Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Using decyl glucoside in our products: pH and thickening

As I mentioned yesterday, decyl glucoside has two main drawbacks - a high pH (as high as 11.5) and difficulty thickening. Let's take a look at those issues!

The pH for decyl glucoside is alkaline, and can go quite high. If you want to use this as your main surfactant, you'll have to work to get that pH down below 6.0. In this recipe, the pH was too high thanks to both decyl glucoside and disodium cocoamphodiacetate, but I used my trusty pH meter to measure it and citric acid to bring it down to a reasonable level. (You can reduce pH through the use of various acids, but citric acid is the cheapest and easiest to find.) In this recipe for a foaming facial cleanser, I had a good pH of 6.05, but I only used 5%.

If you want to use decyl glucoside in any serious amounts - I'd say 10% or more - I would invest in a pH measuring device. I have used the strips in the past and I didn't find they worked well for me, but you can give them a try if you wish.

pH is a major issue, and you really must keep this in mind when making any product. If you make something out of the right pH range, you can cause problems with your hair or skin. You can't just throw 20% decyl glucoside into a recipe and assume the pH will be right as the odds are good you've just thrown something that was in the right range - 5.0 to 6.0 - into the alkaline range - over 8.

Related posts:
Weekend Wonderings: Reducing pH
Chemistry Thursday: Let's take a look at pH
Chemistry Thursday: How to measure pH?
Weekend Wonderings: The importance of pH in shampoo (scroll down a bit)

The other issue is that we can't thicken decyl glucoside easily, which is one of the reasons I tend to use it in foaming bottle products. There are three main ways we thicken our products: by increasing the concentration of the surfactants, by increasing micelle size, and by creating gels.

Increasing the concentration of the surfactants isn't just about adding more surfactants; it's about fooling the system into thinking there are more surfactants. We don't want to add more decyl glucoside because of the high pH, so can we fool it? We can, and we can do this by adding salts or electrolytes. But here's the problem - decyl glucoside doesn't care about the salt curve or electrolytes, so it won't work. It might work for the other surfactants you're using, but it seems like people want to use it on its own, so salt isn't an option.

Can we increase the micelle size of decyl glucoside? Sure, we can add fatty ingredients like Crothix or glycol distearate, but these things aren't as effective as they could be and you could be using huge amounts to get some minor thickening.

I tried it with a shampoo I designed to be for oily hair, and I had to add so much Crothix to the product that it felt slimy! Your experience may vary!

Can we create a gel? Yep! That's the recommended way to thicken a product with loads of decyl glucoside. Try using xanthan gum at the suggested usage rate of 0.1% to 0.3%, Amaze XT at up to 2%, or other gel making things like carbomers or guar gum at the suggested usage rates. Make sure you aren't using things that will break the gel. This is a fine art, and I suggest reading all you can before you try it, then keep amazing notes!

Seriously, read all you can, because it's not as simple as making a gum and being pleased with it. It can morph over time, come out of solution, create a goo on the bottom, and so on. Take a look at this post at the Chemist Corner forum for some ideas. Or check out this document on the topic. And remember to balance the pH before you start the thickening process! Or do what I do and use a foamer bottle for your product and avoid all that thickening stuff! :-) 

Now that you have a few ideas of how to use decyl glucoside, let's take a look at how we can use it in our products! Join me Friday for a few ideas on how to substitute it for other surfactants before we use it in a few products we'll formulate from scratch.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Using decyl glucoside in our products: What is it?

There's an increased interest in using decyl glucoside as a surfactant because of its reputation for being gentle to mild and because it's considered a green ingredient (or at least ECOcert), so how can we use it in our products?

First, what is decyl glucoside? (Condensed from this post...) Decyl glucoside is a very mild non-ionic cleanser that works well as both a primary or secondary surfactant as it is a good foamer. It has an alkaline pH - 7 to 9.5 - so you'll have to bring your pH down with citric acid or another acidic ingredient to ensure it reaches the right pH for skin and hair. (Another data sheet states the pH is 11.5 at 20%! EEK!) It is about 48% to 52% active ingredients in the surfactant, and the suggested use is 4% to 40%. This is a great ingredient for a conditioning shampoo or body wash as it improves the cationic conditioning in your products, as well as offer foam stabilization. (Data sheet for Plantaren 2000)

Note that it is non-ionic, while most of our surfactants are anionic. It can be used with cationic or positively charged ingredients, like cationic polymers, to create 2-in-1 or conditioning products. This means it cannot be thickened with salt.

It is a good emulsifier, meaning you don't need to add other solubilizers - like polysorbate 20 or 80 - if you want to add low levels of oils, fragrances, or essential oils. And it's a good and stable foamer, although it's not the best choice for something like a bubble bath as it isn't a flash foamer. (Some people complain about the quality of the foam as being too thin, so the suggestion is made to use a secondary surfactant like cocamidopropyl betaine.) It's good as a secondary surfactant because it can help stabilize foam.

As an aside...I never solubilize my fragrances because all the surfactants have at least minimal solublizing abilities. I don't suggest using anything to add your fragrance or essential oils to your surfactant based products because they can reduce foam. 

There are two big problems when using decyl glucoside in our products: pH and thickening. Join me tomorrow when we take a look at those topics!

And before you ask why your decyl glucoside is clear while mine is's about the cloud point or titer point of surfactants. Mine has been kept in the cold, so I need to heat it before I use it in something so I can make it go back to its lovely clear colour. This what it should look like!

And if you want to know where to find it...check the FAQ section on suppliers to see if there's one near you. I have purchased mine from Voyageur Soap & Candle (Surrey, B.C.), the Personal Formulator (America), and Ingredients to Die For (America). 

Newbie Tuesday: Questions, comments, and recipes about lotion bars.

Sorry, nothing today. No one played along, so there's nothing to report. I had planned to modify the recipes you shared into scrub bars for next week, but we don't have any recipes to modify. Feel free to do a search for scrub bars - there are tons of recipes on the blog.

