Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Wonderings: Substitutions for comedogenic ingredients? And share your knowledge about Vitamin C esters!

In this post on oil free moisturizers, Elysia asks: Cetyl Alcohol is moderately comedogenic and the key ingredient in Germall - Propylene Glycol - is extremely comedogenic. Do you have suggestions for a acne-safe alternatives to these ingredients?I have very sensitive, acne-prone skin so I have to be really careful with what I put on my skin.

Is cetyl alcohol that comedogenic? I ask the question because there is some debate about whether the comedogenicity scale is valid for a number of reasons. (Click here for that post...This study shows cetyl alcohol as a 2, which is mildly comedogenic, and propylene glycol as a 0, which would be non-comedogenic. 

How to substitute something less comedogenic in a recipe? I guess the answer to that is to choose a few things that might be a good substitute - behenyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearic acid to name a few possibilities - and look up the comedogenicity ratings at a site you trust. Then use that instead. But remember, there can be interactions between ingredients that make things more or less comedogenic, so think about that as well. Or just make the product see how your skin reacts. It's amazing what some people can handle - like shea butter neat on the face - and what others can't.

As an aside, consider this when asking about something like liquid Germall Plus - how much propylene glycol do you find in 0.5 grams of this ingredient? Then consider how much you will on your skin. 5 ml or 1 teaspoon? Less or more? If we said you used 5 grams per application, then you're using 0.025 grams of liquid Germall Plus on your skin per application, which means a tiny bit of propylene glycol reaches your skin. If we were dealing with a comedogenic ingredient, would this be enough to bother your skin? I don't know the answer to that question, but it is one to consider when choosing ingredients.

In the post on Vitamin C, Nicole asks: In trying to chose which ester to use in a lotion that I am creating to (hopefully) help with hyperpigmentation, I came across some information that said that the oil soluble esters display greater antioxidant activity and can more easily penetrate the skin. Thoughts? Also, I found a supplier that sells "Ethyl Ascorbic Acid", described as water and oil soluble and as "working on all three levels of skin lightening". I have not been able to find much information on this ester. So apart from the solubility questions, are all esters created equal? Or do some offer better activity in terms of oxidative stress or melanin inhibition, for example?

I'm not an expert on Vitamin C, so I'm throwing this one out to you, my wonderful readers. Can any of you offer some advice or share your experiences with Nicole?

I'm still catching up on your comments and e-mail, so join me tomorrow for more interesting stuff! 


Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

I remember reading that l-ascorbic acid is the most effective, but it oxidizes easily and needs to work at a pH of 3-3.5. the next potent form of vit C is tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate,as I remember, the next one wouls be Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate and the third one l-Ascorbyl palmitate. I do not remember where I read this, but it may come from Truth in aging or perhaps Paula's choice articles on VIT C? I am puzzled.

I use l-ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and ascorbyl palmitate (I find is hard to work with).

I also have sodium ascorbyl phosphate (water soluble like MAP and l-ascorbic acid, the other 2 are oil soluble), but I managed to destabilize my formula when I added it (I think the pH was too high) so I stopped using it... maybe I should use it in a water based serum and not in an emulsion!

ultraconfused said...

First, I want to thank you for making all of your knowledge public and understandable for people like me who don't quite get the technical side of things. I'm just starting out and was sticking to blogs based on all natural products, but once I started looking through yours (and I've spent many, many hours doing so the past few weeks) I realized that your methods sound much less likely to induce some sort of awful skin reaction or infection. So, thank you!

I'm sorry to bring up an old topic, though I've looked through all of the beeswax-related pages and didn't quite find what I'm looking for. I realized that I have the ingredients to try and make a copycat of one of my favorite products (Lush's Ultrabland--the main ingredients are almond oil, rose water, and beeswax), but there is no emulsifier listed, and no borax. I've looked up all of the ingredients just to be sure there isn't some rare use for them, but the rest are just extracts, humectants, preservatives, and other not-emulsifiers. I've had my current stash of the product for a good 6+ months with no separation, and I'm wondering if you had any idea how that could be? I'll fiddle around with ratios and using or not using an emulsifier, but my very limited understanding of chemistry has me stumped with this.

Would the product eventually separate despite its current state, and it's created in such a way that most people would go through the full product before separation occurred? Or is it likely that Lush just didn't list whatever emulsifier they used? Or is it some secret magic that mere homecrafters will never understand...?

Sorry this is so long, and I understand you may not be able to get to this probably boring question. I'll continue to search around, and if I happen to stumble my way into a good formulation I'll leave another comment. Thanks again for your wonderful blog!

Crazy cavy lady's blogg said...

Ultrabland is a classical coldcream. There are no emulsifier in those creams. It means you have to whisk like crazy until it is completely cool when youre making it.

