Friday, September 26, 2014

Newbie equipment: What do you really need?

I'm asked all the time what we need to get started in making our own bath and body products, so I thought I'd write up a list of what I think is essential!

A digital scale. This is the one piece of equipment you can't be without! A good recipe is written in percentages or weight, never in cups or teaspoons. So you'll need a scale to make sure you can follow that recipe exactly. They're not expensive - $40 at a kitchen store or somewhere that carries kitchen supplies, or our suppliers.

Heat proof containers. You'll want to invest in a few Pyrex jugs. You'll want to get a cup size and a two cup size to start, but you can go up from there all the way to the 2 litre size (what's that, half a gallon or something?)

And a way to melt your ingredients. You can use a microwave for things you might not be heating and holding - say, anhydrous or non-water containing products like lotion bars, whipped butters, and balms - but you'll want to get a double boiler for heated and held products like lotions, cleansers, and so on. Some people use crock pots for this purpose, which will also work. I like to use a fondue pot as my double boiler because I can control the temperature a bit easier. Whatever works for you will be great!

Spoons, forks, and other utensils. I can't stress enough how much you want to go to your local dollar store or restaurant supply store and get a whack of spoons and forks for stirring. I buy 25 for $6.00 and leave them in my workshop. Invest in a few spatulae as you'll want to be able to get all that lotion off the walls of your Pyrex jug.

A mixer. It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to work. And maybe one with a whisk attachment for making emulsified sugar scrubs and whipped butters? You can also use a stick blender.

And if you can get them from your supplier, get some pipettes. They aren't expensive - usually something like 25 cents each - and you will thank me when you stop wasting all the stuff you spill down the side of the containr or bottle!

If you can't get all these lovely things, the main thing you want to spend your money on this week is a good digital scale. You'll wonder how you did without it! I use mine in the kitchen and the workshop!

Any other suggestions for things newbies might want to buy to start on the path to awesome bath & body product making? Please share in the comments! 

Related posts:
The newbie section of the blog
Creating products - equipment (part one)
Creating products - equipment (part two)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Question: Do you want suppliers' information given?

Sorry for the quiet week, but I haven't had time to write posts or get into the workshop since last week! It's getting into my busy season for craft groups and classes at Voyageur Soap & Candle, so I have to budget my time more wisely. (No more vegging on the couch randomly surfing the 'net!)

If you're interested in classes at Voyageur Soap & Candle with me, check out the schedule. I think the classes are close to full, but you can get on the waiting list! 

But I digress! On to the point of the post! I'm getting requests to include where I get my ingredients in the posts. I'm happy to do this, but I worry that it looks too much like advertising? (It wouldn't be advertising because I wouldn't be taking money from the companies to do it, but it might be perceived that way.) I wouldn't be doing huge searches to find this ingredient many different retailers, just telling you where I found it, which means you might see the same suppliers over and over again as those are the ones from which I order. As I am Canadian, my suppliers will generally by from North America, although I can check a few places in Europe if I have time.

What do you think? Should I include information on the suppliers in my posts? 

Related posts:
List of suppliers around the world can be found in the frequently asked questions section

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Weekend Wonderings: Who won an e-book for a review? How much of an active ingredient is in an extract?

Thank you so much to everyone who has donated for the facial products e-book this week! All the proceeds from the e-books goes towards our youth programs that we run in Chilliwack and Yarrow, B.C. If you look to your left, you'll see a beautiful body wash and some melt & pour soaps Julie made in our group on Thursday night! (What fun! We can use fragrances in our new location, something we couldn't do at the library, so we made the most of it!) We'll be making cute little bags and tote bags next week!

Thanks to the wonderful reviewers who took the time to write reviews this week! As there are only two reviewers, they both win the e-book of their choice!

Thanks to moj sapun for this review on lotions bars! 
Thanks to Bunny for this review pumpkin seed oil in whipped butter! And second review from Bunny on shampoo bars!

Please write to me at indicate which e-book you'd like to recieve, including the new facial products e-books. If you'd like to participate, please click here to learn what I'm looking for in a review!

In this post on white willow bark in facial products, Jodie asks: I would like to make willow bark extract/ tincture & wondering if you know anything about what the percent of salicylic acid in such an extract might be. Or even the % of salicylic acid in these commercial-type extracts. I really haven't been able to find any reliable information on this topic.

Your supplier should provide you with information on how much of that thing is in your extract. For instance, the white willow bark from the Formulator Sample Shop or Lotioncrafter is listed as being standardized to 10% salicylic acid. If your supplier doesn't list this information, write to them and ask!

This is something I cannot stress enough - ask your supplier! Our suppliers can be a great source of information, and the ones I know are always happy to help. If you can't find the information you want on their site, ask!

Friday, September 19, 2014

A few thoughts about making Christmas presents

Yeah, I know, it seems a bit early to talk about Christmas - it's more than 3 months away - but if you are planning on making bath & body products as gifts, the time'll go faster than you imagine!

So what things should you consider before making Christmas presents?

Order your supplies soon! I don't know about the delivery times to your part of the world, but it seems that no matter how fast the suppliers send out my products, it gets held up somewhere along the line. (Generally at the border for me...) Start making up wish lists now!

Have you tried out the recipe yet? I suggest making a few small batch versions of the product you want to make to see if the fragrance smells nice, if it holds up in the bathroom in the heat, if it stays the same colour, and so on. You don't want to give something to your loved ones that hasn't been tested over time!

Create some cute labels for your products! This is the chance to make something that really reflects your philosophy, your aesthetic, and your preferences! Don't forget to put a "best before" date on your product!

