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Potassium Sorbate Preservative | Formulating Guidelines & Safety

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Potassium Sorbate is the inactive salt of sorbic acid. When added to water, it releases sorbic acid, which protects from various molds and yeasts, and can offer a small amount of protection from some bacteria

It is often mixed with other preservatives such as Sodium Benzoate to create a synergistic effect to protect your skincare products more robust protection from various yeasts, molds, and bacteria. 

It is a natural preservative that is found in several fruits and berries.

Potassium Sorbate Preservative

Potassium Sorbate Quick Facts

Potassium Sorbate INCI:
Potassium Sorbate
COSMOS and ECOCERT Standards:
Potassium Sorbate meets COSMOS and ECOCERT standards
Potassium Sorbate Ingredients:
Sorbic acid, sodium hydroxide
Potassium Sorbate Activity:
Potassium Sorbate works by releasing sorbic acid when introduced to water. Sorbic acid is absorbed into the cells and controls microorganism growth.
Is Potassium Sorbate Water Soluble?
Potassium Sorbate is water soluble
PH Compatibility:
Potassium Sorbate is compatible with pH’s 4.4-6, but it is most active at a pH of 4.4.
Recommended Usage Levels:
It is recommended for use up to 0.3%; at usage levels, 0.5% or above, sorbic acid can become a skin irritant.

What is Potassium Sorbate?

Potassium Sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid. It is not a broad spectrum preservative like Geogard ECT or Euxyl K 903 and needs to be combined with other preservatives to be effective against bacteria.

You will often find Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate used together to provide synergistic protection. 

It has use in a wide variety of products and is often used in place of parabens.

Is Potassium Sorbate Safe?

Potassium Sorbate is generally regarded as safe; however, caution should be used when measuring it for use.

Amounts of sorbic acid over the recommended amount can irritate skin.

Is Potassium Sorbate Natural?

Potassium Sorbate is a naturally occurring preservative and can be found in several fruits and berries. 

Some companies produce Potassium Sorbate artificially as a “nature identical” chemical, meaning even though it is synthetically produced, it is the same molecule found in nature.

Potassium Sorbate Preservative

How to Use Potassium Sorbate Preservative in Formulations

Potassium Sorbate should be mixed with other preservatives to provide adequate protection from bacteria. 

It is most effective at a pH of 4.4; formulations including Potassium Sorbate should have their pH lowered to increase efficacy. 

Be sure to test your product pH before adding preservatives to ensure that they work most effectively.

It is essential to pay attention to recommended usage levels as large amounts of sorbic acid can be irritating to the skin. 

Sorbic acid is also an unsaturated fatty acid that is subject to oxidation. This means that it will begin to yellow over time when exposed to light if it is not mixed with an antioxidant agent. 

You should also add Potassium Sorbate into your formula at a temperature below 60°C (140°F), or it will begin to sublime. 

If you add it after oil and water have been combined, it is recommended to pre-dissolve it in water to make incorporating it easier.

Potassium Sorbate Warnings

Potassium Sorbate is generally regarded as safe, however, when used over the recommended usage levels, it can cause skin irritation. 

Be sure to measure all preservatives carefully and wear proper protection when handling raw ingredients. 

When introducing Potassium Sorbate to your products, be sure to patch test it on a less sensitive area than your face to ensure that skin irritation does not occur.

Where to Buy Potassium Sorbate Preservative

Other Natural Preservative Options

If Potassium Sorbate doesn't work for your formulation, check out these other natural preservative options.

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Potassium Sorbate Preservative


Friday 20th of August 2021

Hello, I am planning to use potassium sorbate to boost Dermosoft eco 1388 - does it matter if I add it before or after this preservative? Also does the PH need to be checked before preservative is added to the formulation or after?


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