Saturday, June 30, 2012

We be jamming!

Today's post will be delayed as we be jamming strawberries while they're still in season! We're planning to make regular strawberry, strawberry and pineapple, and strawberry with balsamic vinegar. As well, we need to make our awesome cherry relish with walnuts, which is freakin' amazing on meats or Raymond's baguettes with Boursin cheese! I'm in for a very tasty day!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Question: Is it cheaper to make your own products? Part one!

Last year, Patrick and Will posed this question - what is the cheapest lotion you could make? We took a look at various ingredients we would use in a lotion and tried to figure out how to reduce costs. This morning, I found this comment from Catherine (click and scroll down to read the entire comment!), and I thought it was an interesting question. Is it cheaper to make our own products?

I've totally seen the cost savings with lotions, esp. facial moisturizers. But I don't think I've seen them with shampoo/body wash. Which is too bad because it really is enjoyable and satisfying to make your own. But my family is on a serious budget and I have to factor that in. I was all set to reorder my SLeS and coco. betaine from Then I noted that, with shipping, the cost was about $13/month. And even if I were to buy by the gallon instead of quart, the cost with shipping would still be maybe $10/month. Versus spending about $10 for a 16 oz bottle of high-quality Jason body wash which lasts maybe 2 months.

When you first start out, you're going to go through a lot of ingredients until you find the product you really love, but it does get cheaper as you finalize those recipes. I don't need to have all the different oils - I only order those I really like - and I really don't need all the different surfactants because I know which ones I really love. And when you know you'll be using a lot of an ingredient, you can order more of it, which reduces the price.

It's hard when you have to include shipping in your expenses. I'm really fortunate that I live within driving distance of three suppliers (Voyageur Soap & Candle, Aquarius Aroma & Soap, and Suds & Scents), a short trip across the border to another (Brambleberry), and a day's shipping away from another (Soapcraft). Yes, I probably should include my gas and wear & tear on my car, but I enjoy the drive down and the interaction with the suppliers. 

To get back to the original comment, I was looking at the ingredients in a Jason body wash and was quite surprised. The first three ingredients are water, cocamidopropyl betaine, and SLSa. Lauryl glucoside comes way down near the bottom. If you're buying a 16 ounce - 500 ml - bottle, how much of each ingredient do you think is in each bottle? Maybe 10% maximum cocamidopropyl betaine, 10% SLSa, 5% lauryl glucoside, meaning that there's maybe 50 grams of cocamidopropyl betaine, 50 grams SLSa, and 25 grams lauryl glucoside. If the bottle of Jason body wash is $10 for 16 ounces or 500 ml (with taxes, let's say), you can definitely make your product for far less than that! You might need to make a large initial investment, but I think you can make something similar for much cheaper.

As a note, I'm switching out the powdered SLSa for something that foams as well because I hate trying to incorporate SLSa in my products. I think I'll go with liquid ACI (ammonium cocoyl isethionate) as it has a lovely foam and lather to it, plus that feeling of moisturizing afterwards. I don't have lauryl glucoside, so I'll go with decyl glucoside instead. I'm sure I'm using higher levels of these ingredients than the original, but I'm using the percentages that I like! I'm not using sodium PCA as that gets washed off, so I'm increasing the amount of glycerin so we have a nice humectant. For my water soluble oil, I'm using water soluble shea from Lotioncrafter, which is awesome! (For any ingredients that I haven't created a link for, please look to the right and see the ingredients links!)

For these amounts, I'm mostly going with Voyageur's prices as that's where I get most of my stuff. And I'll go with the sizes I might normally purchase. (And no, I'm not starting the duplication series again - I'm using this as an example of how much something can cost.)

60% water
10% cocamidopropyl betaine
10% ACI
5% decyl glucoside
5% aloe vera
3% calendula extract (water soluble)
3% glycerin
0.5% allantoin
3% water soluble oil

2% panthenol
0.5% liquid Germall Plus
1% fragrance or essential oil

If I look at making a 500 ml or 16 ounce bottle of this product, it works out to $5.56, not including the bottle, taxes, or shipping. Sounds kind of expensive...but I have the ingredients to make another whoknowshowmany bottles of body wash, shampoo, bubble bath, facial cleanser, and tons of other foamy and lathery products. (If I just want to make this specific body wash, I can make at least 20 bottles of body wash without having to replenish my supplies.)

The total for all these ingredients would be $139.90, not including shipping or taxes - I recognize this isn't cheap. If you want to see all the math, click here for the Excel spreadsheet.

If you wanted to make this product less expensive, you could take out the calendula extract - almost 94 cents - and the panthenol - 84 cents - and make a body wash for $3.78. You could add some powdered extracts, which are almost always cheaper than the liquid version and you use less, instead of the aloe vera and calendula. The ACI isn't a cheap ingredient at $1.45 for 50 grams - it costs about four times more than something like C14-16 olefin sulfonate, which would be about 39 cents in this product, bringing the cost down to $2.72 for this product. If you used SLeS, which is $6.95 for 1 litre, you'd use 34 cents in this product, bringing the cost down to $2.67.

If you wanted to use these ingredients to make a shampoo, that would be quite simple. Visit the hair care section of the blog and find a recipe you like. I like the conditioning shampoo for oily hair, so let's use that an example.

As this post is getting really huge, join me tomorrow to see how we can use the surfactants we have on hand to make that shampoo! 

Is it cheaper to make our own products? I think in the end, it might be cheaper to make our own products, depending on what products we are trying to make. It's definitely cheaper to make lotion based products, but surfactants can get a bit expensive, especially if you're shipping them across country. I don't think my body wash is cheaper than the Dove sensitive skin version I used to use, but it feels much nicer on my skin and the acne I was getting on my back is gone. My shampoo bars are awesome, and I use about 1/3 of the conditioner I used to use when I bought it. The appeal for me is that I can customize my products to suit my hair and skin type, and I get to give lots of wonderful presents to my family and friends.

Join me tomorrow for more on this topic!

Related posts:
Cheaper lotions - comparing dollar store lotions
Substitutions: Formulating on a budget
Substitutions: Formulating on a budget - substituting esters
Substitutions: Formulating on a budget - surfactant based products

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Question: How do oils in a serum stay combined?

