Friday, June 1, 2012

Emulsifiers: Making a natural lotion with Ritamulse SCG

One of the reasons to use Ritamulse SCG is the Ecocert label attached to it. So let's see if we can make a lotion using mostly natural/Ecocert ingredients.

What is Ecocert? It's a certification process that assures that the ingredients we use are 95% natural and 10% organic, and that they are made using sustainable processes. Check out this link and this one or do a search on this topic. As a note, the requirements can vary from country to country, so check your local requirements. 

The first thing I have to consider is my preservative because that tends to be the hardest ingredient to find as organic or natural. I could use Leucidal preservative, but not Advanced Aloe Leucidal as the latter is incompatible with Ritamulse SCG. I'll use the Leucidal at 2% in the cool down phase, ensuring that we are well within 40˚C to ensure we don't get curdling. I don't want to use NatraPres because it isn't a broad spectrum preservative and I don't want the hassle of having to add another preservative in the mix.  As well, Leucidal is good for pH levels up to 9, so it will work well with Ritamulse SCG. (Leucidal has to be below pH 6, and Ritamulse is used for pH 5 to 7.5, which means we have a very small window in which both will be effective!)

So we have an Ecocert preservative, what else must we consider? What is considered a natural ingredient? I think oils, butters, hydrosols (although most have preservatives that we don't think about much), essential oils, extracts, and other things made from botanical ingredients would be considered natural. (I don't count a lot of "derived from" products as being natural, because I've seen someone describe silicones as being "derived from sand" and I've seen so many surfactants as "derived from coconut oil". Ridiculous!) If I want an occlusive ingredient, I'll have to go with cocoa butter or allantoin. If I want a humectant, I could use honey. (Is glycerin considered natural? How about sodium lactate? These are questions I cannot answer as they tend to be a matter of opinion.) If I want an emollient, I'll go with my lovely oils and leave out my esters.

Consider this...If you want to make an organic product, you can't use water. It's not considered organic. If you want a 95% organic lotion, you can't use water as your water part of the product. But you can infuse something into the water and call that organic. So we could use a hydrosol or infuse something into the water that is organic, and we meet that requirement. I believe this to be quite silly because how can you have non-organic water? But put 0.1% of some herb into it, and you've got yourself organic water. Really? If we have to play these kinds of games to be called organic, can we trust that designation?

I'm going to turn this over to you, my wonderful readers. What can we include that is considered to be all natural or Ecocert? I'd like to include some cetyl alcohol, oils, butters, a protein of some sort (silk or oat), a humectant, and some hydrosols. Is cetyl alcohol considered natural? What about hydrolyzed silk or oat protein. Panthenol? Allantoin? Have your say and we can make something really awesome!

As a note, I really do need your input as to which ingredients will be acceptable to whichever certification process you use or to your philosophy. I'm finding it a little frustrating that those of you who have been asking for or berating me for not having natural lotions haven't offered your valuable input. I don't plan to write up this recipe without a great deal of information as to what might be acceptable or not, so please offer your two cents to the comments section! 

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating with Ritamulse!


SKNgirl said...

Another preservative that Ecocert approves for products is under the name NeoDefend (gluconolactone and sodium benzoate) which has worked very well in my products.

Robert said...

I believe that water is classified as organically-neutral (neither organic or not organic) in all certification systems but water is counted differently in the different certification systems.
In some systems water requires 'fudging' as Susan mentioned and in other systems (like Eco-cert) water does not require 'fudging'. All very confusing for both manufacturers and consumers!

Matt said...

Making a natural lotion? I thought that's what we've been doing all along. What is an unnatural lotion? :)

With regard to creating an Ecocert certified product, is there a list of approved ingredients available to the public? I tried to access the one on their site but it's password protected.

Loretta said...

instead of leucidal i have been using arborcide oc (organic version) of leucidal

Tara said...

I doubt that allantoin is naturally-sourced (??). Instead of following the "natural" pathway, I like to use many botanicals, simply for their therapeutic properties and not specifially to make natural products. I definitely like a lot of synthetic ingredients (eg. Panthenol, preservatives, humectants, etc.).

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Matt. You've kinda made my point...I have no idea what natural means, but I'm trying to make something that people will consider "all natural" or at least Ecocert. I can't get the information on their standards, so we're kind of at a loss here.

I'm with Tara. I use my ingredients as per their function, and some are botanical and some aren't.

But I continue to try!

Kirk said...

You are partially incorrect in your statements about water.

It is true that water can not be certified as organic. However, this does not mean that if one has a 65% water product, one throws one's hands up in frustration that the stupidity of the rules doesn't allow for more than a 35% organic product.

Water can not be certified as organic, but it is considered an organic-neutral item. It is simply discounted from the calculations when determining the percentage of organic items in a product.

So, for that 65% water product, one would use only the other 35% of ingredients when determining the organic percentage of the product.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Kirk. I wrote that statement based on experiences I had in working with someone who wanted a certified organic product, and I was told that the certifying body would look at every ingredient to be organic, including water. I used aloe vera and hydrosols in the place of water to help them pass this certification.

