Saturday, March 5, 2011

Learning to formulate: Facial moisturizers continued...

The first place to start to formulate a good moisturizer is to choose a recipe. We'll start with this very basic recipe and tweak it until we get something we like! I suggest starting with a basic recipe and seeing how your skin reacts to it before adding all those lovely (and expensive) cosmeceuticals. It not only gives you a chance to not waste money if you don't like the moisturizer, but it gives you an opportunity to see what your skin likes and doesn't like without a ton of possible ingredients.

There are a number of different recipes you can use for a moisturizer recipe (see yesterday's post for more information), and since I've already tweaked the heck out of the 80% water recipe, I'm going to start here with an 85% water recipe and work with this for these posts.

85.5% water

8% oils
4% emulsifier
2% thickener

0.5% to 1% preservative

This would make a fine moisturizer with a light to medium consistency, depending upon your oils, butters, and thickeners. As usual, your choice of oils will make all the difference. If you choose heavier oils, this will be heavier. Choose lighter ones, you'll get a lighter product. If you have dry skin, you'll want to increase the oils in your product; if you have oily skin, you'll want to choose some "oil free" emollients like esters, fatty alcohols, or fatty acids.

And your choice of emulsifier is important. If you want a matte finish, your first choice should be Incroquat BTMS-50 (and you can probably eliminate the thickener as well, which is a bonus). If you want something a little greasier feeling, then Polawax or e-wax should be your first choice.

So let's see how we can tweak this a little to be a very light, matte feeling moisturizer. Today I'll offer some suggestions for normal skin.

Water phase: I can use all water here, but it seems a pity when there are all the lovely hydrosols, proteins, extracts, and so on that can take this moisturizer from good to freakin' awesome!

I always like to include some aloe vera in my products for moisturizing and reducing inflammation, and I find 10% is a nice level. And I like to use a hydrosol that will help with the same issues. Rose is great for controlling sebum, lavender for soothing, chamomile for anti-inflammation and soothing, rosemary for controlling really oily skin, and so on. Couple this with a nice extract suitable for your skin type and you've got a great combination that will benefit your facial skin.

Humectants are vital in a facial moisturizer. We can get some great moisturizing from our emollients, but humectants add that touch of non-oily moisturizing we want throughout the day. We have tons of humectants from which we can choose - glycerin, sodium lactate, sodium PCA, honeyquat, panthenol, tamarind seed extract, and more - and I like to use them at 3% to 5% in a moisturizer. If you have acne prone skin, sodium lactate is a good choice as it can help with acne as well as decreasing transepidermal water loss and stimulate ceramide synthesis. But it can make you sun sensitive, so use it at 2.5% or less. Glycerin is another fantastic humectant that can accelerate the recovery from damage to our skin's barrier system as well as draw water to our skin, but it can feel a bit sticky, so let's use that at around 3% or so.

Hydrolyzed proteins are good film formers and moisturizers, and some behave as humectants. Adding these at up to 5% in our water phase increases moisturization and film forming properties.

And there's more (I'm sure you have your favourite additives, so why not suggest them in the comments?) you can add to the water phase. If it's water soluble and can handle heat, then throw it in and see how you like it.

Oil phase: Choose one really good oil and try that in your first moisturizer to see how you respond to it. There are so many good choices - I'm going to work with pomegranate oil because it offers a ton of really nice polyphenols, phytosterols, and fatty acids I consider great for our skin. You can use any oil you want, but for the purposes of this post, I'm going with something considered a dry oil.

For the thickener, cetyl alcohol is always my first choice when it comes to facial products. We want maximum slip and glide and as we know, stearic acid doesn't offer those properties to a lotion.

For the emulsifier, I'm going to use BTMS-50 to offer a dry feeling and matte finish.

Cool down phase: This is where we'll put our panthenol, extracts, and so on into the mix. I'm going to add 5% green tea extract (liquid) and panthenol to the mix, so I'll have to remove 7% from the water phase to compensate.

So let's take a look at our recipe...

51% water
10% aloe vera
10% rose hydrosol (or another hydrosol)
2.5% sodium lactate
3% glycerin
2% hydrolyzed silk protein (or any other protein)

8% pomegranate oil
4% Incroquat BTMS-50
2% cetyl alcohol

5% liquid green tea extract
2% panthenol
0.5% to 1% preservative

So there's an idea for a moisturizer for normal skin. It should feel light and less greasy on your skin with a matte finish. You can add whatever you like to it to make it more suitable for aging skin or acne prone skin or sun damaged skin - just remember to start off simple and work your way to more complicated when you see how your skin responds!

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating moisturizers!


Tara said...