In this post, Nancy asks: Okay, here goes. I feel so dumb asking this question. If you make a facial serum out of oils and extracts with vastly different specific gravity, how do they stay together without shaking, or an emulsifier? I've seen plenty of shops on Etsy selling these. I make a product, but I use Cera Bellina to hold it all together. Not a true emulsifier, but a nice product that you should get and play with. 

I make my serums creamy, not clear and just oils and oil soluble extracts. If I do that, my E settles on the bottom. It's frustrating me to pieces, cause non of them seem to have a problem, although I'm not sure I'd want to do that, mix just oils and pray the mix comes out evenly when pumped and I'd NEVER ask a customer to shake anything. GACK!!!!

How is this a stupid question? Is it opposite day? (And if it is opposite day, shouldn't we be calling it normal day?) This is a great question! But I really don't know the answer to it. You can see my bath oil above just after I made it, and it separated into different layers of the oils over time. (I didn't get a picture of this, darnit!)

I have an order with Lotioncrafter sitting at the border that contains the Cera Bellina and new emulsifiers, amongst a few other things! I can't wait to play! 

What the heck is specific gravity? It's a way of measuring if something weighs more or less than water.  Pure water at 4 Celsius is our baseline for specific gravity and everything else is compared to it. Water weighs 1000 grams per litre - 1 kg per litre - or 1 gram per millilitre. So a teaspoon or 5 ml of water weighs 5 grams. A tablespoon or 15 ml of water weighs 15 grams. A cup of water at 250 ml weighs 250 grams.

If something is listed as being less than 1, it weighs less than water per gram. If something is more than 1, it weighs more than water per gram. If something has a specific gravity of 1.03, it means it weighs 1.03 grams for every 1 millilitre or 1030 grams per litre.

Specific gravity is the reason that oil floats on top of water. A lot of the oils we use have a specific gravity of 0.90 to 0.95, which means they are lighter than water, so they float to the top of our product while the water settles on the bottom.

Let's say we make a facial serum with four oils - safflower oil (0.90), olive oil (0.91), cottonseed oil (0.88), and peanut oil (0.92), and a few oil soluble ingredients like Vitamin E (0.955) and calendula oil (0.91) they will eventually settle into layers with the heaviest oil at the bottom and the lightest oil at the top. (Order from the bottom, Vitamin E, peanut oil, calendula and olive oil, safflower oil, and cottonseed oil.)

Most of our oils are around 0.90 to 0.92, so they're really quite similar in nature, which could be one answer as to how the Etsy sellers are keeping their products together. If they use all vegetable oils and no extracts, the entire product will likely be very very close in specific gravity. Or they might be using our natural inclination to shake bottles before we use them. Or they haven't watched their product over time to see the separation. Or they don't know any better.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Question: How to use BTMS-25 in place of BTMS-50?

A few questions have come up around using BTMS-25 in a conditioner when you don't have access to BTMS-50, so let's take a look at what we could do here! (Click here for the post on substitutions, click for the post on emulsifiers!)

What's the difference between BTMS-25 and BTMS-50? 
BTMS-50 is behentrimonium methosulfate (and) cetyl alcohol (and) butylene glycol. It has 50% behentrimonium methosulfate, the active ingredient for conditioning our hair, the cationic quaternary compound. It contains cetyl alcohol to boost the substantivity of the conditioner, and butylene glycol as a humectant.

BTMS-25 is Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol. It has 25% behentrimonium methosulfate. It contains cetearyl alcohol to boost the substantivity of the conditioner. It does not contain a humectant.

A quick aside on how conditioning agents work...
The cationic quaternary compound is a positively charged compound - the behentrimonium methosulfate - that adsorbs to our hair strand to give us all those lovely conditioning qualities like a reduction in friction and combing forces, a reduction in static electricity, an increase in moisturization, and so on. Adsorption means the molecules accumulate on the surface of your hair. It's different than absorption in that it doesn't penetrate the hair fibre - it sits on top. We call this substantivity. A material that is positively charged will be attracted to the surface of our hair, which is negatively charged. The cationic quaternary compound is hydrophobic - "scared of water" - so it will resist removal by water alone. (The more hydrophobic the quaternary compound, the less likely it is to be removed by water alone.) So the positively charged cationic quaternary compound is attracted to your negatively charged hair fibre and clings on to the surface.

How to add the fatty alcohol?
We can add fatty alcohols like cetyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol to a conditioner to increase the substantivity of the product. It's suggested to add it at 50% of the conditioner amount.

If you use 8% BTMS-50, you're getting 4% behentrimonium methosulfate in the conditioner, so you'd use 2% fatty alcohol. (Use the fatty alcohol at 1/4 the amount of the cationic compound.)

If you use 8% BTMS-25, you'd be getting 2% behentrimonium methosulfate in the product, so you'd add 1% fatty alcohol. (Use the fatty alcohol at 1/8th the amount of the cationic compound.)

But here's the thing - the conditioner already has a fatty alcohol in it, so is there a point to adding more? It depends upon your hair type. I have oily hair, and I find that adding more fatty alcohol leads to greasiness in a shorter period of time. My best friend has fine, normal hair and she finds it weighs her hair down. So adding the fatty alcohol is up to you.

How to use BTMS-25 in a conditioner recipe that calls for BTMS-50?
If your goal is to get the same amount of behentrimonium methosulfate in the product, then it seems logical to suggest that you would want to use double the amount of BTMS-25. A recipe that calls for 8% BTMS-50 would require 16% BTMS-25...but I think you'd end up with something with a balm consistency instead of a liquid conditioner, so I'm not totally comfortable recommending this. Instead, I recommend making the recipe how it is written, and seeing how you like it.

I did an experiment last year to see how much conditioner my hair really needed. You can see the results here and see my new recipe here. I encourage you to conduct the same experiment at home. It really opened my eyes as to how little I really need! And you'll see that I sometimes make recipes that total more than 100%

The short answer that in a conditioner, I recommend substituting BTMS-25 for BTMS-50 at equal amounts and see how you like it. I know this contradicts what I said in a previous post, but I've learned more about our ingredients in the last few years and I've heard from readers who have successfully made products with BTMS-25, so I feel more comfortable suggesting a straight 1:1 substitution. As for the amount of cetyl alcohol, you can reduce it by half or leave it the same. It's up to your hair type. This really is a situation in which you'll have to do some experimenting to see what works best for you!

