Monday, August 9, 2010

Point of interest: When trying out a new product for the first time...

I'm always happy to get e-mails and comments looking for why a product didn't work, but I'd like to make a suggestion if you're making a product for the first time...make a basic version of it. I'm receiving e-mails from people who have shampoos - especially shampoos - that don't work, and it seems like most of them are from people who are making the product for the first time.

Pick a recipe and make it as close to the original as possible. The writer of the recipe has posted it because it worked for them, and odds are it will work for you. It might not be exactly what you want - you want a foot cream and it's a body butter - but you can tweak it like silly once you know what the final consistency should be and how your skin or hair likes it.

Please don't start out wanting to formulate your own recipe. There is a recipe out there for just about anything you might want to make. If you've never made a conditioner, don't get stuck formulating one for days and days. Find a recipe that looks nice and try it!

My first conditioner was 7% BTMS, water, preservative, and fragrance because I couldn't find a recipe I liked but I read somewhere 7% BTMS would make a thick conditioner and that's what I wanted. I added protein next, then the panthenol, and so on with every successive batch. Eventually, I had made a conditioner I loved. I did go through a ton of BTMS, but I created something I love! Why go through all that trouble when I've already made all the first time mistakes?

There are exceptions to the above paragraph including recipes from suppliers that might use ingredients specific to their company and recipes that you suspect might be missing something. Please read this post on how to know if a recipe will work if you have your doubts about it. 

On this blog, I start out with a basic recipe for most products then tweak it. Let's say you want to make a shampoo. Choose a basic recipe - here's my starter recipe - and make it. Try it on your hair. If you like it, then do a happy I'm successful dance and make sure you print it out and keep it somewhere safe!

If not, then read more about what you can do to change those qualities you don't like. If it isn't removing enough oil, then change surfactants. If it's too much for your hair, then lower the surfactant amount or choose different surfactants. If you want to increase the moisturization level, add some oils, emollients, or esters. And so on. This way you know what you like and don't like and it's easier to tweak.

With a lotion, again choose a basic recipe and one oil, one butter, then make it. Again, after you've made it you can tweak those tweakable parts to make something you love.

I'm not saying experiment - I'm all about the tweaking, which is one of the reasons I could never sell my products 'cause they'd be different every time - but it really is much easier to follow a recipe exactly the first time and tweak it from there.


Madeaj said...

Hi Susan

This is good advice. I have to admit I am guilty of wanting to run before I can walk. I love to cook and my first thought with a new recipe is how can I change it or add to it. I have to curb myself and try the recipe as is before making any changes.

Sometimes I try it a couple of times before making changes. Then I have to let my guina p...I mean friends try it too. :-). With the lotions and stuff I'm little more cautious, I try it the first few times and than let them have some.

Laura said...

Excellent advice! Lucky me, I'm so new to making lotions, et al that I still feel like I'm trying something wild and different when I work with any of the formulas on your site. I've made a few now and am slowly starting to figure out what I might want to change on some of them, but that'll require a fair bit of reading first. Thanks again for posting such stunning amounts of great information.

kontakt said...

While you are so perfectly right - I've done these mistakes, all the versions that you mention I think - one reason for wanting to go through all the trying out everything yourself is the fun of it. Plus, I bet you learned tons about ingredients while you worked that conditioner formula out. If I just copy it, I'm not really learning half of what you learned...

I am trying to run before I can walk. So very true. But parts of this is mistakes I pretty much have to make, I think. Somehow this is related to the "fear or crafting" thing, although I can not totally figure out how.

I think your way of starting with just BTMS and water, then adding one thing at the time, is a lovely way of working if you want to get to know your ingredients. A friend did the same thing with her first batch of BTMS. It is probably very clever.

Pam said...

wow! Now I feel badly for having written to you so many times when it is all right here..I find that I am guilty of all the latest error of my ways is that every time I read one of your posts I want to make that recipe!!!!! Now I find that I have so many " new" ingredients that I don't know where to start..

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Pam! No need to feel badly as we all get the jitters when we're making something for the first time. I always say that I find the person with the most information, pick their brains, then make something because I want to know all I can before spending the time on it, but it's hard to to know when to stop gathering information and when to start using the information. And when we consider how much effort it took to order and wait for our supplies, to gather our packaging and other things together, we really have huge incentives to not mess up!

Don't get me wrong - if I can avoid making mistakes, I'll avoid them, but sometimes the only way to learn is to try it, see how it works, then tweak it!

I've said it before but it bears repeating - I am part of the problem. I fill your head with all these ingredients and information and recipes and everything else that it gets difficult to decide which thing to try first. Then I throw in some of my favourite ingredients, which might be harder to find, which means you put off making the recipe for a while and before you know it, it's been a month and you still haven't had a chance to make something and then I throw out another wonderful sounding ingredient! I'm sorry!