Saturday, April 11, 2009


Keep your scrubs and lotions longer with anti-oxidants!

Yesterday we talked about preservatives, now let's talk about anti-oxidants.

So what's the purpose of anti-oxidants, other than the skin care benefits? They retard rancidity in your oils!

Why do oils go rancid and what the heck does "rancid" mean?

Oils are really triglycerides, which is to say they are long chains of carbons and hydrogens connected to a glycerol backbone (check out the link on wikipedia for some great pictures!) In saturated fats, the carbons are SINGLE bonded, which are pretty hard to break, so they stay stable for long periods of time (coconut, palm, and animal fats). In unsaturated fats, the ones we use in our creations, there are double bonds along the chain, and it's easier for these bonds to break and allow oxidation. The more double bonds, the more oxidation can occur, and the faster the oils can go rancid. (Rancidity means the triglyceride is oxidized and goes off!) This is why some of the oils have shorter shelf lives than others (consider grapeseed oil vs. squalane - the "ane" in squalane indicates it has only single bonds, so its bonds are less easily broken and the oil isn't oxidized as quickly - or fractionated coconut oil).

So what can we do? This is where the anti-oxidants come into use in our creations.

The anti-oxidant is what its name implies - it keeps the oils from going rancid by preventing oxidation. Oils will eventually go rancid; our goal is to put that date off into the distant future.

Vitamin E is a very powerful anti-oxidant. It is readily available, and easy to use. You add it at 0.5% to 1% of your total weight. You can get various kinds of Vitamin E - Covi-ox T-50 (meaning it is 50% Vitamin E, 50% other things) or MTS-50 Anti-oxidant blend (again, 50% Vitamin E) are the most common. The higher the percentage of Vitamin E, the less you have to use (and the more it costs!) Try to get at least the 50% Vitamin E.

BHT is a food grade anti-oxidant that is becoming easier to find. I have not used this product, but I understand it is very effective. (Link to the Herbarie...)

Rosemary extract can be a very effective anti-oxidant, but again, I've never used it so I can't comment on its efficacy. (Link to the Herbarie...)

In my humble opinion, Vitamin E really is your best choice for anti-oxidizing properties. It's not that expensive, it's easy to find, and it adds some nice skin-loving qualities to your lotions and creations. Why would you choose another anti-oxidant? Cost: BHT is about 1/4 the price of Vitamin E (although rosemary extract is almost double the price of Vitamin E), so if you are making giant batches, BHT is probably more cost effective. But considering how wonderful Vitamin E is as both an anti-oxidant and a skin loving ingredient, it seems the best choice.


France said...

Swift!! I made your body butter with a few modifications as in your 2nd post on the topic - changed the oils and added come cyclomethicone, as that's all I could do at the moment, and I just LOVE it!!! It feels wonderful!!!
Thank you!

SwiftCraftyMonkey said...

Which oils did you use? And cyclomethicone in a body butter - love it! I am a huge fan of the silicones!

France said...

Hi Swift! I got all fancy! I used 6% RBO, 2% Jojoba and 2% FCO (jojoba and FCO are both light, but I wanted to use both, for the sake of trying stuff!!)

I picked RBO because it was there, it could have been Macadamia too (next time?).

I used Pineapple/Cilantro FO from Bramble Berry for the scent! Yummy!!

Too much fun!!! :)

SwiftCraftyMonkey said...

My staples are soy bean, rice bran, sunflower, fractionated coconut, and olive oil, but I do like me some jojoba and macadamia nut from time to time. (It's the cost that prevents me from using more!) That's what I love about formulating - change the oil a bit and you've got something different!

Pineapple cilantro is a beautiful FO! I'm in the process of making a ton of products to make me feel all spring-y and summer-y. I'm going from going from things like brown sugar and oatmeal, milk & honey to pearberry and green tea to give me some sunshine-y feelings as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer. (Although I cannot give up the oatmeal, milk & honey in my leave in's just too perfect!)

chowsr said...

Do you have a post about vit E? It's not all created equal. Antioxidants are reactive molecules therefore are diluted with carrier oils such as soy bean. Trophic sells the appropriate strength of vit E oil, except it's $45/bottle. You can tell, because vit E is a viscous, dark amber color that's air and light sensitive. I still have some laboratory grade stuff :) Also from this article I found a few years back I spike my oils with black pepper oil. "Chemical constituents of peppers (Piper spp.) and application to food preservation: naturally occurring antioxidative compounds." From this paper it says it might be better than BHT and BHA. It's definitely healthier!

