Ingredient of the Week

a Salon Naturals blog

Geogard Ultra – Preservative

As most conscientious consumers realize, the process endured by safety-minded manufacturers to select an appropriate preservative for their formulations is one fraught with limitations and obstacles.  The job of a preservative is to prevent the growth of microorganisms that would otherwise contaminate the product.   So by their very nature, preservatives must be somewhat destructive in order to successfully perform this job.  Presently, there is no 100% natural or organic preservative that effectively protects a product from contamination for a length of time comparable to what the majority of consumers would consider an acceptable shelf-life expectancy.  There are, however, a wide range of alternatives to conventional parabens and many of these offer substantially fewer health risks than others.

The preservative used by Salon Naturals in its hair care products is recognized by the trade name Geogard Ultra.  This preservative is manufactured by Lonza and presents a multifunctional alternative to more traditional systems through the use of hurdle technology.  Geogard Ultra is the only product of its kind certified by ECOcert for use in natural and organic products.  However, ECOcert standards are not as rigid and their methodology is certainly not as transparent as many other certifying bodies, so this stamp of approval should only be given limited consideration.

The more trustworthy sources of acceptance for Geogard Ultra as a preferable preservation system come from other, more widely recognized bodies whose standards for safety and transparency exceed those of ECOcert.  Specifically, the European Union Cosmetics Directive includes Geogard Ultra on its “Positive List” and can be used in all countries in both rinse-off and leave-in applications.  Considering the extremely stringent standards of the EU Directive, (they banned more than 1,100 chemicals from use in cosmetics while the US has banned only eleven), Europe’s comfort level with the safety data associated with Geogard Ultra is clearly reassuring.

The Japanese Ministry of Health & Welfare have also given their approval for the use of Geogard Ultra in both rinse-off and leave-in applications.  Considering that Japan abides by the most stringent criteria in the world concerning what ingredients can be present in the personal care products sold there, the acceptance of Geogard Ultra as an approved preservative certainly encourages a level of comfort concerning its safety characteristics.

The positive aspects of Geogard Ultra include:

  • Multi-functionality (effective in a wide variety of cosmetic products, including shampoos, lotions and skin creams)
  • Broad spectrum (creates an overall hostile environment for varying types of microbes within a formulation)
  • Globally accepted (beyond Europe and Japan, Geogard is also viewed as safe by the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association in North America as well as regulatory bodies in Latin and South America).
  • Laboratory tests show that Geogard improves skin moisture content
  • Listed as a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) ingredient
  • Broad compatibility with other widely used cosmetic ingredients
  • Developed without reliance on animal testing
  • Contains no GMO’s

There are, however, opponents to the use of Geogard Ultra as a preservation system for cosmetics and personal care products.  The data used as a basis for these concerns is well-documented and widely accepted as true and reliable.  One of the ingredients used to manufacture Geogard Ultra is sodium benzoate.  This has been a controversial ingredient, especially in the UK, since it was discovered that when used in combination, sodium benzoate and Vitamin C together create a chemical known as Benzene.  Benzene is, without question, carcinogenic.  Furthermore, Benzene fed to mice causes mitochondrial degeneration, which is viewed as one of the primary causes of aging and cell death.  Certainly this information is a legitimate cause for concern if the necessary variables and precise conditions for occurence are overlooked.

Fortunately, the combination of sodium benzoate with vitamin C is a mandatory condition for the creation of the carcinogenic environment linked to Benzene.  Sodium Benzoate on its own (not combined with Vitamin C) is in no way considered carcinogenic.  In fact extremely large amounts of Sodium Benzoate would need to be ingested in order to produce even slight toxic consequences for the body.  In studies where mice have been fed a substantial diet of sodium benzoate, the data clearly indicate that their life expectancies were not shortened, nor was any notable health affect present at all.

Careful consideration of this data, combined with an understanding of the currently imperfect nature of preservatives is the driving force behind Salon Naturals’ decision to rely on Geogard Ultra as the preservative in all formulations.  Since ideal and perfect are not options at this time, ensuring the preservatives utilize the “most beneficial” and “least potential for harm” approach possible is the current best-case scenario.  For today, Geogard Ultra meets those criteria better than any other option identified in the industry’s marketplace.  It is not perfect or ideal and it’s frustrating to have no choice but to include a “flawed” substance in an otherwise beautiful combination of ingredients.  Unfortunately, that is reality as it exists today.  Hopefully, tomorrow the world will wake up to headline news announcing a 100% natural, organic, risk-free preservative that works like a charm.  Wouldn’t that be great?

To review Lonza’s product information sheet on Geogard Ultra, click here.


April 16, 2010 - Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yummy! | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Doesn’t sweet orange essential oil contain vitamin c? So wouldn’t the geogard ultra and the sweet orange essential oil (that is in all salon naturals shampoo/conditioner) combine to form benzene?

    Comment by niki | March 11, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi, Niki. Sweet orange essential oil definitely contains vitamin C and its presence is definitely one of the components necessary for the formation of benzene. However, there are additional conditions that must also exist in order for benzene to exist. I am posting some additional information on Geogard Ultra and the possibility of benzene formation in products that contain this preservative. I hope this is helpful to you and welcome your additional comments, suggestions or questions. Thank you.

      Comment by Salon Naturals | July 18, 2011 | Reply

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