Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekend wonderings: Solubilizers, herbs in shampoo bars, and modifying lip balms

In this post, Steve wrote: Thank you very much for your generosity in sharing the magical world of fragrances. I'm still doing my research and tonight have been studying the whole solubilizer thing; and if you please, I have a question.Let's say I may making up a hypothetical formula of a mix of distilled water and (Everclear or 94 proof Vodka or such) alcoholo and my proportions within this (1 OZ total formula) are  2/3 alcohol, 1/3 water with this EO fragrant concoction i.e., 20 drops sandalwood; 20 cedarwood; 12 bergamot; 1 Carapan Plateau; and 5 drops of Cypress...then my question is how much solubilizer (solubilizer 30?) Do I put into this mix in order to force everything to blend and stay blended? Also, finally at one point do I add the solubilizer? At the end? Or to the blend of alcohol and water at the very beginning even before I add my EO?

Hi Steve! Let's talk about solublizers! (I'm excited about this topic because I just bought some PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil from Voyageur Soap & Candle and I get to play next week with it!)

What are solubilizers? Solubilizers are ingredients that allow us to mix two things that might normally not mix, like oil and water. For instance, polysorbate 20 allows us to incorporate a small amount of oil into a water soluble thing - for instance, putting some fragrance or essential oil into water to create a fragrance spray - while we might use something like polysorbate 80 or Caprol Micro Express to incorporate a carrier oil or ester. (Click on the link in the related posts for more information...too long to recap here!)

How to choose which one to use? It depends. There are some limits on the chemistry front - for instance, polysorbate 20 isn't great with even small amounts of carrier oils - but for the most part it's about the product, personal preference, cost, and skin feel. Also consider if you want your product to be clear or not. As a homecrafter, I really don't mind either way, but you might. (This will also have to do with your chosen fragrance/essential oil.)

The skin feel is really vital in any body care product. I tried using capryl/caprylyl glucoside and I hated the skin feel. Very very sticky. I'm not the biggest fan of using the polysorbates in something like a toner or body spray, but I really love Caprol Micro Express and Cromollient SCE in those capacities. You may have to play with a few to see what you like!

I have a lot of this - anyone want it? You have to live within driving distance of me - say Surrey to Agassiz, B.C. - or be willing to meet me in that area. We can go for coffee and talk about bath & body stuff! Beth and I had a lovely time a few weeks ago!

How much to use? It depends upon your solubilizer, your oil soluble ingredient, your water soluble part (water, alcohol, glycerin, etc.), and your product. Read the suggested usage rates and do some experimenting. For instance, I've found that I can use equal parts polysorbate 20 and d-Limonene together, but I couldn't get Clementine Cupcake fragrance oil (Brambleberry and awesome!) to solubilize with even large quantities of capryl/caprylyl glucoside. (Click here for those experiments!) But a 1:1 ratio of polysorbate 20 and Yuzu fragrance oil (again, Brambleberry) produced that incredibly clear product you see below. You will likely to have to buy a few and do some experimenting. And you might have to add a little more or less to get it to be clear, if that's what you want.

How to use them? First, choose the right solubilizer. If you're adding fragrance or essential oil, polysorbate 20 is always a good choice. I've found that mixing the right amount of solubilizer with your oil soluble thing in a small container before adding it to the product is the best idea. Keep really good notes and label your experiments well because you really want to know what worked!

So the summary of this is pretty much this - pick one that seems like it will work for your product, including considerations for cost, skin feel, and clarity, then try it at various percentages until you get the result you want. This really is the way it is because something that works for a small amount of essential oil in a toner might not work for a fragrance oil in a fragrance spray. (It always comes down to the "get into your workshop and play", doesn't it?)

As a side note, Steve, we really encourage you to use percentages in our recipes and weighted measurements for our products. It makes duplication easier and means you are less likely to go over the suggested usage rates of our ingredients! It's hard to increase the size of your batch - for instance, to go from 100 ml to 1000 ml - when you're using drops! 

Related posts:
Solublizers: How are they different from emulsifiers?
Why did I buy that? Caprol Micro Express

Related recipe posts:
Men's products: Scented body sprays
Handmade Christmas presents: Love your pets (water based fragrance spray)
Update for a wonderful Thursday! (Water based fragrance spray)
Formulating with oils - body wash
Solubilizers: Making fragrance sprays with capryl/caprylyl glucoside

In this post, Mariah asks: I love your blog so much! I was wondering if I could put dried herbs in my syndet shampoo bar? I am using a preservative but don't know if I should use that actual dried herbs or make an infusion of some sort and incorporate that.

Hi Mariah! Although this sounds like a great idea, I think you'd end up with soggy herbs that offer nothing to the bar. I don't know if you've ever seen Lush's bath bombs with flowers. They look like a great idea, but when the bath bomb finishes fizzing, you're left with a ton of soggy flowers in the tub that look really sad. (Same thing with glitter in a bath bomb. It seems neat, but you're left in the tub covered in glitter that takes a shower to remove!) I tried this with rose petals and lavender buds when I started making bath and body products, and it was just awful! I could see this happening in a shampoo bar.

What about making an infusion? (Click here for a post on this topic!) I'm never a big fan of this idea because I worry that the product will be under preserved and cause problems! If you are an experienced formulator, you might feel comfortable doing this and adding maximum levels of a broad spectrum preservative. Otherwise, I would caution against it. There are just too many opportunities for contamination!

The short answer is that I would be wary about using dried or infused herbs in a shampoo bar.

