Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekend Wonderings: Aloe butter and preservatives, preserving fresh face masks, and heating evening primrose oil

Is there anybody out there? I know you're visiting the blog based on my stats, but the comments section is bare and my inbox is lonely and bored! I have a few sections that want your input - Formulating Friday, collecting your favourite recipes, forgotten threads - and I haven't heard from the people who won books either! I can see you're visiting - okay, the people who subscribe for e-mail posts aren't visiting - but you aren't sharing! My classes end in two weeks, and I'd love to have some stuff to respond to by then, so drop me a line, ask a question, send me a recipe to troubleshoot!

I know, I know, I'm normally really busy, and this week isn't really that different, but I'm looking at the month of August when my classes end and thinking that I could get some inspiration from what you write! 

In this post, When should you use a preservative?, Luisa asks: I am wondering if aloe butter - aloe and coconut oil - would be water or oil? I was wondering about adding it to my body butters, but now I'm not sure if that would require a preservative. The jar says it has a one year shelf life, but lists no ingredients other than aloe and coconut oil.

If your body butter contains no water - it's an anhydrous product - then you don't need to add a preservative. If your body butter contains water, you should be adding a preservative, but you don't need to add extra. Either way, you're probably good. (And I'm so glad you're thinking about preservatives! Yay!)

Here's the thing - most, if not all, of the ingredients we buy that contain water contain a preservative. Manufacturers will add the preservative before the product leaves their possession. The information can be found in the data bulletin or from our suppliers. Here are a few examples of what you should see at your suppliers' shops...

Watermelon Extract (Formulator Sample Shop) - contains Leuicidal
Apple Extract (Lotioncrafter) - contains Leuicidal
Honeyquat data bulletin - notes it is "paraben free", but doesn't give us details of the preservatives

Just about everything we buy as an ingredient containing water with an acidic pH should have a preservative in it. Ask your supplier if you want more information on their specific products.

In a related topic, there isn't enough preservative in each of the ingredients to preserve the entire product. Check out this post for more on that topic!

Related posts:
Preservatives section of the blog
Why do we need preservatives in products containing water?

In the same post, Tina asks, If I make a face mask/ scrub with ground almonds, oats, lavender flowers, and honey (no water in sight), do I need a preservative? If I don't use one, how long would you estimate it would be good for both in and out of the refrigerator? (I realize you can only give a big estimate). If you were to add a preservative, which would you recommend and how long would that extend the shelf life if not refrigerated?

I'm so glad you're thinking about using preservatives in your products! However, I don't think this product should be made for more than a one time usage before disposal as it will be too difficult to preserve. Make enough for one usage, then throw the rest away. There are just too many things in there that could go bad. Botanical ingredients are notoriously hard to preserve, and your product is filled with things that could easily go bad.

So the short answer is...I would make it for a one time usage and throw it away. I don't think it's a good idea to put it in the fridge.

You do have water in your product - from the flowers and from the honey. This is one of the reasons botanicals are so hard to preserve - we don't know exactly what might be in some of these flowers, nuts, buds, leaves, so it's hard to know how much water they contain. But they do contain water, even if they have been left out to dry for quite some times.

As for honey, it also contains water. A lot of people think honey can preserve products, but it can only really preserve itself, and it can't do that if it's waterered down or has other things in it.

Strawberry extract is an ingredient we get from our suppliers. It is sterilized and standardized and sold to us in the best condition...yet it is really hard to preserve once water is added to it! I've mentioned this before, but I've had trouble preserving it, even with 1% Germaben II. Even something that is well processed can be hard to preserve! 

Related posts on honey:
Honey: Nature's tastiest humectant?
Honey: Using it in our products
Honey: Some studies I found

Related posts:
Weekend Wonderings: Preserving fresh fruit in products
Infusions, teas, and using vinegar to preserve things

In this post on evening primrose oil, TC asks, In my search to finding out the shelf life of EPO, I came across a supplier website which stated that EPO should be added during the cool down phase. I suspect they must have nutrition preservation in mind? I'm just now a little confused, as I'd like to retain the benefits of the oil, but want to make sure I'm doing the right thing with heating and holding. Especially so, with this particular oil as i'll be using it for my children who have eczema. 