I can't rightly remember right now. I think it was either the NOA or FDA. Maybe some Canadian standard?

It makes sense that if you had a 60% water, they'd only look at the 40% non-water part for organic certification.

Was the person I was working with wrong in interpreting these standards? I really hope so. I like being wrong in this situation!

les bots said...

I'm excited to see what you come up with! Whenever I purchase organic or all natural lotions they are either too greasy or they feel like water. It would be nice if you could make an all natural lotion that feels like L'Occitane's 15% Shea butter lotion or the Almond Milk Cream. Here's the link.,82,1,29466,261657.htm,82,1,29466,263600.htm

Their's is probably full of chemicals. Maybe that's a different topic, but if you are ever in the mood to try it out- I'd be really excited to learn!

Btw, I've been following your blog for a few weeks. It's insanely informative. I'm so grateful I've found it. Thank you for all the education!

I haven't had a chance to make much yet- I ordered from Bramble, but for some reason my shipment is taking forever! Have made lotion bars and lip balms though- I'm NEVER buying a store bought lipbalm again. It's the easiest thing I've ever made and I feel like mine is actually better than what I buy- I'm a lip balm fanatic and very particular. Plus Castor oil dries my lips out so badly, and it's in practically everything. It's a blessing to be able to make my very own castor oil-free lip balms!

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

it is ridiculos what companies will do to try to trick consumer to buy their products.

Anonymous said...

Rosi - Who said anything about tricking. First, Learn how to spell Ridiculous then comment on the post!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Wow, Anonymous. Aggressive much? Is bullying okay where you live? Have you spelled every word you've written on-line perfectly? Why do you think it's okay to come to my house and insult my guests? I'm all for constructive discussions, but outright bullying and hiding behind "anonymous" isn't allowed around here. If you can't play nicely, you aren't welcome to visit again.

And it is a form of trickery to put the preservatives under the title of fragrance and claim to be "preservative free".

I'm sorry, Rosi. Ignore that comment! You're always welcome around here!

p said...

As an "essay" writer, here's my two cents... :) I'd consider cetyl alcohol, hydrolyzed proteins, panthenol, and allantoin only semi-natural, not all-natural. (Ritamulse too wouldn't qualify as all-natural for me either!) I'd consider hydrosols, butters, oils, glycerin, comfrey extract (a source of allantoin) and other extracts to be all-natural.

I didn't give my input in the first place because I don't consider Ritamulse all-natural, so striving for an all-natural lotion with Ritamulse is a bit of a moot point for me!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for just a few weeks but am facinated and hooked on it. I'm a noob so I wasn't going to comment, but I'm curious to see what you make and how it turns out so here's my ideas of ingredients for the lotion... some Rose and Calendula hydrosols, Mango butter, Macadamia Nut oil, Jojoba oil, Sweet Almond oil, Beeswax, Glycerin, Vitamin E, the Ritamulse SCG, and Leucidal.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p! Thanks so much for contributing. Just wondering - what emulsifiers do you consider natural? I feel so confused most of the time when it comes to natural vs synthetic, and I thought I'd found something I could work with by finding the Ecocert certification...but now I'm back to square one again!

p said...

Hi Susan, Sorry if I came across as me shooting down your great work in informing us about more natural emulsifiers - it's awesome, as always!!

I think of this whole "natural" question as a series of concentric circles, with the stuff in the center circle being stuff (nearly) everyone can agree is totally natural - hydrosols, butters, squished up fruit as other people are saying, infused oils, beeswax, etc. The next concentric circles out are where people will disagree (e.g. is stearic acid natural?). I was just giving my own personal answer: those ingredients in the center circle are the only ones I'd feel comfortable calling really all-natural. Everyone has their own answer, though!

I consider these Ecocert ingredients to be more natural than other emulsifiers, and that has value for me, so I really appreciate these posts.

As for emulsifiers I consider all-natural... I don't know of any, beyond beeswax & borax.... As I've noted in other posts, I've had some success with formulating stable creams without an emulsifier using ingredients I consider all-natural (clays, beeswax, saponins, certain gels, etc.), but it's pretty ad hoc and trial-and-error based.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
I've been reading your posts for the last 2 months and researching stuff I need to know through your old postings. I cannot thank you enough for the knowledge you give to all of us. I'm very busy making lotions and balms, and lotion bars. All this happened when I accidentally got hooked on how to make home made soap (October 2001). Once I had a good collection of butters, oils, essential oils and a few "tools of the trade", it was natural to try making lotions.
Now to the point: I live in Perth, Western Australia and my main supplier is Ausie Soap Supplies. They sell a product called Olive-emulse that you can see at
I make my lotions with this product using a stabiliser called Olive-Wax LQC ( hope this helps with your quest to make an all natural lotion.
At this stage I make stuff for my family and friends only and I'm not very concerned about any certifications. I aggree with the majority in this forum that "minimally processed" is good enough.

softshell said...

