Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekend Wonderings: Adding the oil phase to the water phase in a stream? Can I use a solubilizer to mix salicylic acid into water? Should aloe vera have bits floating in it? And how can some companies not use preservatives?

In this post on pumpkin seed oil, eeting asks: After heat and hold, does it matter how quickly u add the water phase to the oil phase? It is recommended with Polawax that the liquid be added in a slow steady stream. But I noticed that in your video tutorial that you simply emptied all of the water phase into the oil phase at once then mixed away. Is your method applicable to most emulsifying systems? (eg ecomulse, e-was NF, BTMS, sugarmulse)? Does adding the water phase quickly give us a more stable emulsion? 

For the most part, it doesn't matter. If I recall correctly, Sucragel AOF has a specific instruction to do it in a thin stream, but this is a cold process emulsifier that has all kinds of crazy restrictions and specifications that no other emulsifier has! I've had exactly one separation with Polawax, and that was about the temperature of the water, not about adding the ingredients (but anecdotes aren't data, so if you're worried about it, add it in a steady stream while mixing).

Related posts: Creating products: Combining the two phases

In this Weekend Wondering post, Robyn asks: A question regarding salicylic acid. Since it is oil soluble do you think I could mix it with polysorbate 80 before adding it to aloe juice? I know I could just use aspen bark or willow bark instead but was just wondering if this would work.

Salicylic acid isn't oil soluble, it's water or alcohol soluble, although it's way more alcohol soluble than it is water soluble. You could add it to aloe liquid, but only a bit as its water solubility is really quite low, you'll want to keep the amount of saliyclic acid low or add some alcohol to the mix.

You can't use polysorbate 80 to incorporate salicylic acid into your aloe vera because it's intended to help oil soluble things incorporate into water soluble things, not to help things that have low solublity become more soluble. It's an interesting idea, but one that won't work, unfortunately.

Related post:
Weekend Wondering: Using salicylic acid...
Why do we care about mixing and solubility?
Why oil and water don't mix or more about solubility

May I pause for a moment? I cannot stress enough the importance of researching your ingredients before using them. I see assumptions about the solubility of something all the time, and it can lead you to include things in the wrong phase or use things in products that can't handle them. Please take a few minutes to check on an ingredient if you're in doubt - do a search here on my blog, look at the links to ingredients list, or do a search on line. I've also seen that coconut oil mixes with water because it's polar - it's only slightly polar compared to other oils, but it's not water soluble - and that glycerin is oil soluble. These things would be cleared up in a few minutes of searching on-line!

In this post on aloe vera, Artemis writes: I was wondering what aloe vera juice should look like because I've just bought some and it has some kind of cloudy sediment-like stuff just above the bottom. It is preserved and doesn't smell off (although I can't really detect much of a smell), so I'm not sure whether it's mouldy or if it's normal for aloe vera juice to have cloudy bits in it. Thanks! 

Aloe vera liquid can have all kinds of different ways of appearing, so having some cloudy bits seems normal to me. I would start to worry based on the colour of the sediment. If you have a greenish coloured product and you have brown bits, I'd start to worry. I bought one once that was green in colour and had bits at the bottom, and in two weeks after opening, it had gone off and had brown sheets of goo floating in the bottom. Make sure that product is preserved. If it isn't, preserve it!

Anyone else have experience with aloe vera? Can you share?

In the same Weekend Wondering post, Jodi notes: Thank you for continually posting about the proper use and importance of preservatives! My friend just showed me a high-end spa “Lotion” she purchased a few months ago. It had separated, was lumpy and did not look appealing. I read the ingredients and found no preservatives. The ingredients are typical of what we would use, e.g., aloe juice, shea butter, emulsifying wax, vitamin E and essential oils, to name a few. No mention of preservatives.

I was hoping that the preservatives were added at less than 1% - until a visit to the website confirmed otherwise. This is what is written: “…I make small quantities and use only the freshest ingredients... No chemical preservatives are used in any of the products I create...“ No preservatives! How can people remain in business when they don’t seem to fully understand the ingredients and chemistry?

I think because people buy into it. Consumers see "no chemical preservatives" and think this is a good thing, when they don't realize they're buying products that have a shelf life of a week if they're lucky, and is likely contaminated when it arrives at their home.

Do a search for a brand that claims not to use preservatives - or claims to use things that aren't preservatives like Vitamin E or grapefruit seed extract or rosemary essential oil or any other essential oil - and you'll see recall after recall of their contaminated products.

And as an aside, a lot of companies hide their preservatives under "parfum" or by using the botanical name for the natural preservative, like Japanese honeysuckle, which is a naturally occurring paraben! Take a look to see which of the companies that claim not to use "chemical preservatives" are using honeysuckle! You will be completely surprised! (Look at anything by 100% Pure, which is an interesting study in how to market your products by saying what's not in them but not really telling you everything about what's in them!) 

As a secondary aside, there is no such thing as "no chemical preservatives" because everything on earth is a chemical as the word chemical means "something composed of elements", and everything on earth is a chemical. What they want to say is no synthetic preservatives. Well, that honeysuckle isn't added in flower form, so it had to have been processed in some way, which means that it isn't unprocessed. Methinks it might be considered synthetic with all the changes it had to go through to get to the point where you could add it as a clear liquid to your product! 