I found this post from a while ago - BTMS-25 and products not emulsifying. Please share your thoughts!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There are no stupid questions!

Julie was embarrassed to use her name when she asked the question - what happens if our recipe totals more than 100%? - because she felt it was a stupid question. 'Twas not a stupid question, Julie. It was a great one that hadn't been addressed before.

Stay curious! Ask questions! The only stupid question is the one you don't ask. And be open to making mistakes because that's how we learn.

I drive my instructors insane by asking question after question, but I do it because I want to learn more. I feel I get a lot out of my classes by asking questions. Some instructors might see your questions as a challenge and others might be flustered because they don't know the information, but there are some great ones who will encourage your questioning and help you learn even more than you expected!

I love questions, so feel free to e-mail or comment (and let me know if it's okay to post your question on the blog if you've e-mailed it to me): It inspires me to write things I might not have researched before! The only thing I ask is that you check out the frequently asked questions section of the blog to see if it's been asked before.

Why do I have Professor Farnsworth with his Finglonger as a picture for this post? Because I love his comment to Fry in one of the Tales of Interest, "That question is less stupid, but you asked it in a profoundly stupid way." It's not a reflection on Julie's question - I just watched that episode last night and it stuck in my head. Has anyone else seen the first episodes of the new season yet? Awesome! 

Related posts:
Overcome your crafting fears! 
Experiment! Experiment! Experiment! (scroll down a bit)
Don't fear the science! 
The newbies series on lotion making (11 posts, I encourage you to go to the beginning and work your way back or it won't make much sense!)

Question: Why did this lotion fail?

Catherine wrote to me in this post with these concerns: Hi. I've had my first epic lotion fail. My question: Can I still use this broken emulsion lotion packed with cosmeceuticals? It has preservative in it so I figure, even if it's not pretty, I assume I can still use it? Just shake it up before each use? Or is there some safety/etc reason I shouldn't use a broken emulsion lotion?

FYI, I got cocky after having a series of successes following your recipes, so I thought it was time to make my own recipe packed with expensive cosmeceuticals. 

BTW, I'm pretty sure my problem was I exceeded maximum solubility. I thought maybe I could finagle a higher "average" solubility (eg one thing was 15% soluble in water but another thing was 60% soluble so I thought I could inch the "average" solubility to 20% or so). But no, I think it's like a weakest link thing...the lowest solubility of all your ingredients is the maximum solubility of your entire lotion. 

Do you agree with my solubility theory or did I do something else wrong? I would love to make a really concentrated product so I don't have to put 10 different moisturizers on my aging face at night, but maybe that's just not possible.

There are many reasons we can encounter the epic lotion fail. (Click here for a post on troubleshooting a lotion fail!) I'm going to hope you heated and held long enough and had both of the phases at the right temperature before mixing them, so we only have to deal with the idea of ingredients interacting with each other and possible chemical reactions like solubility. It is possible you have too much stuff in a lotion, especially in the cool down phase. It's possible you used an emulsifier that was picky about the cool down phase - like Ritamulse SCG - or you've chosen a preservative that can break your emulsion - like Optiphen. It's possible you combined anionic and cationic ingredients in one lotion and it failed (this isn't always a failure, but it can be a reason for one!).

I think your solubility theory is sound. This is one of the reasons I buy liquid extracts. I know some people say there's no point in shipping water so you should buy the powdered version. But it's valuable to have some liquid versions around so you can reduce the amount of powder you're adding to your product. For instance, I'll use chamomile hydrosol, green tea liquid, and rosemary extract instead of using powdered versions of each one to ensure I'm not overloading my product in the cool down phase. But I have nothing definitive to share about how much stuff you should put into something. Again, I researched for it, but came up with nothing.

Here's a post I wrote on the everything in 1 product. I hate to say it, but I think using a serum, then a moisturizer, then an eye cream is a better choice than trying to get everything into one product! 

As for whether the broken lotion is safe or not...I haven't been able to find definitive proof either way of its safety. My gut instinct is to say that I wouldn't use it because it won't feel very nice on your skin...

Does anyone have any resources you can send me so I can research why we shouldn't use a failed lotion from a safety perspective? I've scoured all of mine!  

Related posts:
When lotions fail 
Troubleshooting a failed lotion
Question: Can I re-heat a failed lotion?
Should we reconsider the everything-in-1 product?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Question: What happens if our recipe totals more than 100%?

In this post, Anonymous asks: Hey Susan, This probably is a very weird question, but I was wondering, just for curiosity's sake, what would happen if you made a change in a lotion recipe, say added extra of an ingredient in the oil phase but didnt reduce the percentage in the water phase (so the recipe didnt equal 100% anymore) what would happen? I've never done it, nor am I planning to, I was just curious if it was that important you reduce 1% if adding 1% somewhere else and what would the result be if it happened? Thanks!

The answer to this might shock you, so hold on...Nothing. Nothing would happen. You'd have a recipe that has a total of 103% or a 105%, but it wouldn't be a ruined recipe. I admit that I have quite a few recipes that total more than 100% for various reasons. Perhaps I wanted to add 2% fragrance oil to something like a sugar scrub or I realized I wanted to add 3% cationic polymer in my conditioner, I can just add it in and accept that my recipe isn't exactly 100%.

There are very good reasons for making our recipe total 100%, the main one being that it's easier to ensure a product has the right amount of each ingredient, and I encourage you to strive to have your recipes total 100%.

Having said this, I don't think it's a good idea to increase your oil phase with reckless abandonment. If you increase an oil - for instance, going from 5% rice bran oil to 9% rice bran oil - you need to increase your emulsifier to ensure the lotion will emulsify properly. If you're using Polawax, you'd want to increase it by 1%, so now you'd have an increase in 5% in the oil phase. Now you have a lotion that works out to 105%. The lotion will work at 105%, as long as you increase the emulsifier!

Thanks for the great question, Anonymous!

Related posts:
Calculating percentages in products
Making larger batches of products - how to double or triple that recipe! 
Why we weigh our ingredients.
How to convert recipes from percentages to weight
Using Polawax and that 25% rule

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A couple of administrative things...

