Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It's all about the climate, baby!

What's the difference between these two bath bombs? Same recipe, same colourant, similar fragrance oils, same fractionated coconut oil, same molds. Why did the one on the right work out and the one on the right is making me sad with its powderiness?

It's all about the climate!

I became aware of this issue back in 2006 shortly after I started making products. I made a batch of that started to fizz and grow out of the molds only a few minutes after I'd packed them so tightly. After reading and researching, I learned this premature fizzing caused by too much water in the air - the humidity - and that it would be best to save bath bombs for a drier time of year. Well, that wasn't an option as I'm an impatient bugger and want to make things now now now!, plus there's really no such thing as a "less humid time" in this near rainforest place I live, so I adapted my bath bomb recipe to be all about the oils and not the water, and it works well...most of the time.

We have been experiencing a really dry spell of loads of snow and really cold weather for the last four weeks - which is not normal for us in southwestern B.C. - and the day we made our bath bombs at our youth program, the relative humidity was at 27%, the lowest it's been in three months! The kids who used their liquid colourants with reckless abandon were the ones who had the most successful batches because they added the bit of water to the mix that would normally come from the atmosphere.

As a note, you can save the crumbly bath bombs by spraying them with witch hazel or alcohol then pressing them into the molds again. Or you can throw about 50 grams of the mixture into 100 grams of Epsom salts and call it a fizzing bath salt! For a foaming, fizzing, salty experience you can add 20 grams or so of SLSa (sodium lauryl sulfoacetate), too. 

I've noticed Raymond's and my hair is almost completely straight, and I've stopped using my anti-frizz spray as there's no frizz to eliminate! My body wash and facial cleanser feel a bit drying, and my lips are getting chapped quite a lot. I've noticed my lotions packed with humectants don't feel as "bouncy" as they would normally, they feel like they're absorbing way too quickly, and I don't feel I'm getting all the moisturizing and hydrating I should. Thanks, lack of humidity!

Humidity affects so many things, so it's not surprising it affects our products and the way we perceive them. Things rust quicker in more humid environments, which is why we see more airplane storage facilities in Arizona and fewer in places like Vancouver, B.C. Humidity is the reason we see those little "DO NOT EAT" silica packages in our shoes or new electronic devices, and it's why Crazy Glue more effective in Florida, Hawaii, and Vancouver Island. "The cyanoacrylate glue hardens very quickly when trapped between two surfaces. The reaction is caused by the condensed water vapour on the surfaces (namely the hydroxyl ions in water). The water comes from the surrounding air, so obviously the air humidity is a factor that may affect bonding capabilities, or cause them to differ from application to application." (Reference)

There are so many interesting ways climate can impact our products, so let's take a few day to consider this idea. This will also be a concept I'll be including in my future posts when relevant as I think it's super important and can't believe I haven't addressed it before!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Whereabouts do you live in the world? What's your humidity like? What have you noticed with your products, and how do you adapt recipes to meet your needs? Are there other impacts you've noticed - for instance, you can't make sugar candy recipes well - from humidity or lack thereof? Please comment below!


Cynthia Scott said...

HI, I tell anyone new to making lotions or hair products about your blog (which has been actually quite a lot of people due to the fact that many soaper's look to explore other bath and beauty products eventually) because I am so impressed with your writing skills, knowledge and ability to teach 😄

Anyway on with the topic... I moved from Palm Desert where the humidity is often in the teens to The Deep South, a small town, STATESBORO, in S GA where the humidity is often over 90%!!! Boy Oh Boy does it make a difference!! I have not been able to successfully make a bath bomb the traditional way (in the round molds where you unmold immediately...before drying..) and have resorted to using my individual soap molds and letting the bath bombs dry in the molds. This means they are more like bath truffles ...same ingredients but with the addition of a bunch more Cocoa Butter (and some extra poly 80). Hence they sink and don't make as much bubbles.

But I have not given up. I will keep trying. (I have also made it into a dough-like consistency and used cookie cutters, Xmas shapes, these were a hit.). I haven't tried adding water because that seems a backwards thing to do but adding different kinds of oils/butters hasn't solved the problem, nor has changing up the recipe - i.e.: using goat's milk powder instead of salt or oatmeal n such... And I haven't yet tried adding clay so those are my two next ideas, also glycerine comes to mind.

Any suggestions are most welcome but mostly I just wanted to say ...OH YEAH it makes an ENORMOUS difference in the behavior of all my products (it's gonna take ages to cure my soap now even soaping with a third less water!!)

Have a Fantastic New Year and THANKS so much for being such a consistently great resource!!


Eli (Beauty Blog) said...

Hi Susan! I live in Spain by the Mediterranean, and humidity is a nightmare!!! Everything gets moist, clothes take ages to dry (I don't have a dryer) and sometimes even end up smelling funny, papers left on a table bend and warp by themselves and I'd even had shoes grow moldy inside my closet!!! My house is full of these little boxes with salts inside that attract mositure, but that's not enough so I finally bought a dehumidifier and this is the first time I haven't got mold in my walls. My soaps also take logner to cure and let's not talk about M&P soaps that haven't been carefully packaged. Living by the sea can be cool, but having to deal with humidity is another story, I prefer drier climates!

Elizabeth said...

I live in Wyoming, USA on the high plains. It's cold, windy, and extremely dry here so making lotion is a handy hobby to develop. One thing that I noticed early on was that I lose a huge percentage of my water phase during heating and holding, so I cover my jars with a piece of aluminum foil and that seems to have solved the trouble. Sugar candy can be a bit complicated here because the dry air plus living at 7,000 feet means that the temperatures for hard ball/soft ball/etc are way off from what they are at sea level. You can adjust somewhat by measuring the point the water boils here and subtracting the difference from recipes but that doesn't precisely address the issue of greater evaporation so it does take some experimentation.

Belinda Karst said...

I live in a climate that's humid roughly 60-70% of the time, so when the air gets dry during the winter months, it wreaks havoc on my skin and hair. My skin and hair love the humidity! During the summer, I can use very light lotions and my hair needs very little product to curl up nicely. Winter is another story altogether! My skin actually hurts from the dry air! Having this hobby has worked in my favor, as I've discovered ways to combat my dry skin, hair, and scalp.

I've never made bath bombs, so thanks for the tip about not making them when the air is humid. I've thought about making them as Christmas gifts and that coincides nicely with our drier season.

Colorado Crème said...

I live in Colorado Springs at 6500 ft. High plains climate, dry always! The air just sucks the moisture out of you. The trouble here is that light moisturizers are too light; you need a serious barrier to keep from drying out. I'm really excited about your facial series. That's exactly what my customers have been asking for.