Monday, March 17, 2014

Reading ingredient lists: The 1% or miscellaneous category

I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at ingredient lists again for a moment to get an idea of where the miscellaneous category begins. 

When we're analyzing an ingredient list, it helps to know where the 1% section of the list comes in so we can figure out where they have used small amounts of something. For instance, when we see preservatives or fragrance, we know we're probably in the 1% zone, meaning that anything around those ingredients are likely to be used at 1% or lower. 

In this list, I know that methylparaben isn't used at more than 1%, so it's safe to say that everything after that will be at 1% or less (and I can confirm this knowing that we wouldn't use EDTA, propylparaben, or sodium hydroxide in a lotion at more than 1%). Does that mean that the stearic acid is used at more than 1%? We can't really be sure. We can use stearic acid at 1% or we could use it at 5% and use it safely at those levels. What about the imperata cylindrica root extract (cogon grass), which is supposed to be a good humectant? The Formulator Sample Shop recommends that it's used at 1% to 10% (link here), so it could be at 1% or higher or lower. Glyceryl stearate is generally used at 1% or higher, so in this case, we should think of the methylparaben as being the 1% or lower indicator just to make life easier. 

Why should we care about this? (Maybe you don't, and that's okay!) When I'm thinking about duplicating a product or trying for a similar skin feel as a commercial product, I need to know what's in there for functionality and what's in there for label appeal. 

There are safe usage levels for products and there are usage levels. The safe usage levels are there to let us know that anything higher than that level could cause issues like irritation or redness. The usage levels are there to let us know at what levels these ingredients should be used to have some kind of impact on your skin or your product. 

Take aloe vera for an example. The safe usage level is 100% as we can use it neat on our skin out of the bottle or from the plant. I generally use it at 10% because that's when it will have an impact on our skin, offering moisturizing and film forming as well as offering some thickening to the product thanks to the electrolytes. If I see it below the preservative or fragrance, I know it's at 1% or lower, and it's not very effective at that level. It's probably there for label appeal so the company can write "with aloe vera" in big letters on the front of the bottle.

Take a look at this ingredient list for St Ive's Naturally Indulgent Coconut Milk & Orchid Extract lotion. Take a look at the emollients in this product. The first liquid oil is caprylic/capric triglycerides or fractionated coconut oil, then mineral oil. Shea butter comes after urea, something we wouldn't use at more than 5% or so. The actual named ingredients on the bottle, the coconut milk and orchid extract, are near the bottom of the list. We see this a lot with our natural oils in products: You see the mineral oil and silicones near the top and the veggie or seed oils near the 1% cut off point. 

As an aside, this product advertises that it has 100% natural moisturizers. What does that mean? What does natural mean? What's a moisturizer? I've seen so many reviews from people saying they use this moisturizer because it's natural. Is it? Mineral oil comes from dead and decaying natural matter like dinosaurs and plants, so I guess we could call it natural, right?

The 1% cut off doesn't mean that anything under this point is insignificant! There are so many ingredients that work amazingly well at 0.5% - powdered extracts offer anti-oxdizing and anti-inflammatory properties, allantoin offers barrier protection and barrier repair as well as water holding properties, the cationic polymer polyquat 44 offers moisturizing and conditioning properties, and liquid Germall Plus offers preserving properties - so being under 1% doesn't mean the ingredient is ineffective. Citric acid at 0.2% can decrease the pH by 1 unit or more! EDTA binds metals at 0.1% And Vitamin E can offer huge anti-oxidizing properties at as little as 0.05%. 

As usual, it comes down to learning our ingredients. When you know what each ingredient brings to the party and how much of each one we must use to get the maximum benefits or effects. Yeah, I go on and on about this topic, but it's so important to know why we're using each ingredient and how to use it in a specific product. 

If you're curious, the ingredient list at the top about comes from Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream. I know they keep advertising "since 1851", but those ingredients are all 21st century! They advertise an ingredient called Antarcticine, which "a Glycoprotein extracted from microorganisms sourced from sea glaciers and notable for an ability to protect skin from cold temperatures", aka Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract, which is marketed as nothing less than a miracle ingredient. It sounds like a very nice humectant and moisturizer to me, but miracle ingredient? I'll wait for the science...


Pam said...

Susan once again thank you for setting out the guide posts for us. The feel of a product is as personal as it is universal! I love silk! I appreciate your generosity of mind and spirit. Time for me to purchase another something or other to help support the kids!

Aljonor said...

This is a great post. You are amazing; with all the things that you are doing you still find time to post informative information.


Mary Beth Doyle said...

I loved reading this post. Interesting to consider (for me as a newbie) the "usage" vs. the "use" for effective benefit of an ingredient. Yesterday I made your conditioning shampoo, tried substituting 2 ingredients, and it came out REALLY thick, without Crothix. I can't wait to review everything and see why! Mary Beth

Sarah said...