Robert said...

I use sodium ascorbyl phosphate (along with other ingredients) in several skin brightening products. It took much experimentation and testing to come up with a stable lotion and cream formula.

ocean_desert_tribe said...

to ultraconfused,i checked the ingredients online from their web and it says cera alba which is a beeswax that has fatty acids removed making it capable combining oil and water.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'll write more about this on Sunday, but cera alba is just regular beeswax, and we know beeswax isn't an emulsifier. (Cera Bellina is the fancy beeswax you mention. Look for the post on the blog for more information.) Cold creams do need an emulsifier, but it tends to be beeswax and borax together, and we don't see borax in this recipe. Is it a mystery or could Lush simply leave out ingredients? Hmm.....

Sandra said...

Hi Susan! I just recently started formulating cosmetics and I am quite newbie so far. I have found your blog to be really interested, and today I found some info that I have to ask you about.

On my first supply order I bought a big bottle (1 l) och grapeseed oil and 500ml of hemp seed oil. I wasn't aware of the short life span of these oils, and now I have poured 1% vitamin E into them and put them inside the fridge. I just wonder if there is anything I could formulate in order to extend the shelf life of the oils, maybe if I turn them into a solid product of some sort? Do you have any good recipes or tips? I happen to carry Optiphen by the way, in case that would help. I'd just hate to think that both bottles will go to waste if I don't use them up soon.

Thanks a lot!

Kelli Spears said...

To ultraconfused, I found more than 3 websites that list Sodium Borate in the ingredient list, which is Borax.
You might consider duplicating this using a different emulsifier instead of the Beeswax/Borax method. There are many great emulsifiers that would give you great results without the complications of figuring out the correct ratio of Beeswax to Borax.
Just a suggestion and I hope it helps you out.

notsoconfused said...

Thank you, everyone, for your advice! My container doesn't have it listed, but I bought it outside of the States so maybe labeling requirements aren't as strict there.

Elysia said...

Hi Susan! Thanks so much for choosing my question to feature :) The propylene glycol comment was my mistake - apparently propylene glycol monostearate is highly comedogenic but regular PG is not. I also asked a very successful Etsy skincare seller about the comedogenicy (did I just make up a word? Lol) of cetyl alcohol and she said since it is mild it would depend on the concentration. So if you're not using much in your formula then it's probably ok.
Question: I'm trying to enhance my face moisturization routine in a simple way without purchasing or making a complete moisturizer. The toner I use (Pevonia Sensitive Skin Lotion) has lots of hydrating ingredients: glycerin, flower extracts, panthenol, aloe, sodium pca, etc. Then I apply a hyaluronic acid serum (which also contains glycerin). Any suggestions for an OIL-FREE way to seal in the moisture and create a nice pre-makeup surface? The cheaper & simpler the better.
Thanks so much!!!

Tracy said...


Linus Pauling institute says the ascorbic palmitate ester is not very effective and one study showed "some toxic effects." The linked references are interesting, including one that added phloretin. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan

I use Ascorbyl Palmitate in a B.A.C.& E. (vitamins) Cocoa Butter Cream I make for myself and friends.

Having read varying opinions - and equally varying (and confusing) scientific studies on the skin benefits of topical applications of Ascorbyl Palmitate vs L-Ascorbic Acid - I chose the 'oh, what the heck' attitude and went for the Palmitate version, simply because it's physically impossible for me to make fresh batches of L-Ascorbic Acid in serum form for everyone, every day.

Personally, I THINK I'm seeing clearer, brighter, smoother, healthier skin on myself after using this for a few months now, but it may only be a psychological effect simply because of my own expectations of the benefits and results of any form of Vitamin C used topically.

I can, however, definitely say that a couple of sneaky little age spots that appeared on the back of one of my way-too-young hands, has vanished entirely.

Was it the Ascorbyl Palmitate? Was it the dl-panthenol? Was it the T90 Tocopherol? Was it the Beta-Carotene? Was it the organic cocoa butter? Or was it the combination of everything?

I have absolutely no idea.

My only 'niggle', though, is that I do find that creams in general (whether mine or commercial varieties), particularly in summer or heated office environments, make my skin feel a bit sweaty and clammy and I've found that - for me and a couple of friends - it comes down to creams in general being the culprit due to the emulsifiers creating the feeling of a waxy 'blanket' over the skin.

To remedy this, I only use the cream on my hands, and an anhydrous blend with Ascorbyl Palmitate and T90 Tocopherol during the summer months on my face and the rest of my body - no sweaty, clammy, skin - and it absorbs beautifully. Interestingly, friends have also found relief with this anhydrous blend from that 'clammy' feel that creams seem to create.

Not sure if that helps anyone, but thought I'd add my two cents' worth :)