I'm cancelling the rest of the series. See you in early July for a new Newbie Tuesday series!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Infusions, teas, and using vinegar to preserve things

I've had occasion to lie in bed reading a lot of blogs, web sites, and forums lately, and I have to admit I'm shocked by how many recipes I'm seeing that aren't using preservatives and how many people are saying you can keep things in the fridge. I'm also shocked at the number of people encouraging you to make your own infusions with oils or water! I'd like to address these issues for a moment...

Please do not write to me telling me that blogger X was able to infuse oils as you don't know if that person did this successfully or not. They might have never tested their product, ignored it after they made it and took pictures, didn't know that colour was a sign of contamination, and a million other things. If you want to make infused oils, find an experienced mentor and offer them money to learn their techniques and safety methods. Pay to get the infusions tested by a proper lab and use them only as directed by your mentor. 

I will be writing more on this topic in the near future (it's summer 2017). I've only put this page up again as I was being asked about it a lot and thought it should be here for those who might consider making infusions as a way to implore you not to do it unless you find that mentor. 

Keeping something in the fridge only gives it a slightly longer shelf life than something out of the fridge. If you really want to test this idea, make three cups of tea, doesn't matter what kind. Put one in your car, leave one on the counter top, and one in the fridge. How do they look after seven days? Do you want to drink either of them? Would you be willing to serve them to your friends, your family, your children? How is one of your products any different? If you won't put it in your body, why do you think it's okay to put it on your body? I'm honestly completely confused by this idea.

We know what can contaminate things that aren't refrigerated properly - the same things will get into your products. Using botanical ingredients will only increase the possibility of contamination.

Vinegar isn't a preservative you can use in bath & body products. In something like pickling, it needs to penetrate the food to replace the water and the liquid needs to be quite acidic. When you use vinegar in something like pickling, you're making it very acidic, you're adding a ton of salt, you're processing it in boiling water after creation, and you're sealing it very tightly in a suitable container. When the jar is opened, it needs to be put in the fridge and doesn't last forever. None of these things are close to what we do in making bath and body products, and you can't look at how we use vinegar in food products and extrapolate that to making a toner with 20% apple cider vinegar.

References: Seasoned Advice, Health Canada, Science of Pickles (Exploratorium), and North Carolina Cooperative Extension Services (to name a few)

I'm sorry, but I can't believe this is even an issue I have to bring up! Vinegar might have a small place in our products, but there are no similarities between the way we use it in cooking or preserving and the way we use it in our products. Please mention this wherever you see it that vinegar isn't an adequate preservative because it's spreading! 

Related post:
Weekend Wonderings: Why do we need to preservatives in products containing water?
(Many links on that post, as well as the preservatives section of the blog.)

I've addressed the issue of making teas many times, so click here for that post. Here are a few links to for your reading pleasure...
  • Tetley Tea - Don't keep tea overnight or at room temperature overnight
  • Safe Iced Tea brewing - "Tea leaves can become contaminated with bacteria during the growing, harvesting and drying process"
  • On making "sun tea" - don't. Very relevant to this issue for bath and body products. 
  • Food safety news - lots of information here, but mainly don't make sun tea and dispose of tea after 8 hours. 
And did you know the reason you see that cloudiness in black tea when the water isn't hot enough is thanks to the precipitation of the tannins. (Reference) I hate it when people think that hot water - 185˚F - is enough for tea. It's 212˚F or 100˚C - boiling - or nothing!

Please don't make your own infusions in oil unless you've been mentored by someone who really knows what they are doing. It isn't as simple as making sure the herbs or flowers are dry! It's a complicated process that can introduce some nasties into your oil that you won't know about until you add them to your product and they start to grow!

Take a look at making our own garlic infused oil. Health Canada has an entire web page and tons of resources dedicated to encouraging you not to do this because botulism is a real possibility.

The trouble starts if you store homemade garlic-in-oil at room temperature, or if you keep it in the fridge for too long. These actions could allow growth of the spores that cause botulism, resulting in the production of toxin in the food. The bacteria spores that cause botulism – Clostridium botulinum – are widespread in nature, but they seldom cause problems, because they are not able to grow if they are exposed to oxygen. If the spores do not grow, then they cannot produce the toxins that cause illness. However, when garlic containing the bacteria is covered with oil, there is no oxygen present. This means that conditions are ripe for the spores to grow and produce toxins. You can slow down the growth of bacteria (and the production of toxins) by refrigerating the product, but this may not be enough to stop it from spoiling. What is worse is that there will not be any obvious signs that the garlic-in-oil is spoiled. You will not be able to tell if it is dangerous, because it will still look, smell, and taste the same.

How is this different from something you might infuse? It isn't. You could have the same problems, but you won't know about them until you apply that whipped butter or body oil to your skin! I've seen this infusion method recommended all over the 'net, and I was terrified to see that it was being encouraged for baby products. Please don't make your own infusions - there are so many lovely extracts, hydrosols, oil soluble things, oils, and butters we can buy from our suppliers that we know are safe. Buy those instead. Please.

I know I must seem like such a downer, telling you what you can't do all the time, but I do this because I worry. Read the comments from anonymous in this post. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do everything in my power to stop anyone else from suffering in such a way. 

Please note, this discussion is closed. If you really want to make an infusion, make one. I'm offering this advice as it seems to be the best manufacturing practices not to make your own, but if you feel you can do it safely, have at it. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Some neat stuff I thought might interest you for a long weekend...

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there are no old posts on this blog! But sometimes interesting discussion on not-so-recent posts get lost, so I thought I'd share a few I've seen this week...

Looking for some ideas on tools you can use to mix your products? Check out the discussion in this post - Creating Products: Combining the two phases - mixing. If you're interested in more in depth information, check out this post - Physics Friday: Shear - which is all about why the different mixers work differently!

Why we need to use preservatives (as if you needed more reasons!) I wanted to share this comment from this post on preservatives with you. Unfortunately, the commenter didn't leave her name...

I would like to comment if I may. I had the unfortunate experience approx 4 years ago of using a "natural" (no recognised preservative) lotion. Long story short..I ended up in hospital. I agree totally with everything Susan says regarding preservatives...and I also don't think she was being rude at yes. I am a person who nearly died because some idiot thought "fairy dust" was an effective preservative. Luckily I managed to escape with damaged eye sight and a big scar in the middle of my face. If you think Susan was rude, you really dont't want to hear all my views LOL. And my damaged eyesight, hospital stay and scar make me qualified to give an opinion.

