Saturday, November 30, 2013

Weekend Wonderings: Preserving difficult to preserve products. Adding beeswax to any lotion recipe.

Is it really November 30th? It really is starting to smell and look at a lot like Christmas, eh? Michael's smells like a Christmas cake bomb just went off in the middle of the store, and it gives me such a headache! (Which is saying a lot because I'm not scent sensitive and I love love love cinnamon and nutmeg!) My mom has finished up the Christmas cake and pudding - a little late, but that's my fault for not being available to make it with her - and we've received the first of our Christmas cards! 26 days to go!

A happy late Thanksgiving to my American readers, and Happy Hannukkah to our Jewish friends!

In this post on minimally processed ingredients, Ali asks: I made a facial scrub a while ago, combining powdered milk, ground oats, powdered rose petals and powdered sandalwood (very fine). My idea was to mix it with rose water on the spot and apply it as a face mask or simply rub it as a scrub. Since I left it in my bathroom to apply it during my showers, it did get some water in it.. And… got very moldy… I actually kept using it for a while, because it made my skin feel so amazing every time, like there was some kind of chemical process going on in that mixture that got "oilier" and left my skin feeling sooo soft and bright. It smelled like blue cheese at the end so I guessed it was time to let it go, despite the amazing effects it was having on my skin! SO…my question is: What happened in there? Was it an extremely unsafe thing to do? AND: I'd like to give this magic mix to my friends for christmas, but I wouldn't like them getting the cheesy part of it.. Are there any very safe preservatives I could add to it? or should I just explain that NO WATER should get in the mixture? 

What you did was astoundingly unsafe, and I would be hesitate to recommend that you share this recipe with friends and family as they might end up in the same place. When we're using botanical or natural ingredients like milk and oats and roses, we need to preserve the product very well or keep it away from water. Every time you dip your hand into that container, you're adding more fuel to the bug filled fire, contaminating it even further. You can add a very good preservative like Germaben II at its full strength, but I'm loathe to suggest that given what happened the first time you made it.

If you really want to make this again, get yourself individual packages and store them that way with instructions to use only dry hands with the product and to use each package once and once only. Tell your friends and family your tale of blue cheese skin scrub and remind them not to get any water in the packages. But remember, I hesitate to suggest this to you as it sounds like a really bad idea.

Please please please, dear and gentle readers, when something has mold or growth in it, throw it away. Do not continue to use the product. Trust your nose and your eyes and get rid of it. I shudder to think what could happen if we spread these products on our skin or near our eyes, nose, or mouth. Gah!

So what can we do to preserve difficult to preserve products? The first thing I'd do is use a broad spectrum preservative designed for high levels of botanicals - something like Germaben II - and add a secondary preservative at a lower level. The second thing I'd do is consider the container in which I was storing said product. Different packages offer different levels protection, and you could pick something where you dispense the product instead of dipping your wet hands into it. Or consider single use containers, like baggies or vacuum sealed bags. Finally, consider your product. Some products seem really awesome, but end up being impractical or just plain gross after a while.

In this post on zinc oxide cream, erinwray2 asks: This evening I made a lotion as well with humectants (honey and glycerin in the water phase) I really like your recipe it worked out great. Now I'm trying to make up my own recipe to help my daughter with her eczema. I found some findings at a university experiment that beeswax, raw honey, olive oil/ or coconut oil mixed together helped heal eczema suffers. So I made up a bunch for her to test out and it works wonders! better than the medicated stuff I spent $100 on. Now my question for you is do you have any posts on adding beeswax to lotions? I saw that it can be added as a thickener right? But wouldn't know how to add it to a recipe. I like the 'modified first lotion recipe with humectants because I use the raw honey in that and then the oils in the oil phase. So I just need to add my beeswax but don't know where to start. Any suggestions on a post. Thanks again!!

Thanks for your kind words on the recipe. (I encourage everyone to offer feedback on any recipes you try from this blog so I can make changes or promote those to others!)

