Elevate Your Green Beauty Expertise with Formula Botanica
Formula Botanica is the world’s leading international accredited organic cosmetic science school. This award-winning online school has taught almost 4,000 students in 124 countries how to formulate professional-grade organic skincare and haircare. For the most part, Formula Botanica students have entrepreneurial dreams of launching their own lines, but I enrolled in their Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation as a passionate blogger and consumer who wanted to elevate my game and make smarter choices and recommendations. In sharing some of how I have benefited from the course, I hope that other serious-minded beauty writers and bloggers (as well as retailers, distributors, and passionate consumers) may be inspired to similarly advance their education and elevate their expertise by enrolling with the school.
Preservatives in Skincare: Why Knowledge Matters (Even for Non-Formulators)
In spring of 2017, Formula Botanica conducted a massive survey of over 1200 individuals about different aspects of green beauty. One of their questions was about which sources people use to learn about green, clean, and organic beauty. The top answer by far: blogs; 47% of individuals surveyed said they rely on blogs to learn about green beauty. Luckily, some of the most-visited, like Formula Botanica’s, are highly reputable, research-based, and written by experts. However, in the world of blogs, this level of quality is the exception rather than the rule. As Dene Godfrey has pointed out, “Anyone can start up a beauty blog on the internet—absolutely anyone. They could be a cosmetic scientist, a nuclear physicist, or they could be someone with an IQ less than their shoe size.” The advice of the average blogger may be inaccurate or even dangerous.
I knew that trusting random people on the internet could be risky, but I never thought I needed to question established skin care brands, nor did I question the basic soundness of my own reviews and recommendations as a blogger. After all, I reported on my honest experience, and if a cosmetic product has made it to the marketplace, it must be safe, right? It took someone else’s product scare—specifically when beauty blogger Parita Shah shared an Instagram post of a luxury green beauty mask covered in mold—to make me realize that my blind trust in the industry was misguided and potentially even dangerous. After all, this mask became dangerously contaminated despite having been formulated and produced by an esteemed luxury brand and then having been hand-selected as the featured product by a very popular green beauty subscription box.
Busting Myths & Restoring Self-Trust with Formula Botanica
If I am honest, when I first looked up the ingredient list of the moldy mask, it had not immediately been obvious to me that (never mind why) a preservation system was necessary. I had to admit to myself that I was uneducated about some very basic formulation safety issues. Though it was a little embarrassing to confront, I lacked even a basic understanding. How could I select products worth purchasing—never mind recommend them to others–without knowing if they needed a preservation system? I realized I needed to take charge of my education, as both a consumer and a blogger. I did not want to rely on frequently contradictory, often agenda-fueled results of casual internet searches. I needed balanced, reliable, scientific information. I wanted excellence and truth. Having been in the green beauty world a while, I knew where I could find what I was seeking: Formula Botanica.
Formula Botanica is green beauty’s most renowned and trusted institution. As Godmother of Green Beauty Sarita Coren has stated, “When someone decides to pursue a career in product development, Formula Botanica is the place to study.” The school is directed and staffed by scientists, and the curriculum reflects this in its intellectual rigor. For example, Formula Botanica is fully accredited by the Open and Distance Learning Quality Council (ODLQC), which has assessed and ensured excellence in curriculum, tutorial methods, course materials, learner support, and staff qualifications. The school is also award-winning, having received the prestigious international Gold Learning Technologies Award for Excellence in Design of Learning Content and been shortlisted for the Best Online Learning Distance Program as well as the UK’s National Business Awards for Best Digital Business. Yet by far, the biggest mark of pride is the fact that Formula Botanica has trained the skilled and innovative formulators behind countless successful green beauty brands spanning the globe.
The Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation, also known as the foundation diploma, has proven to be an amazing course capable of turning even a complete novice into a creative and safe formulator of a wide array of professional-grade skincare products. (For more details on all the course provides—and it’s a lot—please see this post.). Although Formula Botanica offers a specific Certificate in Natural Cosmetic Preservation for advanced formulators and those who wish to be experts, I was pleased to find that the foundational Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation also addresses this issue in many materials, including course content, as well as an additional student resource book entitled Natural Preservation 101 and a webinar training on Understanding Cosmetic Preservation. Indeed, one of the first lessons in my course was a list of skincare myths busted, including the myth that all preservatives are dangerous.