Wow! Thank you for sharing. I'm so sorry you had to go through this!

This is why I'm always on you about using preservatives! Would you want the knowledge that you hurt someone on your conscience? Especially when it's so easy to not put someone through that?

Does this sound plausible to you? Recently someone posted that we shouldn't use borax because it can mutate unborn babies and cause cancer. Take a moment and consider this statement. 

You can buy borax at your local corner store on a shelf that children can reach. If there were even the slightest chance this could harm anyone, would they sell it to consumers at all, or would they sell it in speciality stores that required a special permit before purchasing? And wouldn't the box have a huge red warning with skulls and crossbones and probably someone dying horribly in silhouette if it caused these problems?

I see people all the time saying they trust common sense over science - a concept that completely baffles me, as if science is just one thing instead of being everything! - and if that is the case, how can this kind of sentence be spoken aloud? Really ask yourself if what you're hearing is plausible. Some might consider big corporations to be evil, money driving empires, but borax is something like $5 a box, and if they were turning babies into monsters and killing their customers, wouldn't they lose tons of money in the lawsuits and lack of custom from dead people?

Just a few thoughts for the day!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Weekend Wonderings: Using liquid extracts, freezing butters, and using different preservatives!

In this Weekend Wondering post on using extracts, Karen asks: Hi Susan. I was wondering if using liquid oil soluble extracts would they be included as part of the oil % phase or water phase? 

If something is oil soluble, you put it with the oil soluble ingredients. If something is water soluble, put it with the water soluble ingredients. But check with your supplier about the temperature range for those ingredients! If they can't be heated, they go into the cool down phase regardless of being oil or water soluble!

Related posts:
Question: How do you know when to add an ingredient?
Back to the very basics: What you need to know about making any product (part 1)
Facial scrubs: Using oil based extracts
Using oil soluble green tea extract in our products
Fun with chemistry: Solubility
Chemistry: Solubilizers, dispersers, and emulsifiers

In this post - Heating, holding, freezing & thawing our ingredients - Leman asks: I realise this is an old post. Just wanted to ask if I can freeze butters like shea and cocoa? 

There are no old posts! And yes, you can freeze them!

Related posts:
Heating and holding our ingredients
Question: How do you know when to add an ingredient?

In this post - Preservatives: How do they work? - Anonymous asks: When making the scrub, why did you choose to use phenonip instead of germaben plus? Curious. Cheers

Phenonip is a paraben based preservative, and they are more suitable for oil based or anhydrous products. As much as I love liquid Germall Plus, it isn't suitable for products that don't contain water.

Related posts:
Oil or emulsified scrub?
Water activity and sugar/salt scrubs
Preservative comparison chart (PDF)

I'm going to ask again - please do not post anonymously! A simple "Bye, (name)" fosters a better sense of community and reduces mean-ness. I've posted the request on the right hand side of the blog, so you can find it on every page! I've been deleting posts that don't have names attached to them regardless of topic. Dear readers, please do this simple thing for me? Besides, you can't win e-books when I don't know who you are!

Have a question? I cull these from the comments I've seen this week, but if you can't find a suitable post, click here and ask away! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wow! Emulsification's awesome!

If you've never made a lotion or just want to see the WOW! moment again, check out this little video I made on the moment of emulsification. I never get tired of seeing that!

Should you add the water to the oil or the oil to the water? Click here for that answer! 

If you'd like to see the visual tutorial I've written on lotions, click here for that SnapGuide.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chemistry Thursday: Review before we get into new stuff next week

There seems to be some interest in learning more chemistry (yay!), so I'm resuming the Chemistry Thursday posts next week. In the meantime, here are a few posts that might interest you!

The atom! What is an atom? What's a proton, a neutron, and an electron?

The molecule! What is a molecule?

Ionic bonding and salts! How do atoms bond? What's an ionic bond? What's a salt?

Electrolytes! What are they?

Anionic, cationic, and non-ionic! What's all that about?

Covalent bonding! How is this different from ionic bonding?

Osmosis? What's that then?

I plan to get into more detail about most of these topics, as well as more about acid-base reactions and pH shortly. See you next week with more awesome chemistry fun!!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Choose your suppliers wisely!

Please buy your supplies from reputable suppliers. I'm not saying people on eBay aren't reputable, but you can't be sure exactly what you are getting or the shelf life of the product when you're buying a product from an intermediary. Things might be mislabelled - are you sure this is e-wax NF or cetearyl alcohol? - or they might not have been stored under optimum conditions, like the oft suggested cold, dark place. (As well, I've noticed the prices and shipping seem to be a bit on the high side from eBay, but that might not be representative...)

If you choose a supplier with good feedback and knowledge of their ingredients, your journey into making bath and body products will be all the more wonderful! Develop a relationship with the vendor - get to know their recipes and talk to them about suggested ingredients. I'm so lucky to have a number of great vendors local to me, and I feel I've learned so much from their advice and suggested uses for new or novel ingredients.

Check out the lists of suppliers in the FAQ (look to your right under links to lists!) for your geographic area. 

And for no reason, here's a picture from last night's Simpsons showing my two favourite shows colliding! Hodor! 

Newbie Tuesday: Formulating lotion bars

I love lotion bars. They're super easy to make and you can customize them in so many ways! But what is a lotion bar, exactly? These are generally solid-ish, anhydrous products made with oils, butters, and waxes. The basic recipe is generally 1/3 butter, 1/3 oil, 1/3 wax, but you can make loads of modifications to this ratio. (From this post...)

What does this mean? This means that you place your heatproof jug on the scale and measure out 33 grams of your favourite butter, 33 grams of your favourite oil, and 33 grams beeswax. Heat it up until it melts, add up to 1 gram fragrance oil, then put into a mold of some kind and allow to cool until solid. (I like to put it in the fridge or freezer.)

That's it! Seriously? That's it?

Yep. Seriously? I said, yep!

