Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blast from the past: What do we need in a lotion?

If we're going to rejoice in the past, I thought this post needed repeating! If you are new to making lotions, please read this post as it covers all the different components you require to make an emulsified product stay emulsified and safe! This post is permanently housed in the frequently asked questions section of the blog - look to your right! And I'm sorry it's a day late. I didn't hit "publish" - I hit save! 

WHAT DO WE NEED IN A LOTION? (Original post can be found here!)
I'm really excited to see all the tutorials popping up around the 'net for bath and body products - one day we'll all be making our own stuff and the giant corporations will fall (insert evil genius laugh here) and we'll all have lovely skin and shiny hair and overly white teeth that blind anyone passing by, but that's because we can't make our own toothpaste yet - but as with anything that's getting popular, you'll find some great tutorials and some not-so-great tutorials. So here's my short guide to figuring out if you've found a recipe you'll be adding to your regular collection or one you'll be cursing as a waste of supplies.

For a lotion, you must have an emulsifier and it should be done at the proper ratio. If you see a recipe that contains less than 25% of the oil phase in emulsifier, it may not work. So if you have 20% oils and you have less than 5% emulsifiers, it may not work. Similarly, if you see a recipe that has 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup emulsifier, you know there's way too much emulsifier and will feel pretty waxy.

Acceptable emulsifiers are emulsifying wax, Polawax, BTMS, and things like Natramulse, Sugarmulse, and combinations like glycol distearate and ceteareth-20 (check out the HLB system information for more). Unacceptable emulsifiers are beeswax (without borax), paraffin wax, or no emulsifiers at all. Beeswax with borax can act as a water in oil emulsifier; beeswax on its own will not act as an emulsifier.

If you have no emulsifier a lotion will emulsify for a short period of time thanks to the concepts of heat and mechanical emulsification. Heat something up or mix something well enough and you'll see some emulsification. This will separate in a short period of time, leaving with you with a mess of honey and water and oil and other lovely things you've wasted on a poorly designed lotion recipe.

If you see a lip balm recipe with anything water soluble - glycerin, honey, water soluble oils, stevia in glycerin - this will separate out eventually. I know it's a lovely idea to sweeten our lip balms with honey, but they simply won't stay together and the water soluble stuff will bubble up and taste really awful. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news...

A good recipe will be done in weight measurements, not volume. (See this post for reasons why.) A quick summary: Weight measurements are more accurate. It's hard to figure out 1 tablespoon of a pastille type ingredient like BTMS or emulsifying wax. You will see mineral make-up recipes in volume measurements - that's understandable due to small amounts, and you can convert the recipe on your own - but all other recipes should be done in weighted measurements. And preferably in grams.

If you want to convert a recipe in percentages to weight, just convert the percentages to grams. So if you have 10% sweet almond oil, just call that 10 grams. This will give you a 100 gram batch. Then you can multiply by any number to get a larger batch. If you want to make a ton of conditioner, multiply each ingredient by 10 so you can make 1000 grams or 1 kilogram of conditioner. (So 7% BTMS becomes 70 grams of BTMS. And 2% hydrolyzed protein becomes 20 grams and so on.) Most scales have a gram setting on them and it's a lot easier to work with grams than ounces! The metric system rules! 

Anything with water must contain a preservative. GSE is not a preservative (click the link for more information). If you're making the product for yourself as a tester, use a preservative. What if you love it? What if you make a large batch and want to keep it? Don't you deserve a well preserved product? Preservatives aren't that expensive and are well worth the cost! If a recipe you think you'll love doesn't contain a preservative, add your own at the rate you know will work!

I don't get this logic - I'm only making it for myself, so I don't need a preservative. So you don't deserve a product free of bacterial, fungal, and yeast contamination? Is your skin or hair less worthy of protection? Please always use a preservative. 

Follow good manufacturing procedures for lotion recipes. There are reasons we do these things, and to not do them is to invite contamination and epic lotion fail.

If you find a tutorial that violates these rules, ignore it. You will find another lotion recipe somewhere on the 'net that fulfills your needs.

If you really want to try it because it has some lovely ingredient in it - say, sweet almond oil - remember that you can take a recipe you know and love (or one you know that works) and substitute sweet almond oil for any oil in the recipe. You've learned enough about modifying recipes to know that you can easily substitute one ingredient for a similar ingredient, right?

Remember what I was saying about names of products? Sure the Aloe & Oat Hydrating Conditioner sounds lovely but it can easily be altered to be a Lavender & Silk Hydrating Conditioner or a Rosemary & Wheat Hydrating Conditioner or even a Chamomile & Green Tea Moisturizing Conditioner when you know your ingredients. 

