Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Newbie Tuesday: A little more information about lotion making

Greetings newbies! If you're new to this concept, please click here for last week's post so you can play along! We're getting ready to make a lotion on the 24th, then a body butter, then a cream.

This week ask yourself this question: What is making you nervous when you think about making a lotion?

Are you scared of making a failed lotion? What's the worst thing you think could happen if you fail making a lotion? You'll waste supplies. You'll waste your time. You'll get your hopes up and have them dashed when you see that it's failed. You'll suck and be a bad person. (I don't believe this, but this is the kind of weird thing our brain believes!)

What's the best thing that could happen if you make a lotion and it works? You won't have wasted supplies. You'll be happy that you made a lotion and perhaps do a little dance (that the neighbours may or may not see). You'll post a picture of it on your favourite forum or perhaps tell the keeper of a blog you like to read about it (and send her a photo). How 'bout we focus on that part of the lotion making process!

Yep, you might fail. But that's one of the ways we learn. Keep notes throughout the entire process. Write down what happens in every phase so you can make the product again if it's a success, or avoid everything you did the first time with failures.

Let's take a look at the lotion making process and where people tend to make mistakes so we can avoid them next week! I'm breaking the lotion down into 4 phases - the prep phase, the heat and hold phase, the cool down phase, and the packaging phase.

This is the time when we get all our supplies and equipment ready for lotion making. Clean the surfaces in your workshop with a good cleaner, and ensure all your containers and stirring implements are clean. I like to use Pyrex jugs in my double boiler, and I tend to use metal spoons I bought from the restaurant supply store to stir. I fold a paper towel and put it near the double boiler so I can have somewhere to rest the spoons, but you can use any sort of spoon rest you like.

Mistakes that can be made: 

  • Not having a clean surface, which could lead to contamination. Fix this by cleaning your surfaces before starting.
  • Not having your supplies ready. Fix this by buying your supplies in advance and making sure you have space for all your supplies.

A note on cleaning your space: I know a lot of people are worried about not cleaning their spaces well enough for fear of contamination, which can lead to scary things growing in lotion. Clean your space well, but don't obsess about it. I clean my space with alcohol - sprayed - and clean my heating and mixing vessels and utensils. Don't let the dog lick your utensils, wear gloves, put your hair back, and follow general cleanliness rules. This isn't to say we have to be lax about cleaning, just that we don't need to make this is the reason we don't make lotions!

Put everything from the heated water phase into the heated water phase container. Weigh your container and write the number down so you can replace the water that evaporates. Put everything in the heated oil phase into the heated oil phase container. Put both containers into a double boiler and watch until it reaches 70˚C. When it reaches 70˚C, start your timer for 20 minutes!

After 20 minutes, remove from the heat, weigh the water container again and replace the evaporated water, then pour the water in the oil phase or the oil into the water phase. Mix!

Mistakes that can be made: 

  • Not heating and holding for 20 minutes at 70˚C. Please do this. I know there are people out there who tell you you don't have to do this. I will tell you to heat and hold because this is the biggest indicator of success or failure when making a lotion. If a lotion doesn't fail because of a poorly written recipe, it fails because the maker didn't heat and hold! (There are exceptions here, but not many!)
  • Putting the wrong thing in the wrong phase. In this lotion, we put the water in the heated water phase. The oil, butter, cetyl alcohol, and emulsifier go into the heated oil phase. And the preservative and the fragrance/essential oil go into the cool down phase.
  • Not replacing the water that evaporated during the heat and hold phase. Boil up some water and let it cool down. After the 20 minutes of heating and holding, weigh the water phase again, and add enough to total the original amount. Now add the water to the oil (or the oil to the water) and mix well.

After you mix the lotion well (click here for more information on possible mixing techniques), monitor the temperature until it reaches about 45˚C, then add the cool down ingredients. In this case, that would be your preservative and your fragrance/essential oil. Mix again. Leave to cool to room temperature.