Hi Susan,
I've got some general kudos and then a specific question.
First thing first: THANK YOU so very much for your blog. I have lupus and use lots of topical medications. Recently, I've developed contact dermatitis to benzenes (which, as you know are in most carrier gels/creams in the form of phenoxyethanol, benzyl ETOH etc), leaving me really up a creek with all of my topical meds. I used your oil-free BTMS-based formula and a lot of your info to make a vehicle cream for a whole bunch of meds. This is absolutely priceless for lots of cyber hugs and kisses. Without you, I'd have to get my medications mixed in petroleum or propylene glycol....and comedogenic fallout would be intense! So your blog has been an absolute Godsend. I'm planning on making a sunscreen for myself and kiddles next!
Now to the question(s): I am having trouble adding anything fancy to the water phase of your basic oil-free moisturizer. When I do BTMS 3%, Cetyl ETOH 2%, I get magical emulsion no problem (after a steep learning curve of course). But the same formula with any kind of humectant (I've tried Sodium PCA, Sodium lactate, allantoin) or water-based goodies (olive oil esters) turn out very liquidy, even if I'm only using 1% of one humectant at a time.
I'm a physician; I've got a fancy Harvard degree, spent my fair share of time in chemistry labs (back in the day), and I have read a huge chunk of your blog, but this is hard, my guru!
-Do you find that you have to "thicken" your moisturizer if you use humectant? Is the humectant (even in small %) pulling water into my moisturizer? Why does a batch with 2% humectant look so dramatically different than a batch without? Will adding more Cetyl alchol to the formula add comedogenicity? If so, what do you recommend to thicken it up? And finally, a more specific question: I have sodium lactate powder, not liquid. It seems to me like you are using the liquid. I just mixed mine to form a 60% solution (what I found in other formulas)... but have gone bust in the emulsion dept 3/3 times with all other variables constant.
I so SO appreciate all your hard work and innovation. You're really helping a sister out.
Much Love,

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

I am inclined to say that , for the first list you shared, the 1% starts way up where phenoxyethanol is listed .

as amateur formulators ,we tend to know where an active is used at 0.5% and is still quite powerful even at a low amount (think high molecular Na hyaluronate or Ferulic Acid or Aloe Barbadensis 200:1 powder or even the tocopherols), so not every ingredient below the 1% line is put there with no effect on the skin.

Sadly, not everyone knows this and sometimes great products are not considered when the potential customer spots the 1% line. Just another example - you can make an excellent antioxidants/ anti irritants toner, with 10 different hydroglycolic plant extracts, each of them at 1%. Say that they are 50:50 water: glycerol solutions. This would roughly mean we will have something like 5% glycerin in the formula just from the plant extracts - and if we already have some humectants that may feel sticky on the skin (3% glycerin, 3% panthenol just to give an example), you may not want to use more tan 1% of each of these plant extracts, to address the skin feeling issue (which for some may be a problem). So, you have plenty of antioxidants and anti irritants in there, at a low percent, and I am sure that they will bring some awesomeness to the product . And some people will just say: "oh, they're below 1%, they do not matter, this is junk, a rip-off, will not pay for it!" . That is just wrong.

So, overall, I am so happy that people read your blog and , if they really read your posts, they will understand that sometimes less is more (think vit E which at a high % may actually accelerate oxidation ) or that less is not actually bad , it's the recommended percentage from the supplier.

Of course, the joy of hand made is that you can actually use all those nice ingredients at max recommended percent for extra awesomeness! :)

David said...

Great read. In the end i felt the goal of this read was to point out, not that those ingredients at 1% or less are any less effective but was intended more as a "buyer beware". Companies will sometimes sell you(psychologically)a product with a few "buzz" words. Little does the buyer know that there is very little to none of what is said to them thru these "key" words. I for one am on the side that most people out there have no clue what they are buying, fancy names, rare mellons, antarcticine from a prehistoric sea dragon fish from antarctica...we need to inform instead of letting hundreds of thousands of people continue to feed their skin essentialy mcdonalds for your face.. great read Swift, thanks!

Silvie said...

Hi Susan, I just wanted to thank you for your blog and share a little of what I've learned from reading here! My infant son and I both have excema and sometimes it seems like everything irritates our skin. Most of the culprits seem to be fragrances and I've finally eliminated parabens from the culprit list (thanks to your blog and label reading). I have a bottle of body wash/shampoo that I bought because I thought it was baby oil, but I thought I'd give it try since it's supposed to be quite gentle. After spending the past week reading on your site, I looked up the ingredients and I feel pretty comfortable using it on myself and then if I don't have problems, using it on my baby.

