Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My visit to Lotioncrafter

Hi everyone! Sorry for the ongoing silence, but I had the most epic weekend on Orcas Island with Jen from Lotioncrafter, and I simply haven't had time to update the blog until today.

Don't worry, I've been seeing your messages and comments, and will get to them in the order in which they're received this weekend. Please do not send me two or three messages. It's unnecessary and a bit annoying. 

She was so kind to let us stay in her cottage, which is located in the middle of town, and Jen and her husband, Tom, took us out for meals all over the place! The New Leaf Cafe was lovely!

Orcas Island is one of the San Juan Islands located off the west coast of Washington State situated in the Salish Sea. It is surrounded by the bluest, saltiest water, and everything in town references that amazing ocean.

Her warehouse is as magnificent as you expect. I felt like Charlie after he won the golden ticket! She had aisle after aisle of cool ingredients, each one of them something I'd like to play with in my products. Dimethicone! Propylene glycol! Matrixyl 3000! It was as if my wish-list came to life!

We spent the first day in the lab fan girling about new things we could use in a lotion and getting to know each other. (I swear we were separated at birth!)

We spent the second day playing in this magnificent lab, replete with homogenizer, water activity tester, viscosity tester, and everything else I want! We made a few products, including an eye brow re-growing gel, but I was getting tired with standing for almost three days straight, so we called it a day!

Jen is an amazing person and very very generous, both in soul and person. I've come home with more ingredients than I can use in a year, and my face hurts from smiling and laughing so much. You'll see loads of recipes in the coming weeks made with the ingredients I received from Jen, including some new facial sera, cleansers, toners, gels, and lotions containing exciting cosmeceuticals!

What a great trip! Thanks, Jen! You're awesome!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sorry for the silence...

Sorry for the silence over the last few days, but I was bested by a tiny baby whom I carried all over town the other day. My hip is killing me to the point of being bed- or couch-bound, and I can't sit up long enough to type.

I'm typing this from my iPhone, and although I'm a pretty fast typist, it's hard to link and such from the Blogger app. Plus, posting while on painkillers can only result in embarrassment!

I'll get to your comments and questions in the order in which they're received, so please have patience with me. I would normally review the week's comments and messages on a Saturday morning, but I spent that hopped up on muscle relaxants, and couldn't get to them.

Any e-books for which you donate will be sent out when I get the notifying email. 


Oops, I forgot to add that I was mentioned in this article in Wired! Woo and hoo!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Beautiful soaps and the fleeting nature of beauty

 I couldn't resist posting the picture of my new soap from Raven Song Soaps! Valerie is a master craftswoman at soap, and this Full Moon Soap was scooped up by my husband!

You can some of her other amazing soaps behind the Full Moon soap. They look like mountains and oceans and they are spectacular! If you're interested in some of Valerie's soaps, check out the link above or her Facebook page for Raven Song Soaps

I know we like to keep these beautiful soaps around to look at, but is that denying them their destiny? I remember Stephen Fry remarking that people present their mint condition, first edition books to him with pride, but he feels only sadness because those books weren't allowed to do the very thing they were designed to do. I feel that way with beautiful soaps and candles. They are meant to have fleeting lives filled with lather and suds, and I have to force myself to use these beautiful things so they can fulfil their purpose!

Raymond is helping me learn that some things only last a season and to embrace that fleeting nature. I struggle often to be in the moment, to shut my brain down and not worry about what's up next, so I remind myself every day to appreciate it and be calm enough to enjoy it!

Just a few thoughts for a lovely spring Friday morning!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The importance of preserving

"It's only for me, so I didn't use preservatives." I see this all the time, and I wonder why you wouldn't want to create the best product possible for yourself? Aren't you worth it?

The best way to keep your products safe and healthy is to use a good broad spectrum preservative at the correct usage level. There are so many you could choose, and I encourage you to visit the preservatives section of the blog to see all your choices!

I prefer liquid Germall Plus in just about all my products, but it's not necessarily the right one for your products or philosophy.