Think about putting together a little basket of products. I like to put my products in a little box with some beeswax candles or soy wax tea lights and a few things from the store, like a nice washcloth, sisal cloth, or scrubby. Add some treats someone might like as they soak in the tub, like a few truffles or chocolate covered berries!

Related posts:
Links to all my Christmas recipe posts
Creating Christmas presents: Whipped butters
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Christmas in Swift's workshop
Creating Christmas presents - helpful hints (about finding recipes)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a spot treatment

Spot treatments can be an effective way to deliver active ingredients to your skin. You don't want to put a lot of ingredients into it - just the ones you really want to use to help a specific skin problem.

I'm thinking of making a skin lightening spot treatment for my mom as she has a spot on her face that she wants to get rid of, and I have a few ingredients that might help with that. I have liquid liquorice root extract, which I can use at 1% to 10% in my product, so let's take a look at how I might do that!

Remember, we're not allowed to make claims that something could whiten your skin or lighten up the look of age spots or other discolourations, so I'm not going to do that. What I will say is that I'm making a spot treatment with liquorice extract or lemon peel extract and I hope it will work in this fashion. I know, it's a roundabout way of saying things, but I can't guarantee this will do anything for anyone's skin as I haven't tested it.

For all of these recipes, first make a thick gel using the carbomer of your choice. (Here's my version of the thick gel!)

90% gel
10% liquorice root extract (liquid)

Mix the liquid extract with the gel and bottle it. Rejoice!

I have another ingredient that might work well as a spot treatment - lemon peel extract, an ingredient that the Formulator Sample Shop* sent to me. It has a usage rate of 0.5% to 2% and it's supposed to be good for lightening skin.

1% lemon peel extract (liquid)
99% gel (thick gel)

Mix the liquid extract with the gel and bottle it. Rejoice!

Are there other spot treatments we could make? Of course! We could make up an acne spot treatment! Let's take a look at that on Monday!

Other posts in this series:
One ingredient, five products: Gels
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an aloe vera gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an eye gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part one)
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part two)
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part three)
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled after shave

*The Formulator Sample Shop sends me samples of their ingredients for free. I am not being compensated in any way to write about their ingredients, and I have made it clear that I will share my opinion, good or bad, with the readers. All the ingredients I use on this blog are purchased with my own wages, unless otherwise indicated. Someone was upset that I said this last line, that I bought my ingredients with my wages, as if I expected the "ingredient fae" (which I think was supposed to be "fairy") to give me stuff. I mention this because I want you, my wonderful readers, to know if there's something that might influence me, like free stuff. I admit I'm biased towards certain suppliers because I've had good experiences with them, but that's usually pretty obvious! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an after shave gel

After shave products are all about the astringency and soothing of newly shaved skin, so let's take a look making a gel type product!

I'm basing my product on this post from the cucumber extract series from a few weeks ago. Click here to find why I used each ingredient, and click here to see the after shave spray with minimally processed ingredients.

I'm adding a bit of water soluble olive oil to the mix as an emollient, and we'll add a bit more panthenol to the mix to offer more wound healing and skin barrier repair. Feel free to substitute the distilled water for aloe vera or other hydrosols. (Check how your carbomer works with electrolytes to make sure it can handle more aloe vera!)

As another note, make sure you are using distilled water in this recipe as it won't be heated and held.

51.4% distilled water
20% witch hazel
10% peppermint hydrosol
5% water soluble oil or ester
5% liquid cucumber extract or 0.5% powdered extract (add 4.5% distilled water)
2% sodium PCA
2% hydrolyzed silk protein
2% panthenol
1.2% carbomer
0.9% triethanolamine (TEA)
0.5% chamomile extract
0.5% liquid Germall Plus (or preservative of choice)

Dissolve the powdered chamomile extract or other powdered extract in a bit of distilled water water, then add to the rest of the ingredients. Mix in the carbomer and allow it to become wetted. Wait 5 minutes or the requisite period of time for your carbomer, then add the TEA or 18% lye solution. Stir well. Bottle. Make sure it's a bottle you can squish because it's hard to get gel into a container!

This product would be suitable for an after shave for all parts of your body, but use your common sense and try a small spot to see how you will react as every body's different!

As an aside, I really like this as a toner for my oily skin as a moisturizing product. I have added a bit of bamboo extract to my latest version at 5% (remove 5% from the distilled water amount) as I wanted something a little more astringent and anti-irritating. I am planning to use horsetail extract at 5% the next time I make it, and I might consider using honey matte at 5% in the cool down phase after that if it's still not as matte feeling as I'd like.

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating with gels!

Other posts in this series:
One ingredient, five products: Gels
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an aloe vera gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an eye gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part one)
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part two)
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part three)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part three)

We took a look at making a gelled toner with pre-neutralized gel yesterday, but we found it a little thin. (That's not a bad thing; I just want something a bit thicker!) Let's take a look at how we could make a gelled toner from scratch!

To make a gelled toner from scratch - or other gelled products, like the eye gel or an aloe vera gel - you can add your liquid ingredients together, then add the carbomer to it.

What should we add to this version? I think I'll make this version suitable for all skin types, although those with dry skin might want to add a non-sticky humectant like 2.5% sodium lactate or sodium PCA for more moisturizing.

