Friday, August 6, 2010

The chemistry of our nails: How to include water soluble ingredients in an anhydrous product.

We're already aware of the awesome power of lecithin and lanolin in our nail care products, so let's take a look at a lotion or cream you could make as a nail and cuticle treatment product.

Considering this would be a lotion or cream, we want the same types of ingredients you'd find in those products - water, an emollient, a humectant, a thickener, an emulsifier, and preservatives. It's how we choose those ingredients that will determine that this is a nail treatment product.

For the emollients, we'll choose lecithin and lanolin, first. We can include hazelnut oil, mango butter, and soy bean oil as well for good levels of phospholipids. We could choose to include things like IPM, to reduce greasiness, or esters and light oils (like fractionated coconut oil) to compensate for the greasiness of the lanolin.

We have a ton of humectants from which we can choose, but my first choice would be panthenol. It's showing great promise for nail treatment products. The elasticity of nails depends on the water storage capacity of the keratin, and panthenol increases the amount of water our nails can hold. More water equals more flexibility, which results in fewer breakages. So we want to include humectants in all our water based products to increase the draw of moisture to our nails: You can use urea, sodium PCA, sodium lactate, Hydrovance, and, of course, glycerin. Any of these are good choices, so it's up to you to figure out which one is your favourite humectant! (Don't forget about honeyquat - you can use this as a conditioning agent as well as a humectant! I love double duty products!)

We'll want a protein in there. My favourite is oat protein, so I'll tend to use that in my products as that's what I have around the house. Any other protein - corn, silk, soy, or a blend like Phytokeratin - would work as well in this application.

We'll want a thickener in the product. Stearic acid will give you a more creamy consistency with a little more drag, cetyl alcohol more like a cool whip consistency that's more glidy. I'd use those at 5%. You could use some beeswax or other wax to thicken this up - I'd use about 15% to 20% beeswax, less for the other waxes.

As for extracts, horsetail is reported to have some great qualities for our nails at 0.5% to 1%. As I can't find this anywhere, I can't experiment with it and give you my results. If you've played with it, let me know! I think I'll include some liquid rosemary extract as it's a good anti-oxidant and can help increase circulation. I can include it as an essential oil at 1% or as a liquid at up to 5%. Or I can use the extract at 0.5% and dissolve it in the water soluble ingredients.

So we have our water soluble ingredients in place. The question becomes - do we need to make a lotion or cream? Lanolin can hold up to double its weight in water without separating, so can we make a balm with water soluble ingredients using lanolin as an ersatz emulsifier! If we do, we'll want to pick our other ingredients to reduce the greasiness of the product. So let's take a look at making an almost anhydrous product using lanolin to incorporate our water soluble ingredients.

Right now I want to include panthenol, oat proteins, honeyquat, and some rosemary extract (powdered at 0.5% because I want to use the new fragrance oil I bought, Clementine Cupcake from Bramblerry and I don't want the essential oil to interfere and I'm out of the liquid stuff.). I am adding sodium lactate to help the rosemary extract dissolve because honeyquat just won't do the trick as well.

Because I have 12% water soluble ingredients, I could use 6% lanolin, but I like what it does for my nails I'm using 12% lanolin and 10% lecithin. I'm throwing in 1% Vitamin E for the skin softening effects (my oils have long shelf lives, so I'm not worried about that.

I'll be including some light oils and esters to combat the greasiness of the lanolin, so I've chosen ethylhexyl palmitate and babassu oil. Both of these feel much less greasy than something like rice bran oil. Finally, I'm throwing in some aloe vera oil because I haven't used it much lately and thought it would be a nice addition. It's moisturizing and can act as a humectant, which are both great features, but I like the idea of having a wound healer in this mixture. (I tend to get lots of pokes and cuts and very annoyed cuticles with all the crafting I do.)  You can choose any oils you like. I'm just on a big babassu and ester kick right now. Lighter, less greasy oils like fractionated coconut, macadamia nut, grapeseed, and hazelnut would also work well here.

An aside on ethylhexyl palmitate, although I'll be doing a series on esters in the near future...

Ethylhexyl Palmitate - INCI: Ethylhexyl Palmitate
Ethylhexyl Palmitate or Octyl Palmitate is an emollient ester. It provides slip and lubricity to skin preparations and is a good anti-tack agent in antiperspirants, creams and lotions. It is a clear low viscosity liquid with little odor. ). It is used in skin, hair and makeup products at a typical use level of 5-50 %. It offers a less greasy feeling than IPM and can be used as a replacement for it.

Oh, and you'll notice we are using Phenonip in the recipe. Because we have some water based ingredients in it, we need to add a preservative. You can use Phenonip, Optiphen, or another preservative suitable for anhydrous or low water products.

Okay, so we have our ingredients, so let's put together a recipe!

3% panthenol
3% protein
4% honeyquat
2% sodium lactate
0.5% rosemary extract

12% lanolin
10% lecithin
1% Vitamin E
30% babassu oil
16.5% aloe vera oil
16% ethylhexyl palmitate
2% fragrance or essential oil
1% Phenonip

Put water based ingredients in a small, heatproof container and add the rosemary extract. Heat it slightly (before or after the extract) to help dissolve the rosemary. Into another container, weigh out the lanolin. Put the water soluble ingredients into the container with the lanolin and mix with a mixer. It'll end up looking a bit like a messy brown goo! Then add the other oil based ingredients and mix well.

This will be a thin mixture that is very much like a light lotion in consistency. It is great for using all over your hands as it is not very greasy.

But I wanted a balm! Join me tomorrow to see how that turns out! 


Lisa Reidzans Schmock said...

Hello! You can find Horsetail Grass Extract at Mystic Mountain Sage, INCI: Triglycerides of Caprylic/Capric Acid (and) Equisetum Arvense Extract. I used it in a cuticle oil, but since it's the first cuticle oil I mixed up not sure what it's adding to the mix ;) I finally ordered some lanolin and lecithin to try your cuticle balm recipe, since my cuticles and nail health is horrible. I might add some to your recipe.


Mirror_Sound said...

Hi I was just wondering which form of lanolin you used here for it's water holding properties. Lanolin anhydrous, or lanolin oil. I read your page on Lanolin but I'm still kind of boggled to which one.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I use lanolin, the sticky anhydrous kind you get at most suppliers. I did get lanolin oil at one point, but I didn't really care for it.