Formula Botanica’s Foundational Diploma Delivers The Skinny on Natural Preservatives–and Much More!
I was impressed to see that Formula Botanica instructors, and the materials they have created, take product safety very seriously. Their mantra–and they do call it that–is that the risk of using preservatives is significantly lower than that of using unpreserved water-based cosmetics. They do not beat around the bush when it comes to spelling out what can happen without proper preservation, noting some of the potentially dire consequences in both course materials and on their blog. Formula Botanica’s stance, which I greatly respect, is that: 1) preservatives serve a vital purpose, 2) formulators should never risk the health of customers by selling unpreserved water-based cosmetics, and 3) there are lots of natural preservatives coming onto the market that offer good options for keeping products safe. Another thing stressed in both course materials and the webinar on preservation is that antioxidants (e.g., Grapefruit Seed Extract, Vitamin E, Rosemary Extract) are not preservatives. Antioxidants can help prevent oils from going rancid, but they do not stop microbial growth.
Formula Botanica’s Natural Cosmetic Preservation 101 summarizes the microorganisms that grow in badly preserved skincare, with examples, and what each type needs to grow.
- Conditions: needs water, oxygen, and nutrients to grow
- Conditions: needs water, nutrients, and lack of oxygen to grow (very relevant for infusions in which botanicals are left in oil for weeks at a time)
- Conditions: need moisture, nutrients, warmth, time, and (generally) oxygen to grow
The materials also point out that the whole reason they are called microorganisms is that they are too small to be seen by the naked eye, so one cannot assume a product is uncontaminated just because it looks okay. Long before you can see the microorganisms, they may affect the color, texture, functionality, smell, viscosity, etc. of the product. The training stresses that all water-containing products require a preservative and points out that formulators also need to consider when/whether products may have water introduced to them (e.g., by a user with wet hands), in which case preservation may be necessary whether or not the product was originally formulated with water.
Clearing Up Misconceptions
I was surprised to learn that natural products are even more susceptible to microbial growth than conventional products; unless they are waterless, natural formulations provide optimal food and growth conditions for bacteria, yeast, and mold. Why are organic products so attractive to microorganisms? 1) Most products contain water. 2) They are stored at moderate temperature. 3) The majority of products have pH between 4.5-6.5, a moderate pH that invites growth. 4) Finally, certain natural ingredients act as prime nutrients for microorganisms (e.g., aloe, plant extracts, sodium hyaluronate, vitamins, coenzyme Q-10). All these factors combine to make most natural skincare products an optimal growth medium for microorganisms. Proper preservation avoids these unwanted, uninvited guests—and protects the formulator from the nightmare of contaminated products and their potentially devastating financial, social, and legal repercussions.
Formula Botanica wastes no time in busting the myth that selling an unpreserved water-based cosmetic is better or healthier for the consumer. Numerous materials stress that selling unpreserved water-based cosmetics is putting customers’ health at risk. Driving this point home, both course materials and the Formula Botanica blog cite actual cases in which poorly preserved cosmetics have put customers in critical condition, or worse, even resulted in death. Dr. Elham Eghbali, Cosmetic Chemist and Instructor of Formula Botanica’s Certificate in Natural Cosmetic Preservation, sums up the school’s position this way, “Formula Botanica may be an organic skincare school, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want you to formulate safe and stable cosmetics. Applying 1-2% preservative (even a ‘chemical’ one) is worth it in order to save a life and to protect your ingredients and formulations from contamination. Using a preservative is a necessity, not an optional extra.” Though a young, healthy individual may tolerate exposure microorganisms with only minor irritation, Dr. Eghbali reminds us that many individuals drawn to natural skincare are people with health challenges. Thus, organic skincare consumers may not have healthy, intact skin or strong immune systems, making them more susceptible to serious consequences (e.g., severe infections or worse) from unpreserved or insufficiently preserved products. As Dr. Eghbali states in a Formula Botanica post entitled Everything You Wanted to Know about Natural Preservatives, “Preservatives are necessary in any water-based cosmetics, because they protect your customer, your product, and your business from disaster.” Formula Botanica advises that if a formulator refuses to use preservatives, s/he must accept the limitations of this choice and ensure that his/her products do not contain water.
The Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation course materials include a generous list of natural preservatives appropriate for organic skincare formulations, including the most common one among natural formulators called Preservative Eco (aka Mikrokill ECT, Geogard ECT, and Plantaserv M) –a broad-spectrum preservative with four different components: Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Glycerine, and Sorbic Acid, all of which can be extracted from natural sources. A few of the other natural preservatives mentioned include Totarol, Leucidal Liquid, and Plantaserv S. So which one is best? Formula Botanica stresses that a) there is no one-size-fits-all solution best for all products and b) most products will need a blend of natural preservatives or a carefully selected broad-spectrum preservative to protect against the complete range of possible microbes. The nature of the product, as well as other characteristics such as its packaging and pH, needs to be considered in preservative selection (see this slideshow for a fuller discussion)—and they clarify that contrary to popular misconception, Miron glass does not protect against contamination. Formula Botanica also points out something that never would have occurred to me: some of a formulator’s raw cosmetic ingredients (e.g., some surfactants, hydrosols, and plant extracts) may come to the formulator already preserved. This is important to note because the formulator must determine which preservatives and how much of them are already present in ingredients in order to ensure a) that the natural preservative s/he selects for the product is compatible with those already present and b) that the maximum legal level of any individual preservative is not exceeded.
Offering Guidance without Oversimplifying a Complex Decision
Formula Botanica explicitly declines to offer or suggest a blanket recommendation on natural preservative selection, specifically because there is no one-size-fits-all natural preservative. Even the most popular natural preservative noted above, Preservative Eco, has limitations, such as low heat tolerance and insolubility in water. Rather than simplifying a complicated process, Formula Botanica provides students with invaluable resources that serve as step-by-step guides in the decision-making process. For just two examples, see this slideshow and this 16 Point Checklist for Choosing a Natural Preservative for Your Formulation. The support does not end with these materials, stellar as they are. Current and past students also gain exclusive access on Facebook to a private Formula Botanica Online Classroom where we can discuss our specific concerns and questions about natural preservative selection—or any other formulation issue—and rapidly receive helpful feedback and advice from Formula Botanica peers, graduates, and staff. When it comes to Classroom discussion about product preservation, students have recently asked questions about which preservatives will best complement each other their specific product, where to find a reliable supplier for a specific preservative, what preservatives others would most recommend in a children’s product, to which preservatives have the mildest odor. Within the highly active and collaborative Formula Botanica Classroom, each of these questions received multiple informative replies. The Formula Botanica Classroom—like the school itself—provides a very warm, collaborative, and empowering atmosphere that is highly conducive to learning. With the Classroom at our fingertips and thousands of community members eager to help, each Formula Botanica student is able to benefit from the incredible collective wisdom of skilled peers, expert staff, and successful graduates. (For more on the supportive community Formula Botanica offers its students, please see my post on Formula Botanica’s community. The community itself is remarkable and, in my eyes, probably the school’s absolute greatest asset.)
Expert Advice When You Need It
Formula Botanica staff is invested in and accessible to students. Staff members are constantly contributing to the Formula Botanica Online Classroom, whether to answer student questions, to offer encouragement whenever one of us expresses a frustration, or to share excitement when we post about a success. Despite the school’s size, Formula Botanica staff are also deeply committed to students on an individual level; I have never had an email go unanswered, even about the smallest matters, and I have always felt like everyone associated with the school is eager to contribute to my success. Case in point, Formula Botanica Director Lorraine Dallmeier–who is widely recognized as a leader in the field of formulation, was recently named a HuffPost Organic Beauty contributor, and has been leading the Top 25 Who’s Who in Natural Beauty for the past few years (this year she was in the top 5)–took the time out of her busy schedule to generously grant me an interview all about preservatives! See my Interview with Lorraine Dallmeier here!