We took a look at date palm extract the other day, so I think I'll include that as an anti-oxidant, film former, and skin softener. I think I'll stick with the witch hazel and chamomile from the other day, although I think aloe vera at 10% or another hydrosol would be very nice. I'm including a new ingredient, bamboo extract* to the mix because it is an anti-irritant and anti-oxidant that feels astringent on our skin. I'm including panthenol because I love this stuff for anything for my skin as it offers wound healing and speeds up skin's barrier repair mechanisms while acting as a humectant.

The viscosity of this product will depend upon the amount of carbomer you use. If you want a thinner product, use 0.8% to 1% carbomer. If you want a thicker product, try 1.3% to 1.5% carbomer.

As well, you can substitute the distilled water with other liquids, like hydrosols or aloe vera. Check to see if your carbomer can handle the extra electrolytes of aloe vera and the hydrosols before using. And always use distilled water if we're not heating and holding!

GELLED TONER #2 for normal and oily skin (all skin types, really)
45.4% distilled water
20% witch hazel
20% chamomile hydrosol
5% date palm extract
5% bamboo extract
1.2% carbomer
0.9% triethanolamine (TEA)
0.5% liquid Germall Plus

Combine all the ingredients except the TEA in a container and mix until the carbomer is wetted. Wait about 5 minutes - or the amount of time suggested by your carbomer - then add the TEA. Mix well. Bottle.

As a note, this is a bit of a pain to bottle. Make sure you use a container that you can squish - like an HDPE bottle - to suck the gel into it. I put mine into a funnel, then I squished the bottle enough to make a bubble in the gel, then let go. It sucked the gel into the container. It was awesome! (Don't use a bottle like this picture. I had to pound the heck out of the bottle to get the gel in, then use a stir stick to get the rest in! What a pain in the bum!)

I liked this one. It was thicker than yesterday's version, and it didn't feel sticky on my skin. I did feel like it was on my skin an hour later as a light film. Raymond reported he liked this one a bit better. He felt it wasn't sticky, but it didn't feel like it was on his skin an hour later.

If you want to customize this product for your skin type, take a look at the skin chemistry & types section of the blog. For instance, for someone with dry skin, you might consider including a water soluble oil at 5% to 10% (like PEG-7 olive esters), a humectant (sodium lactate or sodium PCA at 2.5% or less), chamomile extract at up to 0.5% to help reduce trans-epidermal water loss, a hydrolyzed protein at up to 2% (since you won't notice the stickiness under your moisturizer or make-up), a cationic polymer like honeyquat at up to 3%, and so on. There are so many neat things you could include for your skin type! If you haven't already checked out the posts on what ingredients you could use, I encourage you to do so soon!

Here's a sample recipe I haven't tried making but could be quite nice for dry skin! There are myriad ways to customize this recipe - this is just one variation!

GELLED TONER #3 for dry skin
65.4% distilled water
10% aloe vera
10% lavender hydrosol
5% PEG-7 olive esters or another water soluble oil
2.5% sodium lactate
2% polyquat 7 or honeyquat
2% panthenol
1.2% carbomer
0.9% triethanolamine (TEA)
0.5% powdered chamomile extract
0.5% liquid Germall Plus

Dissolve the chamomile powdered extract in a bit of water, then add to the rest of the ingredients. Mix in the carbomer and allow it to become wetted. Wait 5 minutes or the requisite period of time for your carbomer, then add the TEA or 18% lye solution. Stir well. Bottle. Again, choose a bottle you can squish!

There are so many variations you could make with this product. Cosmeceuticals like niacinamide or hyaluronic acid, would be great choices. You could try making a Vitamin C serum with your gel, just make sure you choose the right type of Vitamin C! Try playing around with a variety of water soluble ingredients in your gelled toner until you find something you'll love!

Other posts in this series:
One ingredient, five products: Gels
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an aloe vera gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an eye gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part one)
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part two)

*As a quick note, I have received the bamboo extract from the Formulator Sample Shop for free. I receive no other compensation from this company to use or talk about this ingredient. I buy all the ingredients on this blog with my wages from my job, unless otherwise indicated. 

Clive mentioned that men seem to prefer gelled toners over creams or lotions, which might be "too girly" for manly men. So let's take a look at making an after shave tomorrow!

Monday, September 15, 2014

pH and conditioners

I've had quite a few of you write to ask why I don't adjust the pH of my conditioner recipes, and the answer is simple - we don't need to adjust the pH because it's in the range we want. Conditioners should be acidic with a pH below 6. All the ingredients we add to a conditioner - Incroquat BTMS-50, cetrimonium chloride, hydrolyzed proteins, cationic polymers, hydrosols, and so on - have pH levels at 7 or lower, with most below 6. When we combine these ingredients together with water, we'll have a product with a pH below 6 or an acidic product.

Why do we want acidic hair care products? Because our hair has an acidic pH. The more virgin your hair - meaning the less you've dyed, straightened, permed, or relaxed it chemically - the more acidic it is with really virgin hair registering around 3.7.

An aside: This is one of the reasons you don't want to use cold process soap on your hair. It's alkaline, with a pH above 8, which our hair doesn't really like. There are some people who can use it, but the majority will find an alkaline product makes their hair feel matted, dull, and scratchy after use. 

If you really want to adjust the pH of your hair care products, please make sure you have a pH meter. I know you can get the strips, but they just aren't accurate enough and can sometimes register pH levels one or two points off! Try using 0.1% citric acid, then testing the pH, then adding 0.1% more if you want it lower. But I don't suggest lowering the pH because you really don't need to do it. The pH of our conditioners are great the way they're made!

pH meters are well worth the investment if you're someone who wants to make loads of products! (If you want to make anti-aging lotions and potions with AHAs, this is a great investment!) Here are a few you might want to consider...
Lotioncrafter (US only)
The Herbarie (US, might ship to Canada?)
Amazon (US, might ship to Canada?)
Amazon (UK)

Related posts:
How conditioners work! 
Quick summary about damaged hair
Definition of good condition
Absorption and substantivity of conditioners

One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part two)

On Friday we took a look at a new product, a gelled toner, and figured we could make one at home using carbomers. The big difference between making a regular, liquid toner and a gelled toner will be eliminating stickier ingredients because we won't be removing it from our skin.