I don't know if you noticed, but in the FAQ I noted that if you asked an awesome question, I might send the writer an e-book...but the last few have been posted as anonymous. You don't have to have a Blogger account when you post, but could you put your name your comment? Something like Cheers, Jane! or With Malice, Bobby! It's nice to know who I'm talking to, and it would be nice to be able to send you a thank you for inspiring me to write something!

If you're getting my posts by e-mail, thanks for registering, but could you please visit the blog every once in a while for statistical reasons? I've noticed that my documented readership has dropped slightly since I put in that service, and it would be nice to know how many people are actually reading the posts instead of trying to figure out how many e-mail subscriptions are out there and adding those things together!

Finally, comment on any post you like, regardless of date. I get a notice letting me know someone has commented on a post, so I know it's there. Just try to keep it in a relevant post!

Hope you're having a great Sunday!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Question: Is there any science to using a vinegar rinse on your hair?

Anonymous asks in this post: I was wondering if there might be any science to back up using a vinegar rinse? I agree that using baking soda to wash hair is a terrible idea, but I have found a vinegar rinse (after shampooing, before conditioning) invaluable. My hair is much smoother and more manageable. I have heard the acidity closes the cuticle, but am yet to see the scientific backup to this. One odd thing I found - I once accidentally did the vinegar rinse between the 1st and 2nd shampooing, and it made the 2nd shampooing impossible. I can't remember exactly how, just that the shampoo wouldn't 'go' through my hair somehow, and I wondered if the shampoo couldn't open up the cuticle after the rinse. My question is, is this, or some other reason, at least theoretically possible? I use cheap white vinegar because I think using apple cider vinegar would be a waste of money, about 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. I have also used very dilute citric acid and found the same positive effects.

There's a lot of talk about "sealing" our cuticle, but there's really no such thing. Our cuticle is made up of scales that overlap like roof shingle - it isn't one big thing that needs to be sealed, but a bunch of things that need to lie flat-ish.  (Click here for more information on the cuticle! And look at the picture above.) We want our cuticle scales to lie as flat as they can so they won't be torn off or won't allow stuff to pass into our hair shaft. We do that by using things like conditioner that are positively charged and will adsorb to the hair strand to create lubricity and reduce friction. (Click here for information on what damage means to our hair and how it happens.)

As an aside, cationic polymers like polyquat 7, polyquat 44, or honeyquat - amongst others - improve the adhesion of our cuticles to the hair shaft, which makes them harder to remove when we damage them through friction, like when we comb our hair or get it caught in the door of a car! Cetrimonium bromide is also awesome for this! (Reference: Handbook of Cosmetic Science & Technology, 3rd edition). 

I've looked through my various textbooks and did quite a few searches, and the only thing I could find was from page 526 of the Handbook of Cosmetic Science & Technology,  third edition, which noted it is suggested to use a vinegar rinse after bleaching to stop the oxidative damage to our hair. They suggest "an acidic bath" using "lemon juice or citric acid or diluted vinegar" followed by a deep conditioner. I could find nothing science-y to suggest that it is necessary for normal hair that hasn't just been bleached.

Having said that, I think there are a lot of people who swear by vinegar rinses. One of the main reasons we use conditioners is to increase lubricity, which reduces friction and combing forces, and I'm not sure that vinegar offers that quality, so I am a little worried about its long term use in place of conditioner. Once your hair is damaged, you can't undamage it. You can only mitigate the damage for a while.

I don't get the appeal of the vinegar rinse. I've tried it a few times, and my hair feels really awful afterwards, as if I hadn't conditioned my hair. My opinion isn't really relevant to this discussion, but I thought I'd let you know that I have personal experience with using vinegar! 

I agree with using white vinegar rather than some fancier version. If the goal is to use something acidic, it doesn't matter what type of vinegar you use - if it's registered as lower than 6 on the pH scale, it'll work just fine. If you want it to be a tasty treat on fish & chips, then you might enjoy a malt or apple cider vinegar!

I think what you found with the shampoo was an inability to lather and foam. I'm not really sure how that happened. I think it's like when you drop soap into a bathtub of bubbles - you add something to the mix that reduces foam, lather, and bubbling.

So what's the verdict? I don't really know. I couldn't find anything science-y to confirm that vinegar rinses on normal hair is effective or desirable, but I didn't find anything to say we shouldn't do it*, so if you like it and want to use it, then have at it! Just be careful you aren't damaging your hair permanently.

*Footnote: I also didn't find anything to say we shouldn't use apple sauce, grass clippings, or milk after shampooing, so my inability to find information decrying using vinegar doesn't constitute an endorsement of using it as a rinsing agent. 

Thanks for the great question, Anonymous! And if you have any science-y type information on vinegar rinses, please send them along to me as I would love to learn more about this concept!

Friday, June 22, 2012

A few thoughts for the first Friday of summer!

I can't believe it's summer already. I'm still working on Christmas presents I didn't get time to make! Here are a few thoughts for the day before I spend the rest of the morning in the workshop! 

Please please please don't make your own sunscreen. I know it's tempting to think that all we have to do is make a lovely lotion and load it up with some sunscreen ingredients, but that's not the way it works! My wonderful husband has vitiligo, which means he has spots on his body devoid of melanin, so he burns pretty quickly. We stay out of the sun as much as we can, but we spend a fortune on sunscreen every year so we can have camping or lake swimming fun. If it were so easy to make an awesome and effective sunscreen, don't you think I'd be making it? The chemistry is fascinating, but there's a reason that there are entire textbooks on the topic - it's a very complicated process that we can't do at home. .

Anonymous wrote in this post: What if I don't like the ingredients of a sunscreen? What if it contains citrus oils? What if I think that a sunscreen that is acceptable could be better with more antioxidant extracts included?

What if any of those things? I don't care how experienced you are or what philosophy you believe, if you make a sunscreen and give it to someone while making those claims, any future pain and suffering someone might endure through burns or skin cancer after using your product will fall squarely on your shoulders. You will be the person responsible for making your loved one uncomfortable with a burn or worse. Think about that for a moment. The reason we make our products is to make the people we love feel better - more moisturized, more hydrated, lovelier hair, smoother skin, and so on - so why would you subject them to pain and misery? This isn't like making our normal products - the worst thing you'll experience with a poorly formulated shampoo I made is a bad hair day! - this is a drug, and you can't make claims without testing them.