Beeswax can be a great addition to a lotion to make it more tenacious after washing or just after a long day of being on your skin, but it can feel a bit more waxy than we'd like at over 3% (just my opinion), so I'd stay at or below that level. Remove up to 3% from any of your oils and butters and add the beeswax. 

6% Polawax
11% liquid oils
10% butter
3% cetyl alcohol

Remove 3% from the butters - that would be my suggestion - or even remove the cetyl alcohol if you feel it's too thick when the lotion cools. 

6% Polawax
11% liquid oils
7% butter
3% cetyl alcohol
3% beeswax 

It really is that simple! Let us know how it turns out! 

In this post on heating and holding equipment, Lynda asks: I see in the photo above you are using what looks like light weight polypropylene beakers. How do you keep them from floating to the top? I tried using them in a pan full of water with a wire rack on the bottom. I placed them on the wire rack and they floated and careened to the top of the water. I had to balance a plate on top of them to weigh them down. I got away with it, but I worried about the effects of condensation. I made a 100 gram (total) batch, so my ingredient didn't weigh a lot. 

I am using lightweight plastic beakers I bought at Lotioncrafter, but sometimes I use lightweight plastic jugs, and the key is to put more than a few grams in the container and not to have a ton of water in the double boiler. If you take a look at the picture, you can see there's a decent amount of each phase in the container - if I remember correctly, there should be at least 100 grams in each container, minimum - and I don't have a lot of water. I will remove water until the containers don't float. As well, don't have the water boiling or roiling in any way or it will destabilize the containers. 

In the same post, Dan asks: I see in one of your posts you mention using a metal rack and that sometimes you forget to use it. What is the metal rack that you use on the bottom of your Fondue Pot?

I have to admit that I don't use the metal rack that often. Generally only when I've got one container and I'm heating it up quite high. I had a Pyrex jug shatter from being on the heat shortly after I started making products as I didn't realize it had a little crack in it, and I made a point of using the rack a lot after that. But I'm getting lazy and complacent as time goes on...

I have a rack that you could get at the dollar store or a kitchen store with little feet on it. It's intended to go on the bottom of a pot when you're canning. (I would put a picture of mine, but I have no idea where it is and the workshop is a mess from all the craft groups I've been doing lately!) Here's a nice DIY version of a rack! 

Join me tomorrow as we continue taking a look at the comments and questions you've had on the blog over the last few weeks! 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip on the rack! It means you can custom make for your pan size. I have always made small batches and just hung the pyrex jug over the handle of my frying pan, so the base doesn't actually touch the bottom. I guess you could also make the rack out of those metal egg rings and tie them together. Rachel.

Elise said...

I love your blog as you have so much great information. Your posts about preservatives have helped alot! :)

Would a combination of Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben & Propylparaben be a 'broad spectrum preservative'?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Elise! Yep, they're broad spectrum!

Karen Sanders said...

About a rack for the double boiler: I spent much time trying to find a rack that would fit my pan but couldn't find one. I finally just took a length of aluminum foil and squished it up in a long snake-like rope and bent it in an S pattern that would fit in the bottom of the pan. Works great, reusable and cheap.
- Karen

Beth said...

I actually screamed in horror internally as I pictured the moldy scrub ... and then the blue cheese smell ... O.O !!! However, what DID bowl me out was that the person using it reported POSITIVE results... I think we can all be very happy that it didn't turn out to be a flesh eating bacteria (check Wikipedia on that if you have a strong stomach) that grew in there. But why the positive effect? I am guessing, only guessing, that just perhaps, in stead of the flesh eating necrotic kind of bacteria or spore, PROBIOTICS happened to develop in there ... like in yogurt. Probiotics are reported to have a positive topical effect, so perhaps that could explain it. However, I think if probiotics are what you are after, applying fresh mold free yogurt (kept in the fridge and thrown out by due date)as a mask might have that same glowing effect - only safer. Maybe just mix some of the rose petals, sandalwood and oats (kept dry and separate) with a tablespoon of yogurt before application, leave on and rinse.