What kinds of things would we want to put in a gelled toner? This is the perfect place to include all kinds of water soluble ingredients like our cosmeceuticals and extracts. We have to be particular about using humectants, as they can often be sticky, and proteins.

If you want to learn more about your skin type, check out the skin chemistry & types part of the blog

I thought I'd make a basic one for my oily skin with a few different ingredients. I think this basic version would be nice for oily skin and for acne prone skin. As with any product, I want to start off with a few things in it so I can figure out what I like and don't like about it. I'm going to include witch hazel to offer moisturizing and astringency, chamomile hydrosol because I want to soothe my skin and reduce redness, and white willow bark liquid because I want something that will help with my break outs.

We'll be making this version by making up a gel first (click here for the process), then we'll add the liquid ingredients. We aren't adding more preservative because I used it in the gel, which means we have 0.35% liquid Germall Plus, a nice number within the suggested usage rate of 0.1% to 0.5%. (The math is that I used 0.5 grams in 100 grams of gel, so when I use 70 grams of gel, it contains 0.35 grams liquid Germall Plus. 0.5 x 70 = 0.35 grams.)

70% pre-made gel (thick version)
10% witch hazel
10% chamomile hydrosol
5% white willow bark

Weigh all the ingredients into a container. Mix well. Package.

Raymond's thoughts were that it didn't feel sticky going on and it didn't feel sticky on his skin an hour later. In fact, he thought that he couldn't feel it any more. I liked this one - it was a bit thinner than I would have liked it to be, but it felt nice going on without stickiness and an hour later I thought I could feel it was still there.

The only real downside of this toner is that I thought it was a little thin. There are a few things I could do about this. I could put in less liquid - let's say 5% of each thing instead of 10% - or I could make the gel from scratch using the liquids instead of water.

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at making a gelled toner from scratch instead of using a pre-neutralized carbomer!

Other posts in this series:
One ingredient, five products: Gels
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an aloe vera gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an eye gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gelled toner (part one)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The facial products e-book is done!

The facial products e-book is done! Woo! It's 399 pages long - over 160,000 words! - and has more recipes than I can count for moisturizers, toners, cleansers of all types, scrubs, eye gels, facial sera, and more, as well as entries for extracts, preservatives, surfactants, cosmeceuticals, emulsifiers, thickeners, anti-oxidants, and essential oils, with a large oils section in the appendix.

Fun fact of the day: If this were a novel, it'd be over 800 pages long! 

Check out the table of contents to see if it contains the things you want to know the most!

If you donate $28 to our Rated T for Teen youth programs through PayPal, I'll send you out a copy of this e-book as a thank you for your generosity, as well as the preservative and oils charts. Click the button below to donate for the e-book!

If you click on this link to my new website, you'll see all the e-books there! The new system we have on the new website means you will get the e-book sent to you right away and you'll be able to download it from that link if you lose it, your computer crashes, or you accidentally delete it. Pretty awesome, eh???

What does your $28 support? All of the proceeds from this e-book go to support the Rated T for Teen youth programs Raymond and I offer at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre in Chilliwack and the Yarrow Community Centre in Yarrow, B.C. It gives us the ability to buy supplies for the groups like paper, pens, glue sticks, candle wax, surfactants, melt & pour soap, fabric, and more, as well as buying treats like carrots, vegetables, and pizza. We finally bought another sewing machine - woo! - and you'll see the results of that purchase in a few weeks when we make tote bags!

The programs are completely funded by readers like you, and we can never thank you enough for all your wonderful support. Without you, there'd be no programs! So thank you, thank you, thank you!

As a note, we used to be at the library, but we moved to the Neighbourhood Learning Centre in Chilliwack, B.C. as of September 11th! Spread the word that we've moved! 

Weekend Wonderings: Which humectants wash off skin or hair easily? What's the best way to make a label?

In this post, Better crafting through chemistry, Anna asks: Do you know which humectants except for glycerin doesn´t wash off? Hydrolyzed proteins? Hyaluronic acid? Different quats?

Great question! I have read that sodium lactate and sodium PCA wash off, but I've not heard that glycerin washes off. Hydrolyzed proteins and cationic polymers are substantive, meaning they will adsorb to your skin and hair and resist being washed off. (Click here for adsorption and substantivity.)

As an aside, hydrolyzed proteins and (most) cationic polymers aren't actually humectants in that they don't draw water from the atmosphere to your skin. Hydrolyzed proteins tend to film form on your skin or penetrate your hair to moisturize from the inside. Cationic polymers are substantive, meaning they form a very light film on you rhair or skin through attraction of negative and positive charges. Only honeyquat is considered also a humectant.

In this post, making a facial serum, Kirsten asks: Label printing has been a big obstacle for me. I want a professional looking finish, and am not sure what sort of label printer would give me that. Or if I should get labels done by a commercial printer. The only problem with that is having to then always use the same ingredients.... any advice? I do want to be able to sell a small amount of my product.

