Saturday, November 9, 2013

Weekend Wonderings: Sucragel, lecithin, and xanthan gum? Lotion bars without wax? How to mix 100 gram batches? Using meadowfoam seed oil neat!

It's a long weekend around these parts - November 11th is a statutory holiday, so I'm off work - so I have time to answer more comments than usual! Let's take a look at some quick questions and answers!

In this post, Chemistry Thursday: Solubilizers and emulsifiers redux, Sue asks: This is a great site - really useful. I am trying to make a natural emulsifier that also thickens. Cetyl alcohol is no good for my skin. I was thinking of using sucragel and xanthan gum. Also, I noticed on miessence site that they have used soy lecithin, xanthan gum and another gum (but no emulsifier, so I am assuming these are their emulsifiers). Looking at soy lecithin, there are many sites where you can buy it in health food shops - is this the same type used for cosmetics? 

Let's review what you have. You have Sucragel, which is an all-in-one emulsifier. You have soy lecithin, which is a low HLB emulsifier. And you have gums, which are thickeners are not emulsifiers. neither of which are emulsifiers, but they are thickeners. You can make a lotion with Sucragel AOF alone, but not with the other ingredients alone.

If you have Sucragel AOF, you don't have to go to all this trouble. It's an all-in-one emulsifier that will turn your water and vegetable oils into a lotion. A thin lotion, which is why you want to use a thickener, I think, but a lotion nonetheless. Just read a few of the recipes I've written below to find one that you might like.

Related posts:
A light lotion using Sucragel AOF
Sucragel AOF - a heated recipe
Sucragel AOF - more complicated recipes
Sucragel AOF - facial moisturizer recipe

The quick answer is that you can use lecithin from the health food store as as an emollient, but not as an emulsifier. Lecithin isn't the same from shop to shop and supplier to supplier because you can get it from a number of different sources like eggs or soy beans. It can have an HLB value of 4 or 7 depending upon the way it's processed, and a lot of our suppliers don't have that information, so it seems unlikely the health food store would have it. To use it as an emulsifier, you have to combine it with a high HLB value emulsifier like ceteareth-20 or polysorbate 80 to create an all-in-one emulsifier.

You cannot use it on its own without a co-emulsifier to create something that will emulsify. The way we see lecithin used by homecrafters who post tutorials on YouTube or Pinterest isn't the way it's necessarily supposed to be used.

And note that you will have a browny-yellowy coloured lotion if you use lecithin! 

Related posts:
HLB system - an introduction
LabRat's amazing HLB system tutorial (PDF, not on this blog)

Gums aren't emulsifiers, they're thickeners. They won't do anything to emulsify a product. Xanthan gum at 0.1% to 0.3% is supposed to be a good thickener of products, but I've found I needed 1.5% to 2% in my Sucragel AOF lotions to make a difference. Combining your gum with anything won't create an emulsifier as they aren't emulsifiers. Emulsifiers need to have a specific chemical make-up with a hydrophilic head and a lipophilic tail, and xanthan gum does not have these features.

Related posts:
Chemistry Thursdays: Solubilizers and emulsifiers redux

To summarize: You can make lotions with just the Sucragel AOF. You cannot make it with lecithin alone - it requires a high HLB emulsifier to work with it. And you cannot emulsify with xanthan gum in any way as it's a thickener.

In this post on lotion bars: tweaking the waxes, Brian asks: My girlfriend and I are planning to start making our own lotion bars to replace the expensive Lush massage bars we've been enjoying lately. We've been quite happy with their consistency, and we notice that their ingredients tend to omit wax, containing only butters, "perfume", and essential oil. Will cocoa and shea butter mixed normally produce a usable bar? Or does this require some more complicated process?

I'm going to be honest when I say the ingredient lists from Lush products often bewilder and baffle me as they seem to leave some things out or claim that things like cetyl alcohol are the emulsifiers. In the case of lotion bars, the ingredient list seems basic but lacking in wax, as you mention.

From the Bewitched Lime & Floral Oil Bar: Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Lime Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Chamomile Blue Oil, Violet Leaf Absolute, *Citral, *Geraniol, *Limonene, Perfume

What's important in this list? The cocoa butter, the shea butter, the jojoba oil, and the extra virgin coconut oil. The lime, chamomile, and violet leaf are fragrance components or used in such small amounts, they're not relevant for our needs.