It's amazing how simple it is to make these anhydrous or without water containing products. Whipped butter required two ingredients, and lotion bars require three. But making the product isn't the hard part in most recipes. It's coming up with the skin feel you really want in a product. The fun is experimenting in the workshop with the oils and butters you love! Let's take a look at each component of the lotion bar.

If you want to skip ahead, here's my really detailed post on making lotion bars from the Back to Basics series. This post is more about choosing your ingredients. 

The kind of butter you choose will determine what other ingredients you'll want to use, so this is the logical place to start. If you choose something like cocoa butter, you'll have a harder and less greasy than you would with refined shea butter.

If you came up with a whipped butter-oil combination you loved in your whipped butter, I suggest using those as the base of the lotion bar. I love a mango butter - sunflower or soy bean - rice bran oil combination for my slightly oily skin when I'm using them as a foot or chapped skin bar, but I really like mango butter with lanolin, lecithin, hazelnut or soy bean oil for my cuticle balm.

The colour will also depend upon the type of butter you choose. I can make my all white lotion bar using mango butter and white beeswax or the slightly beige kokum butter bar, all coloured by the butter. (Click here for a post on other butters...)

How much wax you'll use will depend upon the type of butter you chose. Cocoa butter is a harder butter, so you'll use less beeswax (as low as 25%). Mango butter is in the middle, so you can use 28% to 33%. Shea butter will vary, but I generally use 33% with my refined and ultra refined shea butter because it's so soft. The goal is to keep the bar solid when it is in the container or your hand, but to have it melt when it hits your skin. The beeswax will increase the melting point and drag on your skin, so you don't want to use more than you need.

There are other waxes you can choose - click here for a list - and you'll have to play around with them to see what works with your oil and butter combination. In general, carnauba and candellia require about half the amount you'd use for beeswax and soy wax will require a little more than beeswax. It really is something you have to try in the workshop.

Choose an oil that goes with your skin feel. Again, if you found a combination you love for the whipped butter, go with that and add the beeswax to it in the right proportions.

Because your oil amount is larger, you can play with oil combinations. Try 10% of one thing and 23% of another or 16% and 17% or 10%, 10%, and 13%! Spend a bit of time reading up about your emollients if you want to get creative.

As usual, feel free to alter pretty much anything in the recipe to match what you have in your workshop.

33% beeswax
33% butter of choice
33% oils of choice
1% fragrance or essential oil

33% beeswax
33% refined or ultra refined shea butter
33% oils
1% fragrance oil

Consider non-oils like cyclomethicone (2%, cool down), dimethicone (2%, cool down), IPM (up to 5% in the heated part), and so on. Cyclomethicone makes the bar feel drier and adds some silkiness to it. Dimethicone will offer some barrier protection and a glidy feeling. And IPM helps reduce the feeling of greasiness that might come from the oils.

28% beeswax
30% mango butter
31% oils (16% sunflower oil, 15% rice bran oil)
5% IPM

1% Vitamin E
1% fragrance or essential oil
2% cyclomethicone
2% dimethicone

Can you predict what this lotion bar might feel like? 

28% beeswax
30% mango butter
10% lanolin
10% lecithin
20% oils of choice - hazelnut or soy bean are good choices
1% Vitamin E (optional)
1% fragrance or essential oil

Melt everything except the Vitamin E and fragrance or essential oil in a heat proof container in a double boiler. When the ingredients have melted, remove from the heat and add the Vitamin E and fragrance oil. Pour into mold or container and let set. Rejoice.

I don't recommend you make more than 100 grams the first time you make lotion bars for two main reasons. (In fact, may I suggest trying 50 gram batches?) One, you are experimenting, and you don't want to make a ton of them so you have a cheap excuse to play further. And two, 100 grams makes a lot of lotion bars.

If you're putting them in lip balm containers, consider that the ones I bought from Voyageur hold 4.5 ml, a little less than a teaspoon, so 100 grams is going to make more than 20! If you're putting them in these little deodorant containers, consider you can make something like 10 of them with 100 grams. If you're putting them in little tins, consider that the the little chocolate molds held about 12 grams, so you can make 8 of them! I love lotion bars, but I can make them last a really long time!

There are many ways to store your lotion bars. Lip balm tubes, deodorant tubes, little tins...or you could go with plastic chocolate molds, silicone ice cube trays, soap molds, massage bar molds, and so on. Just have something you can put the non-containered lotion bars into when you're done. I like little tins or cellophane bags.

You can make quite large lotion bars - think of massage bars, for instance - but I really do suggest you start small and work your way up in size once you find a recipe you really like.

I regularly say you can use 1% fragrance or essential oil to fragrance your careful with essential oils, and read up on them before using in your products. Some have lower than 1% suggested usage rates, some aren't suitable for leaving on the skin (citrus might make you photosensitive, for instance), some aren't suitable for some applications (peppermint might not be the best choice for a bath bomb), and some aren't suitable for some conditions, such as pregnancy.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get into the workshop and make some lotion bars! And post your results here so we can talk about it next week! (As usual, posts will be eligible for a random draw for your choice of an e-book!)

I've created a visual tutorial on SnapGuide to help you make lotion bars! 

Posts on lotion bars:
Back to basics: The basic recipe
Back to basics: Lotion bars - tweaking the waxes
Back to basics: Lotion bars - tweaking the butters and oils
Back to basics: Lotion bars - let's get complicated
Back to basics: Lotion bars - wrap up and link-o-rama
The chemistry of our nails: Lotion bar with lecithin and lanolin

Want to join in the fun? Check out the previous posts in the Newbie Tuesday series!
Newbie Tuesday: Learning about oils and butters - an introduction
Newbie Tuesday: Testing the skin feel of our oils
Newbie Tuesday: We're pushing the schedule back a week (great discussion here about the skin feel of our oils!)
Newbie Tuesday: What did you learn about the skin feel of your oils?
Newbie Tuesday: Creating a body oil
Newbie Tuesday: Creating whipped butters - choosing your butters
Newbie Tuesday: Creating whipped butters - recipes to try
Newbie Tuesday: What did you think about your whipped butters?
Creating whipped butters: A visual tutorial (Snapguide)

Join me next week when we take a look at your questions, comments, and recipes for awesome lotion bars! 

