Monday, April 13, 2009

Lotions: Is it a good recipe?

Are you making a table of treats or a tableau of terror? How to pick a good recipe?

By now you have either tried a lotion or are itching to try one. You've probably done some searches on the Intertron for recipes, and you've got a binder (or bookmark file in your browser) filled with all kinds of fantastic ideas you can't wait to try!!! (As a note, don't bookmark - print or PDF it. Often times the recipes go away, and you're frustrated by not having them any more!) So how do you know a recipe is a good one? How do you know which ones to try and which ones to ignore? And how do you come up with your own recipe for a lotion?

You know the basics - a lotion requires water, oil, emulsifier, and preservative. If a lotion lacks one of these ingredients, it won't work. (Okay, to be picky, if it doesn't have a preservative the lotion will emulsify, but you will be producing a lotion that is unprotected, and we all know what that means! No preservatives, icky lotion! Okay, it's not very catchy, but you get the general idea...)

If you see a recipe with beeswax as the emulsifier, don't bother trying it...UNLESS it has borax as well. Beeswax and borax combine to become an emulsifier for water in oil lotions (like cold cream, with more oil than water). I've never tried this, but I've read enough to know it can work. Beeswax is NOT a substitute for emulsifying wax (or e-wax, as it's colloquially named.) I know some people want to use it because they want their lotions to be all natural - but it won't emulsify.

If you see a recipe with the emulsifier comprising substantially less than 25% of the oil phase, don't bother. It won't emulsify. (If it's a little off - say 4% emulsifier for 25% oils, it could still work. But if it's 1% for 25% oils, it won't work. If you want to try the recipe anyway, go ahead - you know how much emulsifier to use, right? Modify it!)

If you see a recipe with no preservative - add it. Preservatives are essential for lotion making. I know we would love to be able to use all natural ingredients for an all natural lotion, but the plague and typhoid are all natural too, and those are not bonuses for the users of your lotion! (Although it would make an interesting B movie!)

If you see a recipe with ingredients you don't have (or can't get), remember you can modify them. Break the ingredients down into the essentials - water, oil, emulsifier, preservative, humectant, and the like. If a recipe calls for tamarind seed extract, look it up and substitute something else (it's a water soluble humectant, so you can substitute glycerin, propylene glycol, sodium lactate, etc.) If it calls for a specific oil, check out the oil chart and see what you can use instead - sunflower oil for sweet almond or apricot kernel oil, olive oil for avocado oil, and so on.

So where can you get some awesome recipes to try? Here are a few of my favourite places...

Voyageur Soap & Candle has some great recipes you will love for all categories of body care - bath products, hair products, and body care products, like lotions and scrubs. They also have a great newsletter section with a fantastic recipe package (Safari users can't download this! Although I am given to understand they are not anti-Mac!)

Lotioncrafter's formulary is incredible, but some of them require very specific ingredients. Remember to refer to your reference charts to see what you can substitute if you can't order the supplies! (If you can order the supplies, I envy you...)

The Herbarie is a great site filled with amazing formulae you can make (and you can make them! Remember - show no fear, give it a shot, take one for the team, and so on!)

And of course, check out the Soap Dish (link under my favourites to the right). But please don't just come to take recipes - join in and share your knowledge. We were all beginners once, and when you learn all you can, you can give back to this amazing community!

Happy formulating!


Farha said...

Hello, I am new to making skin cream etc and this is just the type of info I need. Thanks! Where do I find the reference charts you refer to for substitutions?

SwiftCraftyMonkey said...

If you go through the tutorials in the last month, you'll find my posts on various ingredients - what they are, when you use it, what you can substitute - that should help you figure out lotion making!

Thanks for writing.

Farha said...

You should write a book. Seriously. I've been looking for resources that explain. Most of what is out there is just recipe after recipe. I want to understand! Posts like the ones you have on preservatives and anti-oxidents are just what I've been searching for. Do you have any resources you would recommend?

SwiftCraftyMonkey said...

I am starting a series on Friday called "Better crafting through chemistry" in which I'll take a closer look at a variety of ingredients - the chemistry, their properties, how to use them, and so on. I'm starting with honeyquat, but if you have some ideas on ingredients about which you'd like to know more, let me know!

I'm a chemistry girl and I always want to know more about everything - how do humectants work? why include preservatives? why should I use different surfactants? - and that's what you're seeing here.

For resources, you can always check out the data sheets for the products from the companies that make them. Do a search in google for companies like Croda, ISP, National Starch, and so on to find these sites. The data sheets or product bulletins offer information on solubility, chemical composition, detailed information on studies, and sample recipes. Well worth the search!

Also, check out the Beauty Brains and the Soap Dish (links on the right hand side of the page) for some great places to learn more!

It's great to see someone as curious as me!

Anne-Marie said...

This is a great tutorial - thanks for helping to spread the word about how easy lotions are to make =)

SwiftCraftyMonkey said...

The series "Better crafting through chemistry" starts on April 17th, and I'll be taking a closer look at various ingredients (starting with honeyquat, then on to condition-eze 7 and hydrovance - I'm taking suggestions for other ingredients!) and the chemistry behind them. I'm including modified recipes for each ingredient so you can get a sense of how to use them.

I'm getting too distracted by all this chemistry work! I have 14 minutes to eat breakfast, get ready for two craft groups I'm teaching today, and get ready for work! EEEK!