You can't really make any major mistakes here, except for adding things to the cool down phase that shouldn't be here and not waiting for it to get to 45˚C. Just watch your preservative - some can cause the lotion to curdle.

This one's easy. Wait until it reaches room temperature, then put into a jar or bottle. I use a piping bag to get mine into the bottle, but there are loads of ways to do this. The only way to mess this is up is to re-use an old, unclean bottle.

So what is holding you back from making lotions? Let me know! And get ready to make it next weekend! By January 31st, you won't be able to say you've never made a lotion!


Leman said...

Hi Susan,

I am a little confused when you said "Not replacing the water that evaporated during the heat and hold phase. Boil up some water and let it cool down. After the 20 minutes of heating and holding, weigh the water phase again, and add enough to total the original amount." What do you mean by 'let it cool down'? What temperature does this need to cool down to? I usually have a seperate small container heating up next to oil and water phase (just like in the picture you have here) and I make sure that that extra water is same temperature as my water phase. Is this what I should do?

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, I was reading through the blog about hair conditioner and leave in and i read somewhere you said not to add a certain amount of cetyl alcohol to the leave in because it would weight the hair down, well that's the kind of result i am looking for in a leave in conditioner. This is the reason i decided to make my own, because i cannot find one that will weight it down, i mean the curls, i don't like my hair straight by relaxers.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Leman. I suggest letting the boiled water cool because if you add boiling water to something that is 70˚C, it's going to increase the temperature, and our goal is to have our two phases around the same temperature. So if you boil up your water when you put the two phases into the double boiler, it should be around the right temperature when you add the little bit to compensate for evaporation!

Hi Rosi. Is there any chance I could get you to put questions/comments like these in posts that relate to the topic, like a post on hair conditioners? I figure other people might have a similar question in mind, and it would help them as well as answering your question!

I don't remember saying that about leave in conditioners, but I did say it about rinse off conditioners. Cetyl alcohol is a good emollient for our conditioners, plus it boosts the substantivity for the cationic ingredients, so it's a great addition to a conditioner at half the amount of BTMS-50, BTMS-25, Incroquat CR, cetab, and other cationic quaternary compounds. I don't know if your hair will be straight, but it will be more moisturized.

Brenda @ Gentle Bath said...

I am just starting out and getting my equipment together. I need to get some containers for the heat and hold phases and have been looking at some beakers on eBay. There are some good prices on them by the case. What would be the best / most frequently used size. They range from 50 ml up to 1 L. I was thinking somewhere between 250 ml-500 ml? Then get a few larger and smaller beakers to round them out.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Brenda. I like the 250 ml to 500 ml the most as I tend to make small batches - rarely over 1 kg. I find these sizes are good for heating and for mixing!

Insect Art said...

Is there a trick when heating and holding to not get your mixture too hot?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Insect Art. Please see Monday's post for more information.

reina said...

If my homemade lotion separates because I didn't "heat and hold" can I just mix it together again? I made a lotion and was left with the milky water at the bottom and white oils on top. I mixed it together and it seemed to blend into a lotion. Will it stay this way? Should I remake the batch and dispose of this one? Here is my recipe

11.35 oz distilled water or Aloe
2 oz grape seed oil
.75 oz Mango Butter
.50 Glycerin
.50 oz steric Acid
.75 Emulsifer
.10 oz Tea Tree
.15 oz Phenonip preservative


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Reina! As I note on the side bar, I need your exact recipe in percentages with the exact ingredients - for instance, what emulsifier did you use? - and your exact process to be able to help. My short answer is no, you can't re-heat it and use it again. This is one of the reasons I suggest heating and holding: It makes failures less likely.

You can't use that much aloe without a fail. Aloe vera is full of electrolytes, which will mess with emulsification. This is why I rarely go above 10% in my recipes. Re-consider using mostly water with 10% aloe vera as well as heating and holding so you don't experience another fail.

Can I ask a question: Why didn't you heat and hold?