I currently use an Epson Workforce 4020 not-all-in-one printer and I love it. The ink is waterproof, so I don't need to use a spray or anything to keep it looking nice, and it would be extra-waterproofy if you used a waterproof label like these ones from Avery. (That's if you need waterproofing for things like body washes or shampoos. Non-waterproof ones will work well with lotions and whipped butters and the like.) Get a program to make a template label - Avery has them at that link or you could use Word, Print Shop, Publisher, and so on - and design something awesome! If you can't design something awesome - like me - find someone and pay them to design something awesome as a template for you. It is worth the money to get something that represents you as a formulator and your company that you can use for all time, even when you get big and famous and forget about us little people!

I know it's not an option for someone selling products, but I find putting packing tape over a label keeps it looking lovely in the shower! 

Dear readers, please share your thoughts on how you make labels! I'm sure you have something wonderful to add to this conversation!

Related posts:
Aesthetics of our products - label making
Creating products: Labelling

Join us tomorrow as we enjoy making more things with gel, like our gelled toner!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Write a review! Win an e-book! Here are this week's winners!

A few weeks ago, I asked you to submit your reviews of recipes on this blog for a chance to win an e-book! And review you have! A huge, giant, massive thanks to those of you who have offered your thoughts and recipes with me and the readers of this blog.

A big thanks to Ann for her review of the ridiculously moisturizing body wash! 
A huge thank you to Sanziene for this recipe using Olivem 1000!
A massive thanks to Sarah for this review of using Multifruit BSC with different emulsifiers!
A large thanks to Ella for this review of using coconut oil in conditioners! 
A tremendous thanks to Susanna Originals for this review of formulating facial moisturizers! 
A ginormous thanks to Winnie for her review of the facial moisturizer with hemp seed oil! 

This week, I'm offering each of you an e-book of your choice, including the soon-to-be issued facial products e-book. Just send me an e-mail to and let me know what you want! Thanks to everyone for taking the time to write these reviews. If you'd like to get in on the action, check out this post and share the recipes you've tried from this blog! I'll be randomly drawing names from those who offer reviews this week next Saturday!

I've also decided that at the end of this review period - whenever that will be - I'll be offering random drawings of all the names of all those who offered recipes for e-books! I really appreciate your hard work. You're giving me a sense of what you really want to learn and know from this blog!

Weekend Wonderings: Making a coconut oil whipped butter? How to use preneutralized carbomer?

In this post on whipped butters, Selah asks:  I would like to make a whipped body butter with just these ingredients: coconut oil, beeswax, vitamin e oil and essential oils. Would you happen to know a good ratio to use for a whipped body butter like that? FWIW: I made one yesterday that had a slightly too thick consistency, but it was also super greasy/oily and took about 20 minutes for it to fully soak in to the skin. I was hoping to find a ratio for beeswax/coconut oil that would end up in a smoother finished product that is less oily. thank you in advance!

Why do you want to use those ingredients? I ask because coconut oil is not a good oil from which to make a whipped anhydrous (non-water containing_ butter as it melts at slightly above room temperature. (I suspect that's why you want to ues the beeswax.) If you want to try this as a body butter, you can start with 10% beeswax and 90% coconut oil and see if it gives you the texture and consistency you want. If not, then try with 20% beeswax. Then 25% or 30%. And so on. You will have to do some testing of this in places that might be slightly warmer, like your kitchen or bathroom after a shower, to see if it holds up in the heat before putting it in your purse or in an overnight bag!

Here's the thing - you won't get something that is less oily because coconut oil is oily and it makes up the majority of the product. The skin feel of a product is dependent upon its ingredients, and when you use an oil as the main ingredient that oil's skin feel will likely be the skin feel of the product. If I use shea butter as the main ingredient in a whipped butter, I'll have a greasier feeling product than if I used mango butter as the main ingredient. Beeswax will help make a product stiffer, but it won't make it feel less greasy.

My two cents? If you really must have coconut oil in a whipped butter, consider using it with another butter. Choose something that will stiffen the product, like mango butter, shea butter, cocoa butter or another one of these exotic butters at something like 20% to 35% and see how it works out for you. The butter should stiffen the coconut oil enough to be thicker. That's what I did with this babaussu whipped butter - which has melting points very much like coconut oil - and it was awesome!

Related posts:
Coconut oil? Coconut oil! 
A quick note about coconut oil and warm temperatures

In this post, Gels (revised for 2013), Lisa asks:  I found Sodium Carbomer - Preneutralized Carbomer at Lotioncrafter. If I'm reading it right, I shouldn't have to use a lye solution or triethanolamine? Am I correct? If so, any idea what the basic recipe would be then? I'm so bad at math. Thanks in advance if you can help. 

Yes, this is a pre-neutralized carbomer, meaning it comes to you in a gelled format that you would add to other ingredients to make gelled products!

It depends upon the thickness of the gel, but you would just add other ingredients to it and mix. You can see a number of these recipes in the one ingredient, five products: gel series that I've been writing this week. (Go to that post and hit "newer post" to see the next post!) Or check out these other posts on using gels in our products!

Related posts:

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating!

Friday, September 12, 2014

I'm teaching at Voyageur again this season!

I had such a good time teaching at Voyageur last year, I thought I should do it again! I'll be teaching classes based on my four e-books - Back to Basics, anhydrous products; Hair Care Products, shampoo, conditioner, and leave in conditioner; Lotion Making 101, with lotions and creams; and Facial Products (coming shortly), with gels, serums, moisturizers, cleansers, and toners. Each class is a full day, and you'll get to take home a copy of the appropriate e-book, too!