In this post, Anonymous asks: Thanks for the lip balm recipe! It looks good, I will try it. I do have a question: It says to use 15% hard butter. But I don't like the smell of my cocoa butter (and can't quickly come up with the deodorized version). Could I increase my wax instead? I'm planning on using:
Beeswax, mango and shea butter, Calendula infused SAO and Castor oil. I'm just not sure how this would change the percentages. Thank you in advance. I really enjoy reading your blog!!!

Hi Anonymous! No, I wouldn't use beeswax as a substitute for cocoa butter as it is in the recipe for two reasons. One, you want something that will melt at body temperature when you apply it, and beeswax won't do that. Two, you want something that makes the lip balm more pliable, and beeswax will make it brittle. You want to substitute another butter for cocoa butter - click here for a list of other butters, and consider using illipe, mowrah, or sal if you want to have the same melting point as cocoa butter. Try using shea butter - which will make it slightly softer, so add a bit more wax - or mango butter, which should have a similiar consistency but feel a bit drier.

I have found kokum butter makes it much harder than I would like, but it is a very nice feeling product. It did make the product slightly brown, as you can see from the picture of my lotion bar.  

I've written a few posts since that one on lip balm type products and how to add colour to them, which you can find in the mineral make-up section of the blog! (Look to your right, then to the labels section near the bottom and click on mineral make-up or MMU!) Or look at the links to lists to the right (higher up) and see all the posts on this topic! My favourite one is this recipe for what I'm calling lip shimmers, and it doesn't include any cocoa butter at all!

8% candellia wax
9% beeswax (I was going to use carnauba, but I ran out!)
18% shea butter
12% mango butter
52% liquid oils (28% castor oil, 10% fractionated coconut oil, 7% squalene, and 7% jojoba)
1% Vitamin E

I have altered this slightly as I have tried a few other butters - babassu was too melty and very shiny - and I have eliminated the jojoba oil as it's really expensive. Last time I used kukui oil and it was fantastic! And I admit I'm not the biggest fan of castor oil. I feel like it makes my lips feel dry. I don't know if this is scientifically backed, but I'm not a big fan of it. Use whatever oils you want, although I suggest lighter feeling ones that don't have much of a flavour. Olive oil was a bit weird tasting, though. (I should have thrown in some balsamic vinegar!)

If you want to use all beeswax, you'll want to use about 25% and drop 8% out of the oil phase. (We generally use double the amount of beeswax than candellia or carnuaba wax.)

25% beeswax
18% shea butter
12% mango butter
46% oils
1% Vitamin E

You can leave out the Vitamin E. It's there as an anti-oxidant. Increase the oil amount by 1%. Melt everything in one container in a double boiler or microwave. Remove. Pour into lip balm tubes or containers. Let cool - put in the fridge or freezer if you can. Rejoice!

Lip balms are a lot like lotion bars. They are an oil soluble product with an oil, a wax, and a butter. I really suggest checking out these posts on lotion bars for ideas on how to alter a lip balm! Or check out the posts on balms, listed below...

Related posts:
Back to basics: Lotion bars - the basic recipe! 
Back to basics: Lotion bars - tweaking the waxes! 
Back to basics: Lotion bars - tweaking the oils and butters! 
Back to basics: Link-o-rama (click on balms to see more about this!)

A quick aside: Those of you who don't have a Google account, please sign off with your name or an alias. I'm not a fan of anonymity as it's too easy to be mean when we're anonymous, and it doesn't feel like a proper community if we don't know each others' names! 

Have a Weekend Wondering? Click here to add your question or comment!


lynn said...

The post brings back memories of making lip balms with a friend, which we did for several years as outdoor types and "lip" people (i.e., people who would not voluntarily go without lip balm for even a single day). We played a lot at first with proportions, learned how to keep our shea from getting grainy, etc.

One habit we got into was formulating differently for spring/summer than we did for fall/winter. The winter formula contained less wax so it would still go on well even if cold and we used little (if any) oil to promote a "thick" feel. The summer formula was made with more wax so it would survive a hot car, and more oil so it felt thinner on the lips.

We always used beeswax and always used shea. We often used hemp oil and Vitamin E. Outside of that, we experimented with whatever butters and oils we had on hand, including flavor oils.

Shan said...

Hi, I was trying to make some lip balms(using a base of Shea,beeswax, Vaseline and mineral oil) but keep getting sedimentation at the bottom of my clear jars... Is there some way to ensure the pigments disperse properly in the lip balm and not settle at the bottom? I only use about 1% of iron oxides to give a tint to the balm, tried 3% finsolv tan to disperse but not working :( would be great if you can offer me some advice, thanks!

Steven Orr said...

I was reading your blog and I wanted to ask--why would you even need to add a solublizer into a mix of Everclear, water and essential oils? I'm not sure about the water--why someone would even be adding that(?) but it's my understanding that Everclear totally disperses essential oils (and the Plauteau probably)--so why add the solublizer? I mean it's really just more weird chemicals to stick on our skin right? Why not just keep the alcohol and the essential oils? (more natural and all that--right?).

My email is

I'm not diva but I don't follow blogs and such so if you just email back a repl

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Steven. As I mention in Sunday, November 30th's Weekend Wonderings, alcohol isn't a solubilizer. (Click the link to learn more about why!)

As an aside, it's easy to follow a comment you've made on a blog. Just subscribe to the thread. I guess I wonder why you'd comment if you didn't want to participate?

Jonathan said...

hello, I have tried to mix an oil with water using the ratio 1:1 squalling oil with polysorbate 80 then added the water. I still get separation. Im wondering if you recommend special stirring techniques, or perhaps heating the batch. when I mis i use a small electric blender. I get tons of foam like bubbles that may take a few hours to settle. only then I can still see the liquid is separating. do you have any suggestions. Sincerely jonathan