Preservatives, Antioxidants, Emulsifiers and Alcohols

Written by Marisa Conde on Jan 26, 23

Welcome back to our blogosphere space! We are happy that you are here! 

Today we are going to talk about ingredients that might be unclear for some of you, like preservatives, antioxidants, emulsifiers, and alcohols. We will explain  what those are exactly, what's their function in the products and why we use them at Primal Essence. 

Just a little ‘’Warning to the Navigation’’: Nerdiness Overload text ahead! :D Why? Transparency is one of our flags. We like to keep our customers informed so that they can understand the ingredients that are used in their skin care products. We value our customers and genuinely care for them. <3

Is this something you are curious about? Keep on reading!

The ingredients are the product

At Formula Botanica, the notion that ‘’the ingredients are the products’ keeps on being reinforced, and for a good reason! Botanical extracts can have healing or curative properties, although that is not a claim that can be made in natural skincare. 

Plants are undergoing scientific research all around the world and scientists are isolating the compounds that deliver the benefits that folk traditions have known about for centuries. 

Are preservatives, antioxodants and alcohols natural? 

In this instagram post, we explained what is natural and the notion of natural derived. All the products we use at Primal Essence are either natural or derived from nature. 

Emulsification and preservation are some of the hardest parts of natural skincare formulation. 

Water and Oil don't mix together. Everytime a cream (for example) is created it needs to be emulsified. Everytime water is present in a product, or a product will be in contact with water or wet hands, a preservative is also needed, otherwise the product will only last 3 to 4 days, yes, even in the fridge! 


What is a Preservative?

A preservative is a naturally occurring (in our case) or synthetically produced (mainstream cosmetic industry) chemical that is added to cosmetic products to prevent proliferation of microbes and the decomposition of your skincare products .They protect you from bacteria, fungus and yeast.

Without the use of a preservative there is the risk of introducing infections to your body, and there have been documented cases of severe eye ulceration and partial or complete blindness, due to bacterial contamination and even death. 

The risk of using preservatives is significantly lower than that of using unpreserved cosmetics.

At Primal Primal Essence we use Geogard Ultra: a broad spectrum preservative which contains D-Glucono-1,5-lactone and sodium benzoate.

Antioxidants vs Preservatives

First off all, Vitamin E and Grapefruit Seed Extract are not preservatives: they are antioxidants, 

Antioxidants are ingredients that are added to skincare products to extend the shelf life of the oils and butters contained in them. They  stop them from going rancid quickly. We use tocopherol, natural Vitamin E, in out formulations. 

What is an Emulsifier? 

An emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that cannot combine naturally, and to combine them we need a substance called an emulsifier. Otherwise the two liquids remain separate. 

In skincare, emulsifiers are ingredients that are added to a formulation to make it possible for the water and oil to be mixed together and to be kept stable through time. In other words, they are the ingredient that allows our creams to be created and be stable.  

We Use BTMS-50 (Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetyl Alcohol (and) Butylene Glycol), a botanical ingredient derived from oils like Coconut and Rapeseed and accepted in organic skincare to emulsify all our creams and hair conditioner. 

This is an explanation of its 3 components: 

Behentrimonium Methosulfate l is a natural, conditioning emulsifier used in hair and skin care. BTMS is naturally derived from Rapeseed oil, and is gentle on the skin and hair. BTMS can be used in creams and lotions to provide a soft, powdery feel to the skin.

We will explain what is Cetyl alcohol is in the next section.

Butylene glycol is used as a humectant, texture enhancer and penetration booster. It helps to raise water content in skin (hydration) and contributes to decreasing roughness on the surface of skin. 

Beneficial Alcohols 

We use Cetyl Alcohol  and Cetearyl Alcohol in our face cream, hair conditioner and 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, to make our products even more luxurious.  These ingredients are also accepted in organic skin care certifications and coconut derived. 

Not all the alcohols are the same! These 2 alcohols are commonly misunderstood and frequently confused with other types of alcohol that have drying effects on the skin, such as rubbing alcohol. This is very difficult to demystify and  couldn't be further from the truth. 

Cetyl Alcohol is skin-friendly with hydrating, conditioning, and softening properties that benefit both skin and hair. Is used as a moisturiser to treat or prevent dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin and minor skin irritations. It is so gentle  that it can be used on diaper rash and skin burns from radiation therapy.

This alcohol used to be  produced originally from whale oil but these days, luckily, is produced from vegetable oils, so we could include it in our formulations! 

Cetearyl Alcohol consists predominantly of cetyl and stearyl alcohols and is classified as a fatty alcohol.

Fatty alcohols are derived from natural fats and oils originating in plants (non vegan ones can also originate from animals), are non-comedogenic, non-sensitizing, and suitable for all skin types. They won't leave skin irritated and may improve skin's feel and texture. working to draw moisture in, these alcohols can also support the natural lipid barrier of skin and hair, giving an emollient feel to the skin.


We hope that this post was useful and helped you to understand your labels a little better. We are aware that sometimes the ingredients list can be a little intimidating, but we're aiming to shine a little light on some of the good ingredients that are naturally derived and skin loving, so that next time you feel safer on your choices. 

As always, please feel free to let us know if you would like to see any of your questions answered or have a topic that you would like us to talk about next. This is our email

With love,