Sunday, May 5, 2013

Back to the very basics: What you need to know about making any product (part 1)

I'm thrilled by all the newbies visiting the blog eager to make products - welcome! Let's start at the very beginning (which I'm told is a very good place to start), and take a look at some of the basics of making products based on the questions I've been seeing lately.

Most of the products you'll want to make when you're starting out are anhydrous products, products like lotion bars, whipped butters, body oils, and balms. What the heck does that mean?

Anhydrous means "without water". "An" means without and "hydrous" means water. Anhydrous products are those that contain only oil soluble ingredients and no water or water soluble ingredients

What are water soluble ingredients? They are ingredients that contain water or mix well with water to form solutions. They are things that will dissolve or mix in water to create a uniform looking product. These would include things like water, alcohol, hydrosols, water soluble extracts (hydrolyzed proteins, vitamins, minerals, plant based things), powdered water soluble extracts (like green tea extract), humectants (glycerin, sodium lactate, honey),

If you want to make something like my lovely toner above, you would only include water soluble ingredients. I used a base of water with aloe vera liquid, rosemary hydrosol, hydrolyzed oat protein, panthenol, and powdered extracts of green tea, chamomile, and rosemary. These are all water soluble ingredients and I have created a product that looks uniform and requires no shaking to use.

ANY PRODUCT THAT CONTAINS WATER MUST USE A PRESERVATIVE! THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE! (More about this tomorrow, but in the meantime, read this post on the topic.) If you don't want to use preservatives, you can't make water containing products. Instead, make anhydrous products.

What are oil soluble ingredients? They are ingredients that mix with oil to form a uniform looking product. These would include oils, things infused in oils, butters, esters, waxes, and oil soluble extracts. (Products made entirely with oil soluble ingredients are called anhydrous products.)

If you wanted to make something like this whipped butter, you would only include oil soluble ingredients, like a base of shea or mango butter, an oil like sunflower or soy bean, maybe a professionally prepared infusion of herbs or plants in oil like calendula or arnica, maybe an oil soluble extract like green tea or mallow extract, and maybe an essential or fragrance oil.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO USE A PRESERVATIVE IN ANHYDROUS PRODUCTS, UNLESS THEY MIGHT BE EXPOSED TO WATER. Scrubs will be near water, they need to be preserved. Whipped butter will not, so don't worry about it. You can use an anti-oxidant to retard the rancidity of your oils, but it's not essential. (More about this tomorrow.)

When we mix oil soluble ingredients and water soluble ingredients together, they will separate. Think about something like salad dressing. You mix oil and water together, but over time they separate. You can bring them together by shaking, but you must do it every time.

This means you can't just throw a gram or two of essential oils into a water based product and expect it to stay mixed. And this means you can't just throw in a gram or two of glycerin or honey or another water soluble ingredient into an anhydrous product and expect it not to seep out eventually. If you want to put something oil based into water, you must include an emulsifier.

An emulsifier brings water and oil together in a uniform way. (This is a very basic definition, but it's all we need for this post...) If you want to mix water soluble ingredients and oil soluble ingredients, you need an emulsifier. If you're going to go to all that trouble to add a gram or two of glycerin, consider making an emulsified product like a lotion or cream.

We'll be taking a look at a few other concepts tomorrow before resuming the Newbie Tuesday posts on Tuesday. In the meantime, may I suggest you check out the Back to Basics series of anhydrous products if you're eager to learn more about making products (start on that post and click "newer post" at the bottom of each to move through the series)? I'll offer a ton of links tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure these basic concepts aren't lost in a ton of concepts.

More experienced formulators: What can you offer by way of information for those who wish to join us in this wonderful craft? What did you wish you had known when you started out? What do you see as an important idea newbies should know? Share what you've learned!  


catherine said...

Love this 'start at the beginning.'

Re humectants being water soluble, olive oil would be an exception right? As it's an oil that is also a humectant. So during dry weather I always use olive oil in my anhyddrous things when I want my skin to be extra-hydrated and moisturized.

And re green tea extract (and other extracts). Some are oil soluble (eg the ones from brambleberry). Good to know if you want to make an anhydrous product loaded with extracts (just remember they're temp sensitive).

melian1 said...

there are a lot of things i've learned as i went, but i think the single thing i would do differently if i went back to the beginning (i didn't do it for quite a while) and that is get a scale and do everything by weight. i resisted and stuck to the tablespoons, teaspoons, and so on for a long time. newbies, do NOT do this! start with a scale and your formulating and creating life will be much, much easier. and when the time comes (and i never thought it would) to scale a small recipe up to a larger one, it is a total snap.

