Monday, February 7, 2011

Question: Cheaper lotions - comparing dollar store lotions.

Will and Patrick did the most important thing you can do in learning this thing we call cosmetic chemistry - they stayed curious - and both went out to the dollar store to buy lotions. Let's take a look at what each of them found! (And be warned, this is a long post!)

Will: I made myself curious and went to the dollar store. I bought a 24.5 fluid oz bottle (big) for $1.00. It compares itself to Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion. (Snip for ingredient list...) The lotion itself is pretty good (a little greasy to me but you knew I'd say that, I suspect the petrolatum). I know in volume stuff is cheap, but still, this was a buck and I doubt I could even find a big bottle with a squirter for that price!

Q: Are there any ingredients that you recognize in there that you would consider to provide a big bang for the buck? Any lessons to be learned from the formulation?

Ingredient list:

Water - the solvent or water part of the product
Glycerin - a humectant
Stearic acid - thickener, possible emollient
Glycol stearate - possible emulsifier (HLB value 2.9)
Petroleum - emollient (probably mineral oil)
Sunflower seed oil or soybean oil - emollient
Lecithin - emulsifier, emollient
Vitamin E acetate - Vitamin E, anti-oxidant
Vitamin A palmitate - Vitamin A, anti-oxidant
Urea - a humectant
Collagen amino acids - like our hydrolyzed proteins
Sodium stearoyl lactate - the other half of our emulsification system (HLB value 8.3)
Mineral water - what? this low down the list?
Sodium PCA - a humectant, generally used at 3% or less
Potassium lactate
Lactic acid - possibly for pH adjustment
Dimethicone - a silicone, emollient, barrier protection
Oat kernel flour - Thickener, skin feel enhancer (makes things feel silky)
Keratin - another protein
Glyceryl stearate - emulsifier combined with glycol (HLB 3.8 or 5.8)
Cetyl alcohol - thickener, emollient
Magnesium aluminum silicate - clay like ingredient, so a skin feel enhancer
Fragrance - makes it smell nice
Carbomer - makes a gel
Stearamide amp - viscosity enhancer, generally sold as an ingredient combined with glycol stearate
Triethanolamine - it makes the carbomer into a gel, pH adjuster
Corn oil - emollient
Methylparaben - preservative
DMDM hydantoin - preservative
Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate - preservative, found in liquid Germall Plus
Disodium EDTA - chelator
BHT - anti-oxidant
Propylene glycol - humectant (probably what the preservatives are dissolved into)
Titanium dioxide - whitening ingredient

This quite the ingredient list, eh? I think it interesting that the first four ingredients we encounter are water, the humectant, a thickener/emollient, and the first part of the emulsification system with our emollients at the fifth and sixth locations. As I'm fairly sure the manufacturers of this dollar store lotion aren't pouring in great amounts of Vitamin E and Vitamin A, I think we start the 1% miscellaneous category fairly soon into the recipe, possibly after lecithin.

Let's take a look at Patrick's find: Now I had to travel to my dollar store. I bought a 34 oz "Advanced Therapy for Severely Dry Skin". Lotsa similarities, especially considering this is a "Vitamin E" lotion. The lotion I got seems maybe like there's not enough moisturizers in it. About a half hour after putting it on your hands, you can't tell. 

Ingredient list: Water, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Glycol Stearate, Retinyl Pammitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Petrolatum, Fragrance, Dimethicone, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, DMDM Hydantoin, methylparaben, Disoidum EDTA, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Titatnium Dioxide.

If we take a look at this list, we see water and glycerin as the first two ingredients, with stearic acid (thickener and emollient), glycol stearate (thickener, emollient, and emulsifier), retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A), tocopherol acetate (Vitamin E), glyceryl stearate (thickener, emollient, and emulsifier), cetyl alcohol (thickener and fatty acid), then petroleum (emollient), with our 1% miscellaneous category starting with fragrance. As a note, I can't see the other half of the emulsifier in here - I see two low HLB emulsifiers, but no high HLB to counter it, so this makes me wonder if this is the entire ingredient list.

