Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Wonderings: The soaping effect, blending preservatives, and melian's preservative rant!

In this post, Michael asks, I make a lotion that is leaving white smear marks on my face. It's not a tragedy, but I don't like it. I've increased the % of water, no change (now (75% water + 18% carrier oils + 6% E-wax NF).. I'm wondering if it's the amount of emulsifier? I tried reducing E-wax to 5%, but no change. Stumped.

This is called the soaping effect, and I go into greater detail about this phenomenon in the FAQ. I'm not sure what's in your e-wax, but that could be the culprit. If you're using stearic acid, this can cause the problem also. Check out that post and do some experimenting to see what works for you!

If you want help with a recipe, please include the exact recipe and entire process so I can offer more help, rather than guessing! 

In this post - Preservatives: Grapefruit seed extract isn't a preservative! - Robert asks, It is very interesting which is the less chemical preservative? Could we put a mix of natural products which have preservative effects so we could put less chemical in our products ?

I'm going to start this by saying that chemical means something composed of elements, so the word chemical refers to everything on the planet. I think what we mean when we say "chemical" is the word synthetic, or something made by human hands? (Often "chemical" is used to mean "toxic", something I've written about so many times. This simply isn't accurate.) I'll be interpreting this question with that word in mind.

There is a concept called hurdle technology. Here's a quick summary from the post I wrote a while ago: It's basically the concept of using "different bacteria inhibiting or bacteria killing factors to achieve a safe product with an optimal shelf life". In other words, it's about combining different preservatives at lower levels to achieve good preservation of products. A huge part of this process is taking into account the physiology and behaviour of the microflora (aka beasties) that might contaminate our products, looking at things like homeostasis, metabolic exhaustion, stress reactions, and how they react to temperature, pH, ingredients in our products, and so on.

The hurdles in this process are retarding growth, removing organisms, and creating safe products. Our goal is to overcome each of the hurdles to create an awesome product that won't be enticing to bacteria, yeast, and moulds.

We can use this concept at home without having to take an advanced course in biology in a few different ways. The first is to use distilled water and follow good manufacturing processes like heating and holding. The second is to consider the packaging we use - choosing disc caps or flip tops over screw tops, for instance - and consider making products single use or making smaller batches. And the third is to consider the ingredients we use.

To consider the question about using a mix of natural products, there simply isn't enough science to back up many of the natural ingredients people consider preservatives. As I mention in this post on preserving a coconut milk shampoo, citric acid, essential oils, glycerin, honey, and a ton of other things are not preservatives, and no combination of them will work. You can find "natural" or Ecocert preservatives that are showing some promise - visit the preservative section of the blog to find them - and those should be what you turn to when you think about more natural ingredients.

I want to turn to melian's comment in Thursday Wonderings because I thought it was excellent. I agree with you, melian. I don't think a product should be unpreserved and I plan to change all my recommendations to no days out of the fridge. (I was criticized for suggesting that someone drink something left out of the fridge for a few days because it could be dangerous. That writer only confirmed the idea that things aren't safe unpreserved and unrefrigerated, but I don't think she saw it that way!)

i want to weigh in on this. i have a slightly different viewpoint than you, swift, re preservatives and the argument that it is good for 3 days on the counter and 7 in the fridge. you said: "If you don't use a preservative, your product has a shelf life of about three days out of the fridge, about seven in the fridge. I wouldn't take a chance on it longer than that"

i ask: would you set a glass of coconut milk on the counter in your kitchen and leave it for 3 days and then drink it? not many of us would! but, why would you (general you, not aimed at you in specific, swift) want to take that same germy mess and smear it on your face in the form of a cream? aside from the sheer nastiness of that, any tiny imperfection or break in the skin and that bacteria has got free entry into your skin and system and must be fought off by your body.

another thing i don't get is why folks think preservatives are harsh? using enough alcohol in a product to preserve it is harsh. using .3% - 1% of a tried and true preservative isn't. most preservatives, excluding the ones newly out that are trying to kill things without being toxic to humans while trying to be "natural" (and what is more natural than germs and bacteria?) are well tested and have the track record of decades behind them showing they are not harsh or harmful. anyone might be allergic to one or the other of them - i can't use germall plus. but that is true of everything in life. allergies exist.

one last thing before i end my rant here, ever wonder why women from a hundred years or more ago aged faster and looked older at 30 than we do at 60? they were limited to only "all natural" things to make products from and had no preservatives and so had to use that germy mess on their bodies and faces. no wonder they looked older than they should!

ok, end rant.

