Friday, December 31, 2010

It's New Year's Eve!

I thought I'd take a look at the resolutions I made last year and see if I made any headway on my plans. And no, this picture has nothing to do with my resolutions - this year I plan to chew more monkeys? - but I think my dog is adorable!

Get organized: This went better this year, although it's always a work in progress. We spent a lot of money at Ikea and the Container Store buying things to help me out, like bookshelves and bulletin boards, and it's working. I need a ton of help from my mom and Raymond to get organized, but I'm finding it easier to stay organized once it's done! And I love my iPod touch for taking notes, keeping me scheduled, and so on. So this one is a partial success, although I need to accept I'm just not that kind of person so I'll do what I can!

Continue to set and maintain good boundaries around my time: I'm getting great at this. Having a headache for 18 months makes it easy to say no! I'm normally home from work when I thought I would be, and I've stopped taking phone calls when I'm on holidays or outside of work time!

Finish my math class by April 2010 with an A: This one kicked my bum. I got stuck on trigonometry, and I'm still working on it, but I will get that A! (I can't move objects in my head, and I don't know left and right, so it's really hard for me to move an angle to see if it's the same as the other one!)

Continue attending singing lessons: I went for a while, but the headaches made it hard for me to open my mouth properly, so I had to put them on hold. I'm hoping to start again in March or April.

Go snow tubing by the end of February: The Olympics and the lack of snow made this impossible!

Go camping with my friends this summer for at least three days: We went to Moses Lake in June!

More day trips locally: We did some of these, but I've still never been to Birch Bay!

Perfect my mascara recipe and liquid eye liner recipe: Nope, but I have the ingredients. This is on my to-do list this month!

Learn to silk screen (year #3 this has been on the list!): We tried in July but failed. We have to try again!

Start Christmas presents really early: I kind of did this by making cards and things, but I didn't get everything made in time. I think this resolution needs to be adapted to "stop putting so much pressure on myself to make things in time for Christmas" for 2011. (Although I have started my sewing for next year's presents!)

Make more jewellery: I think I need to stop making it now! I have so much!

Sew more shorts: I did this, and just finished another pair this week.

Sew more skirts: I made two this year and have a few more planned.

So I think I did okay, despite the year long headache and the horrible sinus/chest/ear infection in late November and early December. How did you do with your resolutions?


With all this talk about natural emulsifiers and surfactants, I thought we'd get into a little chemistry about sapogenins and saponins! 

Saponins are steroid or triterpenoid glycosides that have amphiphilic or amphipathic features. They are grouped together by having "soap like foaming qualities they produce in aqueous solutions" - in other words, when you put them in water and shake them up, they foam. What the heck does this mean? Let's break it down...

Amphiphilic or amphipathic compounds are those that possess hydrophilic and lipophilic properties. Sound familiar? Yep, they're surfactants! They have one end that likes fat and another that likes water, so they can bring oils and water together to produce emulsification! Some of them also foam, which makes them like our lathery surfactants (Quillaja, soapwort, and Indian soapwort fall into this category).

Glycosides are molecules in which a sugar is bound to a non-carbohydrate moiety (functional group), usually a small organic molecule. The sugar group is known as a glycone and the non-sugar part is known as an aglycone or genin. If the glycone group is a glucose, then the resulting glycoside is known as a glucoside. If the glycone group is fructose, then the resulting glycoside is known as a fructoside.

One alcoholic glycoside we see a lot is salicin from the willow tree, which is converted into salicylic acid in our bodies. You can see the O-glucosyl part is the sugar part (the glycone) and the rest of the molecule is the aglycone.

The flavonoid glycosides are ones where the aglycone or non-sugar part is a flavonoid that behaves as an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-microbial properties. Some of these include rutin and quercetin as the aglycone part.

So a saponin is a molecule to which a sugar is bound that can behave as a surfactant. It could be a foamy surfactant or an emulsifying surfactant, but it's something that can reduce the surface tension of water. We see it being used as an emulsifier in this Dr Bronner lotion (click here for the comment by p that started this mighty research journey) and we are seeing these saponins being used in a variety of natural cosmetics.

Most of these saponins dissolve easily in water and are poisonous to fish. There is a long history of fish-poisoning by saponins by indigenous tribes around the world. They are also known to kill protozoa and molluscs, impair digestion of protein and uptake of vitamin and minerals, cause hypoglycemia, and can behave as anti-fungals, anti-virals, and anti-oxidants. (Link here.)

An aside with a few of my thoughts: This could make for interesting preservatives, but it doesn't seem like anyone is using them in this fashion. As well, are these all natural surfactants any better than synthetically produced surfactants? If they're killing fish and molluscs, isn't this kind of defeating the purpose?

Join me tomorrow for more chemistry fun with saponins!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


So what the heck are terpenes? We see them mentioned a lot in information about essential oils, but what are they and do they benefit us as bath and body formulators in any way?

Terpenes are organic compounds, the major building blocks within nearly every living creature. For instance, steroids are derivatives of the triterpene squalene. (Quote from Wikipedia .) They are derived from units of isoprene (that's the picture up there, with a formula of C5H8) called the isoprene rule or C5 rule. Terpenes are created out of multiples of those isoprene units. When they are modified chemically through oxidation or rearrangement of the carbon skeleton, they become terpenoids or isoprenoids (terpenoids are not the same as terpenes as they have been modified in some way, but some people group them together.) These can be cyclical or linear.

Terpenes are everywhere in our products, especially in oils and essential oils.

These contain 10 carbons and 2 isoprene units. They tend to be used as flavouring and fragrancing ingredients, but they often have other great qualities. Limonene is a great example of a monoterpene, and we know it acts as a good degreaser (you can see the isoprene unit at the top and bottom of the ring). Linalool, which is found in roses and lavender, is often used as a fragrance ingredient. Other monoterpenes of interest are camphor, menthol, citronellal, thymol, and carvacrol.

We find major monoterpenes in plants or spices like black pepper, peppermint leaf, cardamom, rosemary, bitter orange peel, camphor, caraway, and thyme.

Some monoterpenes can stimulate mucous membranes and help with congestion, respiratory issues, and phlegm - think about Vick's for a moment with the camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol (but don't think about Buckley's cough syrup because it really tastes awful!). You'll find 1,8-cineole (aka eucalyptol) in tea tree oil and eucalyptus, both of which can stimulate mucous membranes but can be irritating at higher levels. And there is some indication that monoterpenes might have some anti-cancer properties (click this link for the summary of the study).

These contain 15 carbons and 3 isoprene units. They are found abundantly in plants and some of the major ones are alpha-bisabolol in chamomile and parthenolide in feverfew, both of which are potent anti-inflammatories, and ß-caryophyllene (the picture to the left), found in rosemary, cloves, cinnamon, and the essential oils of cannabis. Studies are still testing to see if the the ß-caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory properties in humans.

Another important sesquiterpene is farnesol, found in citronella, neroli, lemon grass, tuberose, rose, musk, and balsam. It's used in products to enhance the fragrance, but it's also a natural pesticide for mites and is active against yeasts.