Monday, May 20, 2013

My visual guide to creating lotions!

I've just completed my visual tutorial on making a basic lotion at SnapGuide! I've based the guide on this Newbie Tuesday post on making a lotion for the first time, and you can download the accompanying PDF as it goes into more detail than the guide (but as much detail as the original post). If you're a complete newbie, I hope this helps you dive in and try it for the first time. If you've made them before, I hope it helps you see where you're doing it right!

In one of the steps, I posted the video of the moment of emulsification. If you've never experienced it, take a peek! I hope you enjoy it! 

(Long) Weekend Wonderings: Altering the pH of our products, freezing fragrance oils, and using butylene glycol as a co-preservative

In the Weekend Wonderings comment post, Liz asks: First off I have to say your blog is so informative- you are my bath and body hero! And I have a question for you, with summer coming up I wanted to make a sunless tanning lotion. I bought some Dihydroxyacetone and Erythrulose from Making Cosmetics. It says not to use alpha-hydroxy acids with the dihydroxyacetone but the "final product should be in the pH range between 3.5 and 5". I'm trying to figure out what to use to lower the ph. White vinegar? I don't really want to smell like that if possible. Thanks so much with sharing your knowledge so freely with us!

The first thing I suggest is to make sure you have a good way of measuring pH in our products. I'm not a fan of using pH strips as they aren't really that accurate, so if you plan to make products of this nature, you might want to invest in a pH meter. I love my meter, but there are many of them to choose from from our lovely suppliers, and I'm sure you'll find one that you can afford and love.

So how to lower the pH of our products? I don't think I'd want to use vinegar because it's not predictable how much acetic acid it contains - every type of vinegar is different - plus there's a smell involved! Citric acid is a very effective way to reduce pH - I've found that 0.2% in my body washes can reduce the pH up to 1 point, making it more acidic. Lactic acid is another way to reduce it, although I have no suggestions for usage.

Click here to see how I use citric acid
Click here to see how I used it in a body wash!

Having said all of this, some people love their strips, so perhaps they'll comment and let us know how they make them work well for them! And any suggestions for reducing pH that don't include AHAs? 

Related posts: 
Chemistry of our skin: pH and the acid mantle (scroll to the middle for pH adjusting)
Chemistry of our skin: pH and our skin care products (updated for 2012)

I'll be writing more about pH in a few weeks as I resume the Chemistry Thursday series! There are so many misconceptions about acids, bases, and pH that I thought it would make for an interesting series of posts!

In the same post, Yvonne writes: I have a question about fragrance oils. I have so many of them which I don't use up before the year is up as I only make products for myself (the supplier told me they are only good for 1 year). Could I freeze them like I do my carrier oils?


Related post: Heating, holding, freezing, and thawing our ingredients

In this post, melian asks: I have a question for weekend wonderings. On the Dish (forum) at one time the statement was made: "Butylene glycol may act as an additional preservative in your lotions." Though I keep it in my notes, I didn't keep track of who said it, so I can't go back to them. Is this true? I've already done a search on the blog and read everything about butylene glycol.

I'm not sure about butylene glycol, but I know that glycerin can be considered self preserving by the FDA, "Some cosmetics, i.e., those containing more than about 10% ethanol, propylene glycol, glycerol, etc., and cosmetics in self-pressurized containers, are self-preserving and are not likely to become contaminated with microorganisms." (Original post: Can glycerin act as a preservative?)

I've also seen 15% to 20% suggested (Dweck) or 50% suggested in this discussion thread in the Chemist's Corner forum. I could post references all day, but suffice it to say that a certain amount of glycerin can behave as a preservative for our products.

How would this work? In a product, the water is bound to other molecules (say, Epsom salts) and isn't free for usage by the microbes. In other cases, the water is bound by humectants like sorbitol or glycerin (anywhere from 10% to 20% will bind water). So water activity is actually a measure of the amount of free (unbound or active) water molecules present in our products. Water activity increases or decreases with with increases or decreases in pressure and temperature. pH also plays a role.

So why am I talking about glycerin instead of butylene glycol? Because they are all poly-alcohols or polyols, and these ingredients bind to water molecules in the product, which is how they could work as preservatives.

Having said this, I wouldn't trust these polyols as the only preservative in a product because figuring out the water activity isn't as simple as adding 10% or 20% of something to a product - click here to see the equations and information. Besides, who wants 10% to 50% humectant in a product? It would feel really sticky on your skin. (I do have a 25% glycerin foot cream I make when my feet are really trashed, but I need to wear socks and I'm covered in fluff in the morning!) I think using them can offer a boost in preservation (and it reduces the freezing point of your product, which is great if you're shipping your product in the winter or storing it on your workshop in colder months).

Have a question? Hie thyself over to the Weekend Wonderings comment post and share your thoughts. I go through all the comments you make every week on this blog, but I check there first! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weekend Wonderings: Troubleshooting solid scrub bars!

In this post on solid scrub bars, Julia asks: I love this scrub bar, but so far I have always made it without sodium lacate. Which is fine until it reaches about 27˚C, it starts getting soft and mushy. So I want to add the sodium lactate. Problem I've run into: It is 60% Salt to 40% Water (advertised as bacteriostatic). So if use this in my anhydrous scrub bar, will it even mix since it is part water? And then it raises the question if I should use an additional preservative due to the water. I haven't been able to find any 'pure' sodium lacate, they all seem to be mixed with water. What are your thoughts?

Sodium lactate really is a big part of the hardening of this bar. You can find sodium lactate crystals - find them at Lotioncrafter, for example - but how would you dissolve it? It's water soluble, so you'll have to use a bit of water anyway. And if you're adding 3% sodium lactate, you're okay without a preservative because the liquid version will have enough preservative in it to preserve the water, plus it's bacteriostatic, so less than 5% will be fine in this product.

Having said this, I use Phenonip in my bars these days, which will be enough to preserve the entire product (use it at 1% of the non-sugar or salt part of the recipe). (I'm in the process of updating my bar recipe posts with this information, but I haven't found all of them!)