So can you make a massage bar that will remain hard until use from this ingredient list? Definitely! You're using a ton of cocoa butter that melts when you put it on your skin, and I'd use that as the main ingredient. The shea butter, jojoba, and coconut oil should be used in small amounts. You'll have to play with the amounts, but I'd start at 60% cocoa butter and work my way down from there.

Why do we use wax in our products, then? Because it offers a more plastic kind of hardness. I don't mean plastic as in the stuff that you can't get open when you've bought new headphones kind of plastic. I mean a more bendy kind of feeling than you would get with cocoa butter alone. I love cocoa butter, but you couldn't use it right out of the container because it's so freakin' hard!

Can I make a suggestion? Babassu oil! This stuff melts on your skin on contact and it feels really divine. Use it as one of the liquid oils with the cocoa butter and you'll see why I suggest it!

In the post, How big a batch do you make for your first version of a product? Tara asks: How to do you effectively mix a batch as small as 100g? With my immersion blender, I find it hard to mix any batch under 400g.

I find the right container is vital for making small batches. I like these containers from Lotioncrafter or my beakers, something that is taller than it is wide. I tend to use my hand mixer for everything because I find stick blenders are a pain in the bum to clean, and I find just one beater on the mixer is more than enough! (But you could easily use a stick blender.) If it's a surfactant or foamy product, I use a fork or a spoon to mix it - no mixers!

I definitely suggest getting some 250 ml Pyrex jugs for your workshop. Just make sure you get the ones with the straight walls! (Drop tons of suggestions that you want these for Christmas and your friends will get you tons!)

In this post on meadowfoam seed oil, Beth notes: Wow - I love Meadowfoam Seed Oil neat. Tried it 2 days in a row now. I am revisiting the formulating body oil spray section and the amazing section on your blog regarding the skin fee of oils.  I remember you encouraging your readers to try oils neat and for me this has been extremely valuable information because its the only way I can determine if I really like a particular oil. Going to try making an oil spray using this oil and Fractionated Coconut Oil see how that works.

I know, right? Think of all the information you gathered from using the oil neat. You can see how thick it is in the bottle, how thick it feels on your skin, how greasy or dry it feels, how long you can play with it before it starts to feel like it's disappearing, how shiny it is on your hands, arms, nails, and so on. You can figure out whether it compares to something else you have. So much information you can gather just from a few minutes spent with your oil.

Just make sure the ingredient can be used neat. Oils and butters, yes. Essential and fragrance oils, no. Most esters and other emollients like lecithin, yes. And so on!

Join me tomorrow for more Weekend Wonderings!


Robert said...

I found lecithin to be difficult to preserve in a cream formulation. Many years ago I made a skin protecting cream with 2% lecithin and 1% Germaben II did not provide suffient preservative protection.

melian1 said...

i found a cordless mini mixer for about $5 or $6 that does the job for me. it is very small and mixes 100gr easily, tho you have to watch that it puts in too much air.
is the link to it.

the problem i have with such tiny batches is weighing them. i have got a .00 gram scale, but at that size, a 1/10 gram matters. and a lot of stuff is hard to get that close. one little dot of ewax, for instance, can change the weight from .1 to .5 or more. and at that size batch, it would alter the actual percentage.

i guess i'm in a love-hate relationship with 100gr batches, lol.

01ladyace said...

I'm not sure if you are reading these anymore but your blog has been a HUGE help to me as I am making my lotion and massage bars for the first time, so thank you!!! The one problem I am having is with my massage bars (really hope you get this!) been struggling for days. I want to make a Lush inspired massage bar that comes out light and doesn't melt to the touch like theirs. I played with the wax even melted down a Lush bar to see what was in it and it seems like there is some kind of powder that makes it have to be "massaged" before it melts, but doesn't seem like wax. Almost like baby powder. Do you know the ingredient? It's driving me crazy!! I can't find an exact ingredient list (your blog is the closest I got, all so helpful) but what am I doing wrong? Too high of heat? Not enough wax? But Lush doesn't even use wax! So what is this magical ingredient that makes their bar so much lighter and not melt? Really appreciate your help, it's getting closer to Christmas and I'm spending too much time trying to get it right my bars won't be ready in time! Thanks, Adrienne.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ladyace. I'm sorry, but what you've written is really confusing. You say that their bar melts to the touch, then you say it deoesn't melt. I looked at the ingredient list and it's three things - cocoa butter, shea butter, and sometimes and oil - then a bunch of fragrances. I saw a reference to cocoa powder. So their bar is cocoa butter, shea butter, and an oil, that's it, it seems.

I'm afraid I can't be more helpful without more information, like a link to the specific bar.