If, after this diatribe and the posts below, you still want to make your own sunscreen, go do it. I've done my best to dissuade you...

Edited to add: Seriously. If you still want to make your sunscreen, don't write to me justifying why you're going to do it and think I'm going to support your decision. There's no way you're getting my seal of approval, and you aren't going to change my mind that we should make sunscreen at home.

Do not refer me to the EWG's report on sunscreen. This is not a reputable report, and is not considered scientific in any way. I've heard my scientific idols say that these reports are causing more harm than good as people turn away from sunscreen and get more sun exposure. Exposure to the sun can cause sunburns, premature photoaging, and skin cancer. Those are facts. The reports presented by the EWG are not facts. If you believe that the ingredients found in sunscreens cause cancer, do a google search and see how many reputable studies report this. 

Related posts:
Blast from the past: Sunscreens
Please do not make your own sunscreen! 

Here are some thoughts on adapting your products for summer, as well as some products I love for this season! You really need to try the cool ties! They are awesome! (Blondie is modelling the latest in cool tie fashion - hot pink with black isn't just for the 80s any more! And you can tell how excited I am about this topic by all the exclamation marks!)

LiseLise has written a great post on her blog about defining what natural means. I'm happy to see that I'm not the only confused by this topic! I've added her blog to the blog roll below because she has a blog you want to read! (Have I mentioned lately how awesome you are, Lise? Well, you are!)

I'm off to the workshop! Any requests? (And the picture above of the ice cream with peaches just kinda screamed summer to me! Raymond made the ice cream and canned the peaches, and it was so tasty!)

Emulsifiers: Eye cream with Ritamulse SCG

I know many people - including my mom and best friend - want me to make an eye cream...and I kinda did. I've been using this recipe for Ritamulse SCG in a hand lotion as an eye cream and I love it! When I make it again, I'll leave out the mango butter and beeswax and add another dry feeling oil - perhaps evening primrose oil or borage at 7%. Or I might increase the calendula oil to 5% and add my dry feeling oil at 5%. I'm not sure what combination I might make, but I'm seriously loving this as an eye cream!

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Questions about lye and update on solubilizers

As a quick note to the kind readers who have asked if I'm okay. Yes. Our town - Chilliwack - is experiencing higher than normal water levels and the parts of town outside the dike are being evacuated, but those of us in the non-flood plain part are fine. Thank you for asking! I'll let you know if my status changes!

Terri asked in this post: I'm curious about the lye solution. Can I mix potassium hydroxide with water to make my own, or is this something you recommend purchasing already as a solution? 

In this post on gels, I suggest making the 18% solution by mixing 18% lye (sodium hydroxided) with 82% water to make the neutralizer for the carbomer gels. I don't know much about potassium hydroxide as I don't make soaps, but I think you could try the same thing with it to neutralize your gels. If it works, let us know! If it doesn't, let us know!

As an aside, I need more time to work with the caprylyl/capryl glucoside because as of today I'm really not a fan of it. I spilled a little on the glass on my workshop bench, and it has dried into a solid sticky mess that won't clean up well with even my strongest cleansers! There are bits of paper towel all over the glass! It's not solubilizing anything very well, and it felt really sticky on my skin when I used it in a make-up remover.

And I need to start my experiments with solubilizers again because it's not going well. I think I've chosen the wrong fragrance, so I need to choose a fragrance than I know will work - perhaps the Yuzu fragrance oil because I know that worked before - and start again! (I think the issue might be that the Clementine Cupcake is a non-polar fragrance? I can't really be sure, but it's my hunch.) As you can see above, I've tried the caprylyl/capryl glucoside, polysorbate 20, polysorbate 80, and Caprol Micro Express, and none of them have worked!

Supplier updates!

A quick note about some things I found at Voyageur Soap & Candle! They've started carrying cetearyl alcohol, micronized zinc oxide (water or oil soluble), and a ton of new micas (the one to the left is blue lagoon mica). They'll be carrying two new products in July that I will be running down to get - Ritamulse SCG and Rita BTMS 225. The latter is a substitute for Incroquat BTMS-50. We we we so excited! I'll be doing some serious experimenting when that comes in, and you'll hear all about it! (Anything that can reduce our dependence upon Croda products is a bonus for me!) 

If you're looking for the black cocoa butter I mention in this sugar scrub bar, you can find it at Oshun (BC) or Creations from Eden (Alberta).

Please note, I bring you this information as a shopper at these suppliers, not because I've been compensated in any way to write about these new ingredients, and because I've seen comments or received e-mails asking about these ingredients! Remember, if you have a supplier you like, please visit the FAQ and comment in the appropriate section (scroll down to suppliers and comment in the post on your geographical area). Your opinion really matters! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A thought for the day...

Why don't incompetent people realize they're incompetent? It's a great question posed by Stephen Fry on an episode of QI I watched recently. The answer? The knowledge required to determine if someone is incompetent is the same as the knowledge required to be competent. So the people who are incompetent don't have the skills to determine they are incompetent.

Quite interesting, eh?

Click here for the QI channel on YouTube to enjoy some clips from the earlier episodes. I'm definitely having a marathon of QI this summer! 

And wow, you can tell I'm home from work this week, eh? 

Question: Can glycerin act as a preservative?

In this post, Anonymous asks: Hi Susan, I have a question about glycerin. I have read that it can act as a preservative, but the amounts I've read where it's effective have been anything from 15-70%. I was wondering if I make a simple glycerin-water spray, with about 20% glycerin, if I need preservative or if the glycerin itself does the job. Also, if I add other things like wheat protein, panthenol, etc., would the glycerin act enough like a preservative for the whole mix?

It seems that you can use glycerin as a preservative when you use 50% glycerin or more in a product. (Click here for the Chemist's Corner comment, click here for the FDA slide.) It would preserve the entire recipe, so anything you add - proteins, panthenol, hydrosols, and so on - would be preserved as well. But would you want that much glycerin in a product? I can't imagine that would feel good. I think I've mentioned that I make a foot lotion recipe with 25% glycerin, and it feels great on my feet...but it feels awful on other parts of my body. I can't use it as a hand lotion - I have to wash it off after applying - because it's just too sticky. What would 50% feel like?

So you can't make a glycerin-water spray with 20% glycerin and expect it to be preserved. And I really wouldn't recommend a product of this nature.