Can I make a suggestion that might seem like I'm being sarcastic? Have you considered storing them in the fridge or freezer? I put a lot of my stuff to freeze over the summer months to keep them fresher - like oils and butters - or from melting - especially coconut oil.

As for adding a water soluble thing to this recipe, you'll notice it contains an emulsifier as it's an emulsified scrub bar. So the e-wax or Incroquat BTMS-50 or Ritamulse SCG or other emulsifier you use will be able to handle a bit of water soluble stuff.

In this same post, Irish Molly writes: I just wanted to let you know I tried the scrub recipe. I did not have sodium lactate so I added the 3% to the 2% wax (I used bees wax) totaling in 5% bees wax and since you were using sodium lactate as a hardener I also used 60% cocoa butter and 10% mango butter. Everything else stayed the same. The resulting scrub was amazing!! It was not oily, had this amazing glide on my skin and left a powdery soft feeling after. My only question is that it never hardened. Did I do something wrong? I heated and held, the oils I used were 4% coffee infused Olive Oil, 4% coconut oil, and 4% Camellia Seed Oil. I added the silicones, E and EO when it cooled down to 45C. For the exfoliants I added 55% out of the recipes total weight which was 100 grams. 55 grams of exfoliants were used in the form of 15g coco powder, 20g Baking soda, 20g of finely ground coffee. Did I do something that would cause the bar not to harden? It never did - it was almost like a soft body butter consistency - amazing but not what I expected. I cannot find the error unless it was omitting the sodium lactate?

Thank you for sharing as much information as you can, along with your process. This really helps me figure out what's going on!

When you say it won't harden, there are four things to consider: The Incroquat CR or BTMS, the sodium lactate, the amount and type of exfoliants, and the temperature.

The emulsifier in this recipe - Incroquat CR, Incroquat BTMS, e-wax, Ritamulse SCG, and so on - will help harden the bar. I know it's not a lot, but it's enough to make a difference. The sodium lactate really is an important feature in the product. It is amazing what 3% can do in a bar to harden it! And I wonder about the amount and type of exfoliant. I tend to use about 100% salt or pumice/baking soda in mine, and I wonder if using less salt or sugar or fine crystal type exfoliants might be making a difference? And I wonder about putting them in the freezer to solidify. I put mine in the freezer, then store them in the fridge in the summer.

As an aside: They will melt and might try to fall apart when you've used them in the shower or bath. That's kinda the point!

I make a foot scrub bar that is pretty much the same recipe as the body bar, except I use stearic acid and pumice/baking soda in that one. It is a very very hard bar - too hard for my tastes thanks to the stearic acid!

Having said all of this, I'm still confused. If we took the ingredients without the scrubbies, it's pretty much a lotion bar, which will solidify nicely. (Sometimes I make up a batch without the exfoliants and store it so I can melt it down later when I'm ready for more bars!) I've used black cocoa butter in mine for years, which is much softer than cocoa butter, and I still have a solid bar. I'm really not sure what is happening in either situation, except for the lack of sodium lactate.

Here are a few ideas...
  • Make sure you are using the sodium lactate. If you can't, then up the wax to 5% and up the emulsifier to 5%. (Remove 4% from the butter amount.) 
  • Consider upping the cetyl alcohol. Go with 10% cetyl alcohol and see how that works for you. Reduce the amount of butter - cocoa or other - by 7%. You can try another fatty alcohol  - cetearyl alcohol will make it a little waxier, so try 5% with 5% cetyl alcohol or just 5% alone, and behenyl alcohol will make it feel powdier (5% to 10% is fine). 
  • Consider adding stearic acid. It will make the bar harder, but it might be draggier. Add up to 5% in addition to the cetyl alcohol. 
  • Put it in the freezer to cool, then remove them and put them in the fridge. Leave them a few days before using for the first time. And store them in the fridge in the warmer months. 
Let us know what you do next and how it works!

If you're a newbie, join us on Tuesday, June 4th for the Newbie Tuesday post on making solid scrub bars! 

Related posts:
Road trip essentials - solid scrub bars (with explanation of ingredients)
Formulating with oils - solid scrub bars
Using cationic quaternary compounds in solid scrub bars

Weekend Wonderings: Cetyl alcohol really isn't an emulsifier, making a Vitamin E product, and non-smooth looking lotions

I mentioned in this post on Friday that cetyl alcohol isn't an emulsifier. I want to mention it again. It really isn't an emulsifier. It will not bring together water and oil. It is an oil, so if you mix it with a water soluble ingredient or into a water soluble product, it will eventually float on the top of your product in an icky mess.

If you want to add an oil to water or a water soluble product, you need to add an emulsifier. If you want to add cetyl alcohol to a water soluble product - for instance, if you want to make a conditioner with cetyl alcohol as the only oil soluble ingredient - you need to add an emulsifier. Cetyl alcohol has no characteristics that make an emulsifier or allow it to emulsify with water, so if you melt it and add it to water, it will not mix. (If you're curious why oils float on top of water, read this post on specific gravity!) I'm not trying to be a downer by telling you what you can't do: Im trying to help you make awesome products! 

In the Weekend Wonderings's comment post, Simone asks: My question is: Can I make a petroleum gel style of ointment that would deliver the Vitamin E but not melt into my eye? 

She also asks: I must have missed your post 26th April which includes an anhydrous eye shadow primer. Do you think I could use this base for the Vitamin E cream that I need to use for the scar on my eyelid? If I substitute Vitamin E for the some of the oils. I appreciate your opinion and realise it is just that, an opinion, but you have so much more experience than many of us who read your blog.
The doctor said nothing oily which kind of narrows it down. I still have to research your blog for the Cera Belina.

Hi Simone. I'm really uncomfortable suggesting something to put near your eye, so I'm just making comments on what you've written and ask that you don't do anything I've written here without speaking to your physician. Did the doctor mean "nothing oily" to mean you can't use anything with oil in it or did the doctor mean you couldn't use anything that was thin like an oil? I ask because Vitamin E is oil soluble, so by definition, Vitamin E is oily.