Formula Botanica Has Empowered Me to Make Informed Choices and Give Sound Recommendations
Between the course itself and all the additional resources and support that come with it, Formula Botanica’s Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation has given me a solid foundational understanding of natural preservation in cosmetics. With all I learned, I have confidence in my ability to determine when a preservation system is necessary and to identify what, if any, system is in place–and so much more! Natural product preservation is just one of the dozens and dozens of valuable things taught in the course; other essential safety issues covered in detail in the foundational course include:
- Good Manufacturing Practice—what it is, as well as how to achieve and maintain it
- Product Shelf Life—the importance of and guidance in setting, relevant product and ingredient characteristics to consider
- Cosmetic Toxicology—understanding the concept of toxicity, the types of toxicity, how to research the relative toxicity of an ingredient, how to interpret and comprehend Material Safety Data Sheets
- Essential Oil Saftey—safely blending, using, storing, and handling Essential Oils, full guidance on understanding and complying with Dermal Limits for each Essential Oil
- Labelling and Claims—how to label correctly and avoid making potentially costly errors and misstatements
- Global Cosmetic Compliance—how to ensure your business is compliant with the law
This invaluable knowledge on the above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the expertise you will gain from Formula Botanica’s Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation. If you are interested in a basic overview that goes into more detail, please see this link for Course Content and Included Bonuses.
Formula Botanica Offers Priceless Knowledge for Green Beauty Enthusiasts & Entrepreneurs of All Stripes
If you have a keen interest in or passion for organic beauty, I highly recommend Formula Botanica and their Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation. This comprehensive, content-packed course has given me back my peace of mind as a green beauty consumer and has also restored my confidence as a blogger. Having taken it, I am in a far better position both to assess both the quality and safety of the products I review and also to provide sound, insightful recommendations. I am grateful for and delighted with all I have learned about product preservation, product formulation, and countless other topics from the foundational diploma. Should I decide that I want to develop further expertise in natural preservatives (a prospect far more tempting to me than I ever could have imagined prior to enrolling in Formula Botanica), the Certificate in Natural Cosmetic Preservation will be the perfect next step.
Formula Botanica’s foundational diploma is the essential course for anyone who works and/or wants to claim expertise in the green beauty industry. The rich base of knowledge is invaluable for skillfully and safely navigating the natural beauty sphere—whether you are a formulator, distributor, retailer, holistic therapist, writer/blogger/influencer, or simply a passionate consumer. Not only will Formula Botanica’s Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation. leave you feeling more confident about your green beauty choices, it will also fully prepare you to launch the incredible organic skincare business of your dreams, if that is what you desire. The organic and natural beauty market is a $10 billion industry today, and it is set to reach $22 billion by 2024. Clearly, the demand for organic beauty formulations is huge and growing all the time. This is a revolutionary industry bursting with opportunity. Being part of it may be easier than you think.
Additional Formula Botanica Resources on Product Preservation
If you want to learn more about being smart about natural skincare preservation, check out any of these informative Formula Botanica Blog articles on natural preservation:
- Everything you wanted to know about Natural Preservatives
- 16 Point Checklist: Choosing a Natural Preservative for Skincare
- 5 Reasons Why Your Natural Formulations Need Preserving
- Are you buying contaminated hydrosols?
- What can go wrong if you don’t control your formulation’s pH?
- When even Phenoxyethanol fails: The Liz Earle Recall
- Can Your Cosmetics Kill You?
- How is This Formulation Preserved?
Also, take a look at 7 Questions All Green Beauty Bloggers [and Choosy Consumers] Should Ask Artisan Brands, a guide written collaboratively by Formula Botanica and Sarita Coren. The questions are brilliant and so important!
Last but Not Least: Explore the Possibilities & Sample a Formula Botanica Class for Free!
Formula Botanica offers a wide range of options for different skill levels and interests. See all of their offered courses or take their handy Course Selector Quiz for a personalized recommendation. If you want to get a headstart in learning professional formulation techniques and get a taste of the student experience, you can Sample a Formula Botanica Class for Free! The sample class requires no commitment and offers a great way to get a taste of the training and start learning. Enjoy, and let me know what you think! Have questions? Feel free to ask!