The picture to the left is of the oil bar we have set up at the classes so you can try each oil out for its skin feel, viscosity, colour, fragrance, and so on. It's a great way to get to know your ingredients! 

If you want to sign up, click here for the class schedule, and give Voyageur Soap & Candle a call!

One ingredient, five products: Gels - making a gel toner (part one)

I've heard from a few people that gel toners are all the rage right now, so I thought we should try to formulate one.

As an aside, I have turned a toner into a gelled toner in the past using Amaze XT, but I'm hearing that it's hard to find this ingredient, so it's time to do it with something easier to find like carbomer. 

What are we looking for in a gelled toner or hydration serum? I took a look at some different brands and found that they were to be used after cleansing but before moisturizing. They are meant to soothe dry skin and balance oily skin. It behaves as an extra layer of moisture between your skin and your moisturizer. They are intended to dry quickly so you can apply a moisturizer, and they don't feel sticky. They seem to be marketed mostly for normal to dry skin to help with moisturizing, but there are a few versions intended for oily skin that promise to shrink pores or reduce sebum levels.  They might be used as a cleanser for sensitive or dry skin as well. They're filled with loads of botanical ingredients and cosmeceuticals. Being a gel, you might use less when putting it on a cotton pad than when you're using something liquid. A gel toner could contain exfoliating ingredients, too.

I've also learned that these things are expensive! They seem to be at least $50 for 1.7 ounces (about 50 ml) , which completely shocked me. I have to say, though, I don't buy cosmetics or toiletries - except for deodorant, toothpaste, and mascara - so maybe this is normal? I see L'Oreal has a version that's less than $10 for 200 ml, though, and I found a few other inexpensive versions, so I'm less scared now! 

How does a gelled toner differ from the formulation of a regular, liquid toner? It appears that the big difference is that it's gelled. A toner can do everything a gelled toner can do, so I'm not seeing a huge difference between the two. The only difference I can see is that it appears a gelled toner isn't intended to be removed with a cotton pad. It is left on the skin as a layer of moisturizing. (Considering that this is how I use my toners, as a moisturizer in place of an oily moisturizer, this isn't a big difference to me!)

In making one of these, I'll want to choose ingredients that offer moisturizing, hydrating, soothing, anti-oxidant, and other qualities, which is what I'd do for a regular toner. I would modify it for different skin types - for instance, anti-inflammatory properties for reddened skin, astringent ingredients for oily skin, hydrating and moisturizing ingredients for dry skin - and I would make sure that everything is water soluble so I don't have to use a sticky solubilizer.

How do we make one? We need to make a toner and gel it. We can create a gel in a few different ways, including using gums, but since I'm writing a series on carbomers and I'm not the biggest fan of gums, I'll use a carbomer!

Join me on Monday for fun formulating a gelled toner! If you can't wait, check out the posts below and add some gel to them.! Or check out this example from Lubrizol for an astringent toner using alcohol at 20% using carbomer.

Other posts in this series:
One ingredient, five products: Gels
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an aloe vera gel
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an eye gel

Related posts:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

One ingredient, five products: Gels - making eye gels

I love making eye gels because they offer such great qualities for what I think is pretty low effort. It's such a simple process: Weigh the gel, add the extracts, mix, package, and rejoice! How much easier could that be? The first part of the process is to make the gel. (Visit this post to see the process!) The second step is to choose your extracts, which is what we'll do now!

We took a look at date palm extract yesterday as I thought it'd be a great inclusion in my eye gel today. It's water soluble, so let's add it at 5% in this gel. I'm also adding a new ingredient I'm loving called yerba santa glycoprotein. Oh, this might be a great place to include a new ingredient I have called eyebright!

Yerba santa glycoprotein* (INCI: Lactobacillus/Eriodictyon Californicum Ferment Extract) is the extract of the yerba santa plant, which is found in California, Oregon, and Northern Mexico. It is a water soluble extract used at 1% to 5% to offer moisturizing and hydrating to our skin. It contains polysaccharides, like aloe vera, that moisturize our skin. It contains glycoproteins that also help with moisturizing our skin. I've seen versions that contain tannins, so this might be an astringent extract, too. It has been used traditionally for respiratory ailments and as a cough medicine. It apparently has a nice flavour, but I'm not trying it to find out!

Why use this in an eye gel? Because I want to moisturize around and under my eyes! I'm going to use this at 5% as that's within the suggested usage rates.

I think I'll use some eyebright as well. What's up with this extract? Eyebright* (INCI: Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract & Water & Euphrasia Officinalis Extract) comes in two forms - an oil soluble and water soluble, and I'm using the water soluble in this product. Eyebright is supposed to be good for sensitive skin, and offers anti-inflammatory, astringent, and soothing properties to our products. It's supposed to be good for puffy eyes, which sounds like a perfect match for an eye gel! (Click here for a data bulletin on eyebright.) Eyebright is used in traditional medicine for swelling around the eyes, eyestrain, and inflammation related to coughs and fever (Wikipedia).

What else could we use in this product? We have ingredients that work for inflammation and hydration, with another ingredient that might be good for fine lines and hydration. What else do we need? We could include an ingredient for dark circles - as I did in this version  - or we could use a water soluble oil for moisturizing - as I did in this version - but I think I'll leave this as it is so I can see what each ingredient brings to the mix!

85% pre-made gel
5% yerba santa glycoprotein
5% date palm extracxt
5% organic eye bright

Weigh gel, then add the extracts. Mix well. Store in a small, sealed container. As a note, you really should make a smaller batch than 100% as this will make quite a lot. I'm going to suggest that you divide this batch by 5 to make a batch that totals 20 grams. So you'd have 17% gel and 1% of the other things!