As I mention in this post and this post, our oils aren't affected by heating and holding because their smoke points are so much higher than the 70˚C at which we hold them.

From this post: There is no chemical difference between what we call exotic oils and carrier oils. They both contain fatty acids, phytosterols, polyphenols, and all kinds of vitamins and minerals. The concept of one oil being a carrier oil and another being an exotic oil has no basis in chemistry - it's a designation we've given the oils based on availability and cost. Wheat germ oil might or might not be an exotic oil depending upon the section of the store your supplier puts it in and how common it might be in your part of the world. Don't get me wrong...there are differences between something like borage oil and sunflower oil (for instance) - borage feels drier, it contains GLA, it has a different fatty acid make up - but they aren't so different that we have to treat borage with great delicacy and sunflower oil with reckless abandon!

Join me next weekend for more Weekend Wonderings! 


Anonymous said...

Ok, if stuff that has water already have a preservative, is it ok to add another preservative?

Kim said...

Hii Susan! There's a chance people are not answering because it is so extremely hot? :p at the moment in Belgium (Belgium, the rainy, cold, gray clouded country) is having a temperature of 32-34°c (89,6-93,4°f) that is melting point for us! :D
About the question of the facial mask:
Would it be possible if you work with almond powder, oat flour, honey powder and lavender eo or extract and scoop out a bit before use and mix with water, yoghurt, milk,...?
If that is possible, would it need a preservative?

Tara said...

I think 'tis the holiday season! I know I just got back from a week holiday yesterday ;-)

Keisha said...

Hi Susan,

Respectfully , I've asked a few questions over the past couple of months via the comments section and none have been answered. I figured either my questions weren't interesting enough, have already been answered, or you have a unique selection process:). I'm not offended that my questions don't get answered, but that is the reason why I stopped leaving comments.

Btw, can I offer a suggestion? There are a few online services out there that allow users to post ideas and vote. Maybe that would be a great way to capture your users questions in one place and based on popular vote, you can answer them within a certain time period.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rosi. It depends...can you give me an example?

Hi Kim and Tara! It's too hot here, too. And I looking at the stats for the blog, I realize most of you are visiting during working hours...hmm, I don't think your bosses would like that!

Hi Kim! You could make a dry mix and combine it with a wet mix before using, but I wouldn't make up the wet mix until right before I use it.

Hi Tara! Where did you go?

Hi Keisha! I can't find anything from you. I've done three searches and your name doesn't come up for me. Did you post under a different name or as anonymous?

There are myriad reasons I might not have answered your questions. I might have missed it. The question might have been answered in the post. It might be one that's been asked quite a few times and the answer is easily found in the FAQ or a quick search. If you posted as anonymous, I don't answer those comments any more. And so on...

I'm human and I miss things. It isn't about you - there are lots of comments I can't get to at times, which is why I am trying the Weekend Wonderings series. I have so little time to write the blog and even less time to answer comments and e-mail, so some fall by the way side. I choose comments that have never been asked before, comments that intrigue me, or comments that are trending for a certain topic. I used to spend hours researching comments or questions, but people didn't seem to appreciate it, so I've scaled that time back to focus on original posts.

Your suggestion is a good one, and I ask people to post things in certain places so I can keep them organized, but there's only so much I can do. I can't commit to doing something by a certain time period, but it's a lovely idea.

If you want to send me the URLs of the posts of the comments you've made, I'd be happy to take a look at them.

Keisha said...