Lest you think it's not a big deal to not use preservatives or to not use good, effective, broad spectrum preservatives, take a look at this recall of Gilchrest & Soames products due to bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections. (For a really extensive list of what was recalled, click here!) Take a look at this recall of Badger sunscreen products. Or this list of what was recalled recently.

Bacterial and fungal contamination are not a joke. They aren't something you should risk because the product is "just for you". Contamination can happen in a few days, and keeping it in the fridge may slow down the process, but it won't keep your lotions safe.

I'm saying this because I care that you are safe. I'm saying this because I care that your products are the best they can be and that you won't get horrible infections from them. If you wish to argue against preservatives because they are evil and horrible, this probably isn't the blog for you. This isn't to say that we can't have a great discussion about preservatives or that I don't welcome dissent, but there are no good arguments you can make for not using a preservative in a water containing product. (There are arguments for self-preserving products, like alcohol over 70% or a whole lotta glycerin, but that's not what I'm talking about here...)

Related posts:
When should I use a preservative?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Weekend Wonderings: Definitions for products?

In this post, Why did I buy this and what can I do with it? Foaming bath butter, N. Bax asks: Please, will you go through what the textual and other differences are for the following body moisturizers :
Milk-up to 90% water, super thin lotion
Lotion-up to 70% water, 
Crème-up to 10% water, very thick "lotion" w/1 or more skin conditioners
Cream-relating to, pertaining to or containing dairy products.
Lotion Bar-solid lotion, looks & feels like soap, less messy to use
Butter-0% water, can be greasy & messy to use-but good for skin
Mousse-whipped lotion-for skin, more often for styling hair
Frosting-light & airy feel-creme & mousse & conditioners whipped to extreme
Soufflé - uber whipped
Custard-has at least 1 sweetener and 1 or more dairy products and used on both skin & hair
Pudding-good frhairop of head to bottom of feet-should melt into skin very quickly
Icing-xxx moisturizers
Butter Bar-no water & no wax - easier to use in a container
Parfait-so uber whipped-light & fluffy that no rubbing needed-should be completely absorbed in 60-99 seconds
Brulée-whipped hair conditioner and styling product for hair-generally used for curly hair or to help curl hair

I really want to understand them and know exactly what they are...thank you

A lotion is oil and water brought together by an emulsifier. It could have more oil than water or more water than oil.

A lotion bar is a solid lotion made from oils, butters, and (usually) waxes.

Everything else...well, they're just names we give things to make them sound more appealing. A body butter could be an anhydrous or non-water containing product like a whipped butter or it could be a very thick lotion. Or it could be something completely different.

A moisturizer is generally a lotion that is quite thin - I'd say 80% water or higher - but it doesn't have to be that way. I can make up an all water product and call it a moisturizer. Or an all oil product and call it a moisturizer. The name "moisturizer" doesn't mean anything specific, and you could make anything and call it a moisturizer.

I make a hair product I call a hair conditioning custard. I call it that because the first time I made it, it was very very yellow and it looked like Bird's custard! It's lovely and creamy, but there's no dairy and the "custard part" means nothing.

A cream doesn't have to have a dairy product in it, and, in fact, I'd rather it didn't as those are hard to preserve! A mousse is generally thought of having an airy feeling to it, but it doesn't have to be that way. I've never heard of a pudding, but it doesn't have a specific definition.

If you'd like to read more, I've written a detailed post about this topic - Back to the very basics: Defining our lotions - and I've written a ton of posts on what you need to know about making products in the newbie section of the blog.

Join me tomorrow for more Weekend Wonderings!

My column in Handmade Magazine.

If you're interested in reading my column in Handmade Magazine, but don't have a subscription, take a look at this article I wrote for the February 2016 magazine - The Science Behind Citrus - or this article I wrote - How Do Emulsifiers Work?

Those of us who live outside America can't get this magazine in print format, but you can find the articles on their site. I'll post mine as they become available! 

Have I mentioned how excited I am about writing for this magazine? Woo! So excited! 

Do you have a suggestion for a column I could write? Let me know by emailing me at

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My column in Handmade Magazine!