What do you do if you don't have these ingredients? Play with what you have! Think about ingredients you could use that do what you want! What else could offer moisturizing without oils? What else would be hydrating? Could you use some film forming from proteins or anti-inflammatory properties from extracts like chamomile? What do you want in your eye gel? Get into your workshop and play! I encourage you to check out the posts below if you want more ideas on how to make an eye gel you'll love!

Related posts:

Other posts in this series:
One ingredient, five products: Gels
One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an aloe vera gel

*As I've noted before, Formulator Sample Shop has sent me a whack of extracts to try for free. I do not receive any compensation for using them, and I have made it really clear that I will share my honest opinion on the ingredients with you, my wonderful readers. Unless otherwise indicated, I buy all my ingredients with my wages from work. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ingredient: Date palm extract

I've become interested in date palm extract lately - I've seen quite a few references to it lately as an anti-wrinkle ingredient, and I was given a sample of it from the Formulator Sample Shop*. I'm already using it in the form of their Volumizing Complex PF (Water & Rice Amino Acids & Lactobacillus/Date Fruit Ferment Extract & Polyperfluoroethoxymethoxy Difluorethyl PEG Phosphate) in my leave in conditioner and absolutely loving it, but as you can see, there are too many other ingredients, like a protein and the polyperfluorooxymethoxy difluorethyl PEG phosphate. to let me isolate what the date fruit extract was bringing to the mix.

Date palm extract - INCI: Lactobacillus/Date Fruit Ferment Extract, which is the one I have - is fermented by adding Lactobacillus lactis, which is supposed to isolate the carbohydrates and lactic acid in the product. The carbohydrates, invert sugar and fructose, are film forming and skin softening, while the lactic acid is exfoliating. For our hair, it can smooth and shrink the cuticle of the strand, which should increase thickness and combability. It is supposed to work as a humectant thanks to the sugars. It offers anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. There are suggestions that it can decrease the appearance of wrinkles around the eye area, which would be an incredible claim! And it's a powerful anti-oxidant.

The suggested usage for this water soluble extract is 1% to 10%, and I'm suggesting we use it in the cool down phase as I haven't seen anything that says it is or isn't heat stable, so I generally default to using it in the cool down phase.

I've also found this ingredient listed as D'Orientine from Lotioncrafter! The suggested usage for this oil soluble version is to use it at up to 2.5% in the heated oil phase in an oil-in-water lotion. It is ECOcert. This data sheet relates specifically to the ingredient from Lotioncrafter.

How to know when to add an ingredient? Check out this post How do you know when to add an ingredient?

The water soluble version can be used in anything that contains water, including toners, cleansers, moisturizers, lotions, and so on. Generally we'll want to use something like this in a leave on product, like a lotion or toner, instead of a cleanser or body wash or something else that we won't leave on for long. It can also be used in hair care products at up to 10%. Again, I'd reserve it for conditioners, leave in conditioners, or other styling products instead of using it in a shampoo.

The oil soluble version can be used in anything that contains oil or an emulsifier, including lotions, conditioners, and so on.

This study showed that the date fruit extract contains anti-oxidants, and that the aqueous extract is a powerful scavenger of hydroxy radicals (as shown in in vitro studies). It contains coumaric acid, a polyphenol that is a powerful anti-oxidant and inflammation reducer; ferulic acid, which helps moisturize skin, helps with light and weather damage, might help with toning down age spots, and it might stabilize l-ascorbic acid in our products; and gallic acid, which is a good anti-oxidant, as well as a wound healer and anti-inflammatory.

This study notes that there was evidence of a "significant antiwrinkle effect" when using 5% date palm extract for five weeks in an eye cream. Please note that this was a small study - 10 women - and we don't know the ingredients of the eye cream, the strength of the date palm extract, and other important details. We also don't know if the results were compared with using nothing at all or a cream that didn't contain date palm or anything else, so was it just about moisturizing? Nevertheless, it's interesting to note.

As an aside, this is how some conditioners are advertised. For instance, the conditioner made hair smoother and more manageable than using shampoo only. Of course it did! Even the most basic conditioner will make your hair feel better than using shampoo alone! This is why you want to look at the fine print of ads!

It seems like this might be an interesting product to use in facial products. Let's take a look at a few with this ingredient!

*In the interest of complete disclosure, I was given a sample of this ingredient from the Formulator Sample Shop. I have advised them that I will offer my uncensored opinion on the ingredient. I have not been paid by them to write this post or try the ingredient, and I am not affiliated with them in any way, except that they have sent me a free ingredients. 

Health benefits of date palm: Phytochemicals and their functions
Procedures in cosmetic dermatological series: Cosmeceuticals

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One ingredient, five products: Gels - making an aloe vera gel

As I mentioned yesterday, some gels aren't great with electrolytes. Check the suggested usage and abilities of your gel before trying it with electrolytes. Carbomer Ultrez 20 and ETD 2020 are good for an aloe vera gel, while Carbomer 940 isn't.

To make a basic aloe vera gel, you can make up your gel as per these instructions with up to 100% of the water in the form of aloe vera.

If you want to make a thinner aloe vera gel, make up your gel as per these instructions, which will get you a thick gel. To it, add up to 50% aloe vera and enough preservative to preserve the aloe vera, mix into the gel, and bottle.

Take a look at the aloe vera gel you get at our supplier's shops, and you'll see that they are a combination of aloe vera and this carbomer. Here's an example from Voyageur Soap & Candle. When you look at the recipes I make on this blog, I'm using aloe vera liquid or juice because we don't need the extra thickening in our products! 

