Natural chelator spotlight: Glucono delta-lactone
The Search for a Natural Preservative
The skincare industry is constantly hunting for new reliable, safe, and natural preservative systems. Consumers are insisting that their hair and skincare products be safe, but also free from harmful or undesirable chemicals. This can pose a tremendous challenge to cosmetic formulators. Finding a natural preservative to prevent mold, yeast, bacteria, and fungus that will also remain effective over time is the goal. Not only that, it must stay at the desired final pH, without reacting negatively with other ingredients in the formulation. These criteria make finding a preservative very difficult.
Finding effective replacements often feels like searching for lost treasure. Over the past few years, we have seen a great number of new preservatives claiming to be THE best, new and natural wonder preservative, only to find that many just outright fail to preserve at all. Or else they have many limitations, or only work in very limited situations as long as certain types of ingredients are not used.
While we don’t have a one-size-fits-all alternative to the time-tested standards of phenoxyethanol or even parabens, we have found a few natural preservatives that work. This depends, of course, on the formula. After much testing and research, we have a new option that has proven very effective at preserving our distillates. We are still in the process of testing this method out on all of our created water products, such as our toners and splashes. For now we are very happy and confident to introduce this to our distillates. We are pleased to now offer the chelating agent Glucono delta-lactone (aka GdL or gluconolactone).
While GdL is a food-grade chelator commonly used in cosmetics to help boost preservatives—it is also the main coagulant used in tofu. GdL is naturally found in things like honey and fruit juices, or fermented products like wine and kombucha. However, industrial forms are typically sourced from gluten-free rice or corn.
What makes it an appealing natural option for preservation-boosting is that GdL is an oxidized derivative of glucose and is a type of polyhydroxy acid (PHA). Like other PHA’s, GdL is an antioxidant, meaning it seeks out free radicals and is especially beneficial for maturing skin. Chelating agents bind up trace metal ion contaminants in your water-containing cosmetic, thus keeping the product microbe-free for longer. They are not preservatives in their own right, they just help to kill microbes by starving them.
In cosmetics it acts not only as a preservative booster, but it can function as a pH adjuster or moisturizer. It functions as a moisturizer because the multiple hydroxyl groups attract water. In the same way it attracts water, this reduces the water available for microbial growth which is why, in part, it seems to function as a preservative.
In addition to moisturizing and the benefits of antioxidants, GdL can smooth skin and diminish the appearance of aging. Use it in both aqueous and anhydrous products, and also emulsions. Its main form is a white crystal powder, essentially odorless and soluble in water and alcohol.
GdL and Phenoxyethanol
We still love phenoxyethanol and personally use products with it daily. We have found it to be safe and reliable when used correctly, but we understand the drive to find a new preservative and have thusly used GdL where appropriate. The main issue is whether each individual product can be safely preserved by GdL, or any natural preservative. This is not always possible, but we are pleased to announce that we have made the switch to GdL for both the Orange Blossom Distillate and the Rose Distillate.
As a quick refresher, orange blossom, also known as neroli, is a luscious, thick, exotic scent. You can replace the water phase of a recipe with any distillate, and it makes a great room or body spray, or an addition to a toner. And of course, rose is a famous and valuable ingredient in skincare. You can read one of our blogs with a few recipes here.
We will be updating recipes and ingredient decks when possible as we strive to meet the growing need for natural, safe preservatives. In the meantime, our phenoxyethanol-preserved rose and orange blossom distillates are at clearance prices—so do take advantage of them!