For more on sesquiterpenes, click here.

These have 20 carbons and 4 isoprene units. The most significant one is phytol, which constitutes the lipophilic side chain of chlorophyll in plans. It forms a part of Vitamin E (tocopherol). (Vitamin A contains 20 carbon atoms but it's formed from a cleavage of a tetraterpene.) Some of the other important diterpenes are stevioside from stevia (which I enjoy in my tea every morning) and ginkgolides from ginko.

These contain 30 carbons and have 6 isoprene units. The most important one is squalene, which makes up about 12% of our skin's sebum, so our skin identifies it as "ours" and soaks it up quickly. Squalene is a vital part of cholesterol, steroid, and Vitamin D synthesis in our bodies. It penetrates the skin quickly offering softening and moisturizing to even really chapped or cracked skin.

We find it in lanosterol, one of the ingredients in Croda's Super Sterol product.

In this category we also find curcurbitane, which is found in cucumber extract, and is a very good anti-inflammatory and analgesic. And we also find dammarenediols in ginseng extract, which might help with penetration of actives into our skin. (As a note, ginseng extract contain saponins, which we'll be looking into tomorrow.)

These contain 40 carbons and 8 isoprene units. The major tetraterpenes of interest in this category are ß-carotene, lycopene (pigment in tomatoes), and capsanthin (pigment in red peppers)

So why am I sharing this all with you? First, chemistry is awesome. Second, if you want to learn more about saponins, which are natural surfactants, you need to know a little about terpenes. And third, these show up in our oils and essential oils all the time!

Join me tomorrow for fun with saponins!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Experiments the workshop: Using disodium cocoamphodiacetate & decyl glucoside

Sorry, I didn't get around to formulating with the emu oil as I've been running around testing everything with my pH meter, and got into the surfactants bin in the workshop! I'll have some posts on emu oil shortly!  My husband has started calling me "magpie" because I'm easily distracted by shiny things! 

Now that I have my fancy new pH meter, I can finally do some formulating with disodium cocoamphodiacetate (pH 9 according to the data sheet, but mine tested at 7.7) and decyl glucoside (pH between 7 and 9, I forgot to test it). I thought I'd throw a little polyglucose/lactylate blend into the mix because it does feel really nice and moisturizing on my skin!

I decided to make my usual body wash but switch the disodium cocoamphodiacetate for the cocamidopropyl betaine, and the decyl glucoside and polyglucose/lactylate blend for the other surfactants. I've kept every other ingredient the same - including my usual fragrance, lemon curd - so I could see what each ingredient brings to the mix. I accidentally added 1% more than I wanted of the decyl glucoside and I only had 30 grams of polyglucose/lactylate blend left, hence the amounts I used in this recipe. Next time I'll make the body wash with esters - which is my new favourite recipes - with just the disodium cocoamphodiacetate in place of the cocoamidopropyl betaine.

10% disodium cocoamphodiacetate
21% decyl glucoside
10% polyglucose/lactylate blend
10% aloe vera
10% chamomile hydrosol
28.5% water
4% glycerin
3% polyquat 7
2% hydrolyzed oat protein
2% panthenol
0.5% liquid Germall Plus
1% fragrance oil

I mixed it all together, then tested the pH - 8.6! That's way too high! So I mixed up 0.2% citric acid with a titch of warm water to dissolve and added it to the mixture. New measurement - 7.74. Still too high. We want 6.5 or lower. So another 0.2% citric acid with a titch of water and added to the body wash. Success - we have 6.51!

As a note, it seems like 0.2% citric acid will take the mixture down about 1 pH level (give or take), so if you make this recipe and don't have a meter, 0.4% will bring the levels down to a reasonable level. The main ingredients that mess with the pH are the decyl glucoside and disodium cocoamphodiacetate as the polyglucose/lactylate blend has a pH of 5 to 7. So if you use the first two surfactants and use any surfactant with a pH between 5 and 7 as your third surfactant, then the 0.4% should bring the pH down enough. 

What's the viscosity like? It's thin. Very very thin. I could put this in a foamer bottle and not have to thin it out at all! Normally the Lemon Curd fragrance oil thickens it quite well, so I need to add a little Crothix. I added 1%. Not enough, so I added another 0.5%. Still not enough, so I added another 0.5% for a total of 2%. It's still on the thinnish side and could use a little bit more, but I don't like to go over 2% because it's so easy to turn it into Jell-O, so let's leave it there.

How does it feel? It feels really nice. I think thanks in part to the polyglucose/lactylate blend, but I did find it to feel very moisturizing. It foamed and lathered very nicely, and I think this would be a great product for someone with normal to oily skin. If I were to make it for my dry skinned friends, I'd increase the polyglucose/lactylate blend to 20% and reduce the water amount by 10%.

10% disodium cocoamphodiacetate
21% decyl glucoside
10% polyglucose/lactylate blend
10% aloe vera
10% chamomile hydrosol
28.1% water**
4% glycerin
3% polyquat 7
2% hydrolyzed oat protein
2% panthenol
0.5% liquid Germall Plus
1% fragrance oil
0.4% citric acid

**Save about 5% of your water to dissolve the citric acid.
Add Crothix or salt as necessary to increase viscosity. I used 2% and it wasn't really thick enough!

As a note, I think this would make a fine 2-in-1 body wash and shampoo for those inclined as it has all the goodies you'd put in a shampoo!

As a note, I coloured it pink despite its lemony deliciousness so I would know that it wasn't my usual body wash because the labels tend to fall off in the shower and I don't make anything else that's pink!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Emu oil

Voyageur has recently started carrying emu oil (INCI Emu Oil), so I thought I'd try it out. So what's the big deal with this oil? It's reported to be a good anti-inflammatory, skin cell regenerator, anti-bacterial, and non-comedogenic oil. Are these claims all true?

Interestingly enough, there haven't been a ton of studies on this oil and those that have been done have mostly been performed on mice. It is anti-inflammatory for mice, but this hasn't been proven for humans.

We do know its fatty acid profile...sort of. There have only been a few studies, and each batch of oil can be vastly different from the last one depending upon the conditions in which the emus lived and ate and how the oil was processed. (These are all mean scores. Some oils may contain different ratios of fatty acids.) It contains about 22% palmitic acid (C16:0), 3.5% palmitoleic acid (C16:1), 9.6% stearic acid (C18:0), 47.4% oleic acid (C18:1), 15.2% linoleic acid (C18:2), and 0.9% linolenic acid (C18:3). Emu oil contains sterols in the form of sitosterol, amongst others, and we know sterols make for good anti-inflammatories, but the amount is quite low - about 750 ppm. Compare this to something like macadamia nut oil with about 1613 ppm or 3270 ppm in soy bean oil and you can see there are oils with higher levels of sterols.

As a note, the sterols in emu oil aren't phytosterols because "phyto" means plant and emu oil is from an animal. 

So what does this mean? Oils containing oleic acid are great for softening skin, regenerating skin cells, moisturizing, and behaving as an anti-inflammatory. Oils containing linoleic acid are good for helping to restore skin's barrier function and reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL), but what does palmitoleic acid do for our skin?