Solubilizers: Making fragrance sprays with caprylyl/capryl glucoside

One of the easiest things to make with any solubilizer is a water based fragrance spray. And one of the hardest things to do is to figure out how much fragrance or essential oil you need to use to have that oil disperse without having to shake the product. You can see from the recipe below that you will have to play around with it to make it work!

distilled water to 100% 
1% to 3% fragrance or essential oil
1% to 10% caprylyl/capryl glucoside
preservative to suggested usage rate (I use 0.5% liquid Germall Plus)

This spray contains 1% Yuzu fragrance oil and 2% caprylyl/capryl glucoside with 0.5% liquid Germall Plus, and 96.5% distilled water. It's lovely and clear and doesn't need shaking before we use it. This is the test of whether or not you've managed to solubilize your fragrance oil in the water. If it doesn't need shaking, then you've managed to disperse the oil properly. You will have to play around with every single fragrance or essential oil you wish to use to see if it will remain dispersed in the water. 

Having said this, it's amazing how much we want to shake bottles, even when we're told not to do so, like on my sinus allergy spray! Odds are pretty good that you will be able to get away with using no more than 1:1 or 2:1 ratios because you will end up shaking the spray anyway. Just make sure you're using a opaque bottle so you can't see the separation! 

The clarity of your product will depend upon a number of things, including the original colour of the fragrance oil. If you're using an orange tinged fragrance oil, you could have a slightly orange tinge to the product. If you're using something like vanilla, odds are good that you'll end up with a cloudy product. The Yuzu fragrance I used above is very very clear with no yellow or orange tinge, hence the clear product. 

In the picture above, I'm testing to see how much solubilizer I will need for my favourite fragrance oil, Clementine Cupcake (from Brambleberry! Awesome!). For each test tube I mixed 1 gram of fragrance oil with 1, 2, 3, or 4 grams of solubilizer, then added 20 grams of water. For each one, I mixed them together after adding the solubilizer, then after I added the water, then after I poured them into the test tube. As you can see, the first three test tubes separated almost immediately. But 20 minutes later, 4 was still cloudy, indicating that the oil was remaining solubilized. Two hours later, still solubilized. 24 hours later...nope. 

What would I do? I'd go for one of the ratios and just shake it up every time I wanted to use it. I don't think this fragrance oil will ever be clear, so rather than using a ton of solubilizer that could feel a bit sticky at higher usage levels, I'd just call it dispersed and enjoy it that way! Or I'd choose a fragrance oil that worked better with the solubilizer.

Why did it work so well with the Yuzu and not with the Clementine Cupcake? I don't know. I have a theory that the vanilla in the latter might have something to do with it, but I have absolutely no proof of this other than my hunch.

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating with caprylyl/capryl glucoside! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Debate: Why does the concept of "natural" have to exclude science?

In this post, Anonymous wrote: Ok, this definitely bothers me. I hate when science people try to make nature people being seen as stupid. I thought science people were smart, but this just makes them seem childish and ignorant. I'll teach you what "chemical-free" means. Chemical-free, in the natural and organic world, simply refers as a product that is not manufactured with man-made, lab-crafted chemicals, which differ pretty much of naturally-occurring chemicals. Refers to a product that does not contains the result of a questionable science experiment. Or a product that contains natural ingredients that hasn't undergone through any, or only one (like saponification of oils) chemical process. A little example, processed foods are chemical-filled foods while organic fruits and vegetables are "chemical-free". Do you see the difference? Which one you think is healthier for you?

The same with natural. I often read scientists that say that things like petroleum, chlorine or ammonia are natural. We don't care, natural is not just about including earth-derived ingredients, is about including natural ingredients that have benefits for the skin but are not harmful for health, like many of their conventional counterparts. So, is not relevant that chlorine, ammonia or poison ivy are natural, they're not going to be included in a product just because are natural, is just a matter of common sense. I believe, however, that is much needed a definition of "chemical-free" and "natural", to help science people to understand what that means, because after all, seems like they're lacking of common sense and just relying on what science has to tell them. 

I'm alive! Do you have any scientific proof for that?

I take issue with a few comments here and I wanted to share with you four things that came up as I was reading this person's comment, and a concept that has been stuck in my head since last night. (And yes, I know that obvious troll is obvious, but I've had a few comments like this in the last few weeks, so I feel the need to address some of her points.)

The first point of interest is that my goal is never to make someone feel stupid. My goal is to offer information so you can make awesome products. If you read the post I wrote entitled Don't fear the science, you'll know that my goal is share what I've learned. I have nothing against those you call natural people; I do have something against people who choose to remain uneducated and rejoice in their ignorance.

I'm using the phrase natural people as per Anonymous's usage of the term. I hope it doesn't sound offensive!

The second point of interest is that no one should be using the term "chemical free" as it is inaccurate. (The goal for the 2011 Year of Chemistry was to take back the term "chemical", that it doesn't mean toxic but it means anything composed of atoms.) I've talked with lots of natural people, and they don't use the term to mean synthetic free. They know the difference between the two concepts and use the terms appropriately. I take issue with Anonymous for implying that people who choose to make more natural or minimally processed products don't use correct terms just because she doesn't.

My third point of interest is that chlorine and ammonia are natural. Chlorine is an element - you don't get more natural than that - and we find ammonia in all kinds of natural places, like our bodies or soil. If you've ever used a conditioner, you've used ammonia! I'm not going to put straight ammonia into any product, but to call ammonia non-natural is to have a complete lack of understanding about the most basic chemistry.

The fourth point of interest is the the idea that common sense trumps science. I've written about this in the past, so I'll keep it short. Common sense is a good thing, but it isn't the end all and be all of things we can rely upon when we need to make decisions. Science has so much to offer, and dismissing it in favour of one person's common sense is absolutely ridiculous...which is why I will not give this idea the breath of life any longer.

Can I prove Anonymous is alive through science? Um, yes. If we are taking about her body, I can watch her breathe, feel the warmth of her skin, listen for a heartbeat, take an EEG of brain waves, and so on. I'm really not sure why she wrote this last sentence because I can spend months, if not years, proving she is alive. If we're trying to figure out if she passes the Turing test, I would argue yes, I know she's not an AI based on the fact that an AI wouldn't make the mistake of calling something chemical free.

