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Why We Won’t Use Neem Oil As a Natural Preservative
Neem oil is a natural product obtained from the seeds and fruits of the evergreen neem tree. It is used in more than a hundred pesticide products and has important applications in organic agriculture and medicine. It has been used as a pesticide for hundreds of years and is considered safe (1).
Today, neem oil is promoted as a natural alternative to synthetic preservatives.
Neem oil is a mixture of components, not a pure essential oil. Azadirachtin is an active component responsible for repelling and killing pests. The remaining components include fatty acids, essential oils and other substances. Neem oil components can also be found in other products such as toothpaste, cosmetics, soaps, pet shampoos, nutritional supplements, and medications.
Most cosmetic products contain water as an ingredient (for emulsification); therefore, preservatives are needed to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth.
If you’ve ever bought an all-natural, preservative-free beauty product like a face cream and discovered a “comfy smell” before you’ve fully used it, that means the product has gone bad (ie, contaminated with yeast, mold, bacteria, or fungus). ). Unfortunately, these products produce natural sugars in a moist environment – the perfect breeding ground (along with the food source) for microbial growth. A product can look and smell good and still be contaminated. If the product is truly natural and preservative-free, it should be treated like food: made fresh in small batches and refrigerated (and remember that they do expire).
Products made with natural preservatives have a slightly better shelf life if used within 30 days of opening, but you might want to ask the question: how good are natural preservatives compared to synthetic preservatives at repelling and destroying invaders to protect your own defenses? the product (and you)? Therefore, although there are effective naturally derived preservatives, some of them can be weakened by exposure to air and water and thus cannot provide the same broad spectrum protection as synthetic preservatives.
Neem oil as a natural preservative
When used as a preservative, neem oil acts as an antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasitic agent. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? And it’s used as a pesticide, so it must be effective, right? (Though I doubt that argument for synthetic preservatives would work!) Neem oil is effective at preventing oils from going rancid, but it doesn’t protect the product as well from bacteria and yeast because it’s not a broad-spectrum preservative. And the water doesn’t seem to like it either. Bad news for tech leaders and natural health promoters who want water-based cosmetics to use neem oil as a preservative, rather than the much more effective (and therefore safer) synthetic preservatives available, such as Neolone 950. Such preservatives are required by strict regulations. to kill all common pathogens. (See http://personalcaretruth.com/2010/06/why-cosmetics-need-preservatives/ for an excellent article on this topic.)
The half-life of neem oil in water is anywhere from one hour to four days. “Half-life” means that the concentration decreases by 50% during the measured time. If we take one day as the half-life of neem oil in water, then with a reasonable average of the given limits, the concentration of the active ingredient would decrease by 50% in one day, 25% in two days, and 12.5% in three days. , 6% in four days, 3% in five days, and so on. By the time the product reaches the consumer from the day it is made, neem oil has essentially completely degraded and is useless as a preservative; therefore, a water-based product with neem oil as its sole preservative is not immune to contamination (which poses a greater risk to your health than synthetic preservatives).
Consumers should be more aware of the occasional misleading advice given by consumer advocacy groups, particularly the Safe Cosmetics and Environmental Working Group (and their database). To start a dialogue, we need to question these groups as critically as we do big industry. I’m not sure why these groups are considered the final authority. Is it because they confirm our fears and suspicions about evil corporations? I don’t know, it’s just a guess. While their intentions may be well-founded, they often rely heavily on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), which are usually publicly available, as one of their sources. MSDSs are of course useful; however, people forget or don’t know that MSDSs provide safety procedures for workers in industrial environments to follow in the event of a mass spill/exposure: these are “worst case scenario” situations that never apply to consumers of these products.
Chemical safety data sheets are used to establish product management and occupational safety and health guidelines for workers and emergency workers who handle or work with large quantities of the substance. They are not intended for consumers, but only for those who work in a work environment. When considering the safety issues of the products you use, it’s important to remember: “The dose becomes the poison,” or in this case, as preservative expert David Steinberg said, “Remember that preservatives are safer than bacteria (TM).”
Back to the neem oil. An organic chemist like myself would look at the chemical structure of azadirachtin, the active ingredient in neem oil, and know that it would not be stable in water, as we’ve discussed before, but it is easily fragmented because of it. reaction with water into smaller, useless pieces. Although most of us are not organic chemists, it is easy enough to understand.
Neem oil is also hydrophobic, which means that the molecules are repelled by the mass of water. Therefore, certain surfactants must be added to mix (emulsify) water and neem oil for use. And sure enough, if you check the pesticide/agricultural literature, you’ll find that the diluted product must be used immediately because of its limited shelf life. However, not all products containing neem oil have this disclaimer. It is important to note that some products containing neem oil remain “stable”. However, the product still loses its neem oil activity; it continues to provide pesticidal activity only because of the other antimicrobial agents in the formula.
I don’t think anyone (cosmetics manufacturers, natural product suppliers, green retailers, etc.) is trying to deceive the consumer. It’s probably an awareness issue (lack of it). Unfortunately, such misinformation puts the health of many customers at risk.
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