I just received my March edition of Handmade with my column on preservatives! I'm writing a monthly column for this gorgeous magazine! What will I write about next? To learn more, visit

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Weekend Wonderings: Can I water down too thick bubble bath? How do I melt SCI?

In this post on bubble bath, Frankie asks: Hi Susan! I was very excited to try this recipe to make my own bubble bath so I whipped some up last night. It was so simple and it smells great... but it's so thick that it took about 30 minutes to bottle it! And I didn't even use anything to thicken it. I know bubble bath is supposed to be on the thick side, but mine is super thick. Perhaps this is a silly question, but if I want to thin it out a little bit, can I simply add more water next time? Thanks.

The short answer is yes! The long answer is yes, and don't forget to compensate with more preservative!

Remember, too, that the fragrance you use can have a massive impact on your bubble bath (body wash, facial cleanser, etc.). Citrus fragrance and essential oils tend to thicken it quite dramatically, while vanilla tends to thin it. Keep good records of everything you make and note the fragrance, too, because you don't want to make a really thin pink sugar bubble bath that never thickened up. (Pink sugar is vanilla based, so it'll be thinner!)

Related posts:
Fragrances and viscosity
Fragrance and clarity
Surfactants and essential oils

In this post on shampoo bars, Nikki asks: Hi Susan! My question is how long does it normally take for SCI to melt into a Smooth consistency? I tried your shampoo bar recipe yesterday? And I was storing for over an hour and I still don't think it was smooth enough. Thank you

How smooth SCI (sodium cocoyl isethionate) will get depends on a few things, including which surfactant you mix with it to melt and which SCI you've chosen.

There are all kinds of SCI you can buy from noodles and flakes to prills and balls. You can buy some with lots of extra fatty acids and some with only a little. And each of them take more or less time to dissolve that others. (Check out this post to see all the different kinds I've owned!)

When you are melting SCI, there are a few things you can add to increase the solubility and melting time. You can add some anionic surfactants like DLS or disodium laureth sulfosuccinate or SMO or SMC taurate.  You can add an amphoteric surfactant like cocamidopropyl betaine. Or you can add some non-ionic surfactants like polysorbate 20 or 80, alkyl glucosides (like decyl glucoside), PEG glyceryl cocoates or PEG glyceryl laurates.

My first choice is always cocamidopropyl betaine because it increases the mildness of the surfactant mix! Except when I'm working on a shampoo for really greasy hair, then I use DLS in its place.

I find the prills melt really easily with either cocamidopropyl betaine or DLS, so you can just put those things in the container, heat until dissolved, then add your other ingredients.

Noodles seem to melt easily for me, too, but they aren't as smooth when the shampoo bar pops out of the mold as the prills are.

If you have bigger noodles, you can put them in something like a magic bullet or chopper and make them smaller. They'll melt easier when they're smaller!

Hope this helps!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Weekend Wonderings: My classes at Voyageur! Heating and holding! Hanging out in my workshop!

Happy Saturday, everyone! I wanted to let those who were interested know about my upcoming classes at Voyageur Soap & Candle in Surrey, B.C.! I'm offering the lotion making class on Saturday, May 14th, the facial products class on Saturday, May 21st, and our new advanced lotion making class on June 4th. (For each of the classes, you'll receive the accompanying e-book!)

For the advanced class, it's designed for experienced lotion makers who understand the concept of emulsification, can read a recipe and convert to larger batches, can read a digital scale, and have made a few lotions before. We'll be making lotions with various emulsifiers - Polawax, Ritamulse SCG, and Incroquat BTMS-50 - and making modifications to them by adding and subtracting ingredients like fatty alcohols and acids, altering the ingredients to create a lighter or thicker lotion, altering ingredients to get a dry, silkier feeling lotion, and so on. By the end of this class, you'll know how to alter recipes to create your own unique lotions, creams, and moisturizers. So much stuff in six hours? Yep, I aim to overload your brain!

