Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning to formulate: Lotions with minimally processed ingredients

At least once a day, I get an e-mail from someone wanting to make a natural lotion. I tend to answer this with another question - what do you mean by natural? Infuriating, I know, answering a question with another question, but apparently that's how I roll. After almost five years of making my own products, I still have no clue what this designation means.

As I've said in the past, I'm going to consider the word natural to mean minimally processed because everything we use is processed in some way. So I'm going to make something with tons of botanical and minimally processed ingredients that offer great benefits to our skin! We will be using Polawax in this recipe, but feel free to use the emulsifier of your choice and modify it accordingly. (Note: This won't translate for an emulsifier like Sucragel, but if you're using something different, you probably know how to modify a lotion for that emulsifier already!) And we will be using a preservative. This will make up around 7% of the recipe, so you can make a 93% minimally processed lotion easily. This recipe is suitable for vegans (although most, if not all, of my recipes are vegan friendly, except those with beeswax and silk).

I'm going to use the six ingredient recipe with shea, soybean, and sesame oil as the basis for this recipe because I've been using it throughout the last week or so and I figure we might as well be consistent in our tweaking! You can apply this to any of the base recipes we've used in the series so far or any other recipe you like (I'd suggest using the 60% water recipe here.)

If you really want to use a tea or infusion in a lotion, please don't unless you're really experienced at this kind of thing. Instead, choose powdered extracts or hydrosols from reputable suppliers who preserve the product well.

Please don't use all aloe vera as your liquid. It can get kind of sticky. There is a good reason to use water in our products and that's mainly because it's a good hydrator. It's not there as filler; it's there to offer water to our skin. You can use all aloe and hydrosols and other liquids as your main liquid, but don't discount the value of nice, pure water.

So let's say we want to make a lotion for chapped or very dry skin. What can we use? I'd go with lavender hydrosol, chamomile hydrosol or extract, or rosemary hydrosol or extract. (Click here for extract information.) If you want something cooling, consider using peppermint hydrosol as well. So let's choose lavender and peppermint hydrosol with rosemary extract and chamomile extract. We'll use 20% of each hydrosol and 0.5% of each extract. (You could also use rosemary essential oil, but that might be much on your skin. Although lavender-rosemary is a really nice combination.) And make up the rest with aloe vera (18%). Remove 1% one of the water phase ingredients for the extracts.

What can we use as a humectant? We could use glycerin, tamarind seed extract, and other ingredients. I'm going with glycerin - vegetable glycerin, although I have no idea where you'd get non-vegetable glycerin.

And you can include allantoin if you want a barrier ingredient in there at 0.5% in either the heated water phase or the cool down phase.

Our oil are easily considered natural or minimally processed. So choose what you like here. As I've said a hundred times this week, if you want a less greasy lotion, choose drier feeling oils and butters. If you want a greasy feeling lotion, choose greasier feeling oils and butters. You can keep the shea, sesame, and soybean oil for a greasier feeling lotion and something like hazelnut, macadamia nut, and mango for a drier feeling product. If you want a barrier ingredient in there, choose cocoa butter for this product.

Because we can't rely on esters like cetearyl ethylhexanoate or IPM/IPP to reduce our greasiness, we have to rely on choosing our oils well to get our skin feel. Please remember as well, what we consider greasy in a commercial lotion isn't the same as what we consider greasy in a homemade lotion. Even with tons of shea butter, I have yet to find a lotion that is as greasy as something like Jergen's (click here for a post on this topic). So really think about the end skin feel you want as you review the emollients you have in your workshop.

I'm not sure if cetyl alcohol or stearic acid or any of our other fatty alcohols or acids are considered minimally processed or natural, so if you want to include any of those at 3%, feel free to remove 3% from the butter and add it to the mix.

So our oil soluble phase remains the same, although you can tweak it with whatever oils and butters you like.

