Ingredient Profile: Potassium Sorbate, Why Is it in Our Shampoo?

July 20, 2020 | Written by Kathy Watson

You might have seen potassium sorbate pop up on the ingredient list on the back of your shampoo, and unless you’re a chemist, you probably don’t know why it’s there. In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what potassium sorbate is, and why we use it in our shampoo.

What is Potassium Sorbate?

Potassium sorbate is a preservative that is used to preserve the shelf life of food, beauty, and cosmetics products. It delays and even prevents the development of microorganisms, keeping your shampoo free of mold and spoilage.

While potassium sorbate is effective at controlling the growth of yeast, mold, and fungi, it is less effective at combating bacteria. Therefore, it is often used with other preservatives to provide a wider range of microorganism protection. Still, it has anti-bacterial properties and can keep your shampoo in good shape as it sits in your shower.

Although you might be concerned about potassium sorbate in your hair products, you should know that it is added to countless food products and is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Potassium sorbate comes from the potassium salt of sorbic acid, which is derived from the berries of the mountain ash tree.

Even though it’s made in a lab, potassium sorbate is nature-identical. That means that it is chemically comparable to the molecule as it exists in nature. The toxicity level of potassium sorbate is practically equivalent to that of table salt.

Your skin does absorb some chemicals from your personal care products. However, potassium sorbate passes through your system and is excreted without building up in your body. Potassium sorbate is not carcinogenic or mutagenic, and is currently one of the safest man-made chemical preservatives for cosmetics and food.

Why is Potassium Sorbate in Hair Products?

Because shampoo is water-based and contains so much moisture, it’s an optimal environment for bacteria to grow. It sits in your shower, where it’s often warm and steamy. Even though it might smell and look fine, it could be a petri dish of microbes that are hazardous to your health. Preservatives help keep you safe.

If your shampoo didn’t have any preservatives, you’d have to keep it in the refrigerator and use it within a few days. Stores wouldn’t be able to stock it on the shelf. You would have to worry about exposing yourself to bacteria and fungi every time you used it.

Potassium sorbate is a better alternative to parabens, which are used in many conventional hair care products as preservatives. Parabens can disrupt the endocrine system and stay in your tissues for years. Because many beauty products contain parabens, they can accumulate in your body as you use the various products. You should avoid parabens at all costs.

Potassium sorbate is water-soluble, which makes it a perfect preservative for liquid shampoos, lotions, and soaps. It has no odor, and it’s effective in products with a wide pH range. It’s not necessary to use preservatives in dry soaps or wax-based products, but all liquid shampoos will spoil without preservatives.

Does Potassium Sorbate Affect Hair Growth?

Potassium sorbate doesn’t directly affect your hair. Its primary purpose is to keep your shampoo fresh and prevent it from growing microbes that could harm your health. Therefore, it helps the active ingredients in your shampoo remain effective and prevents the breakdown of the product.

Potassium sorbate won’t fade your hair color or strip your strands of keratin. It’s a neutral ingredient that enhances the shelf life of your products without affecting the shampoo’s benefits or damaging your hair.

Why Is Potassium Sorbate Included in Hair Care Products?

Although potassium sorbate does not have direct benefits for your hair, it does help keep our products fresh. This ingredient prevents microbes from growing in our natural products and ensures our active ingredients are able to remain effective. Potassium sorbate is a derivative of sorbic acid, a natural compound found in berries of the mountain ash tree, Sorbus aucuparia. It is a food-grade preservative, and though it is synthesized in a lab, it is classified as “nature identical” – meaning that it is chemically equivalent to the same molecule found in nature. Potassium sorbate is effective protection against fungi, mold, yeast, and bacteria.

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Ingredient Profile: How Plumeria Flower Extract Helps With UV Protection for Your Hair

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Ingredient Profile: Benefits of Tamarind for Your Hair

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