Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Using extracts, hydrosols, and other botanical ingredients

You'll see a lot of extracts, infusions, hydrosols, and botanical extracts in commercial products, and a question I'm asked all the time is "how do they do that?" (especially when it comes to Lush's claims of using "fresh" this or the other. Read parts one and part two of a post on Lush's claims).

The main ways to use botanicals are through powdered extracts, liquid extracts, and hydrosols. (Please don't make your own infusions or teas for your product unless you're a really experienced formulator with botanicals.)

Liquid extracts and hydrosols are easy to use. Just pop them into the right phase - compensating by removing some of the water - and you're done.

With powdered extracts, I suggest dissolving them in a little warm water (below 50˚C) before adding to the cool down phase. It'll mix in far better than just dumping the powder into your product, and you can remove that titch of water from the heated water phase if you're worried about having too much liquid.

Most solubility rates are determined at 25˚C, so we know it will dissolve well. We also know that the powdered extracts should be added in the cool down phase at 45˚C to 50˚C, so this is a fine temperature that won't ruin the extract.

Some extracts can mess with your products, so make sure you aren't making a big batch of lotion the first time you use something like green tea extract (it can cause redox reactions in a product, but that's for another day...) Try a titch in a 100 gram or 200 gram batch to see if you like it. And remember not to combine exfoliating extracts together (so papaya, apple, and AHAs together would be right out!)

If you're duplicating a product and don't have the extract, try it without. It might be that your hair or skin likes the product just fine without it or it could be at such low levels in the commercial product that you don't miss it! Extracts are nice little bonuses in our products, but we can still make something awesome without them.

Botanical ingredients of any sort - our extracts and hydrosols, but also things like hydrolyzed proteins, clay, and aloe vera - can be hard to preserve, so I suggest using your favourite broad spectrum preservative at the maximum amount (I like liquid Germall Plus at 0.5% but occasionally I use Germaben II at 1%).

So what does it mean when we see something that says "honey water" or "green tea infusion" on a product? It means something was added to the water to make it more than water. Interestingly, water is not considered an organic ingredient for an organic certification, so putting an organic ingredient, like an extract, into the water makes it organic. (Yeah, I know. What's more natural than water?) Just a few drops of something like honey can make the water "honey water" or a few drops of vanilla can make it "vanilla water". (You have to love Aveda's "Aqueous (water/aqua/eau) Extract/Extrait Aqueux" instead of water. Water extract?)

If you want to make your own honey, glycerin, oat protein, or any other type of water, just add the ingredient to the water as you weigh it, and you're done! Pretty simple, eh?

12 comments:

Jen W said...

Can't wait to find out about how Green Tea extract creates redox reactions.

I just received some Green Tea extracted via alcohol.. I wonder how much alcohol content is in the extract?

Pam said...

Susan,

What about grated coconut in a body scrub. Is this something that we can preserve?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Pam. Do you mean like we use in baking or is this some kind of wonderful new ingredient I've never seen? If it's the kind we use in baking, then no - we can't really preserve that. What's the purpose of it in a product? Just curious!

Pam said...

Hi Susan,

I saw a coconut scrub for sale by a home crafter. I did not think something like that would work but since it was for sale maybe she knew something I didn't .

len said...

Susan,
Why don't you use natural preservatives such as Vitamin E or grapefruit extract? Is it a price issue. I try to keep my lotions as natural as possible.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Len. I've gone into more detail with all kinds of links for the Weekend Wonderings for Saturday, January 4th. The short answer is neither of those things are preservatives. They are anti-oxidants, and do not provide any protection from contaminants.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Len. I've gone into more detail with all kinds of links for the Weekend Wonderings for Saturday, January 4th. The short answer is neither of those things are preservatives. They are anti-oxidants, and do not provide any protection from contaminants.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

I want to make an anhydrous body butter and include powdered extracts such as cucumber. Will it dissolve if I add it directly to the oils or melted butter and still yield it's herbal benefits or will the powdered extracts only strictly work if there is water, glycerin or alcohol involved?

Thanks,
Harlow

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

Sorry one more thing I forgot to add, or do you think I should infuse the powdered extract in the oils and strain afterwards?

Thanks again,
Harlow

Ira K said...

Hi Susan. My question here. Can botanical extracts substitute and have similar absorption rates as synthesized vitamins? For example if I add 5% of Ascorbic Acid (assume stabilized) and 5% Vitamin C from botanical extracts mix (as such http://www.radiantlifecatalog.com/product/pure-radiance-c/superfoods-supplements/?a=96418) would it have similar strength effect?

Ashwinii Sathevil said...

Hello Susan, I'm planning on using extracts in my moisturizer but I'm wondering if alcohol extracts are better than glycerine extracts? I heard alcohol extracts are better and more potent but I'm afraid the ethanol will dry out my skin. I will be buying fungus and bark extracts. Should I buy the alcohol or glycerin extract?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ashwinii! How much are you using of these exracts? Alcohol is only really drying over a certain amount, so if you're using 5%, it's probably okay if you don't have really dry skin.