things like body butter, balm, lip balm, solid perfume, stuff like that. Since I avoid preservatives, these are the things I make for myself.

BUT! When you use your cosmetics, you introduce bacteria (from your hands), and possibly water – especially things like scrubs in the shower (I found this article which deals with this. I love her blog). So, depending on how you feel about things, you could deal with this by: scooping things out with a spoon instead of your hands: adding a bit of preservative: keeping an eye on things and being aware generally: storing things in the fridge: making small batches and using them up. It is your call. I have never had a mould problem so I am possibly slightly cavalier, but the minute anything goes furry on top of one of my Whipped Body Butters you can bet I will be running straight to this blog squawking ‘Experiment Over! Everybody back to Boots!’.
Mr Bacteria, properly managed and repressed through good hygiene during use of anhydrous products
There is another way of looking at this and I will warn you I am reading a book on herbalism at the moment. I am kind of keen on the all-natural way because, deep breath everyone, I am a Wiccan and I try to honour the Goddess by using things as close to nature as possible. So, if this means I can’t make my own hydrous lotions, well, that is ok. But I was thinking, not only could we look on cosmetics as something you make like food – fresh, often, and store in the fridge – but, we could make cosmetics that don’t bear any resemblance to the ones we are used to, and actually, we could reimagine the whole thing. So, for example, herbal infusions instead of lotions or something like that. I will postpone this burbling until I have actually read the book, though. In the meantime, beware of Mr Bacteria…


Denise said...

I'm thinking common sense here. If something smells off or has something funky growing in it, I would chuck it out, whether I made it or bought it at the store. Just like I would with food.

Vivianne said...

Which herbal book are you reading ? And yes, you can make your own hydrous lotions: with super-mega-care and fascist levels of cleanliness :-)
And what is it that Mr.Bacteria is lying on ? I like the colors .....

Susie said...

Vivianne, now you've thrown a hydrous spanner into the works ;-).

I am reading I think it is called The Green Witch's Herbal, it is interesting but the layout is mad, it is like stream of consciousness so interesting to be reading it at the same time as Ulysses. I am planning a herb garden. (Ha! Ha!).

Mr Bacteria is lying imprisoned on a patchwork cushion which I made a while ago ;-). However I have freed him now, and he is sitting near a lamp watching me iron.

Vivianne said...

I have that book :-) and have made several herb gardens in my life, so please do feel free to talk with me if I can help :-)

Mumma Troll said...

Susie, how on earth did you get to see what I look like first thing in the morning, but it's very kind of you to model your funky little bacteria on my look,lol.x