Monday, September 2, 2013

Long Weekend Wonderings: When lotions go wrong!

In this post, Monday Wonderings, eeting asks this question: I need help with troubleshooting an oil-free moisturizer (modified from Susan's) and was hoping someone can enlighten me. 

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). 

BTMS conditioning emulsifier 3%, 
Cetyl alcohol 2%.

none...(because the lotion curdled...Susan's note)

I heated and held each phase separately at 70˚C for 20 minutes, 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 can't 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!

Was it this recipe for an oil-free moisturizer?

Did it look at a bit like this? This is from my epic lotion fail using Ritamulse SCG. In this case, I used more oil than the emulsifier could handle. This is a process called coalescence. If you take a peek at this post, When lotions go wrong!, you'll see there are a few different ways lotions can go wrong, but I have a feeling that the issue here was too much aloe vera, which isn't just a water replacer, it's an electrolyte.

Electrolytes are ions that can conduct electricity, but more importantly, they're those ions we call anionic, cationic, and non-ionic. Something that is anionic is something that is negatively charged. Something that is cationic is positively charged. And something non-ionic has a neutral charge.

Incroquat BTMS-50 is positively charged, so we call it a cationic emulsifier. If we add something like aloe vera that can be an electrolyte, we are introducing some negatively charged or anonic ions into the mix. (We're also adding some cationic ions or cations, but that isn't causing problems here.) The more we add, the more negatively charged the lotion will be. When a positively charged thing meets a negatively charged thing, we can get some problems in the product, like curdling.

My suggestion is to take the aloe vera down to 10% or even none at all at first - after all, water's a good ingredient, not a filler - and see if the recipe works for you. (I make it all the time, my version, but your mileage may vary.)

I also think you might be using BTMS-25 instead of BTMS-50. That can cause some problems with emulsification as you have 25% emulsifier not 50%, but that's more about lotions or conditioners that contain a lot of oil. You have 2% oil in the form of cetyl alcohol in ths product, here, which should be emulsified But I don't think that is what happened here...)

How to know whether you have BTMS-25 or BTMS-50?
Check this post on the INCI names. 
Check this post on how to substitute one for the other.

Related posts:
When lotions go wrong - an example! 

Here's a checklist I've written about figuring out what might have gone wrong with a lotion (short version), or check out this troubleshooting post on how to figure out what might have happened and what we can do next time. 


fastidious beauty said...

*OMG you actually answered my qn!!* Thank you susan!
You are right, right and right.
1. I was using BTMS-25 - had increased it to 6%;
2. The curdling was not due to too much oil as shown in that was a really weird solidification of well..small, off-white eraser rubbing lookalike solids floating on top (sorry i totally should have taken a photo!); 3. Sometime after writing to you and getting your reply, I tried it again, reduced aloe to 20% and it emulsified! However I also omitted the kelp ferment. Will tweak and experiment some more now that I'm aware of the electrolytes issue. Thank you again! eeting

Anonymous said...

Hi, Susan! My name is Sara and I LOVE your blog! Though, I've only ever commented once and that was when that rude, mean lady was rambling about no-poo hair stuff and causing a ruckus. I was so scared you'd stop blogging that I had to comment in your defense and let that lady have it! Annnnyyywayys...

I've been wanting to write you about this for a really long time. I was going to comment under the post about Ritamulse but could never find it as I was searching under sugarmulse! Once I saw this post, it reminded me. I also forgot to take pictures and I always think of you saying, "Anecdotes don't make data"!

So, I had made a lotion awhile ago and experienced the epic lotion fail...I was SO mad at myself b/c I did exactly what you said not to! I added a lot of oils (not more than 20%), and I also added the preservative at around 130 degrees F. (What can I say, I'm impatient and impulsive!)
So, the lotion curdles immediately and I'm SO upset. I run to your blog and yell 'IDIOT' as I read what I'm not suppose to do.

So, they say 'necessity is the mother of invention' and since I've been making bath and body products for over two years, and never had a lotion fail, I was making a huge batch of this lotion. NOTHING upsets me more than wasting ingredients...or food...or anything for that matter! I decided if the lotion was a fail, I would at least turn it into an experiment. (This is the part where I kick myself in the butt b/c I didn't take pictures, only recorded the data). I began mixing with the stick blender and I mixed for a good five minutes, even though it was still curdled. It began to look a little less curdled and I then popped the measuring cup in the refrigerator, wondering if I cooled the ingredients rapidly, if I could get them to mix better (why was an experiment at that point!) After about 5 minutes I pull it back out and mix some more. I ended up mixing this stuff for about 10 more minutes and to my surprise, it became a cream. I was so ecstatic, I whipped a little more and stuck it back into the fridge for about ten minutes, wondering if it would separate (I don't usually pop my creams or lotions into the fridge; I let them sit out to cool fully before packaging.) I pull it out and it's still together. I mix another few minutes and throw it into three mason jars, assuming it's too good to be true. I then pulled out all the ingredients and started over. This time, being patient and that recipe worked just fine.


Anonymous said...

Do you know that was ten months ago and that cream is still together and just as great as it was the day I performed magic?! The preservative I was using was a blend of leucidal SF, Sodium Benz, GDL, and Pot. Sorbate. There's absolutely no separation, no microbial growth and my husband swears it's his favorite cream! SO CRAZY. Since I didn't record the pics and precise data (Exact times in fridge, mixing times, etc.) I was hesitant to share my findings. however, I figured since you're on holiday, and I saw this post, perhaps you could create a lotion fail by adding these (or different) preservatives to a ritamulse/sugarmulse cream above the 112F. After you curdle it, mix like crazy while alternating fridge time (I'll try to find my notes from last year if you really want to do this so I can give you the data I recorded.)

You may be shaking your head right now, and that's understandable and I hope I didn't waste your time. I just thought this was interesting. I'd never had a lotion fail and was tempted to pitch the stuff at the first sign of curdling, but I'm so glad I didn't. I'm sure if it was a catatonic/anionic ingredient clash, there would have been no help for it. However, I think, when the curdling occurs due to preservative, there's a chance to salvage it. I've also wanted to recreate the situation, but again, I can't stand the idea of wasting. Of course, if we learn something it's not a waste. Since you teach so many great classes, I thought it might also be a fun lesson! Who knows, maybe this 'fail' will save a future 'fail'! Okay, I'm going to stop typing now. Wish I could edit this real quick, but my daughter is 'starving' and I've gotta run! Look forward to hearing what you think! - Sara

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan!

that happened to me when I used too much aloe vera. And also almost every time I used OliveM, if I ma correct (oliveM=Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate).

I am not sure if this was caused by too little emulsifier, though, I will need to look at the formula again.

HOWEVER, if I keep mixing and mixing and mixing, there is a point where the structure just "breaks" down and it becomes liquid again and then a proper emulsion is formed. I have thrown 2 consecutive "failed" batches until I decided to keep mixing and the emulsion formed.

I can't explain what happened - all I know is that the emulsion did not break down afterwards... L)