As for making a petroleum style ointment, you could make something like that. A common one we see is about 8% beeswax and 92% castor oil (or another heavy oil). Heat up these ingredients until melted, then whip! (Adding air gets the jelly like texture!) Add up to 1% Vitamin E in the cool down phase. As for using the primer recipe, sure. It's just a lip balm recipe with zinc oxide added. I don't know if the zinc oxide will do anything for you, so feel free to remove it and add up to 1% Vitamin E at the cool down part.

Again, in that post Rosi asks, My comment is although we can add as much and whatever we want in our lotion I haven't got a lotion that looks as uniform and smooth as the ones commercially made. I've been making leave in conditioner for a year and it always have very tiny particles that looks like it has not been mixed/blended in together, whether add more or less emulsifier it does not have a nice consistency. Is it always like that, does it happen with anybody else? I use BTMS 25, one oil, Cetac, cetearyl, water and preservative.

Hi Rosi. We really can't add what we want to a lotion as there are ingredients that make our products less stable - for instance, more oil than the emulsifier can handle or large amounts of green tea extract (more on this soon!) - but we can develop recipes to include those things we want. Your lotions, conditioners, leave in conditioners, and other emulsified products should look as smooth and consistent as a commercial products! 

It sounds to me like you are experiencing a lotion fail. A conditioner is a type of lotion - it contains water, an emulsifier, a preservative, and an oil phase - so it follows the same rules as a lotion. I fear your BTMS-25 might not be enough to emulsify your product - it isn't a great emulsifier compared to BTMS-50 - or your oil phase is too large (oil plus cetearyl alcohol). Cetrimonium chloride can cause some separation of ingredients, something I've noticed doesn't happen as much if I put it into the heated water phase, which seems counter intuitive, I know! 

Can you post your recipe so we can take a look at it?

There are a few things we can do to avoid a lotion fail. As I mentioned above, make sure you're using enough emulsifier for the oil phase. Make sure what you are using is an emulsifier. Make sure you're following the basic lotion making instructions, heating and holding both phases at 70C for 20 minutes. Mix well. 

We'll revisit this topic when we see Rosi's recipe! 

Join me tomorrow for the long weekend edition of Wonderings! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

If you aren't curious...

I have to confess I'm surprised at the lack of curiosity from some of the readers of this site. I link constantly in the posts I write, and I can't believe how many comments or e-mail messages I see asking me questions that could have been answered by clicking on one of those links. (I'm thinking about the ingredient cetyl alcohol from Friday's post.)

You don't have to know everything to make a great product, but it's fun when you do! You can make a gorgeous whipped butter or lotion following someone else's recipe, but you're beholden to those ingredients and that process if you don't spend a little time reading and learning. You'll be unable to figure out what makes a good recipe, which leaves you making products that suck and wasting your precious supplies. You'll be unable to fix a lotion fail and you'll end up spending a ton of money on the same ingredient at different suppliers' shops if you don't know INCI names.

Follow your curiosity and see where it leads! Follow that link to the next one, then the next one, then the next one, and read until you see the same information repeated a few times. Get into the workshop and that try that thing that sounded interesting when you thought of it in the shower, then figure out why it worked or didn't work. (Like my solid body wash idea!) Get into the workshop and get a feel for your ingredients (like we did with oils in the Newbie Tuesday series on the skin feel of oils and butters).

If you aren't curious, I really don't think you should consider creating a business making bath & body products. To become a proper artisan, you need knowledge, and the only way to get that knowledge is through hard work and curiosity. (How do you know you have the interest and the aptitude to create products if you don't learn all you can?) You should be able to write recipes and predict the viscosity and skin feel of the product before you consider selling, and you should be able to make substitutions on the fly when you run out of ingredients. 

If you really want to make products, make yourself a promise that you'll be curious for an hour this week and learn more about one ingredient. Check out the emollients (oils, butters & esters) section and learn about one oil or butter this week, check out the extracts section to learn about your favourite botanical ingredient or hydrosol, or look to the bath & body guides to ingredients on the right hand side of the blog and find an ingredient you love! I know we're all pressed for time, but I can guarantee you can find 9 minutes a day to read something interesting on this blog or others you frequent! And by the end of the year, you'll have learned about thirty (or more) ingredients for such a small investment every day!

What are you curious about and where will you start?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Quick note for a long weekend Friday: Cetyl alcohol is not an emulsifier

Quite a few times in the last week I've seen cetyl alcohol referenced as an emulsifier, something that will bring oil and water together. It is not. It's an oil soluble fatty alcohol that should be treated like you would an oil or anything oil soluble, which is to say you can use it in an anhydrous product - like a lotion bar or whipped butter - but you can't use it in anything water based - like a body wash or toner. You cannot use it to create a lotion - you will need an emulsifier for that purpose - but you can use it as a lovely emollient in a lotion. 

Click here for more about all-in-one emulsifiers. 

An emulsifier or surfactant has to have a hydrophilic (water loving) or polar head and a lipophilic (fat loving) or non-polar tail. One end connects with water, the other with oil, and it brings the two things together. Cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, stearic acid, beeswax, and other waxes only have lipophilic or oil loving parts. They cannot be used as an emulsifier because they lack the hydrophilic or water loving parts, which means they won't bring water and oil together. 

Cetyl alcohol might not be an emulsifier, but it's a great thickener for our products.  I like to use cetyl alcohol in my lotions to increase the viscosity and increase slip and glide. Stearic acid will increase the viscosity, but it offers a little more drag and thickness than cetyl alcohol. It's inexpensive - I think I pay about $4 a pound for it (about $8 a kilogram) - and it works well to moisturize without oils. I like to use it in my facial moisturizers to offer oil free moisturizing to my acne prone skin, and it's a lovely addition to a lotion bar to make it glide a little better. 

If cetearyl alcohol interests you, take a look at this recipe for turning an oil into a whipped butter

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Back to the very basics: Conditioner

I think conditioner might be the most popular topic on this site, so let's take a few moments to learn more about it!