The surfactants in it are decyl glucoside and sodium lauroyl lactylate and it has a ton of different oils and essential oils. It just so happens to include honeysuckle and Japanese honeysuckle, which I know means it contains parabens even though the label says it doesn't, but I also know that parabens are a good thing otherwise this stuff would be a giant Petri dish!

Anyways, I just wanted to share all that because I've found this to be a great "homework" lesson and I feel like I've actually learned something. Now I think I'm ready to get started making some simple lotion recipes, just as soon as my supplies arrive! After I get some basic lotions under my belt I'm going to try your lush afterlife duplication recipe, I was heartbroken when they discontinued so if I can replicate it I will be a happy happy girl. You're awesome and I'm going to go keep reading the archives, when I make something I'll be sure to share the success!

Paul Newell said...

I've been reading your blog and am working to recreate a face wash I love, but that is very expensive. I am also modifying the ingredients slightly to those I feel are less harmful. I was hoping for some help:

This is the original ingredient list:

Water (Aqua)
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Sea Salt (Maris sal)
Polysorbate 20
Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil
Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil
Cananga Odorata Flower Oil
Benzyl Benzoate

This is my modified ingredient list:

Water (Aqua)
Lauryl Glucoside
Decyl Glucoside
Sea Salt (Maris sal)
Polysorbate 20 (Necessary?)
Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil
Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil
Cananga Odorata Flower Oil
Leucidal Liquid

I was wondering, why is the Polysorbate 20 even neccessary? I dont think I need an emulsifier for this. Can I take it out. If not, would it be ok to use a different one (such as SugarMulse, Olivem 1000, OR Olivoil Glutamate Emulsifier). Maybe I would need a thickner? Guar Gum?

Any advice on percentages? I have acne prone skin that is combination. I want to keep the ingredient list short at the moment, so unless you think it is absolutely necessary, I dont want to add anything.

Paul Newell said...

Or EcoMulse?

pnewelljr said...

Oh, and I forgot, will:

Lauryl Glucoside
Decyl Glucoside

be sufficient replacements for:

Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Cocamidopropyl Betaine

? I don't want to buy these chemicals and then find out I hate them. Thanks for all your advice!

pnewelljr said...

Oh! I think I answered one of my own questions! The only reason this would need polysorbate 20 in the first place is because of the d-Limonene, right?

I am reading so much of your blog and learning so much. Sorry for all the comments, I am just finding all of this so interesting. Those of us trying to make our own products would be so lost without this blog! There is nothing else on the net like it.

Thanks so much for your time, and sorry again for all the posts!

Also, I would be interested to know, why is it that you can use essential oils without a solubizer like polysorbate 20, but d-limonen has to have it? Thanks!

Lynda said...

Thank you, swift!!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Paul Newell. Have you read the posts in the surfactant section about the different surfactants? If so, do you think your surfactant choices will result in a similar product with the same foaming, lathering, cleansing, and skin feel as the one you like? Do you think your surfactants of choice will thicken with salt. What does each ingredient bring to the product?

Can I make a suggestion? If you are new to making bath and both products, please don't make something from scratch the first time. Please find a tried and true recipe and make it exactly the way you find it. Yes, you'll have to spend a few dollars on ingredients that might not interest you, but you'll learn how they work in a recipe, what it should feel like, what it should look like, and so on. (And to buy two surfactants, it's no more than $20, so invest the money into it!) It's like making a cake from scratch when you've never seen or eaten a cake. It would be a miracle if you made something that looked like a cake, let alone a successful cake. You're doing the same thing here. You're trying to make a facial wash from ingredients you don't know and hoping it will work, making all kinds of substitutions for ingredients that may or may not work.

I believe in teaching someone to fish rather than fishing, so I'm going to suggest that you take a look through the blog to find something that has the same ingredients as the one you want to replicate and trying that. Or find something that has the same ingredients as your proposed recipe and try that.

I can share this with you...if you make the recipe you propose, you will have nothing like the ingredient you're trying to replicate.

And you don't need to have a solubilizer with d-Limonene necessarily. It depends upon the amount used and the type of surfactants in the product. I could solubilize 1% d-Limonene in any of my surfactant based products, but probably not 5%. It's about the quantity of the ingredient that has to be solubilized.

Albert Perez said...

Hi Susan
I am posting on this old post because it is apparently the latest one where you mentioned Capric/Caprylic Triglycerides.
I am a little bit puzzled by this ingredient. You posted many times that this ingredient is basically Fractionated Coconut oil. However from searching around the net I found in some sites a clear distinction between Fractionated coconut oil and Capric/Caprylic Triglycerides. for instance here's the link to "Ingredients to die for" where it clearly says it is a mistake:
Can you please once and for all clarify this subject?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Albert. I'm working on a post about this topic, but it's taking time as there's no clear answer to it, so I'm still gathering information. I'm hoping to post it soon.