Funbi's said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Funbi's said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking time out to put up all these lovely posts!

I started making my own products a few months ago, and though I am still trying different recipes of my own, I have found two or three great ones.

I do have a small concern though : a few months ago, I made a styling creme (50% waters, 5% BTMS, 10 % oils, 5% humectant and the rest are proteins, extracts and essential oils) at first, after mixing everything and adding the preservative, it was beige colored. A few days later, it turned light brown. THough it didn't smell and still worked as good. Well, i used up that batch. I made another one but this time, the creme turned a even darker brown a few days later. I am thinking it's because I did not add vitamin E. I do not know what it could be because I use the same ingredients with my other products and none of them has ever changed color...It cannot be my preservative because I have never had a problem with it.

Thank you in advance for all your help.

God bless,

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. It could be a number of things...How high did you heat your ingredients? How did you heat the ingredients? What colour was your protein when you started? Which extracts and oils did you use? And what fragrance or essential oils did you use? (If you used vanilla or anything with vanilla, there's your culprit!) I don't think it had to do with not using Vitamin E - if your oils or oil soluble ingredients were to go rancid, they wouldn't do it in a few days!

Anonymous said...

Hi Swift! Thank you for the reply. I heat my ingredients using a double boiler method on low heat. I also used peppermint essential oil aaaand some vanilla fragrance for scent! I used some vanilla oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil and castor oil. The proteins are white/creamish powders...

GIVE SOME TIME,, said...

how i know % of vit E in fresh extracted oil.and wht the effect of temp. on vitE when i heat the oil?

Caitlin Grussing said...

Does aloe vera require an anti-oxidant?
Thanks for the info!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Caitlin. I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean using aloe vera butter, aloe vera oil, or aloe vera liquid? Where did the aloe vera come from? Did you buy it or is it from a plant in your house?

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, Can you please let me know at what temp you would add Vitamin E and EOs to your lotion bar. I added Vit E at 65C and it started to set around the globules and was difficult to mix in. The manufacturer says to add EOs at 55C, but i've been adding them at 65C because if it was cooler it wouldn't pour properly. Thanks as always in advance :) Rachel.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rachel. The answer to your question will be in Monday's Long Weekend Wonderings. The short answer - add the Vitamin E in the heated oil phase or make sure it's heated when you add it and always add essential oils at 45˚C or below as they are volatile.

squeeziebrb said...

I recently ordered a bottle of tochopherol and the consistency is water thin. It's brown but not dark brown. I didn't notice it's color right away because it's packaged in an amber bottle. Shouldn't the item I have have a thick almost sticky consistency?

michelle P said...

Hello I hope I am reading your article correctly. Your article says that vitamin E is added at the oil state of the oils is that correct? I'm making a liquid soap and I am trying to get everything right. Thank you

I love the preservative article as well

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan! Have you ever used Alpha Lipoic Acid? I've been reading good things about it. If yes, do you have any suggestions for adding it to any particular skin care products?

Atihcnoc said...

Hi Susan, what are the percentages to be used of BHT in a lotion? Thank you.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Atihcnoc! As I mention in the post above, I have not used it. Check with your supplier as they'll be able to tell you exactly what you use for the version you have.

Camila SB said...

Hello, i would like to ask some advise, I use vitamin E also as antioxidant .
But how is the correct way to mix it with oil.. when I add to oil eg: blend of oil jojoba and almond the vitamin E stay does not mix into this oils and stay small bubble of oil inside the oil.. i am sorry i don~t know the technical term for it..

Also when adding vitamin E to cream.. when is the correct moment to add the vitamin E.
when melting the butters or in the end. Can vitamin E be heated ?

Thank you

Camila SB said...


i would like to ask you when the vitamin E should be added

For example when i do body butter which ingredients are butter + oils only..
and there is the process of heating can i add the vitamin E on this phase??
Or should be added when cool down.

Also when i am creating a blend of oils for face. mix of two oils joboba+almond .. when i add vitamin E, the vitamin E does not mix into the liquid it keeps small bubble of oil inside the oils.. is it normal?

THank you very much.. :)

Julie Adair said...

I know this post is very old but I love BHT! It works wonders! I have cold process soap that I made 4 years ago with BHT in it and there is not a single spot of rancidity/DOS!

I visited this post looking for info about the differences between tocopherol and d alpha tocopherol. I'm looking to purchase some to add to my oils and whipped butters, but not sure which one to purchase. I don't necessarily care if it has added skin benefits but that would be a plus. Any advice?