Hair conditioner: A hair conditioner is a positively charged or cationic product. Your hair is negatively charged, and for something to be a hair conditioner, it must be positively charged to adsorb to the hair strand. No positive charge, no adsorption, no conditioner. It can be a liquid or a solid (bar form). It can be thin enough for a bottle or thick enough for a jar. The key thing that makes it a conditioner is the cationic or positively charged emulsifier - something like Incroquat BTMS-50, Incroquat BTMS-25, Ritamulse BTMS-225, or cetrimonium bromide, to name a few ingredients you can buy.

Click here to get a full post on how conditioners work. Adsorption means the molecules accumulate on the surface of your hair. It's different from absorption in that it doesn't penetrate, it just sits on top of the hair fibre.) This is called substantivity

If you are looking to buy an emulsifying conditioner or a conditioning emulsifier or some variation on these names, read this post on reading INCI names so you buy the right thing! You are looking for something like behentrimonium methosulfate in list of what's in the product. You can get BTMS-25, which has 25% behentrimonium methosulfate, or BTMS-50, which has 50% behentrimonium methosulfate. I use the 50% in all my produts. If you've bought BTMS-25, click here for a post on how to adapt recipes to use it properly. (And click here to see the difference in using the two products on your hair!) Those white pellets in the jug are Incroquat BTMS-50, and most emulsfiying conditioning thingies will look like that. The yellow pellets are Incroquat CR, which I use to add softness, anti-static, and detangling properties to my conditioner bars.

Incroquat BTMS-50 and other cationic quaternary compounds are emulsifiers, which is how you can melt it and add it to water and have it remain emulsified! It also means that you can add oils, silicones, butters, and other oil soluble ingredients to your conditioner and know that it will remain emulsified!

Rinse off conditioner: This is a conditioner you rinse out of your hair after washing. It can have any level of cationic ingredients it wants!

Leave in conditioner: This is a conditioner you leave in your hair after washing. These tend to have 1% to 3% cationic ingredients and a lot of things to help with styling or drying, like silicones or moisturizers. You might find it in a normal or spray bottle.

Intense hair conditioner: This doesn't have a real definition, but generally we use it to mean something that will moisturize or condition our hair really really well and leave it more conditioned than normal. It could mean that. Or it could mean the smell is intense, the container is intense, or anything else is intense. I use it to mean something to which I've added more than 7% BTMS-50 or Ritamulse BTMS-225, but that's only my definition. Everyone's definition will be different.

Click here for information on how the recipes for these products differ! 

How long do you think you should leave conditioner on your hair for maximum results? Have a guess! The answer's at the end of the post.

You can make a lovely coconut oil and mango butter hair thingie, but it's not a conditioner if it isn't positively charged. Every day I see people calling things conditioners are clearly aren't. This isn't a matter of semantics or me being picky. Just like a lotion is by definition an emulsified product - no emulsification, not a lotion - a conditioner is a positively charged product that adsorbs to the hair strand. No adsorption, no conditioner. Coconut oil moisturizes your hair beautifully, but it doesn't adsorb to your hair strand, so it isn't a conditioner. Apple cider vinegar does something to your hair - I can't find anything describing what it does, other than "making the cuticle lie flat" - but it doesn't adsorb to the hair strand, so it isn't a conditioner. If you want to know more about conditioners, visit the hair care section of the blog and look at the posts on the topic. There are so many recipes there, you'll have to take a look and see what you like.

Answer? About 2 minutes. That's right! There's no reason to condition overnight, unless you want the benefits of the oils or other ingredients you've included in your product!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Troubleshooting a lotion recipe...

In this post on making a basic lotion, Courty asks: I tried your summer lotion the other day. (Was it this one?) I love it but have a problem I was hoping you could help with. It rubs in very well when my skin is dry but if I apply it after I get out of the shower it drags and skips and doesn't rub in smoothly at all! Do you know why this happens and if I can fix it? I used what I had so I simplified a lot when substituting your recipe.

Here's my formula:
71% Water
3% Vegetable Glycerin
20% Organic Olive Oil
3.6% Glyceryl Stearate
1.4% Cetyl Alcohol
.5% Potassium Sorbate
.5% Vit E

Quick aside: Please always include your process when writing to ask me for help. It makes it so much easier to figure out what you did.

It sounds like the emulsion is breaking when you apply it to your skin. I think the problem is that your lotion isn't properly emulsified. You aren't using an all-in-one or combination emulsifier and you don't have a complete HLB emulsifier. Glyceryl stearate is a low HLB emulsifier (HLB 3.8) that needs to be paired with a high HLB emulsifier to create a complete emulsifier. Cetyl alcohol isn't an emulsifier - it's an emollient like our oils and butters - so you have an incomplete emulsifier in the form of glyceryl stearate. You could include any of the higher HLB emulsifiers to make this work, but you'll need to work on the math again!

So why is this happening only after a shower? It could be you're adding just enough water to mess with the product or it could be coincidence. Either way, the lotion is unstable and the emulsion will break sooner rather than later.

Why has it remained stable for a while? Emulsification relies upon three things - heat, mixing, and chemistry. The chemistry part is the all-in-one emulsifier. The heat is the heating and holding part. And the mixing is the mixing part of the process. You can get an emulsification using only one of these three things - look at shaking a salad dressing - but it will fail in a really short period of time, like hours. You can get an emulsification using heat and mixing - look at using beeswax (not an emulsifier) in a lotion - but again, it will fail. Using all three ensures we get a nice, stable emulsion that won't fail for a while. (All emulsions will fail eventually, but when we use all three methods, we could see it last for years, well beyond the time it is good!)

Related posts:
Emulsifiers: Questions about VE and MF emulsifiers
Emulsifiers: Check what you've got! 
HLB system (PDF from Lotioncrafter)
When lotions go wrong! 

As a secondary note, you aren't using a broad spectrum or complete preservative in this product. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant, not a preservative, which is to say that it helps retard the rancidity of our oils, butters, and other ingredients with fatty acids, but it doesn't keep contamination away. Potassium sorbate is good with yeast and fungi, but isn't good with bacteria, which means you're leaving yourself open to some serious beastie growth! (What contaminants can get into our products?) I suggest finding a broad spectrum preservative that offers protection against all possible contaminants!

Let us know how the next batch turns out!