Sounds pretty easy, eh? But we might want something a little more....shall we say, complicated? (Hey, it wouldn't be a Swift recipe if it weren't complicated!) If we're making this for a post sunburn kind of situation, wouldn't we want to include a few other ingredients that might be good for inflammation or sunburn?

What ingredients could we choose for post sun exposure? We want things that will moisturize without oils, things that aren't occlusive, and things that will help with inflammation. Let's turn to our botanical extracts first. Water soluble marshmallow extract would be really nice, offering soothing and moisturizing. Horsetail extract is a good wound healer and anti-inflammatory. Witch hazel is a good moisturizer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant. Allantoin would be great at around 0.5% to help speed up skin's repair mechanisms and to reduce trans-epidermal water loss. Chamomile extract or hydrosol is always a sure winner Panthenol offers wound healing and behaves as a humectant, so we could add that to the cool down phase.

You can choose any combination of ingredients to make a post-sun exposure aloe vera gel. These are just a few of my suggestions.

60% thick gel recipe (see this post)
20% aloe vera
10% witch hazel
5% marshmallow extract
0.5% powdered chamomile extract
0.2% liquid Germall Plus*

*In case you're wondering why such a low amount? It's because we already have preservative in the gel, so we only need to preserve the stuff we're adding. If I look at adding 40% more to the gel and I need 0.5% liquid Germall Plus, then I would have to add 0.2% preservative. (0.5 * 0.4 = 0.2) You could actually leave the preservative out in this case because we'll have 0.3% liquid Germall Plus, which is in the middle of the suggested usage rate. I'm adding extra because botanicals can be a little tricky to preserve, so I figure I'm better off maximizing my preservative! 

Add all the ingredients into a container, except for the powdered extracts. Mix the powdered extract into another water soluble ingredient - like the aloe vera - and mix until it is dissolved. Add to the rest of the gel and mix well. When everything looks uniform, remove and package!

Related posts in this series:
One ingredients, five products: Gels - an introduction

Related posts in general:
Summer products: Aloe vera apres sun spray
Super extra aloe-y apres sun spray

A note: To turn the summer sprays into gels, reduce the liquids to no more than 50%, keep the ingredients the same, and mix into a thick gel!

Join me tomorrow for more fun with gels!

Monday, September 8, 2014

One ingredient, five products: Gel

I love making gels. They're just so versatile! I thought we should take a look at five products you could make with gels!

What do you need to make a gel? You need a carbomer of some sort. There are various ones available - I'm using Carbopol Ultrez 20 (from Voyageur Soap & Candle), but there are others like ETD 2020 and Carbopol 940 (at the Personal Formulator). Each has its own process, but the gist is that you get this powder, sprinkle it over the water, let it get wet, then after a period of time that is determined by your carbomer, you add the neutralizer. You can use a solution of 18% lye (82% water, 18% lye) or triethanolamine at the suggested rate.

A few thoughts before we start this series...

Gels aren't inherently sticky. I know that your experience has probably been that the gel you used that one time was sticky, but that's thanks to the stuff you add to gel. If you don't add sticky things, you won't have a sticky product.

Gels can be sensitive to electrolytes, so check what your carbomer can tolerate. Why is this relevant? Because we find electrolytes in things like aloe vera or surfactants, which means you might not be able to make that aloe vera gel you really want!

Gels don't tend to like oils that much, so if you want to add some, I suggest using water soluble oils, like PEG-7 olivate or water soluble shea.

If you're interested in this series, I encourage you to take a look at this post - Gels: Ooey gooey fun (revised for 2013) - to get started. Join me tomorrow as we make our first gel based product - aloe vera gel!

And if you want to know how gels work further, check out this really in-depth data bulletin from Lubrizol! It is very interesting! And I love this data bulletin on how to neutralize your carbomers!

Related posts:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Thanks for the reviews!

Thanks to everyone for participating in the reviews of recipes for the blog. What you're offering is so valuable to the readers of the blog and to me, because it helps me decide what I will write about next! You are just wonderful, and I can't thank you enough for the time you have put into this project!

I know I've been offering everyone who wrote a review an e-book in the last two draws, but this time I had to restrict it to three random winners because there were just so many of you participating! (We're victims of our own success!)

Here are our winners for this week, who were chosen based on the rolling of a 20 sided die. (I did mention I'm a geek, right? If I didn't, I guess I just proved my geek cred!)

Introvertitude for this review of making oily gels with cera bellina
Paige for her review of a sugar scrub and oil cleansing method oil
and Susan L for her review of this facial moisturizer for wrinkled skin

Please write to me at and indicate which e-book you would like. (You may also choose the facial products e-book as will be ready shortly!)

Check out these other wonderful reviews that have been posted on the blog this week!
Zanox II's review of the Neutrogena body oil duplication
Lisa's review of lip balms
Nyssa's review of this facial moisturizer
Lisa's review of lotion bars
Pat's review of the basic lotion recipe
Cest cheese's review of adding goat's milk to a lotion
Cest cheese's review of lotion bars
Ella's review of conditioning shampoo bars for dry hair
Winnie's review of this modified body butter
Diva Soap's review of a lotion using Montanov 68
Ann's review of this duplication of Ojon's 2 minute hair mask
Linda's review of this Lipidthix body butter
Brandi's review of this hand lotion

Wow! That's a lot of reviews! If you'd like to leave a review of a recipe for others to read, check out this post for more information.