This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths and give you an honest assessment so you can make informed choices for your family!
Ingredient Spotlight: What Is Potassium Sorbate?
Potassium sorbate is a salt of sorbic acid naturally found in some fruits (like the berries of mountain ash). The commercial ingredient is synthetically produced, creating what is termed a “nature identical” chemical (chemically equivalent to the molecule found in nature). Today, this preservative can be found in wine, cheese, beer, dried meat, soft drinks, and many other food products. This food additive is often used to improve shelf stability and prevent bacteria and mold growth. This ingredient is so prevalent in processed food because it does not change the quality of the product and is also water-soluble.
What Does Potassium Sorbate Do In Skincare?
Two words: Fights bacteria. Most personal care products are made with a lot of water and various nutrients which creates an incredibly hospitable breeding ground for microorganisms. What’s worse, the product might smell and look just fine but be swarming with bacteria or fungi that are dangerous to your health. Effective preservatives are vital for ensuring safety!
Why Do We Use Potassium Sorbate In Personal Care Products?
Potassium sorbate is a food-grade preservative that has been effectively used for decades and is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) to preserve food products. Studies using dilutions similar to what’s used in body care products found it’s practically non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Because this ingredient is gentle on the skin, it is often used as an additive and preservative. In fact, the toxicity of potassium sorbate is pretty close to that of table salt!
While Potassium sorbate may be a chemical additive found in many skincare products, it is only meant to prevent bacteria and mold growth. In small amounts, this natural preservative can be safe for everyday use. Unlike paraben chemicals and other harsh ingredients, this additive serves as a safer alternative to many preservatives found in personal care products.
Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Potassium sorbate. Retrieved October 14, 2015, from http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/gras/scogs/ucm261027.htm
Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Sorbic Acid and Potassium Sorbate. (1988). UITO International Journal Of Toxicology Int. J. of Toxicology, 7(6), 837–880. http://doi.org/10.3109/10915818809078711
Material Safety Data Sheet: Potassium Chloride. Accessed October 14, 2015 from http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9924693
Material Safety Data Sheet: Sodium Chloride. Accessed October 14, 2015 from http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9927593
This post was revised as of 11/23/2015.
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