And finally, the point of writing all of this...Why is there an assumption that wanting to make natural or organic products and science are two incompatible things? I would think that a knowledge of chemistry would make it easier to make natural and organic products, the way it makes formulating conventional products easier. I would imagine that having extensive knowledge of the chemistry of various oils, butters, emulsifiers, essential oils, and so on would help any formulator not only make a more awesome product that fits within her personal philosophy. Wouldn't having all this knowledge mean you could make better choices about what is considered natural or synthetic? Wouldn't it help you to know how to create your own non-ethoxylated emulsifier? Wouldn't it help you adhere to the standards of the various agencies that determine what label you can put on your product? And wouldn't it help you choose ingredients from your suppliers and save money? I'm really not seeing a down side to learning more chemistry if you're a formulator of any philosophical bent. And I don't think those awesome formulators who choose to use natural or minimally processed products appreciate the implication that they haven't done their homework when making their products!

In the end, Anonymous, what you are saying bothers me because you're assuming that formulators of organic and natural products shun science, prefer to use incorrect terms, and want to remain uneducated about the products they buy or want to make. And what an insult to them! Please lose the condescending tone. I strive to make this blog all about the learning - I learn from you, you learn from me, we all learn from someone else who comments - and bringing that kind of aggressive tone makes it unsafe to open one's mind. I encourage you to tell me when you think I'm wrong (click here for that post), but it needs to be done in a respectful manner.

Thus endeth the rant...

Solubilizers: Caprylyl/capryl glucoside

I wrote a bit about this solubilizer caprylyl/capryl glucoside in this post on glucoside surfactants, but let's learn more about it now!

Caprylyl/capryl glucoside (aka octyl/decyl glucoside or C8-10 alkyl polyglucoside) is an Ecocert non-ionic solubilizer with a pH of 5.5 to 6 that can be used as a solubilizer and a very gentle surfactant. It comes to us as a 60% active ingredient product, and the suggested usage is 1% to 10%. It can be used in our surfactant based products to increase viscosity and boost foaming, which is always a bonus, and it can also be used as a very gentle surfactant in things like make-up removers. It may be compatible with liquid soaps, but I haven't had a chance to experiment with that. (If you have, let me know!)

"Decyl glucoside is produced by the reaction of glucose from corn starch with the fatty alcohol decanol which is derived from coconut(s)." (From Wikipedia) Both Voyageur and The Herbarie note that it is of vegetable origin, but there isn't a specific origin noted. It is considered to be biodegradable and created from a renewable resource. As I mentioned, it's also Ecocert. And as I've seen it called natural all over the web, I think it's safe to call it that.

If you want to use it as a solubilizer to add oil based products to a water based system, there isn't a hard and fast rule about how much you'll need. I generally start with equal parts of the oily ingredient to the solubilizer. So start with 1% fragrance oil to 1% caprylyl/capryl glucoside and see if that gives the results you want. If it doesn't, go to 2:1 solubilizer to oil and continue on until you reach 10:1 (although if you need that much, you might want to consider another solubilizer!)

As an aside, this is something I found on Clorox's website about this ingredient: "Caprylyl/capryl glucoside (also known as octyl/decyl glucoside or C8-10 alkyl polyglucoside) is a mild surfactant used in household and commercial cleaning products. It is known for its foam boosting ability, lack of streaking, easy rinsing, and is ideal for glass cleaners." And this from this website about decyl glucoside: "APGs are very suitable for hard surface cleaners, such as bathroom cleaners and glass cleaners because of their excellent hydration, little water spot and little residue.Because of its strong tolerance to strong alkali, APG is very important in preparing high alkaline industrial cleaners." 

I regularly see people condemning ingredients like SLS or propylene glycol because they are used in commercial cleansers...It isn't looking good for caprylyl/capryl glucoside if that's how you determine what ingredients you'll use. Having said that, I'm trying this in a glass cleaner for my car! I'll step off my soapbox now...

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating with caprylyl/capryl glucoside!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Solubilizers: How are they different from emulsifiers?

I need some time to play with Ritamulse SCG and a new emulsifier I bought called Montanov 68 (aka Sugarmulse at the Herbarie) over the next week, so let's take a look at solubilizers! 

Let's take a look at solubility for a moment before we take a look at the ingredients we call solubilizers. (Originally from this post. Click on it for more detail.)

Solubility is a pretty important part of making bath & body products, but we don't talk about it much. In essence, solubility is the ability of a solid, liquid, or gas (the solute) to dissolve in a liquid solvent to create a homogeneous solution. 

Solute - the thing we're dissolving into the solvent. 
Solvent - the thing into which we're dissolving things. It's usually a liquid for bath & body products. 
Homogenous solution - a mixture that shows no variation in its properties, like Kool-Aid or salt dissolved into water. You won't see any large particles floating in the water. (I always remember this by thinking about homogenous milk. There aren't any large milk particles in milk!) 
Precipitate - a solid that can happen when we add too much of something or have the wrong temperature. 

Solublity is a measure of how well the thing we want to dissolve will dissolve in the appropriate liquid. 

The solubility of the solute depends upon the type of solvent, temperature, and pressure. For instance, we can easily dissolve salt into water, but it's hard to dissolve in oil. Allantoin has a solubility of 0.5% at 25˚C, which means we can dissolve 0.5% allantoin into 100% water when the temperature of the water is at 25˚C or higher. If we try it at 5˚C (cold water), the solubility is reduced, meaning we won't be able to dissolve 0.5% in the water. (This is one of the reasons we heat and hold. A warm solvent will allow for more stuff to be dissolved in it than a cold solvent.)

As an aside, almost everything dissolves better when we increase the temperature of the solvent. Except for carbon dioxide into water, which is one of the reasons we keep pop in the fridge to remain fizzy! 

There's an idea call the SATP or standard ambient temperature, and pressure. It can differ slightly from textbook to textbook, instructor to instructor, but the one you'll probably see most is that solubility is determined when at 25˚C and 0.986 atmospheric pressure (sea level). 

If something like allantoin is judged to be 0.5% at 25˚C, will it precipitate when the temperature drops below 25˚C? Yes, but only a little. 20˚C is room temperature, so you won't notice a huge difference in the product. If you put it into the freezer, you might see shards of allantoin - the precipitate or solid - in the product. Not a good thing! Check out this post on slight changes in temperature and how it affects our products. 