Related links:
Badger's baby sunscreen recalled due to contamination with three types of bacteria
Arbonne recalls men's moisturizer
100% pure eye shadow recall

I want to point out that companies that use preservatives can have recalls as well and using a preservative in your product doesn't mean you won't get contamination because preservatives can only handle so much before the bacteria or yeast take over, but we really should be doing all we can to prevent it. You cannot make your workshop or equipment sterile enough to engage in something like hurdle technology at home. You will have something on a spoon or in the air or in your jug or something that can cause contamination and you will get some kind of beastie living in your product.

Your product "isn't just for you". I hear that people aren't using preservatives because "it's just for me". Why do you want to slather bacteria and yeast on your body? Why is it okay to ignore good manufacturing processes because you're the only one planning to use it? Does this mean you aren't worthy of a well made, quality, uncontaminated product?

Okay, I better stop now because I have biology homework to complete and an exam for which I need to study, or I might go on all day about this topic!


Alexis said...

Can't resist...It's 100% Pure B.S. to not use a real preservative!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your reply susan :) I'm truly learning so much from you.

Just wanted to share my experience on aloe vera juice with are not quite alone. I say that because! I don't get the cloudy bits but the aloe juice I buy (also preserved) has little brown bits floating collecting at the bottom of the bottle. It does not smell off..but I'm noticing that the brown bits increase with time. So I just use the top part of the aloe juice that is free of the suspicious looking brown bits. Cant be sure I'm doing the right thing though or I should have thrown the bottle out! Hope to hear from others to get some conclusion on this!

robyn m said...

HAHAHA!!!!! I made Weekend Wonderings!!!! LOL. Anyhoo, just wanted to say thanks for clarifying that for me.

Beth said...

Wow! Thanks for the great post on the Japanese Honeysuckle! I'm not one of the 'no paraben' philosophy people. I haven't found my skin having any bad reactions to it - and my skin is pretty damn fickle! So, fortunately it isn't too much shock! horror! to find it in my favorite foundation... However, so many retailers 'pride' themselves on not stocking or selling anything with parabens - that it comes as little surprise that companies will start calling their preservatives by other names... I think there is just too much hype over the issue. (as an aside wondering - if deodorants cause breast cancer, why don't we see a greater frequency of it in men? Surely they use the stronger stuff...) But I actually have a better question, about that fav foundation of mine - here're the ingredients Where is the Emulsifying agent? Can it really be held together by rice starch and candilla wax? What do you think?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Alexis! Nice one!

Hi Eeting. I think it's gone bad and using the top bit isn't going to be okay. I think you need to throw out this bottle.

Hi Robyn! Glad to help!

Hi Beth! I've just posted a link to an analysis of the discredited paraben study, if you're interested. To answer your question - no, it can't stay together like that. They aren't telling the truth on their labelling. I've seen this from this company before.

Artemis said...

Thank you very much for your reply Susan! Since asking about the aloe vera juice, I checked it again to discover that it had grown a massive blob of furry mould in the bottom, so it looks like the initial browny bits were mould after all! I emailed the company I bought it from and they've apologised and refunded me but it's weird that it went off because it (supposedly) had preservatives in it and I've only had it about a month.

A KK said...

That was an interesting discussion. I don't know if you are aware or not about the new formulation of going preservative free with some of the Lush products.
They claim to have come up with "self perserving lotions"

I looked at their UK site for more info and they state that:

Of course, it’s not practical to sell only solid products, which is why we have continued to use synthetic preservatives in our creams and lotions. However, we’ve now found a way to keep the amount of ‘free water’ – which is the water that’s left over once the chemical reactions have taken place – to a minimum, meaning that even our moisturisers can become entirely self-preserving. “We’ve now developed a set of formulation parameters that have allowed us to develop a range of self-preserving systems,” says Daniel. “By balancing the levels of water, butters and oils, safe cleansing agents and other beautiful natural materials we can create cosmetics where all the materials used are there for the benefit of the skin or hair. The dynamics of the formula are carefully balanced in order to produce a beautiful product that is effective, practical and long-lasting, without having to utilise a preservative system.”
Taken from

I would like to know what your thoughts are on this new innovation and what an impact it will have on the cosmetic industry?

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

I have been voraciously devouring your blog as I am preparing to launch a small business selling handcrafted skincare products. Thank you for the wealth of knowledge you share!

I am wondering if you can shed any light on Aura Cacia's lack of preservatives in their mists. The only ingredients listed are water and essential oils. I even called the company, incredulous, and the representative insisted that the mists contained no preservatives as the essential oils were stable even in water, and that the products had a shelf life of 24 months! From what I understand, even if the containers were sterilized and the water distilled, one of those claims must be false. Do you know which one?

Thank you,


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I just looked them up. Hmm, they aren't even emulsifying the essential oils in the water? Wow. I wouldn't trust a product that contained water and no preservatives or oil and no emulsifier. I wouldn't trust anything without a preservative for 2 years! Heck, I don't trust products with preservatives for more than a year! What is false? I don't really know because it all sounds fishy to me...

Nancy said...

Hi Susan,
I came across a lotion called BOOMSILK that contains: Purified water, organic extra virgin olive oil, beeswax with propolis and pollen, raw Pupekea wildflower honey, and d-alpha Vit E (no soy). There is no preservative. How can they sell this?? Here's the website link: Wouldn't the combo of water, oil, honey and beeswax make this product subject to contamination?
Love your blog! I tried finding a relevant (though old) post to add my question!