Monday, December 6, 2010

Substitutions: Formulating on a budget

I've been thinking a lot lately about the cost of our ingredients. I'm fortunate I live within driving distance of three suppliers, have next day service from another one, and can drive to Otion whenever I feel like subjecting myself to the line-ups at the border, but a lot of us have to buy our supplies online, and the shipping costs can be prohibitive, especially for those of us outside of America! I know I can be the queen of enablers, making visions of exotic oils, different surfactants, and strange esters dance in your heads, and I'm sure you curse me when you open your Visa bill, so consider this post my way of not having you hate me this month! Let's take at look at substituting ingredients as a way of saving some money!

Let's take a look an expensive lotion recipe, then how we can tweak it! (I'm only using a few ingredients in this recipe because tweaking everything and comparing prices could take forever, and I'm still sick!)

EXPENSIVE LOTION RECIPE
HEATED WATER PHASE
57% water
10% chamomile hydrosol
3% tamarind seed extract

HEATED OIL PHASE
15% pumpkin seed oil
5% murumuru butter
3% cetyl alcohol
5% emulsifier (BTMS or Polawax)

COOL DOWN PHASE
1% fragrance or essential oil
0.5% to 1% preservative
(This doesn't total 100% because of the difference in preservatives!)

As a note, this isn't a lotion I've tried making because I don't have most of the supplies due to cost, so I can't comment on the skin feel! 

Chamomile hydrosol has a ton of beneficial properties in this lotion, but the cost shipping a bottle of liquid can be prohibitive. Instead, consider adding 0.5% extract to the cool down phase to get all the benefits without the cost. (In all honesty, chamomile isn't that expensive and it works out to just about the same from my local supplier, but if you're shipping it, the costs add up quickly!) The chamomile hydrosol will cost you about 50¢ whereas adding 0.5 grams of the extract works out to about 5¢.

Note: The costs I'm using come from the normal amount I'd buy from my normal suppliers - where possible - and don't include shipping costs as I generally drive to them, and I really don't feel like figuring out the cost of mileage in my estimates. I drive an Echo, so I don't visit gas stations very often (except for the energy drinks I've needed quite a bit lately). I haven't included taxes as these vary from location to location. My supplies now have a 12% HST (harmonized sales tax) on them! EEK! 

Tamarind seed extract is a humectant, and it costs something like $7.60 for 1 ounce (30 ml). Compare this to glycerin at $7.95 for 1 litre (1000 ml or 33.6 ounces) or sodium lactate at $10.50 for 1 litre, and you can see how expensive adding 3% to a lotion can be. This isn't to say tamarind seed extract isn't awesome, but if you're looking to save some money, glycerin, sodium lactate, honeyquat, and pretty much every other humectant (except for hyaluronic acid) will be cheaper. I estimate I'd use about 75¢ worth of tamarind seed extract in this recipe, versus 2.3¢ for glycerin or 2.7¢ for sodium lactate.

Pumpkin seed oil is very similar to rice bran or sesame oil in its fatty acid profile but costs almost triple the price of rice bran oil. Sometimes you'll find there's just no substitute for an exotic oil - for instance, evening primrose and borage have that wonderful GLA, pomegranate oil has punicic acid, and sea buckthorn has palmitoleic acid - but you can usually achieve the same skin feel. You'd spend about 26¢ for pumpkin seed oil versus 11.5¢ for rice bran oil. 

Murumuru butter (scroll down a bit) is very similar to coconut oil in its fatty profile and melting point, so this would be a natural substitution. Coconut oil is one of the most inexpensive thick oils we can find - $4.25 a pound vs. murumuru butter's $23.95 a pound - so you're saving a ton by using it! We'd use about 26.4¢ worth of murumuru butter in this recipe versus 4.6¢ of coconut oil. 

MODIFIED EXPENSIVE LOTION RECIPE 
HEATED WATER PHASE
66.5% water
3% sodium lactate

HEATED OIL PHASE
15% rice bran oil
5% coconut oil
3% cetyl alcohol
5% emulsifier (BTMS or Polawax)

COOL DOWN PHASE
0.5% chamomile extract
1% fragrance or essential oil
0.5% to 1% preservative
(This doesn't total 100% because of the difference in preservatives!)

If we make a 100 gram batch of this lotion, you're looking at spending $1.77 for the original recipe and 23.8¢ for the modified recipe (not including the emulsifier, fatty alcohol, fragrance or essential oil, and preservative or container.) What a difference!

There are good reasons to spend extra on other ingredients - I'm having a love affair with babassu oil right now - and there are things we find in some ingredients that can't be found in others that make them worth the cost, but for those of us working on a budget, knowing our ingredients and how to substitute them can save us a ton of money!

As a note, if you don't have a supplier nearby and need some oils now, check out this post on using grocery store oils in our products

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, this helps soooo much since I live in Europe. Thank you soo much!

Hope you are getting better :)

Gina