Thanks for the reply Susan:) I'll look for my questions, but I've already gotten them answered through another source. Also, I have a few friends who frequent your blog, and feel the same way about their questions not being answered. Note, NO ONE is mad or upset about this, as we are all grateful for using your free time to share knowledge. You don't owe us anything, and We wouldn't be half the bodycare crafters that we are without your blog:)

I will say, I think that you've hit the nail on the head - your blog is used mostly by beginner audiences and maybe some intermediate. Sometimes, as beginners, if we ask a question that has already been answered by another blog post, it may not be apparent to us because we may not know how to search for it. For example, I've often used search terms that don't match items in your blog, and have had to learn overtime how to find what I'm looking for, or consider that it doesn't exist.

Allowing your users to vote on questions may help the users feel like they are contributing to the content of your blog, as well as give you some organized insight into what users need to know, and how you can build content on your blog.

These are just small suggestions from my point of view (outside looking in, lol). But again, I know you do this for free, and I know I'm excited to read every new post that is written. If you did nothing more than what you are already doing, we are thankful.

Thanks Susan.

Maitri said...

Hi there, I've recently begun making lotions based upon your recipes. Thank you for everything that you do!

My question is this: I am worried about customers at farmer's markets opening my lotion jars and sticking their dirty fingers in my product. I'm switching to flip-top bottles in my next set. But for now, I've got screw-top jars. I want to shrink wrap them to keep people out. But that requires heat from a hair dryer to shrink the plastic wrap around the jar. Will that affect the lotion?

robyn said...

Hi. I'm planning on making a toner for my oily, acne prone skin and wanted your view on it. Ingredients are witch hazel with 14% alcohol (from mountain rose herbs), 5% MSM (sulphur) powder and 2% green tea extract from bulk actives. What do you think?

robyn said...

Also a few drops of glycerin to add moisture.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

HI Maiti. I'm putting your question out to the readers some time this weekend as I'm not really sure. I know heating a lotion up isn't necessarily a good idea, but you're only heating it up for a really really short period of time. Let's see what the experienced vendors think!

Hi Robyn. What is the goal of your product? For what kind of skin are you making this? Oily, dry, aging, sun damaged? What kind of green tea extract - liquid or powdered? What's the suggested usage rate? What preservative are you using? Why only a few drops of glycerin - why not up to 3%? And why 5% MSM? 5% and higher can cause excess sebum production, so that might be defeating the purpose of the product! I look forward to your answers!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Keisha! I've been doing a lot of thinking about your comments, and there are a few things that have been bugging me. I really appreciate your feedback, and I thought I should take some time to reflect on it.

I'm trying to figure out where you might have reached the conclusion that this is a blog used only by beginners and maybe intermediate crafters. I welcome everyone, and I write posts that appeal to different experience levels. You may have seen some comments from experienced formulators like p, melian, LiseLise, TikiBarSoap, and others who share their thoughts by commenting regularly. (There are others, but those are the first ones that came to mind...) I strive to make this a blog that welcomes everyone, and a comment like this negates all that hard work for me.

I also admit that when I read something like "my friends also said..." I get my back up. I'm not sure why - maybe it's the feeling that people are talking about me behind me back without offering some constructive feedback. I think I've made it really clear I'm open to feedback, and I can only make changes or improve when I know about something. I'd much prefer that than some nebulous group of people complaining about something that could be easy to change.

As for making an effort to find things, I think it's fair to expect that if I put information out there and take the time to organize it into lists - see the links to lists or ingredients lists section - that people might consult it. I agree that it might be hard to learn some of the language or things that look like jargon when you first start making products, but I think it's fair of me to hope that someone has done a search or consulted the sections before they ask questions.

When I am asked a question that has been asked and answered many times with a link in the FAQ - something about heating or holding or what an ingredient does - I get frustrated. I do get defensive about my time because I have so little of it that isn't scheduled to the max. To give you some perspective, 've spent three hours this morning writing one post, sketching out two others, and reviewing then responding to a few comments. For someone to ask me for another moment of my time instead of investing a few minutes of their own feels really...I'm not sure of the word, but I think you can see what I mean.

My biggest example of this was someone who wrote - "I could research it myself but, meh." And it used to be etiquette that you read the FAQ before clicking on the "contact me" link.

