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How to Keep Natural Products Fresh

How to Keep Natural Products Fresh

For years the skincare industry convinced us that it’s safe to use dangerous chemicals in skincare products, after all we’re not eating them!  But now people are realizing the error of this logic as more and more studies link common skincare ingredients to cancer, hormonal disruption and infertility, just to name a few.  When we apply a product, approximately 60% is absorbed into our bodies through our skin.  Many skincare products are applied every day for years or even decades.  Even if we’re only using a little bit at a time, this chronic exposure can really add up.  Natural products, both store-bought and homemade, are an excellent alternative to the chemical garbage we’ve been slathering on our skin for years.  Replacing harmful synthetic chemicals with safer, natural ingredients will benefit your skin, your health and the environment.  But before you take the plunge, it’s important to understand some basic guidelines in order to use natural products safely and effectively.

The single biggest difference in using natural vs. synthetic products is shelf life.  I don’t like synthetic preservatives for many reasons but I must admit they work wonders on shelf life.  Many commercial products are designed to stay “fresh” for up to two years.  Natural products have a  much shorter lifespan, even when natural preservatives (such as essential oils, vitamin E and grapefruit seed extract) are used.  Most natural products last for roughly 6 months to a year.  Always look for expiration dates and care instructions on the products you buy.  My frugal instinct likes to buy in bulk and stretch a product for as long as possible.  This does not work for natural products due to the risk of serious contamination.  As much as I hate throwing things away, I use up or discard natural products as soon as they reach their expiration date (and on the rare occasion that they start smelling funky).  When buying and using natural products, here are some tips to keeping products fresh:

  • Storage – Keep products in a cool, dark place.  Light and heat will make products spoil faster.  Some people even store some items in the fridge!
  • Containers – Dark or opaque containers give products extra protection from the sun’s rays.  Avoid clear packaging when possible.  Also be conscious of the type of container you choose.  Large surface area and exposure to oxygen promotes spoilage.  Containers such as tubes or pumps generally stay fresher than jars or tins (ex. a tube of chapstick versus a jar).
  • Quantity – Buying or making products in small batches helps ensure that they’re used within their lifespan.
  • Ingredients – Believe it or not, water is the ingredient in skincare that’s most prone to spoilage.  The presence of water requires a preservative to stabilize it.  Products made without water are far more stable.  I make many of my skincare products and generally stick to oil-based recipes.  If you make or buy products containing water, they will have a shorter lifespan and will require some type of preservative.

Many people have gotten spoiled by the seemingly endless shelf life of synthetic products and balk at the shorter life span of the natural alternatives.  I readily admit that it’s a little annoying, but to me the pros far outweigh the cons.  If you need a little more convincing, here’s a post detailing some of the more common chemicals found in skincare products:

Consumer demand for natural products is increasing rapidly and we have access to more natural products than ever before.  If you could use some help choosing natural products that stand up to their claims, see:  Or if you’d like to try your hand at making some products of your own, here’s a link to the recipes we use in our home:  Have fun with whatever option you choose and feel free to contact me with any questions!


This post was inspired by the book Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty & Style by Kim Barnouin:  This book goes through your home room by room (even drawer by drawer) and identifies hidden toxins that could be contaminating your environment.  It then empowers you with information, recipes and natural alternatives to reduce and avoid all these nasties. It’s a good read for the informed consumer.

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