I love your rants, and I love your point. Why do people think that a tiny amount of a preservative is harsh? I would never ever consider making a water containing product without a preservative! I'm too scared of the beasties that could grow in a product!

As an aside, when people hear I make products, they assume I must make organic or natural products. I always respond thusly - I started off with that idea, but I soon realized that I couldn't make an organic or natural product that felt the way I wanted. I felt I had to compromise so much to get something to work that in the end, I didn't really like it. I was limited to making anhydrous products as I was trying to avoid preservatives, which meant I didn't get to make conditioners or body wash or all those wonderful lotions! I did my research on preservatives and came to the conclusion that they were safe and well tested.

When people ask me if the products I make are safe, I respond like this - would I make something harmful for the people I love? No. I have done my research and feel very confident about the ingredients I use.

If you want to make organic or natural products, then have at it! You don't need to argue your perspective with me here because I agree that you should be able to make what you want, but make it safely. If you choose not to include preservatives in your water containing products, know that your product will go bad, and the contamination will be there before you can see it.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts!


Aljonor said...

Hey Susan:
When I started out 2 years ago before I read your blog, I want to create "everything natural". Even after reading your blog, I still tried to create natural products. However, I believe that there should be a balance in everything. I believe if we use too much of nature we can deplete its benefits too quickly and wait forever for it to grow and be harvest. Once people start to research about man-made ingredients, they may find that some of those ingredients are good alternatives to the naturals ingredients.

Lise M Andersen said...

Love Melians rant, but I think one of the main reasons the women of yore looked older a lot faster was due to working themselves into the ground at an early age. :)

fastidious beauty said...

Hello Susan + Fellow Swiftees,
I need help with troubleshooting an oil-free moisturizer (modified from Susan's) and was hoping someone can enlighten me.

Water phase: Water 30%, Aloe Juice 50%, Sodium lactate 2%, Green tea extract 5%, Hydrolysed Oats 2%, Sea Kelp Bioferment 5% (Preserved with: Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Sodium Dehydroacetate). Oil phase: BTMS conditioning emulsifier 3%, Cetyl alcohol 2%.

I heated and held each phase separetly at 70 degC for 20mins then added the water phase to the oil phase slowly with constant mixing. However, when about half of the water phase was added, I got a really weird solidified/curdling (a layer made up of small, off-white eraser rubbing lookalike solids floating on top). I cant figure out what the problem is (though I suspect the kelp bioferment but don't know why!).

Any help or comments will be greatly appreciated! Thank you!


Jane Barber said...

Susan, thanks so much for all your very helpful & informative posts on preservatives. I've also been looking at Ecocert preservatives which are broad spectrum. I've put together a detailed list of "natural" ones (inci, how to use etc) and would be interested to have any comments you might have (more specifically on Mikrokill ect/geogard ect as that looks like it might be ok with a neutral rather than acidic ph) (oh and I put I've put 7 days in the fridge in my post!)

Jane Barber said...

fastidious beauty - I think its the sea kelp bio - same thing happened to me - see here -

Lorraine said...

I'm with Lise on this one - I think Melian doesn't do himself any justice with the final paragraph. You can't simply blame the ageing process on skincare, it also has a lot to do with diet, environment and a multitude of other factors which I'm sure Melian is more than aware of.

I'm also guessing that people generally didn't use emulsified lotions or creams on their skin until the invention of the cold cream so would have avoided that germy mess altogether. :) (but please correct me if I'm wrong)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jane. Great review. I've written about it on today's Weekend Wonderings. Is phenoxyethanol considered natural?

Lisa said...

I have experienced this soaping effect like Michael. I also made my lotion similar to Michael's. I used 5% emulsifying wax NF (supplier says the INCI is cetearyl alcohol and polysorbate 60), 2% cetyl alcohol, and 16% oils. Like Michael, I also tried reducing the e-wax NF to 4%, and it still has this soaping effect.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lisa! Did you check out the post in the FAQ on the soaping effect? I make some suggestions there!