Friday, June 26, 2009

Better crafting through chemistry: Esters - IPM

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you'll know I'm a fan of isopropyl myristate or IPM. I use it primarily as a dry or astringent emollient to reduce the greasy feeling of other oils in a lotion or lotion bar. You can use it in large quantities as the primary emollient to give a really dry feeling, but I tend to use it in small amounts - usually no more than 5% because I like my products to have a slick feeling, and too much IPM can make it feel really dry. (BTMS and tons of IPM is not a good combination for me - too powdery, and dry, but a little of each is a lovely thing indeed!)

IPM is an ester of isopropanol (the alcohol) and myristic acid (the carboxylic acid), so it's called an isopropyl ester. It has only one fatty acid chain - as compared to something like olive oil (a triglyceride), which has a glycerin backbone and three fatty acid chains. The length of the chains is an important feature with esters: The shorter chains, like IPM, feel drier and have less impact on foam in surfactant products. The longer chains (like glycol stearate or glycol distearate) tend to be greasier and have more impact on foam.

It is used as a light penetration enhancer, bringing your lovely ingredients deeper into the skin, and you'll find it in many medical applications for this reason. It reduces residue in things like anti-perspirant, so if you've got a lotion that just won't sink in or leaves behind a white mess, IPM at 2% is perfect for you!

So why would we use IPM in our creations?
  • To impart a less greasy feel
  • To act as a dry, astringent emollient
  • To bring ingredients deeper into the skin
  • To reduce residue from other ingredients
So I'm going to contradict myself here...I mentioned above I wouldn't use it at more than 5% or so because it imparts a dry feeling, but I want this in my anhydrous body oil. I was asked to make this as an after bath oil with ingredients that were non-staining and very emollient. I added a lot of IPM to reduce the greasy feeling of straight sesame and fractionated coconut oil because it was simply way too oily. And it's also non-staining, so it fit in well with my creation.

66% sesame or fractionated coconut oil - I used 33% of each
33% IPM
1% fragrance or essential oil

Pour all the ingredients into a spray bottle. Shake well. You're done.

Join me tomorrow for more fun with esters - thickeners!


aesthete said...

Hi Susan, I was wondering if you have also tried IPP. If so, how do they compare to each other?
thank you

Gennifer said...

I was wondering if you think that IPM is good or bad to use for facial creams. I read that it can clog your pores and dry out your skin. I've used it in my face cream and really could'nt tell if did either one.

Robin said...

Do you have any suggestions where to buy some of the ingredients such as lecithin, dimethicone, and some of the others used in lotions and creams in the US

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Aesthete! I have a post on this topic if you go into the emollients section and click on IPP. I think I like IPP a little more, but it's harder to find and more expensive than IPM.

Hi Gennifer! If you skin likes it, use it. The comedogenic listings are done mostly on rabbits, and nore and more we are finding they aren't as accurate as we'd like.

Hi Robin. If you visit the FAQ, you'll see listings near the bottom for suppliers in your area! I love Lotioncrafter and Brambleberry in the States!

Robin said...

Thanks so much for the reply. Your Blog is loaded with a wealth of information and education. I will get to know where everything is located soon…smile.
Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into this all. Are you a chemist or chemistry major…Should be smile..Wonderful Job!

Nyssa said...

Hi Susan,
I have a hand cream which I LOVE because it is extra moisterising AND sinks in really quickly (I work in a lab - and moisturiser + gloves usually don't mix...).
The second ingredient listed (after water) is Isononyl Isononanoate. I have learnt this is an emollient and ester... But that's about as much as I can find. (without revising all my organic chem!)

My question: do you think I could subsistute IPM in a duplication for similar effect?
Or would you use IPM with something, or something completely different?

(The rest of the ingredients apepar to be a standard mix of oils, butters, emulsifier & fragrance...)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Nyssa! You work in a lab? How awesome! Biology, chemistry, physics? Which type?

I think you could substitute any of the esters for the one in your original recipe. IPM or IPP are good choices as they feel less greasy, but most of the esters will feel less greasy than any oil. You could go for fractionated coconut oil as well - it's very light and less greasy - or even choose a less greasy oil like kukui nut oil evening primrose in its place.

Let me know how your version turns out!

Nyssa said...

Thanks Susan, I will put it on my 'to-do' list and let you know!
I work in a medical lab - so lots of machines - only rarely do I get test tubes out and feel like a 'scientist'.

Nyssa said...

My review of the body spray:
My parents moved to an extremely hot, dry region earlier this year so I wanted to make my Mum a dry oil spray for summer - I was aiming for something moisturising without the 'sticky' feel that you get with a body lotion in the heat.
I tested it out in 10mL lots until I had this combination:
40% IPM
50% Fractionated coconut oil
9% Macadamia nut oil
1% essential oils - a blend of equal parts eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon myrtle to add a bit of cooling and to smell refreshing.

It is still too greasy for my likes, the dry oil spray I have bought must have some silicones in it so I will add these to my wishlist. I will let you know how my Mum likes it!

Rebecca Mace said...

Hi Susan
I have read that IPM isn't good for acne and can cause break out; any idea if that is true? Thanks, Rebecca

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rebecca. I wouldn't suggest any oil or ester for acne prone skin, to be honest, as anything that would sink in is a chance of comedogenicity or acne. The only thing I'd suggest would be mineral oil as it is non-comedogenic and won't sink in.

Patty M said...

I have used IPM in small amounts in lotions and butters, but never in larger amounts until tonight. I made a beard oil for some guys at work who are looking for something to soften whiskers and ease the oncoming winter itch.
I made the following 50g batch:
39% FCO
20% Argan Oil
20% Olive Oil
20% IPM
<1% EO (I used Patchouli, French Lavender and Bois de Rose because I love the combo)
I like the way it feels on my skin, but can let you know if it works for the guys...

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Patty! If you can get me a picture of the product along with some idea of how the guys like it, I will send you out a free e-book as my thanks! You can send it all to my email address at
It sounds like a great recipe!

Erica Echternach said...

I made this less then a month ago in a 4 oz bottle. I used
33% FCO
33% IPM
33% Sunflower Oil
1% Sunflower Fragrance Oil

I ran through it so quickly. I LOVE THIS!