If you still want to try that recipe you've found but have doubts about, then you can modify it! Figure out the heated water, heated oil, and cool down phases. Adjust the emulsifier. Add some preservative. Follow good manufacturing processes. But honestly, if you can do this, you should be formulating your own recipes!

There are some recipes out there that can't be saved, and there are so many great ones out there. If you find one that doesn't work, figure out what appealed to you and find a recipe that you know will work!

If you want to know more about formulating lotions, please check out these posts from the learning to formulate series - post 1 (summary) and post 2 (more stuff). And check out those in between as well!


Chrissy said...

I was looking for a natural emulsifier. I tried lecithin but it did not work very well. I heard honey, egg, and quince seed works too. I have not tried the last 3. Do you know of any natural ones that work? I know it may not last as long as some of the chemical emulsifiers but how long can I expect it to last?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Chrissy. If you're going to use lecithin, you need to use a secondary emulsifier and you can find some ideas in this post on the HLB system. I haven't done any research on using honey or quince seed, and I'm not really sure how those would work. Eggs as an emulsifier can work, but I don't know how they would work in a lotion. I really wouldn't use any of these things as they will not preserve well - a few days at most without a preservative, and even with, I wouldn't be all that happy using the product - and I don't think they would emulsify well either.

Sorry I can't be more helpful, but I don't think any of those three ingredients will work as an emulsifier, and even if they did, I think it's a really bad idea (for the most part) to use food stuffs in lotion making.

Maxine Tubbe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm pretty new to this DIY thing. But I've made several products now and I'm still learning but loving the results so far.

I came to your site today to find out how to make natural toothpaste the right way... but the only thing I found was this comment: "we can't make our own toothpaste yet". I wondered WHY NOT? The EarthPaste brand toothpaste I'm using has what sounds like a doable ingredient list: purified water, clay, xylitol, EO, Menthol, salt & tea tree oil.

There are several recipes online for natural toothpaste, but all the "paste" versions have water which thanks to your shared knowledge I'm now afraid of using.

Here is an online recipe to recreate the EarthPaste - but again it has water.

I thought of replacing the water with FCO, but not sure if that would be good for teeth.

So what do you think? Can we make our own toothpaste after all?

I'm hoping to make a paste version and put it in a pump bottle to keep the bacteria out of the tube or jar.

BTW, thank you for such trustworthy information (I learned about preservatives from you - and I'm thankful I didn't follow all the potentially toxic recipes I found online with so many water based ingredients and no preservatives).

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

HI Anonymous. Please use your name in your comment or I'll have to delete it. A friendly, "Bye for now, (name)" is always great!

Personally, I wouldn't think of trying the recipe on that site for a bunch of different reasons, the least of which being that she's not using a preservative and the main one being there's no evidence that anything in that toothpaste won't cause problems in the future.

One of the reasons I don't make my own toothpaste is that I don't want to make things that could have repercussions in the future. I don't want to guarantee that the toothpaste I could make would be good for your teeth or at least not harmful. We don't know what using this toothpaste for five years could do. Could it reduce tooth decay or speed it up? Is it removing bacteria? Is it helping with cavities and tartar build up? She hasn't done any testing and, from what I can see, no research on how clay or stevia or tea tree oil or anything else will impact your teeth, gums, tongue, or cheeks. We know none of these things, and it can have a detrimental impact on your future health. I wouldn't make something with such a huge risk to it. (Same reason we don't make sunscreen!)

I'm going to be honest, anyone who is trying to avoid glycerin doesn't rate very highly in my books. I have no idea why she is avoiding it, but considering it's in every triglyceride in our bodies, in our foods, and in millions of other places, it seems to me to be one of the most natural ingredients you could find! And she is saying the tea tree oil can keep away bacteria. I find this site concerning at best...

Anonymous said...

Thank you Susan for such a speedy and honest reply - especially to my recent comment on an old post! Truly impressive :o)

I took your advice seriously, and I have spoken to my dentist and he actually recommends Hakeem Herbal Toothpaste to all his patients. I looked it up the ingredients: Dry Ginger, Black Pepper, Long Pepper, C. Pertinius, E. Robesta, Emblic Myrobalan, Oak Galls, Chebulla Myrobalan, Rock Salt, Margosa (Neem), Acacia

So there has been alternative toothpaste used for decades and recommended by at least my dentist (who is wellness/prevention based). So, I think I'll stick to that for now. Maybe in 10 years the Earthpaste will have as good a result and it can be easily reproduced by the DIYer, but for now I'll stick to Hakeem. Although if I could figure out that recipe... :o)

Thanks again,