I am new to this blog, and have been reading each recipe I get in my inbox every day. I have been interested in trying some of these ingredients you talk about,I have stayed away from using them all these years because I do not consider many of them to be natural. I have been making lotion for so long (12 yrs), but have never used anything but Lecithin, candellilia wax (because it is vegan friendly) and Borax as my emulsifiers. My lotions turn out so well, slight greasiness for a minute or two, but otherwise really great. I just label my lotion as a natural (not all natural) cream lotion. I have not figured out whether borax or lecithin (soy) are considered all natural ingredients. I have no plans to certify my products but I do wish that it was easier to know what ingredients are this and that.
For a long time, I didn't even use a preservative (other than loads of expensive vit. e oil) because they were definitly synthetic. Within the past few years I have been using optiphen, which works well with my temperatures as long as I am patient. If you want ingredients for your recipe you could try some of these! On another note, which of these interesting ingredients that you guys play with, should I experiment with first? I need a challenge, as I can probably make my standard lotion blindfolded (ha ha)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p! I didn't interpret your words as shooting anything down - I thought you were sharing your opinion, which was incredibly valuable and helpful. It's help me come to a conclusion, in fact...

As you can probably tell, I have problems in figuring out this natural thing, and I think I've cracked it - there isn't a definition that I can use. Everyone has their own opinion, and that's the working definition of natural. So how can I please everyone? I can't!

As for borax, someone wrote to me recently to say that they were confused by the use of borax and beeswax as an emulsifier because in Germany it's considered a carcinogen! (I found the comment here!) I found this article on the use of borax in the EU. "Amongst these provisions it was required that all products manufactured in, or imported into Europe containing more than 6.5% of Borax Pentahydrate would have to be labelled as "Toxic". " If I understand the use of borax and beeswax as an emulsifier, then you aren't using 6.5%, and we know that the dose is important when we're considering any ingredient, so I think lotions made this way wouldn't be considered bad. But it does give me pause for thought.

Here's a wiki link to Boric Acid, which mentions the EU classification. The entry on Borax mentions this..."Borax was added to the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) candidate list on 16 December 2010. The SVHC candidlate list is part of the EU Regulations on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals 2006 (REACH), and the addition was based on the revised classification of Borax as toxic for reproduction category 1B under the CLP Regulations. Substances and mixtures imported into the EU which contain Borax are now required to be labelled with the warnings "May damage fertility" and "May damage the unborn child"."

Wow! This is all new to me!

softshell said...

I do know that Borax is a salt (aka: desert salt), and that in the early years they used it to sprinkle around the house to repel ants and other bugs. The salt would burn their bodies, just like we use table salt outside for slugs. It makes sense to me because before I knocked down the borax in my recipes, and started using lecithin as well (40/60) I knew it was the desert salt that would make my skin warm for a minute or two so I had to adjust the amount in case others would not like the feeling. Still trying to understand whether Lecithin is natural, but it does make a really nice emulsifier(for my recipes)and it is a light preservative as well.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi softshell! Welcome to the blog! Here's a post on lecithin. I would consider it natural, but then again, I quite clearly have no idea what other people think any more! Your lotions don't separate when using candellia wax and borax?

p said...

Really interesting that borax is such a controversial ingredient!! I've been avoiding it for a while in my formulations - this is all the more reason. Thanks so much for the info! It underscores the point that natural does not always mean good and safe.

Wendy in Narnia said...

P, I like your definition of the concentric circles, with the hydrolats, veg oils, ess oils and butters being right in the middle. EVen though I know that all of these have involved some sort of processing (distillation/ filtering/pressing) to get them there fromt he raw materials int he first place.
Love your site Susan!

Shawna said...

Did you ever make the lotion that this post is asking about? I'd love to check it out!
Total newbie trying to wade through the deep and Very thick/confusing waters of DIY/more 'natural' products... It's all so contradictory and frustrating! I have the hardest time deciphering which are saying-its-safe-because-they-include-it and the no-idea-what-they're-talking-about / Trying-to-scare-you-hype out there. More than 'all natural I'm looking for Better For You :). Love your site! It's educational and very informative..... You're going to be getting a Ton of questions comments from me. Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Shawna. Hit "newer post" on the bottom of the post a few times to see what we made!

alia said...

there are so many olive derived ingredients like olivem and olive squalane and sensolene and olive wax and olive emulse and olive oil and olive leaf extract
what are the main differences between each and which one is to be used in what and for what purpose
can all these be present in a single product like a body lotion for example?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Alia! The short answer is to check the INCI of the ingredient to see what it is and read the descriptions from the suppliers about what it does. For instance, olive emulse is likely an emulsifier, while olive wax might be a thickener.
I have no idea if you can use all of them in a single product as I don't know to which ingredients you refer. You could have have olive oil with an olive oil based emulsifier, if you wished. I guess the question is - what does each ingredient bring to the mix? Is it overkill to have that many olive based ingredients? I think this sounds like a great learning opportunity. Please come back to share what you discover!