Let's take a look at a couple of drug store brands to contrast and compare! Take a look at something like Jergen's Original Scent hand lotion...

Ingredients: Aqua, glycerin, alcohol denat, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl esters, glyceryl dilaurate, cetyl alcohol, ceteareth-20, lanolin oil, dimethicone, parfum, acrylates/C10-130 alkyl acrylate cross polymer, sodium hydroxide, methyl paraben, propylparaben, DMDM hydantoin.

We have pretty similar lists here with the water and glycerin up near the top, and most of the emolliency coming from the various fatty alcohols and esters and some gelling ingredients near the bottom. (And this would explain why I don't like Jergen's! Look at all that denatured alcohol in it!)

Or take a look at St Ives Advanced Body Moisturizer, Oatmeal & Shea Butter (with their new slogan "no unnecessary chemicals", which makes sense because things that are unnecessary are by definition unnecessary, which means they're wasting money! But I digress...)

Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Stearic Acid, Mineral Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Urea, Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Dicetyl Phosphate, Ceteth 10 Phosphate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Cetearyl Glucoside, Butyrospermum Parkii, Cyclohexasiloxane, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Salicylate, Limonene, Yellow 10 Aluminum Lake, Red 40 Lake, Blue 1, Avena Sativa (Oat) Meal Extract

Again, the first ingredients are water, glycerin, but we see caprylic/capric triglyceride (fractionated coconut oil), then stearic acid (thickener), and mineral oil. (I do think it interesting this lotion is advertised as "oatmeal & shea butter), with both of them coming into the 1% or lower part of the ingredients list!)

If you look at these recipes, and other drugstore brands, you can take away the idea of our ingredients doing double duty here with the fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and esters behaving as emollients, thickeners, and emulsifiers. This is a great way to save money on your products because you need the thickeners and emulsifiers anyway, so why not use them as your main emollients? (I realize we see mineral oil and other oils in some, but they're further down the list than these thickeners. We'd normally use these things the other way around - 3% stearic acid or cetyl alcohol to 10% to 20% oils and butters - so we can get our emolliency from ouor lovely butters and oils!)

The second thing to think about is the use of glycerin. We would normally use it around 3% to 5% maximum, and they have it as the second ingredient in all four ingredient lists! Which tells me a lot of the moisturizing we're getting from these kinds of lotions are from the humectants, not the emollients. That's not a bad thing - humectants are lovely for our skin and offer long lasting moisturization as they draw water from the atmosphere to our skin - but I'd rather see something like a lovely phytosterol, polyphenol, fatty acid containing oil or butter nearer the top of the list.

If we made a lotion with cetyl alcohol ($3.00 per pound), stearic acid ($3.00 per pound), glycol distearate ($5.95 per pound), and mineral oil (not sure of the price, but I know it's inexpensive) as our emollients, we're going to make a far cheaper lotion than those with carrier oils and butters. If we make our own emulsifiers, we'll probably save some money over using Polawax and BTMS. If we use the thickeners as our main emollients and add a little shea butter or sunflower oil at 2% to 3%, then we're going to save tons of money! I'm not saying these will be lovely lotions, but they'll be lotions!

Thanks for your hard work, Will and Patrick! This was very interesting!


Will said...

Q re "If we make our own emulsifiers"

I'm sure I have no desire to do this, but out of curiosity I have to ask, how would you?

Thanks, Will

Heidi said...

Great post!

Now how about an expensive cream.

I see many people love Philosophy's
"hope in a jar" (I tried a sample in the store and thought it felt great) but it is quite expensive.

How can we create something similar to this with what is available to the home crafter.

I think I heard that it was first formulated to be a cream for burns, but I'm not sure if that is correct information.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thank you.
How do we make our own emulsifiers? Like to make as much as possible myself:)


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

We can make our own emulsifiers using the HLB system (click for more information). I've created a post with all the past posts on the HLB system, and I do plan to work more with this in the near future in the formulating series.

Hi Heidi! Thanks for the idea for Hope in a Jar. It's an interesting product. Look for that in the next few days.

I'll write a post with some links on this topic in a few minutes...