Anonymous said...

I would add, don't assume that you can use fresh ingredients. I tried making calendula-infused oil from dried leaves (anhydrous oil is the product, right?), and I found that everything I did went bad. I stick to buying infused oils now.

Katherine Chiu said...

I agree--if I had it to do over, I would go out and invest in a really good scale as well, instead of buying cheap ones that break or just aren't up to the job.

Then I would invest in a laser thermometer. With those two items, I would have saved myself a lot of aggravation.

Alexis said...

I also recommend buying a good scale. First scale I used was my kitchen scale. It's fine for baking, but once I spilled lavender essential oil on it, it didn't read properly until all of it evaporated. That took months - ok, I spilled about 1/2 oz, which is a lot of eo! I now have two scales for lotion crafting. One reads to 0.1g and the other to 0.002g. If I could go back, I'd buy only one that reads to 0.01g. Also buy a pH meter. Expensive but worth every penny especially if you plan to play with cosmeceuticals. The difference between a 4.5 pH and a 3.5 pH can be very difficult to discern with pH strips. Actually, using a pH meter let me know that any product with pH less than 4 is damaging to my face. One supplier's site advised having a solution of 10% baking soda or sodium citrate and water to neutralize acidic products. That's advise I greatly appreciated because I needed it one day - turned a very pink, hot face back to normal in a matter of seconds.

Crystal said...

thank you for doing this!! I am a newbie too and I find your website very helpful. Thank you for posting the basics :)

Chrissy said...

Thank you so much for this blog! You have been very informative. I know that preservatives are required in water based products, and this may be a stupid question but what if I am making a shampoo with canned organic coconut milk, castile soap and oils. Is citric acid good enough or should I be using a preservative and anti-oxidant? So far the only "preservatives" I have used are honey, glycerin, 70,000 IU Vitamin E oil, rosemary essential oil, and basil essential oil. As you can see those aren't exactly preservatives. I don't really want to use any harsh chemical preservatives, but I want my shampoo and my conditioner which is coconut milk and avocado based to last longer. Any suggestions?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Chrissy. Your question is part of Thursday's Wonderings for August 22nd. The short answer is yes, you need a good broad spectrum preservative to preserve this product. (Click here for that section.)

Elizabeth said...

Firstly! As a fellow chemist, thanks for all the science... especially your post on "What is Natural?" Keep fighting the good fight! =) I'll echo everyone here and say that a 0.01 balance is a crucial piece of equipment for any formulating, even in my work with commercial chemistry!

I also have a question. Is there any humectant you can add to your shampoo bars/other solid bar product? I know you've mentioned lecithin or lanolin as anhydrous options for nail care, but I think they might be too sticky/water repelling for hair. Ideally I would like to use glycerin and with the BTMS it might emulsify well enough? Would having a particularly hard bar stop a humectant from getting the bar too wet, or would it just be better to incorporate a more moisturizing oil like olive? Thanks much!

Savannah Dalton said...

I'm just starting out and your blog is beyond helpful! I'm looking to turn my crafting hobby into a skincare hobby and possibly start a small business from it. All this knowledge and the information of 'I wish I had done this or that' really helps out!

I'm scouring the rest of your blog for more info and tips! Thank you so much!
- Savannah

Edie said...

Hi, I am learning so much from reading this blog, thank you so much! I do have a question about the rule that a product with water in it must have a preservative. I have been using a deodorant called "deodomom" which contains: magnesium hydroxide and water. No preservative! Is this safe to use? I also looked at a site that manufactures magnesium gel and their ingredients are: water, magnesium hydroxide and hydroxypropyl starch phosphate, which from what I gather is also preservative free? So my question is, could magnesium be an exception to the no-exceptions-rule of water+preservative? In other words, can I safely continue to use this product?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Edie! Magnesium hydroxide is milk of magnesia, so you're basically putting milk of magnesia on your armpits! Hydroxypropyl starch phosphate is an emulsifier and thickener. I think there should be a preservative in there. I wouldn't use it, but that's a choice you have to make.

Edie said...

Hi Susan, I had gathered that magnesium hydroxide is basically Milk of Magnesia. I am not worried about putting Magnesia on my armpits as there are many topical magnesium products out there, but I will have to consider the lack of preservative and if I want to keep using this. The product works really well but I don't want any nasties to grow in the jar. I looked into it and the main company that sells magnesia said in their information that organisms do not grow in a magnesia solution so no preservative is needed, and I guess that the maker of the deodorant trusts this information but ideally I would have liked another, neutral, source. Thank you for the answer!