This sounds like a great basic moisturizer for me to start with. I have a couple of questions:

I like BTMS, but I hate the smell. I'm not sure about using fragrances in a facial product, but I was wondering if you can smell the hydrosol at all in the end product? I was thinking of increasing the amount used to add a light fragrance to the end product.

Also, I wanted to make test batches of about 100g to see what I like. How do you mix a small batch like that? Would hand whisking be appropriate, or would you require more mechanical mixing to ensure good emulsification?

Thanks for your help (as always)!

Abby said...

Hi Susan,
I hope you have had a great day.
Re moisturisers, you said "You can add whatever you like to it to make it more suitable for aging skin". Can you please suggest the possible ingredients that would make my lotion suitable for aging skin? Thanks.

Will said...

One related question and one not.

Did BTMS really have a(n objectionable) smell? I never noticed one so out of curiosity I had to go sniff my bag. I sort of expected a waxy (beeswax-like) smell but was surprised that it really did have a ewww smell - faintly fishy. I'm glad I don't notice it in my finished product. What makes it smell weird?

Unrelated question now. I'm still hoping for a facial wipe deconstruction(!), but as I have way too much free time I experimented making a facial cleansing solution that I didn't have to rinse off. (I'm happily using Retin-A so I can't use anything crazy strong.) Anyhow, as I was eating my third orange (oink), I was looking at the skin and began thinking about how orange oil is a cleanser. So I got my handy zester and removed the orange top part and put it in alcohol to soak. The alcohol is yet another attempt to use up potato vodka that someone brought over that I hate. Anyhow after a few days, the vodka had turned a little orange and smelled good. I mixed that mixture with some distilled water and have been using this for the last few days to wipe off my face when I'm too lazy to wash my face. I'm happy to say I like it - a lot. Both the smell and the mild cleansing are perfect. So after that long intro, here's my questions. As this includes about half alcohol, do I need to preserve this? If I do need to preserve it and use liquid germall plus (the only preservative I own) what would you expect the safe life of something like this to be? And lastly, I'm thinking the orange rind actually is contributing something cleaning to the solution. Do you think it's likely that I'm right or am I crazy? PS: This will be a joy in the summer to use (unless you tell me you think it's unsafe). PPS: Plus I think this qualifies as natural (not that I care)!

Thanks, Will

Nancy Liedel said...

BTMS does not smell bad to me, but I think Meadowfoam oil stinks and I'm the only one I know who feels this way. Neem doesn't bother me, but ginger root essential oil? I can't touch it, the smell. Ugh.

We all have our tastes. It's interesting and I bet some of it is cultural, as well as how we're wired. There's a study there, for someone perusing a PhD.

Will said...

The smell that makes me want to gag is palm oil which I use in soapmaking.

My better half stands and laughs at me as I'm working with it at arms length trying not to gag.

I know by everyone elses standards it's not bad, but to me it's horrid and disgusting and loathesome, unpleasant even. Will

Pam said...


As an aside, I am envious of your soap making. I would LOVE to take a class. Have searched high and low for a class in MD and can't find one...Maybe you could start a blog on soap making...just a thought

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tara. You can use some essential oil in facial products but I don't tend to smell the hydrosol in my finished products at all (except for peppermint, which I wouldn't recommend for a facial product!).

For 100 gram batches, I use very small containers like my 1 cup Pyrex jugs and I use my mixer on low speed with the beaters or whisks, depending on the final consistency.

Hi Abby! Oops, forgot to make that a link. Check out the skin chemistry and types section on the blog for more information on these ingredients.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Will! I don't notice the smell of BTMS-50, but in every group I teach there's at least one kid who recoils in horror and yells "fish" when I open the bag. I'm not sure why it has that smell, but enough people notice it so we know it's there.

As Nancy notes, there are ingredients that repel all of us. I can't stand patchouli - I can't have the bottle in the workshop - and I'm not a fan of the other earthy type fragrances. I like lavender, but can't have it on my person or skin unless I'm formulating with it.

As for your alcohol toner, the orange contains d-Limonene, which is a great degreaser. You don't need to preserve it, but I would with a titch of one of the water soluble preservatives just to be on the safe side. I don't think it's unsafe - it's an astringent, cooling, degreasing toner that is working well for you. But I'd still use some preservative. (I know people will put links here about anything that has over 20% alcohol is self-preserving, but I still don't trust it. I have looked into it, and it appears to me that 60% alcohol is the minimum for self-preservation. Besides, it won't hurt to use a little preservative and it could hurt not to!)

I've never smelled meadowfoam before, Nancy! I'll have to see how I react to it. I don't mind neem oil, but I won't use it in a leave on product because just a titch will change my Clementine Cupcake to garlic and feet!