Palmitoleic acid is found in our skin's fatty acid profile and is a building block to prevent burns, wounds, and skin scratches as well as the most active anti-microbial in our sebum. It can be used on our skin to treat damaged skin and annoyed mucous membranes. Studies have shown it can prevent adhesion of Candida albicans (yeast) to pig skin, and one study showed it had the same effect on babies' bottoms! You can find palmitoleic acid in sea buckthorn oil and macadamia nut oil.

Apparently emu oil is non-comedogenic, but I can't find any research to confirm this. It contains a lot of oleic acid, which tends to be more comedogenic than other oils, and it seems like the only people who are touting it as non-comedogenic are on-line retailers who are selling the product. So I can't say whether this is confirmed or not.

Joe Schwarcz notes in his book Dr Joe & What You Didn't Know that emu oil contains terpenes, sapogenins, and flavones, but I wasn't able to find specifics of each of these categories. He notes it is a good emollient and "penetrates skin smoothly". And therein lies the appeal of emu oil.

As a note, I'll be taking a look at saponins, sapogenins, and terpenes over the next few days. 

If you're wanting to make a product with some active ingredients that you want to penetrate the skin, emu oil is a good choice, but then again, it's looking like any oil with oleic acid might work in this fashion. It is not vegan friendly - they don't squeeze the emus for the oil and let them go on their merry ways - and it is an expensive oil, even compared to sea buckthorn oil (which is the most expensive oil I buy).

I bought it specifically to make a pain relieving medication for my aunt, who is struggling with aches and pains right now, and for myself for my on-going exciting muscle spasms. Join me tomorrow for fun formulating with this oil! 

Question: How to thin out a thick lotion?

Someone asks: Say you have a cream that came out too thick and you have to thin it. You measure out the water and just add? THEN how do you refigure the % of your original formula?

You cannot thin out a thick lotion once you've made it. If you add water to it, you'll mess up the emulsion and the preservative. Heating it up and adding more water will make our not-heat loving ingredients like preservatives, panthenol, silicones, and so on very upset and they may become de-activated or might give off a horrible smell or might mess up the skin feel. So if you've made a thick lotion and want it thinner, you'll have to make notes for next time that you wish to alter it.

Let's use my basic body butter recipe as our template here as it is a very thick creamy buttery lotion.

60% water
2% sodium lactate or glycerin

10% oils (4% light, 4% medium, 2% heavy, or just 10% of the oil of your choice)
15% shea butter (or butter of choice)
6% emulsifier
3% cetyl alcohol

0.5 to 1% preservative
1% fragrance or essential oil blend

So what's thickening this recipe? Two main ingredients - the butter and the cetyl alcohol. You can leave out the cetyl alcohol and increase the water amount by 3% and you could reduce or even eliminate the butter. (The emulsifier helps thicken as well - we can't remove it, but we can reduce it.)

Whenever you remove something from a lotion, add the different to your water amount. So if you choose to reduce your butter amount to 5%, add 10% to the water phase. You can use any water soluble ingredients you choose - aloe vera, hydrosols, a combination of things like panthenol or proteins, but you have to add the amount into the water phase to get 100%.

Plus you need to look at your emulsifier amount. If you are using Polawax, it's about 25% the oil phase. So if we remove the cetyl alcohol and reduce butter, we lose 13% of our oil phase, and it becomes a total of 15%. So 25% of that would be 3.75% emulsifier, but I'll round it up to 4. (If you're using other emulsifiers, you'll have to read the manufacturers' suggestions for usage rates.)

So let's take a look at our new recipe!

75.5% water
2% sodium lactate or glycerin
10% oils (4% light, 4% medium, 2% heavy, or just 10% of the oil of your choice)
5% shea butter (or butter of choice)
4% emulsifier
0.5 to 1% preservative
1% fragrance or essential oil blend

I've increased the water amount to compensate for the reduction in the other ingredients. This should make thinnish lotion.

Let's say you're modifying on the fly and decide to add 80 grams of water to this recipe as you're making it (or, as often happens to me, your hand slips). Total up what you used in the recipe and divide by the total amount to get your percentage. (For more detail on how to get the percentages in the lotion, check out this post.)

80 grams water
2 grams humectant
10 grams oils
5 grams shea butter
4 grams emulsifier
0.5 grams preservative
1 gram fragrance oil
Total 102.5

So divide each ingredient by 102.5 to get your percentage

80 grams water / 102.5 grams = 78.05 grams of water
2 grams humectant / 102.5 grams = 1.95 grams of humectant
and so on...

Or you can just live with it being 102.5% and recognize that if you make a 10 times batch of the stuff you'll get 1025 grams instead of 1000. (I do this for small amounts over 100%. If you're at 110%, you'll want to recalculate the recipe.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Calibrating my pH meter

As I mentioned, my lovely husband and mother bought me a pH meter for Christmas. It's a Jenco Vision Plus and it's quite fancy as it can store up to 50 readings, take temperatures, and many more features I have yet to try! It even comes with a handy dandy belt hook so I can wander around the house testing everything (except I don't own any belts!) But it didn't come with calibration solution!

I could have ordered it from an aquarium supply place or my new favourite shop, Pro-Lab in Quebec (check out the beakers and test tubes!), but I didn't want to wait to play and I wanted to shop local. So I went to one of the many hydroponic growing stores in Chilliwack - thank goodness I live in the grow op belt of B.C.! - and bought myself a container of pH 4 and pH 7 calibration solution. (They didn't have the pH 10, so I will order that from Pro-Lab!)

If you have a pH meter, you'll need some calibration fluid. Mine calls for pH 4, pH 7, and pH 10, although I can get away without the pH 10. Check what you need. You might find it locally at aquarium or hydroponic or "indoor growing" stores. 

Mine called for me to soak the electrode in the pH 4 solution for 10 minutes before using it for the first time. My husband yelled, "Oh boy, Hawaiian punch!" upon seeing the solution! After the 10 minutes, it was time to calibrate it for the first time.

I rinsed it with distilled water, then put it into the pH 7 solution, which was a lovely lime green, until it noted the pH and held it. Then I rinsed it again, then put it into the pH 4 solution until it noted the pH. Calibration done.

I could have done a triple calibration with pH 10 included, but I don't have that yet. I will once I've purchased some! 

Calibration done! Time to get measuring!

Our caramelized onion marmalade has a pH of 3.9! I'm off to the workshop to test more stuff!

As a note, every pH meter is different so check yours to see what the manufacturer suggests. I just wanted to share in the pH meter-y happiness!

Substitutions: Figuring out what's important in a conditioner

If you want to make a recipe, but don't have all the ingredients, substitute...with one exception - the cationic quaternary compound or conditioning agent.

Identify the cationic quaternary compound (usually Incroquat BTMS-50, but sometimes Incroquat BTMS-25, cetrimonium bromide, or cetrimonium chloride) and make sure you don't substitute that for something else. A conditioner is not a conditioner if it lacks the cationic quaternary compound.