If two things are immiscible, it means they will not mix or dissolve well (like oil and water without an emulsifier). Some things are very soluble - salts, for instance - and some things are kinda soluble, meaning they aren't completely soluble or need some help to be soluble, like an increase in heat or some serious stirring. If we add too much of a very soluble thing or take something that isn't completely soluble and add more of it or fail to raise the temperature, we get a precipitate, which is a solid of the solute that can fall to the bottom of our creation. We see this kind of thing when adding too much salt to water (the stuff on the bottom is the precipitate).

This is one of the reasons we can make sugar or salt scrub in oil, but wouldn't be able to do that well with a water based thing - say a gel or surfactant mix. Sugar and salt dissolve very very well in water based things, but not well in oil based things. If you wanted to make a surfactant based scrub, you might consider using something like jojoba beads, which are oil soluble. They won't dissolve in the water based surfactants! 

A rule of thumb is "like dissolves like". Water dissolves water soluble things; oil dissolves oil soluble things. Water is polar; oil is non-polar. Alcohol is also a great solvent, as is propylene glycol, glycerin, and the other polyalcohol humectants. Check the solubility of your ingredient and you'll be able to figure out whether it goes into the water or oil phases of the product. 

When something is dispersible, it means it will stay suspended in the mixture, but it will always be separate and won't form a homogeneous solution. When we use fragrance or essential oils in something like a body wash, the oils aren't dissolved but suspended. We don't notice a huge difference unless those oils separate out and form an oily mass on top of the body wash, which can happen if you use too much! So if something is a disperser, it means it keeps the ingredients suspended in the product and you won't get a homogeneous solution. You might not notice this - you don't notice a water soluble ester in a body wash because it looks like a homogeneous solution, but there might be tiny little fat molecules that are separate from the actual solution. 

For our purposes, we'll categorize our ingredients as solubilizers and emulsifiers. Solubilizers are generally used to incorporate oil based ingredient into a water based product. Ingredients like polysorbate 20, polysorbate 80, Caprol Micro Express, Cromollient SCE, and caprylyl/capryl glucoside would be considered solubilizers. Ingredients like BTMS-50, Polawax, e-wax, Ritamulse SCG, Sucragel AOF, and HLB based emulsifiers are emulsifiers. 

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at caprylyl/capryl glucoside, an Ecocert non-ionic solubilizer! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Please be patient...

...because I can't necessarily respond to your comment or question immediately. I try my best, but every morning I have to make a decision - do I write posts, experiment in the workshop, or respond to one person's emails? More often than not, I choose to write posts or experiment in the workshop because that maximizes what I can share with you, my wonderful readers. 

I cannot stress this enough - if you want me to troubleshoot a product you've made, please send me the recipe and process you followed. From this day onwards, I won't answer any troubleshooting e-mails that don't include that information, and I won't be writing to you to ask you to send that information. If you don't want to share your recipe because it's a business secret, then please don't ask me for help. I do not consult for businesses, unpaid or paid, as I simply don't have time. 

Please check out the links to lists on the right hand side of the page for help. Or do a search. Or consult the ingredients list. Please do not send me three copies of the same e-mail because I haven't responded in a few days. Please continue to share your successes and ideas for posts or just to say a friendly "hello"! I love hearing your success stories and your experiences with my recipes or others! That's the stuff that makes this blog such a fun thing to write. 

A few thoughts for a rainy June Sunday...

With Raymond's graduation and yesterday's fun at free RPG day with a few boys from our groups, I fear I haven't had time to write posts over the last few days. I don't have time today as we're going to the flea market to find controllers for our Game Cube for the Rated T for Teen video game club next Saturday. I'm on holidays for two weeks as of tomorrow, so I will have a ton of time to write! (We're going away for a few days to Portland - where the 1990s are still alive, food trucks roam the streets, and Powell's books welcomes me in to spend my paycheque!)

Thanks for your wonderful sentiments! Friday was a wonderful day, and my amazing husband is now the proud holder of a Bachelor of Arts, Psychology. Things sure are different than they were when I graduated 20 years ago! The convocation was in the local arena with the ceremony streamed live over the web. We could see things close up with the giant TV screens. It was huge! And this was one of three ceremonies taking place this week! 

In an e-mail, Kate asks where she might find black cocoa butter. I love black cocoa butter! I've used it in this scrub bar, this emulsified sugar scrub, and this emulsified sugar scrub with behenyl alcohol.  and this emulsified scrub! You can find black cocoa butter at Creations from Eden in Edmonton, Alberta. This is the only supplier I know for this ingredient!

In an e-mail, Melissa asked if we need to add preservatives to our products if our ingredients already contain preservatives. For instance, let's say our liquid aloe vera has sodium benzoate and our witch hazel has liquid Germall Plus, should we add preservatives to our product? Yes! We always add preservatives to our water containing products. The preservatives we find in the ingredients are enough to preserve that ingredient; there isn't enough to preserve your lotion or other hydrous product. Even we had enough to preserve the entire product you're making, we don't know that it is the right preservative for that product! So always include preservatives in our products!

I've tried dozens of different mascaras to help with what I think are my not-so-voluminous eyelashes, and I keep coming back to Maybelline's Great Lash mascara. I've tried almost every variation of the Lash Blast mascaras, a bunch of Avon ones, and even a Chanel one, and I keep coming back to the pink and lime green bottle, very black colour. And it's probably the least expensive mascara. I bought this for $5.00 Cdn, but I've seen it on sale for $2.99!

I've tried making my own mascara, but I really can't compete with this one! 

As an aside, my mom tried this mascara - Cover Girl NatureLuxe Mascara - and hated it. It has 4 or 5 different waxes, with the main one being beeswax. She felt it was really draggy and didn't make her lashes look anything other than coloured.

Friday, June 15, 2012

No post today! We're off to grad!

My husband is graduating today with a Bachelor of Arts, Psychology degree from the University of the Fraser Valley. We have to be there for around 8:15, and the ceremony starts at 9:30. (Who schedules a grad for first thing in the morning?) I'm so proud of him!

This is not a picture of Raymond. This is a picture of my dad when I graduated from Simon Fraser University. He stole my hat and gown and we took pictures of him in the quad! I love this picture of him!