If you're interested in attending, but can't this time, please get on the waiting list and let them know you're interested in another class another time. This way we know which ones should be offered more often and those ones that we can offer less.

If you want to be alerted about classes, write to me at and get on the alert list!

As an aside, would there be any interest in a third level or master class? We'd design recipes from scratch, then make them. It would be a fairly intense class and you'd really need to know your stuff. If this sounds interesting to you, please e-mail me and let me know! 

In this post on Aristoflex AVC: A light lotion with NAG, ceramides, and quaternized rice,  Ash asks: I am making creams and lotions etc.. for about 2 years now. Since I got a chance to know you, I have always love reading your blogs and really learned so much from you, and I appreciate it greatly. I have one question, you always speak about heat and hold for 20 mins to kill all the possible bacteria, since we dont heat and hold with Aristoflex AVC, is it ok? how about bacteria, am I missing something ? 

Also, can I be your hands on student? :) I mean come and learn from you in your workshop, I am not even joking. 

To address your first question...I need a bit of time to get my resources ready for your question, but there is talk in the community that heating and holding may not be necessary for every single lotion, which is a concept I'm trying to process. I'm gathering the evidence for my argument, and will present it shortly, if I could ask for a week or so of your patience.

I've wondered about the idea of having people visit my workshop for one-on-one tutorials to learn more about making products. I must warn you, though, that my workshop isn't as awesome as it may first appear. It's a working workshop, by which I mean that my counters are always covered in the ingredients I've just used or want to use next. There's no heat in the winter and no cooling in the summer. There's room for two, but we would be bumping into each other regularly, so be careful with knives and scissors! It's my happy place, where I make things and listen to my favourite music and lose track of time!

I had one of the wonderful young women from my groups into my workshop to play with the pH meter. We put some lye in water, then tested it. We put some citric acid into the mix, and watched the pH decrease as we added more and more. Then we tried another project: Salicylic acid into ethanol. We put some lye into it, then more acid, then more lye, and more acid until we smelled a horrible smell that reminded us both of nail polish remover. We had created acetone! We drew a big skull and crossbones on that container, and walked away! 

Join me tomorrow for more Weekend Wonderings...

Friday, April 1, 2016

Weekday Wonderings: European suppliers' list! Gel eye liners! The soaping effect and cyclomethicone?

Kin created this great list of European Suppliers! Hope it's useful to you, my lovely readers. Download it or visit it again in the FAQ suppliers' section. Thanks, Kim!

And check out Simone's experiments with turning a liquid gel eye liner sealant into a liquid gel eye liner! I can't wait to try all kinds of crazy new colours this weekend!

In this post on cyclomethicone, Lisa asks: I read your section about soaping effect in lotions. I ended up purchasing dimethicone, and I will be testing that out. I like that cyclomethicone imparts a dry, silky feel in skin and hair products. Do you think I can use cyclomethicone in place of dimeethicone? Will Cyclomethicone help with the soaping effect?

First, let's take a look at the soaping effect. This is when your lotion goes on white and stays white on your skin for a bit. Why is this happening? It's saponification!

The fatty acids in the lotion, combined with an alkaline ingredient like triethanolamine or potassium hydroxide, create a soap, which acts as the emulsifier in your lotion. (A common combination is triethanolamine and stearic acid.) If you're using a stearate or oleate based emulsifier, you are bringing the water and oil together in your lotion by creating a soap, which is going to leave those white streaks when you apply it. This can happen when you're using stearic acid on its own. 

How to get rid of it? Use a non-ionic emulsifier like Polawax, e-mulsifying wax, Lotionpro 165 or a cationic emulsifer like Incroquat BTMS-50. Avoid stearic acid. Or add dimethicone at 2% to 3%.  

Cyclomethicone is another silicone, but it's not the same as dimethicone, so it won't get rid of the soaping effect in your products. It's not a direct replacement for dimethicone, but then again, nothing really is. (Yes, I know there are dimethicone replacements like bamboo isoflavones, but nothing really matches it for awesome-ness. Just like you can't find a replacement for kukui nut oil or babassu oil!