For instance, I made my first conditioner with 7% BTMS-50, 0.5% preservative, and water. That's it! And that qualifies as a conditioner!

You cannot substitute Incroquat BTMS-50 for Polawax or e-wax in a conditioner recipe. The emulsifying waxes are non-ionic or neutrally charged; the cationic quaternary compounds are cationic or positively charged, which is what makes them conditioners. If you use an e-wax in a conditioning recipe, you've made a lovely lotion but it's not a conditioner.

You cannot leave the cationic quaternary compound or conditioning agent out of the recipe. I know it's hard to find cetrimonium chloride, but if you have a recipe in which it is the only conditioning agent, then leaving it out means you don't have a conditioner. Find another conditioning agent - a cationic polymer would work for things like light leave in conditioner or use another cationic quaternary compound - but don't leave it out entirely.

For instance in this recipe (click here for full post), if you leave out the cetrimonium chloride you have water with some preservative and fragrance. Instead, find another cationic ingredient like BTMS-50 (for a thicker leave in conditioner) or use a cationic polymer in its place.

3% cetrimonium chloride
95% water

0.5% to 1% preservative
1% fragrance oil

You can substitute the silicones for other ingredients - click here for that post - and the hydrosols with water and one protein for another (or leave it out entirely), but the positively charged conditioning agents are vital!

Join me tomorrow for more fun with cosmetic chemistry!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I love Christmas!

My love of chemistry was acknowledged by my friends and family this Christmas with this amazing test tube set and beaker from my best friend, and a fantastic pH meter from my mom and husband. I may have to break my ban on shopping on Boxing Day because I need some calibration fluid so I can use the darn thing (I could make some, but I'm scared I'll mess the machine up for good!).

My mom made me a lovely grey coloured blouse with pewter buttons, and my husband bought me many books and the game Crafting Mama for my DS. We did such a great job hiding my mom's presents around the house, we found five of them stashed away that we had to give her throughout the day! I gave Raymond an ice cream maker - ironic coming from the lactose tolerant girl, although he's been looking up soy and non-dairy based ice creams - and some clothes. (Damn, my husband's gorgeous!)

We had a great dinner - Raymond made turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and Brussell sprouts (ick!) and green beans and roastie potatoes and it was awesome, although we ate so much, we couldn't have our Christmas pudding! Next year - we eat early and less so I can have some pudding!

So how was your Christmas? Mine was awesome!

Lest you doubt the power of fragrance...

Cinnamon is considered the most Christmas-y smell around Christmas time, as are orange and clove. Rose is considered the most summertime-y. (Click the link for more!)

I change my fragrances throughout the year to put me more in the mood for the season - I love citrus in the summer - but I do have my staples. Clementine Cupcake and Cream Cheese Frosting are alway staples, and I always love Oatmeal Milk & Honey for my hair care products (it smells like marzipan!)

What are your favourite winter time fragrances?

Iron Chemist: Sodium lactate

Welcome to Workshop Stadium. This week the Chairman, Raymond (my lovely husband), has chosen the first Iron Chemist ingredient - sodium lactate.

Here are the rules. Every week I will ask my husband to choose a number between 1 and 9. These represent boxes of supplies in my workshop. Once he has chosen a number, he will choose an item randomly from the box and I must make 2 - possibly 3 - products that include that ingredient. I will post the ingredient on Sunday and the products I've made out of said ingredient on Saturday along with the recipes. (If you wish to play along, you aren't limited to the same time frame and you don't need to make 2 or 3 products.) The only exception will be preservatives - I use them in everything anyway, and it won't end up being a very interesting product!

Unlike Iron Chef, you don't have to make the featured ingredient the main ingredient because we don't want to use our ingredients at unsafe levels.

As a note, I will change the order of the boxes every week, choosing another number 1 and counting from there because there's a chance he won't choose boxes number 1 or 9 because they're at the beginning and end. 


I do love sodium lactate! It's inexpensive, easy to use, and doesn't leave any sticky residue in your products. It's a metal-organic humectant (the Na - sodium - is the metal part), as opposed to a poly-alcohol, like glycerin. It is found in our skin's natural moisturizing factor, and it's a very effective humectant. How effective? Very effective.

It has been found to improve the barrier properties of our skin (in studies, there is a decrease in the trans epidermal water loss, which is a good thing), it is believed to stimulate ceramide synthesis in the skin, and it increases the plasticity of our skin. It also acts as a mild AHA, which can help reduce "the look of fine lines and wrinkles".

It has a really high water holding capacity (meaning it's a very effective humectant), and it is about 1.5 times more effective in this department than glycerin.

So why not use it in everything? It can help treat acne and "signs of aging", and it's a very effective humectant. On the down side, it can make your skin sun sensitive, it can increase the rate of cell exfoliation (which is both good and bad), and it loses its efficacy when you've washed the area in question. So for something like a hand lotion, you're going to lose your humectant after the first hand washing! So great for body butters, foot lotions, moisturizers, toners, and other leave on products - not so great for products like body washes, hand lotions, or surfactant systems where you are going to be washing it away.

I use sodium lactate at 2.5% or lower in my products because at 3% it can make you sun sensitive, so I'd recommend it at 0.5% to 2.5%. If you're using it in a product where the sun doesn't matter - for instance, for a night time foot cream - you can go as high as 5%.

This one's going to be hard as I use it in just about everything already! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to all...

Merry Christmas! I'm taking the day off to make merry, jingle a few bells, open some presents, and spend some time with my friends and family. I'll be back on Boxing Day with more cosmetic chemistry fun, but for now I'm off to eat my mom's amazing Christmas cake, enjoy some Christmas pudding, and help my husband prepare Christmas dinner (we're actually having turkey this year! It's a first!).

Indulge me for a moment, if you will.

A huge thank you to all the readers of this blog - you inspire me to create new things, to research different topics, and to continue to expand my knowledge of this amazing craft we call bath & body products.

A massive thank you to those of you who participate in the comments and e-mails - you, too, inspire me to think outside of the proverbial box and learn new things.

And a thank you that is too large for any mere adjective to convey to those of you who have donated to my youth groups. You've allowed us to continue to offer our youth groups, and even expand them! You have no idea how much your support means to us, but more importantly, how much it means to the youth who attend our groups. They're shocked, amazed, and thrilled that people they haven't met care so much about them! They've gained an appreciation for the supplies we bring and they're learning all about the kindness of others. You've given them so much more than money - you've given them a chance to learn about generosity, kindness, and selflessness, three things that will serve them well as they become amazing adults. Again, I can never thank you enough, so I hope these words will suffice.

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours. Hope Santa is kind to you this year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Calculating percentages in lotions

No doubt you've come across recipes that use grams or ounces and you might be asking yourself, "How do I convert this into a percentage based recipe?" The other question you might ask yourself is, "Why do I want to convert this into a percentage based recipe?" and I'll answer that one first.

It's best to work in percentages for two reasons - it's easier to make larger batches and you can check to see if all the ratios are in order and if all the ingredients are being used at the safe or suggested levels (for instance, too little or too much e-wax). This last bit is the most important one, because you could multiply a non-percentage based lotion easily.