I know liquid Germall Plus probably isn't considered natural, so you might want to consider another preservative for this product. Citric acid and Vitamin E are not preservatives; they're anti-oxidants. Grapefruit seed extract is not a preservative (see this post), and using something like potassium sorbate alone is not a broad spectrum preservative. I know preservatives are a hot topic in the natural community, so if you don't want to make a water based product with a preservative, then please consider making an anhydrous or without water product instead. You really need a preservative in anything that contains water as you will attract beasties to your product. You're only using 0.5% to 1.5% in this lotion, so please don't make anything without a preservative. I'll get off my soapbox now...

This is where we include our extracts. You can combine extracts in all kinds of ways, but make sure you aren't combining two exfoliating extracts (click here for my warning about combining extracts).

And consider your essential oils wisely. Although something like lime eucalyptus (50-50) smells awesome, too much can make you sun sensitive (as can most, if not all, of the citrus essential oils). You aren't necessarily using them at 1% each as we would with a fragrance oil, so consult some good references on essential oils and blending them before adding them willy-nilly to your products. I like a combination of lime and vanilla (75% vanilla - 25% lime) for a lovely key lime pie type smell.

So here's an idea for an oilier version of a botanical recipe.

20% lavender hydrosol
20% peppermint hydrosol
17% aloe vera
3% glycerin

10% refined shea butter
10% soy bean oil
10% sesame oil
7.5% emulsifier

0.5% powdered rosemary extract
0.5% powdered chamomile extract
0.5% liquid Germall Plus
1% essential oil

As a note, I've increased the emulsifier to 7.5% to make up 25% of the oil phase as I'm using Polawax here. If I were to use BTMS-50 as in the original recipe, I could keep it at 6% as it requires less to emulsify. The change has nothing to do with the botanical nature of this recipe. 

Join me tomorrow as we explore a few more ideas for minimally processed ingredient recipes. 


Heidi said...

I totally understand why you get daily requests for more 'natural' products.

My mom had two different types of breast cancer, my dad also died from a rare form of cancer.

Everyone has these stories in their family...cancer, autism, etc.
And we just don't trust what big companies tell us anymore. (Think tobbaco companies and what they knew and didn't tell us) Even some of the ORG. type organizations get big donations from drug companies. So you just don't know what to trust or believe anymore.

I even make my own deodorant now. Is aluminum safe? Who knows, but why take the chance if one without it works as well.

Science has given us great advances! But when it comes to the bottom dollar, it's not always easy to trust what they say is safe.

That said, not everything in nature is safe either. Mold is very natural, but I don't want it in my product.

I love ready your blog!

Ali said...

Hi Susan, I'm very very new at making my own products, and I can't get away from the computer since i discovered your blog.. wow… thank you soooo much for all of this! i have a question about preservatives… (i know…) AND i have a confession to make!!! I made a facial scrub a while ago, combining powdered milk, ground oats, powdered rose petals and powdered sandalwood (very fine)… My idea was to mix it with rose water on the spot and apply it as a face mask or simply rub it as a scrub… Since i left it in my bathroom to apply it during my showers, it did get some water in it.. And… got very moldy… I actually kept using it for a while, because it made my skin feel so amazing every time, like there was some kind of chemical process going on in that mixture that got "oilier" and left my skin feeling sooo soft and bright... it smelled like blue cheese at the end so i guessed it was time to let it go, despite the amazing effects it was having on my skin! SO… i my question is: What happened in there? was it an extremely unsafe thing to do? AND: Id like to give this magic mix to my friends for christmas, but i wouldn't like them getting the cheesy part of it.. Are there any very safe preservatives i could add to it? or should i just explain that NO WATER should get in the mixture? Ok, thank you so much!!! Ale

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ali! I've written a longer response to your question in today's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer is that I don't think it's a good idea to share this recipe with others. I admit I'm really icked out about you using it when it was clearly off, and I really don't want you to share this with others!