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Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE)

Today's Chemical:

Grapefruit Seed Extract

EWG Risk Score:


What is it:

An extract used as a preservative.

Why it's a risk:

Grapefruit Seed extract as a pure extract is harmless.  However, the risk with it is that it can be contaminated with other harmful chemicals like methylparaben, triclosan, and benzethonium chloride.  When a company uses GSE, they don't have to disclose all of the ingredients inside the extract.  Is it an alcohol based extract?  Is it in water?  Is it in vegetable glycerin?  Or is it pure extract?  Does it contain preservatives?  Companies don't have to tell you, and sometimes they're unaware of the actual ingredients of the extract that's being sold to them.   It's used as a preservative, but studies have shown that GSE as a pure extract exhibits no anti-microbial activity, and that it's typically the impurities in the extract that act as a preservative. 

Types of products it's found in:

Bar soap, hand cream, moisturizer, conditioner, shampoo, facial cleanser, body washes.

Brands that use this ingredient:

(Note: This list is according to the EWG database.  Not all products from these companies contain this ingredient)

Meadowlake Farm Honeybee Products (*See comments below.  Meadowlake has confirmed they have tested their GSE for contaminants and assure their customers that it is a pure extract with no chemical contaminants.) 

Aubrey Organics



Khushi Spa

Jason Naturals


(for the full list, click here)

Steph's Opinion:

While it's not the worst ingredient out there, it's not as natural as it sounds.  If you're using a product containing GSE, call or write to the manufacturer and find out if they have tested their GSE in a laboratory for contaminants and that they can guarantee to you that it is free from harmful impurities. 




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    Chemical of the Day - *Today's Chemical - Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE)

Reader Comments (8)

If the ingredient is listed as
Extracts of Organic Grapefruit Seed
(certified organic by Soil Association Certification Limited)
in a product would it be okay?

Sun, August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarine

If the ingredient itself is certified organic, then yes. But just because they made it out of organic grapefruit seed, doesn't mean they haven't added chemicals to it. However, if the ingredient itself is certified organic, then you're probably safe.

Tue, August 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I applaud your efforts Stepahnie. However, you are only exposing your readers to a fraction of the information available about GSE and controversy that surrounds this ingredient. Is some GSE contaminated? It appears so. Is all? Absolutely not. Meadowlake Farm Honeybee Products uses organic GSE from one source and we've had it tested by an independent lab multiple times. Contrary to what you indicate it has some anti-microbial properties, that is why we use it as a part of our proprietary 100% natural preservation system.

Thanks for your comments, Sally. I'll update the post with a note next to your company. That's wonderful you've been able to develop a natural preservative system. I applaud YOU! That's why I urge people to contact the companies directly to see if they've analyzed their GSE for contaminants. You've done your due dilligence with it, and I think you should be recognized for that.
Stephanie Greenwood

Fri, September 18, 2009 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

What about GSE as a supplement? Like NutriBiotic?

Wed, March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commentere

Hi E--so sorry I missed your comment here. Yes! From what I can tell, GSE as a supplement is the same chemical with the same processing.

Fri, December 31, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

What would you suggest to replace grapefruit seed extract in skin care products with? please Stephanie. Thanks, Therese

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTherese Moffatt

I have learned so much from you, Stephanie, and appreciate your diligent research to my benefit. I appreciate that you give links to your sources too. My question, after reading about your findings regarding Japanese honeysuckle extract, is: What about other extracts in all the "natural" (truly seemingly natural) products? Every one of them that I have found uses plant extracts or else just lists the plant. Do they have to say "extract" if it is not the whole plant? (And I'm sure in such cases, it can't be the entire plant, though some will say "leaf" or "flower" - but is it the entire leaf or flower, then?) How can we know that every one of the extracts in a product is pure and harmless? Should we question each individual company about each individual ingredient listed as an extract? I'm not being picky or critical, just sincerely wanting to know the facts. Since grapefruit seed extract can be questionable and Japanese honeysuckle extract is contaminated/altered, might this be true of other extracts as well? With my sincere thanks ~Mary

Fri, April 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMary Brown

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