So how do you convert that amazing sounding recipe into percentages? With the wonders of math! Here's a sample recipe we can work with (do not actually make this recipe, it's an example, although it wouldn't be a bad recipe but I'd want to add 1% Vitamin E due to the short shelf life of the grapeseed oil...)

40 grams water
10 grams aloe vera
3 grams glycerin

15 grams grapeseed oil
10 grams shea butter
4 grams emulsifying wax
3 grams cetyl alcohol

1 gram liquid Germall Plus
1 gram fragrance oil
1 gram green apple extract

This recipe totals 88 grams. So let's take a look at how to figure out what each ingredient works out to in the recipe.

To figure out percentage, divide the amount of the ingredient by the total weight of the recipe. So you'd divide everything in this case by 88.

40 grams of water / 88 grams total = 45.45 (round to 45.5)
10 grams of aloe vera/ 88 grams total = 11.37 (round to 11.5)
3 grams of glycerin / 88 grams total = 3.4 (round down to 3.0)
15 grams grapeseed oil / 88 grams total = 17.05 (round to 17)
10 grams shea butter / 88 grams total = 11.37 (round down to 11.0)
4 grams emulsifying wax / 88 grams total = 4.54 (round to 4.5)
3 grams cetyl alcohol / 88 grams total = 3.4 grams (round down to 3.0)
1 gram liquid Germall Plus / 88 grams total = 1.14 (rounded)
1 gram fragrance oil / 88 grams total = 1.14 (rounded)
1 gram green apple extract / 88 grams total = 1.14 (rounded)

Total: 99.72

Are the ratios and suggested usage rates right for each ingredient? 
We need our preservative to be at 0.5% for liquid Germall Plus, so we need to decrease that.

We want 1% fragrance or essential oil, so that's about right.

We want 0.5% of an extract, so let's decrease that.

And we're not using enough emulsifier. We like to use Polawax at 25% of the oil phase of a recipe. In this case, we have 28% oil phase, which means we'll want to use 7% Polawax. If we'd made this recipe in the way suggested, we'd have an epic lotion fail!

So let's re-write this recipe as a percentage based recipe...


45.5% water
11.5% aloe vera
3% grams glycerin

17% grapeseed oil
11% shea butter
7% emulsifying wax
3% cetyl alcohol

0.5% liquid Germall Plus
1% fragrance oil
0.5% green apple extract
Total = 100% 

You can make a nice percentage converter in Excel (get the total recipe amount then divide each ingredient by the total to get the result) or you can do it on a calculator. I would create one, but I can't seem to save the darn thing in a format that other people can use! (Excel and I don't get along very well!) 

Happy formulating! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last minute project ideas!

Only 2 more days to go until Christmas, so if you don't have your presents made already, it might be too late. Or is it?

If you're looking for some last minute, easy to make, no fail presents, here are a few ideas for you...

Lotion bars: Give yourself an hour to weigh, melt, and mould, then pop them into the freezer to set quickly.

Whipped butters: These are always welcome under the tree, and your giftee will thank you when they feel the lovely meltiness on his or her skin.

Solid scrub bars for the body (click there for the original recipe, click here for modifications and lists of other recipes) or for the feet: Again, weigh, melt, mould, freeze. If you don't have all the ingredients, you can make something with a butter, an oil, some e-wax, some cetyl, your scrubby bits, and leave out all the fancy stuff.

And package it all in something really cute! Click here for a list of all the places I've found great templates for packaging (scroll down a bit). And don't forget the adorable labels!

Sorry for the short post, but it's chaos around here right now and I haven't had time to do any serious researching or experimenting for a few weeks! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Question: Why do people like grapeseed oil so much?

I'm just curious why people seem to like grapeseed oil so much. (I'm writing this post as I've been receiving a lot of e-mails from people wanting to make seeking all natural products and it seems like most of them want to use grapeseed oil!)

It has high levels of linoleic acid, but so do sunflower, soybean, and other oils. It has low levels of Vitamin E compared to just about every other oil, which is one of the reasons the shelf life is ridiculously low (3 to 6 months, but I've found it's more like 3 months). It's a dry feeling oil with some astringent qualities, so that might be part of the appeal, but so are hazelnut and macadamia nut (both of which are more expensive). Although you can find expeller pressed versions of the oil, which can get quite expensive, a lot of it is solvent extracted as this produces the most oil.

So I'm curious - why grapeseed oil? Why not soybean oil (although it is greasier feeling), which contains linoleic acid, tons of Vitamin E, a longer shelf life, and a cheaper price? What is it about grapeseed oil that makes it so appealing?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Question: Can we make a clear leave in conditioner?

Sweeteababy0427 writes: I would like to know more about making liquid emulsifications. For example, like a leave in conditioner that has oils and water but I would like for it to stay in the liquid form and translucent (if possible). I saw you post about the spray leave in conditioner but I am thinking in general, if I wanted to make any product like that how would I do it? Which emulsifiers would I use? At what percentage?

If you want to use one of the cationic quats like Incroquat BTMS-50 or cetrimonium bromide, it isn't possible as they are emulsifiers and will make the product opaque. You could, however, use cetrimonium chloride, cationic polymers, and water soluble oils (esters) to make something clear, but it will be less conditioning than something made with our cationic quaternary compounds!

So what emollients could we use in this recipe? We need to use something water soluble, so we'll want to stick with esters like PEG-7 olivate (or another water soluble oil), Cromollient SCE, Caprol Micro Express (link at Lotioncrafters), or even oil mixed with polysorbate 80 as our emollients.

I would use cetrimonium chloride as my detangling and cationic ingredient at 2%, then add a cationic polymer like polyquat 7, honeyquat (although it will be slightly yellow), or polyquat 44 (my new Saturday night thing!) at the appropriate amount. I'd use polyquat 7 or honeyquat at 3% to 5% or polyquat 44 at up to 2% (although the suggestion is 0.5%, I would need more conditioning!).

So let's take a look at a few ideas (based on this post on detangling products)...


water to 100%
1% Cromollient SCE or up to 5% PEG-7 olivate (or other water soluble oil) or up to 10% Caprol Micro Express
3% cetrimonium chloride
2% hydrolyzed protein

3% polyquat 7 or honeyquat or 0.5% polyquat 44
2% panthenol
0.5% preservative
1% fragrance oil

I'm not the biggest fan of using polysorbate 80 in hair care products as it can feel kind of sticky, so I'd keep it to 2% or lower, which means you can only use 2% oils in this recipe. If you want to make a clear emollient conditioner, I'd definitely go with one of the other esters, but I thought I would include this recipe to show you how it can be made.

Your conditioner will go the colour of your oils, so I would stick to clear oils like fractionated coconut oil or lightly coloured oils like sweet almond, sunflower, and so on.

water to 100%
3% cetrimonium chloride
2% hydrolyzed protein


3% polyquat 7 or honeyquat or 0.5% polyquat 44
2% panthenol
0.5% preservative
1% fragrance oil
2% oil of choice
2% polysorbate 80

You can use the general or alternate instructions for these recipes. But mix the oil and polysorbate together first, then add it to the conditioners.

