Sunday, January 30, 2011

A few thoughts for a lazy Sunday morning...

As I'm waiting for my wonderful husband to wake up and choose the next Iron Chemist ingredient, I wanted to share a few thoughts based upon the e-mails and comments I've seen this week...

CHEMICAL EQUALS BAD
I mentioned the other day it's the International Year of Chemistry and I think one of the things I can do for the betterment of this awesome science is to encourage everyone to use the word "chemical" properly. Chemicals are all around us: Everything we touch, everything we breathe, everything we eat, everything we love is composed of chemicals. Water is hydrogen and oxygen. Air is oxygen, nitrogen, and other gaseous elements. They are not evil and without them, we would be dead.

We are composed of chemicals. Our skin is filled with oils and acids and cells and more, and each one of these is composed of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and other elements that make up our bodies. So to say you want to make something "chemical free" or you make products "without chemicals" is wrong. What you want to say is you aren't using synthetic ingredients, because you can't make anything without chemicals. (In fact, if you can, there's 1 million pounds in it from the Royal Society of Chemists!)

So please stop using "chemical" in the pejorative sense to mean evil, toxic, poisonous, or wrong. Chemical is a neutral word, meaning something composed of elements, which is to say everything in our world. So if I can do one thing this year, it's to get people from using chemical to mean evil!

PRESERVATIVES ARE NOT OPTIONAL
I know I've written about the necessity of using preservatives many many times (click here) but I need to write this again. Preservatives are not optional in any product that contains water or might be exposed to water. At the very least, leaving out a preservative when you're just making a product for yourself or trying a recipe out for the first time doesn't give you the full idea of how the recipe works - some preservatives can mess with emulsions, make them thicker or thinner, and so on - and at worst it can set you up for a world of ick as your product becomes contaminated. (And products can be contaminated long before you can see it with the naked eye!) Yes, putting your products in the fridge will slow down microbial growth, but it can't stop it. Even if you hate the idea of using preservatives for health reasons, consider which is worse - using 0.5% of a really good preservative or slathering contaminated products on yourself, your children, your pets, and anyone else?

EXPERIMENT! EXPERIMENT! EXPERIMENT! 
I know the idea of making your first lotion can be daunting, but I say throw yourself in and try it. You won't know what it's like to make a lotion until you've actually gone through the process, and you won't know the skin feel of the various ingredients until you've made a lotion and you can experience all the sensory components yourself.

Everyone says they want a less greasy lotion, but how do you know what a homemade lotion feels like until you've made one? I find store bought lotions - let's say the Jergen's hand lotion my mom had around the house before I started making it for her - always feel greasier than anything I make (due to the use of mineral oil). So if the only comparison you have is with store bought products, especially mass market lotions, you probably don't have an idea of what greasiness means.

Make a basic lotion recipe and see how you like it. Keep a lot of notes about your process and any tweaks. You might not like hydrolyzed protein or IPM or all the other things I like in your version. But you won't know until you've tried it!

I've written on this topic before, so here are more thoughts in trying something for the first time! And you will make mistakes, but that's how we learn! I could write an entire blog about the mistakes and horrible products I've made!

Join me shortly for the new Iron Chemist ingredient!

3 comments:

Zenobiah said...

Loved that post about fear, that is so me! But yesterday I finally got up my nerve and made liquid soap. Let's just say I learned a lot from that experience... :D

Pam said...

Me too! Tried making body butter yesterday and it looked like milk....So I said to myself I can let this go to waste and wound up putting extra emulsifiers and thickeners ...Now it is SO thick I still don't know what I am going to do with it...I really need to develop a system too...I had a mess the size of Texas....

Gab said...

Thank you for this post. The scientist inside me cries everytime I hear someone claim a product is chemical free.