If someone wants to learn, they need to have the curiosity to seek things out, to take control of their learning. I remember a woman telling me that she wanted to learn, then becoming upset with me when I sent her some links instead of offering to tutor her one-on-one as she wanted me to teach her. I think it's great that she wanted to learn, but I'm not exactly sure how I became responsible for that process for someone I've never met.

Not including class time, I spend at least 20 hours a week studying for the one class I take per semester. This might give you some perspective on why I get frustrated by someone doing a two minute search before giving up.

Ran out of space...see next comment!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...


I think the idea of voting for questions is interesting, but I don't think it would work for me. It would require a lot of my time, and, to be honest, I have found that really interactive things like that tend to be far less productive than one would think. I've had interactive components on this and other websites I've run, and it was a nightmare to get rid of porn and spam links and to make sure everyone is playing nicely. (I think you'd be surprised at the amount of time I spend on this blog deleting cruel and horrible comments people make towards me or other readers!) I think something like this would make me feel overwhelmed and sad. I have always said I will write the blog until it stops being fun, and something like this just doesn't seem fun.

I think I offer a lot of opportunities for readers to interact with me and each other - comments, specific posts, e-mail, and so on - but they need to be easily controlled to avoid cruelty, spam, and porn.

I really do appreciate your feedback, and hope you can appreciate mine. I am always up for hearing ideas as I strive every day to learn something new and make the blog a more welcoming place. (I appreciate the way you've written your comments as well. I'm a person with feelings, and sometimes people forget that.)

I'm really hoping you can send me the links to the comments you've made in the past. (I have done another search and still can't find anything in the published and spam comments section.) If you've asked the question, someone else has probably thought about it, and I'd like to make sure I address it. Please extend this to your friends as well and I'll make sure that my Saturday morning comment review next week is all about those comments!

Anonymous said...

The problem, Susan, seems to be that you are contradicting yourself in this post. On many occassions, including your comment above, you consistently state how busy you are, how you can't answer everybody's questions, how people should search your blog before commenting, etc. Yet in this blog entry, you are asking why people are NOT commenting, why your inbox is empty, etc. Maybe, just maybe, people ARE doing what you've repeatedly asked them to do and are searching for their answers on your blog, doing their own research or have simply stopped commenting due to their questions going unanswered as the commenter above has done.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jill! I don't think I'm contradicting myself by asking for feedback on specific issues or reader participation and feeling too busy to answer questions that are easily found by a search or in the FAQ. I want to know what people want to know, what information they can share, what ingredients interest them, what products are stumping them. I don't see wanting to communicate with my readers and not wanting to answer another email on where to find information on something like heating and holding as contradictory.

I'm a little frustrated that I have to defend myself because I didn't answer someone's comments. You don't know what her questions were, and neither do I because I can't find them anywhere. Yes, there are comments that go unanswered for a number of reasons - I think I've offered a number of reasons why above - but I do what I can when I can.

I'm looking for things that inspire me, that give me some ideas for products or research, and I'm entitled to make those a priority over questions that can be found in the FAQ. I think I should be allowed to choose how I spend my time without having to apologize for it.

I'm starting to feel a bit frustrated, so I'm going to leave this here...

Lisa Long said...

Hi Susan,

I too thought you were too busy to respond to a post. Then you responded to my post/question on your cool Snapguide for lotions. I always get your emails and love them. I guess I am not that great of a techy person as far as blogs and posts go. I don't follow many at all. So I'm new at it. I get confused as to where you want us to post. Your blog is so huge.

I do click on a lot of the links in your emails and they take me to the subject matter and I love just soaking up all the info. However, all the posts/comments may be older so I'm not sure if I'm supposed to post there.

I'm a beginner ( about a year in) and make lotions, butters and CP soap. Gift and sell to family and friends. And love to make special stuff for myself. I'm sure I'm missing something so let me know a place to post and I will certainly try to get into the mix! =D

I wanted to add that I tooled around and got a basic idea for the blog and just need any good tips for posting.

We really all do appreciate what you put into this!