As a side note, I've been playing around with Caprol Micro Express in hair care products and I'm quite enjoying it for my oily hair. As another side note, cetrimonium chloride is supposed to be an emulsifier but I've found it doesn't work well in that capacity. You can try it with small amounts of oils, but it will need shaking after a while.

Have fun formulating!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Workshops for kids or youth

As you all know by now, I run craft groups for tweens and teens at my local libraries (Chilliwack and Yarrow) and here are a few things I've learned about making bath & body products with them. I thought this would make a nice addendum to the post on running workshops I wrote the other day.

If you wanted to do a spa party for girls, there are a few things you can make and use right away. I'm using volume measurements as you probably don't have five scales sitting around the house for your group the way I do!

Bath salts - I like to use 1/4 cup of Epsom salts (about 100 grams) with 1 ml fragrance.  Remind them not to use a ton of colours!

Bath bombs - These are such great fun, and I like to put them in silicone ice cube tray moulds so they can pack them in really tightly.

Fizzing bath salts - I like to use 1/4 cup Epsom salts, 2 tbsp baking soda, and 1 tbsp citric acid for these. Mix together with a nice scent, and let them colour it or add some glitter to the product. I call it Fairy Dust, but they can give it whatever name they choose!

Mineral make-up - The girls love to make mineral make up! We make glitter powder (which is finishing powder with some glitter thrown in) and lip shimmer sticks. For the lip balms, I've been using clear lip balm containers so they can layer the colours and make it look awesome. Don't worry - they won't have green lips if they use about 1 small scoop of mica to 1.5 tsp (7.5 ml) of melted lip balm mixture. I would definitely encourage you to get some really cute containers that look fancy as it really does make the product look "real" and official to them.

Melt & pour soap - The kids love to make these. I like to show them how to layer the soaps - a thin layer of translucent on the front, then a layer of white on the back to highlight the colours!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why we heat and hold our ingredients separately!

Someone recently wrote to me about heating and holding the oil and water phase together in the same container, and wondered why the emulsion didn't work (and it had worked in the past).

First things first, we can make a lot of things emulsify that won't stay emulsified. I remember making a lip balm with a tiny bit of glycerin. It seemed like it worked, but a week or so later, the glycerin started weeping out and made a horrible mess. If you whip a water soluble ingredient into an oil soluble creation - say something like aloe vera into a whipped butter - you will see emulsification as well, but it won't stay that way for very long.

You might recall that emulsification comes in three ways - heat emulsification, chemical emulsification, and mechanical emulsification. And here's the post on epic lotion fails!

When you get an emulsion that works well on day one but fails on day ten, it could be that you mixed it well enough to make it work (mechanical emulsification) but messed up on the chemical emulsification. Think about salad dressing. If we shake it enough, it turns into a lovely emulsion we can use to make any vegetable-y treat tasty. But leave it alone for a while and it separates into vinegar and oil again. This could be the reason that thing that shouldn't emulsify has emulsified. It may be stable for a short period of time, but it will eventually return to its state of un-emulsification!

We heat and hold our phases separately to 70˚C (about 158˚F) because we're trying to get to the phase inversion temperature, which ensures we get a lovely emulsion that will remain that way for quite some time. If we heat and hold our phases in the same container, we're getting emulsion way before the phase inversion temperature and it might create an unstable emulsification.

I know there are people out there who heat and hold both phases in the same container and it works for them and I know there are people who don't heat and hold but warm the ingredients in the microwave, but for the most part, this isn't the best way to create a lotion. To ensure you're getting all the long term emulsifying goodness, you'll want to heat and hold your oil and water phases in separate containers and add them together when they have both reached 70˚C!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Question: Doubling, quadrupling, and dodecahexing!

Tiffany writes:  I love creating concoctions for myself and others, but I have been stumped on one thing that I hope you can answer.   I know that we have to weigh our ingredients to get the most accurate measure, and I have done that.  My question is once I have weighed my ingredients and converted those weights to volumes can I just double, triple, quadruple etc a batch if I want to create more of it?  I know you can do that in food recipes but I did not know if it would be the same with cosmetics.

Yep! That's why we do things in percentages - if we have 10% of an ingredient, it could be 10 grams, 100 grams, or 1000 grams! I have a little column on my recipe sheet so I can do the math to increase the batch size to whatever size I want. And I haven't noticed any weird things happening when I increase the batch size dramatically (say to make 2 kilograms of lotion, so 20 times my normal recipe) the way you might with a food recipe!

The nice thing is that we can make up big batches of our products and save them to use later on! (Click here for that post!) That's what I'm planning for my holiday time (I'm off until January 5th, so let the experimenting begin!) - I'm making up big batches of products like body wash, shampoo and conditioner bars, bubble bath, and body butter so I'll have enough to take me through until June!

For more information on converting recipes from percentages to weights, click here

Friday, December 17, 2010

Running a workshop or class

Ruth wrote and asked: I wondered if you might be able to do a blog post sometime with advice on running these kinds of workshops! I expect it will be with adults, but other people might like to do this kind of thing with youth groups, and as you are into youth work, I guess you might have some really useful experience to share!

I offer groups for adults, teens, tweens, and families at my local libraries, and I'm happy to share what I've learned! (There's more than this one post in my brain, but these are the basics!) 

My groups run like this - for the teens and adults we have about two hours, for the tweens and families an hour to an hour and a half. 

Before the class: I always make up a list for every single ingredient I could possibly use for the group and check it twice to ensure I haven't forgotten anything. (The running joke with the kids is that I always forget something, but since I've started keeping lists on my iPod touch, I'm on a winning streak!) When you've finished the group, update the list to include anything you forgot for the next class. 

Bring more than you think you'll need. People will go nuts making things once the idea clicks, and you don't want to run out. If you think you'll need 30 grams of citric acid per person, make it 60 grams because they will make more. Do set a limit - everyone is making 3 of something, but allow for mistakes! 

It will take longer to make every project than you think! Last night's extravaganza was supposed to be five projects - candles, chocolate, soap, bubble bath, and Shrinky dinks - and we made it through three of them! So decide if you're prepared to go longer than you planned if you are running out of time or if you'll just leave that last project for another time. 

Setting up the class: I like to have a head table where you'll find all the supplies, and a storage table to put our projects as they dry or set. I like to set the tables up in a square formation so I can approach them from either side. And let them get their own chairs - it saves your back and it allows them to sit where they want. Tablecloths from the dollar store are your friend - it saves you from having to clean tables for hours! And warn those people who might be scent sensitive or allergic to something if you are using ingredients that might bother them. 

At the start of the class: Establish what you are making, when you are making them, and what they will get to take home with them. For instance, at last night's Christmas extravaganza (3 hours), I established we were making beeswax candles, then chocolate, then soap, then we'd package it all. Everyone could make at least two candles, a ton of chocolate, at least five little guest soaps, and they could use any packaging they wanted.

Offer a handout with recipes and instructions after you've finished your initial speech to the group. When you hand it out, they will start reading it immediately and won't be listening! I always put my e-mail, blog, and facebook group information on the handouts so they can get copies of it if they lose it! 

And establish your expectations for the ingredients and clean up. For instance, can they bring the fragrance bottle to their table or should they bring their container to the fragrances? Should they leave the pipette in the fragrance bottle or on the table beside the bottle (I always leave them in)? What should they do with cups and spoons when they are finished with them? If you aren't using disposables, then establish an area where they should put your moulds and other items. 

For our groups, I tell the youth they are responsible for putting their chairs on the rack, cleaning up the table top, and cleaning up the space under the table. If some of them leave early, then whoever is left at the table at 8:15 is responsible, which means that person will police the others. If they don't clean up, then there are random punishments in the future. It could mean no pizza at games night or they lose out on a project during another class. And they are random...they won't necessarily be punished at the next group but one in the future. I explain the reasoning for the cleaning in this way - it's our way of showing respect for the supplies, the facilitators of the group, your fellow youth, and the library. 

At the start of each project: Show them how to make the product, then invite them to get supplies and start making it themselves or put the supplies on each table. I generally use this time to go around to the different tables and see how people are doing. If I see something particularly interesting or hear a good question, I'll yell out to the rest of the group this interesting thing! (And yes, with 23 kids, you do have to yell!) 

I ensure there is a clean up in between each project - I don't want soapy tasting chocolates! Bring some crayons or grease pencils if people are sharing moulds so they can put their initials beside their project (and these clean off really easily). Let people know where the bathrooms are so they can wash their hands and let everyone know where they might find garbage cans! 

If you're doing a group with tweens, remember they are accustomed to a classroom setting where getting out of their chairs is discouraged. With this group, I remind them they aren't in school and they may get up to throw away garbage, get more supplies, and use the bathroom (they don't have to ask me to go, but they should tell me they're leaving the room). 

During the class: Encourage people to take their time with each project. This is one of the reasons I establish what we're going to make and what they're going to take home. If people think there's a limited supply of an ingredient, they'll rush through it so they can make more. I do a free for all at a certain point because I really don't want to take home a container of melted wax, chocolate, or soap  - if we're making three soap each and everyone has made 3 soaps, then they can make another project but not before the others have finished their three. 

In every group, there is one person who wants to make much more than you expect, regardless of age. If you say they can make two candles, they want to make four, and they'll be able to give you a really good reason for it. If you find you keep encountering these types of people, make it clear what you are offering to them, and hide your supplies because they will happily take more than their share. 

Bring something they can carry their products home in, like some plastic bags. If you want to give them time to decorate cute packaging - which I like to do with chocolate or soap making - then make sure they will be able to take them home on bikes or if they're walking. I generally have cute cellophane bags and twist ties for the products and a Ziploc type bag for the transporting. 

Bring labels! I get packs of Avery type labels and some felts so they can write down the name of the product (the kids love coming up with cute names for their products) and the fragrance. If they've done something different - for instance, adding flowers to bath bombs - they'll want to know that so they can replicate it at home. 

Don't offer too many options. In my first classes, I would bring twenty fragrances and they spent most of the time smelling each and every one of them. I generally bring five now - for the kids, I make sure I have Pink Sugar, a fruity scent, vanilla, my current favourite (usually Cream Cheese Frosting or Clementine Cupcake), and something their parents might like, Black Amber Lavender or something more adult. 

Remember that you're showing them how to make things, not to fill their homes with stuff. I used to worry that my participants weren't making a hundred things, but then I remembered that I'm there to ensure they are learning something they can make at home. For something like tea light candles, I try to offer five per person so they can try each scent and make a few layered ones. 

Use disposable cups, spoons, bowls, etc. I know it's not the most environmentally friendly thing to do, but do you want to wash 50 cups and then find a place to store them?

There's a lot more stuffed into my brain, and I'll write another post on this topic in the future. Use the comments section to share what you've learned about offering groups or ask questions! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Question: What does natural mean?

I am regularly asked how to make natural products and I guess I'm having trouble figuring out what that means, so I turn to you, my lovely readers, to help me define what exactly you mean so I can write up some natural product recipes! 

When I think of natural ingredients, I think of those that I consider minimally processed. All of our botanical or natural ingredients have to be processed in some way so we can use them in our products. Bees and honey have to be removed from beeswax, olives have to be pressed, extracts have to be dried and ground into powder. So they aren't truly as nature intended as they have been interfered with in some way before we get them, hence the concept of being minimally processed.

When I look at things advertised as natural emulsifiers - for instance, Ritamulse (aka Natramulse, ECO mulse) - they don't strike me as natural (INCI: Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate). The original source might have been coconuts, but we don't just scoop out some cetearyl alcohol along with the coconut milk; it has to be processed in some way to produce the various fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and so on.

I get similarly confused when I see surfactants listed as "derived from coconuts" or "derived from almonds" or "derived from sunflowers" because most, if not all, of our surfactants are derived from some kind of oils found in fruits, seeds, and so on. I see something like decyl glucoside being called natural, but I don't understand how the process to turn this sugar based surfactant is different than making something like disodium laureth sulfosuccinate (DLS mild), which is derived from coconut or palm oils.

When I think of a natural product, I think of lotion bars, whipped butters, lip balms, and body oils - in other words, I think of anhydrous products, and I've already covered those in great detail in both the posts and the e-book. I honestly can't see how anything containing a surfactant, a cationic quat, an emulsifier, a preservative, and so on could be considered natural. I think we could make a mostly natural lotion (let's say about 92% if we ignore the emulsifier, thickener, preservative, and fragrance oil) but I can't see how it is possible to make a 100% natural lotion!

I guess this is where I'm getting confused. I can't understand how something that has been modified in a manufacturer's lab - an emulsifier or surfactant - can be considered natural in the way beeswax or glacial clay could be considered natural. So I turn to you for some assistance here. When you are asking for recipes for a natural product, what do you mean? What ingredients do you consider natural? And why are some considered natural and some aren't?

An addendum to this post specifically to the people who have been writing to me asking for natural products - can you please e-mail me or comment as to what you mean by natural? I'm happy to do formulate some recipes, but I need to know what you are defining as natural! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Substitutions: Reading INCI names

Gina writes: Hello Susan, whatever you write about is fascinating and most interesting! For me substitutions are very interesting since I live in Europe and cannot find many of the "products" you mention - not where I can pay in Euros :)

As I mentioned in the post on INCI names, a lot of suppliers will change the name of the ingredient they carry to represent their company or their core values. We have a lot of confusion about "conditioning emulsifier" and it helps to know the proper name of the ingredient so you aren't reliant upon one supplier.

Let's say you're interested in Coco SilkyCleanse from the Herbarie or Creations from Eden. Knowing that the INCI for this ingredient is Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate means I can go to the Personal Formulator or Of A Simple Nature (UK) and buy it there!

I try to use the INCI for ingredients like surfactants and esters because it makes it easier to find these ingredients in your local suppliers' stores, but sometimes they are simply too long to type!

One of the problems with surfactants is that suppliers like to sell blends of surfactants, which means you're reliant upon them for that specific combination. (LabRat always said don't get reliant upon blends because if they run out or stop carrying it, you'll have to reformulate. This happened to me with Bioterge 804!) For instance, I love to use BSB and LSB from Voyageur (those are also the names Stepan gives them) and I can't find those combinations anywhere else. When you see BSB on this blog, you can substitute it for a different blend, generally ones that are considered "baby blends" like the Baby Blend Concentrate from the Herbarie. When you see LSB on the blog, substitute it for your favourite surfactant or the surfactants found in the INCI name.

BSB is INCI: PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate, PEG-150 Distearate, Sodium Laureth-13 Carboxylate, Quaternium-15. 
LSB is INCI: Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate and Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate

It gets worse with emulsifying wax. I use Polawax, which is listed as emulsifying wax NF (the ingredients are a trade secret) and you'll see emulsifying wax NF listed for a number of different products. Before you invest in an emulsifying wax NF or something listed as an emulsifier, read the INCI. For instance, Aromantic (UK) has a product called "Emulsifying Wax Natural" that contains Glyceryl monostearate and cetyl alcohol, which is not emulsifying wax NF. There are a number of different ways to make emulsifying wax NF, and you'll want to check the INCI so you can ensure you'll get the same product again.

If you are looking for Ritamulse (INCI: Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate), you'll want to look for NatraMulse at the Herbarie and Creations from Eden and ECOmulse at Lotioncrafter. (This, by the way, is an emulsifier approved for organic products, and something I hope to play with over my Christmas break from work!)

In the original post on this topic, DuhBe noted she keeps a spreadsheet of her ingredients with the INCI names on it so she can compare prices between suppliers. I think this is a good way of keeping track of what you're buying and what you want. I can't think of a better way to do this, other than memorizing every ingredient or only referring to said ingredient by the INCI name (which is what I did - I refuse to call it Amphosol AS-40 any more as it's really C14-16 olefin sulfonate, but I don't expect you to be as chemistry obsessed as I am!)

Ideally, I would include the various names for each ingredient in every post, but I simply don't have the knowledge of names outside of North America and I don't have the time doing a search of every supplier for that information.

Please note, the naming of these suppliers should not constitute an endorsement by me of these companies. I use them as examples of where I found these specific ingredients. And could those of you outside of North America please send me a few names of suppliers you like so I can take a look at what they carry?

As a secondary note, if your supplier is advertising that the ingredient you're about to purchase contains "no chemicals" or was created "without chemicals", you're dealing with someone who doesn't know his/her business very well. Run away now.

If your supplier doesn't list the INCI, ask them for it. It's something that should be standard on every suppliers' website. If they don't know it, refuse to give it to you, or don't bother responding to your e-mail, find another supplier (if possible).

And finally a note to suppliers - for the love of all that is good and holy, could you please learn to type and/or proofread your sites? In going through a few of them, I was shocked to see so many poorly spelled ingredient names. Not only is it annoying to those of us obsessed with correct grammar and spelling, it makes it really hard to do a search for an ingredient when you've spelled it wrong!

Substitutions: Silicones

Christine asks: Hi Susan, I would love to see more information on substituting cones in recipes please and using more natural ingredient substitutes if that's possible.

Okay, the natural ingredients part is a challenge for me, but I can help with the silicones right away! I've written a post on the topic of silicone replacements here, and I hope that fits your request!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What interests you?

Sorry I haven't had time to write up the posts on disodium cocoamphodiacetate but this week went crazy on me. Look for those posts shortly! 

I've been working so hard on the various e-books for the last few months that I kinda feel a bit lost on what to write about next. I like to have a theme - esters, surfactants, hair care products, and so on - and I feel like I don't have one right now, with the possible exception of the posts on substituting.

Is there a topic I should explore further? Is there something I haven't covered? Is there something I have covered but you'd like to see an update? Do you want to see a blast from the past?

The one exception is other emulsifiers - I don't have time to acquire them, so I can't really write about them with any degree of knowledge other than the book learnin' - but if you're interested, look for more about emulsifiers in the new year. And let me know which ones interest you!

Let me know what you'd like to see next!

Canadian supplier updates!

Voyageur Soap & Candle finally has emu oil! It's pricey, but I'm dying to try it!

Aquarius Aroma & Soap has the SCI granules (aka Jordapon prilled, which is SCI without stearic acid) in again, and they're on sale!

And Creations from Eden is stocking disodium EDTA and sodium stearate, which is vital for making deodorants (the sodium stearate, not the disodium EDTA)! She is carrying a ton of items from the Herbarie, like surfactants and emulsifiers, and some ingredients from TKB Trading, like the Pop micas, so her site is worth a look!

Note: I have not been paid or given any kind of incentive to share this information with you, my lovely readers. I just wanted to let you know what I've found for those of us who don't want to ship things across the border! Voyageur does, however, give me loads of free things for my youth groups and a 20% discount on everything I buy there for said groups, but they have not asked me to endorse their products in return. Aquarius gives me 10% off for products for my groups, but again, they haven't asked me to do anything in return. 

Surfactants: Disodium cocoamphodiacetate

I've bought a new surfactant to play with over my two week holiday at Christmas! It's disodium cocoamphodiacetate (aka Amphosol 2C by Stepan)!

Disodium cocoamphodiacetate is a mild amphoteric surfactant, much like cocamidopropyl betaine. The "ampho" part in the name indicates it's amphoteric, meaning it carries a different charge in different pH levels. If it's acidic (below 6), it behaves as a cationic surfactant that will be substantive to our hair and skin, offering moisturizing and conditioning properties. If it's alkaline (above 8), it behaves as an anionic surfactant with good foaming and detergency properties. (Click on the link for cocamidopropyl betaine if you want more information on the chemistry!)

It's generally used as a secondary surfactant to boost foam and viscosity, and it can be used as a very gentle cleanser for sensitive skin, babies, and facial products. It has a pH of 8.5 to 9.5 (which is higher than cocamidopropyl betaine), so I'll have to make sure I alter the pH if I'm using a lot of in my products with citric acid (just a titch). It comes as about 38% active in our products, and the suggested usage rate is up to 50%!

You will likely see this surfactant used as a primary surfactant for baby products as it's non-irritating to eyes at up to 5% and because it's very mild. And you'll likely see it combined with decyl glucoside in a lot of natural products or cleansers for sensitive skin as this combination creates a very gentle cleanser that won't strip a ton of oil off your skin! If you want to use this combination, you will have to test the pH and alter it slightly with citric acid.

If you want to use it as a secondary surfactant, it works with any combination of anionic or non-ionic surfactants, much like cocamidopropyl betaine. It will increase the mildness of your surfactant blend and it will increase the viscosity of your product. It does have a slightly yellow tinge, so if you want a completely crystal clear product with no colour, it might not work for those applications. But really, when you have a very gentle cleanser that offers moisturizing and conditioning, increases the mildness and viscosity, and doesn't strip the oils from our hair and skin, is a hint of yellow really going to make that a big a difference?

Click here for the data sheet from Stepan.

Join me tomorrow for fun formulating with this new surfactant!