Thursday, January 6, 2011

Oil or emulsified scrub?

My friend Ken, an herbal nutritionist, asked me about the differences between oil based and emulsified scrubs and why he would choose one over the other.

The functions of the two scrubs are quite similar - they are both intended to exfoliate the skin with salt, sugar, or other scratchy things and leave behind a nice oily film - with one key difference - the  emulsified scrub turns into a lotion type product when water is applied while the oil based scrub is rinsed off when water is applied and doesn't turn into a lotion type product.

In an oil based scrub, we use only oil soluble ingredients like oils, butters, and esters. In an emulsified scrub, we use oil soluble ingredients like oils and butters, but we can include water soluble ingredients because we're including an emulsifier - Polawax, e-wax, BTMS-50, or another emulsifier of your choice - so you could add some humectants or proteins or other water soluble ingredients.

With an oil based scrub, you will likely need to mix the product before using it as the salt or sugar will sink to the bottom of the container, whereas the exfoliant is suspended in the emulsified scrub. (I say you will generally need to mix the product - with the manicure scrub I've linked to below, if you put a ton of salt or sugar into it, you won't need to mix it as it is very thick!)

What isn't different is the need to preserve either product. Some people don't preserve oil based scrubs with the logic that they don't contain water, so they don't need a preservative. I disagree here. (We had a debate about this as it pertains to water activity, and it was very interesting!) If there's a chance water might be introduced into the product - through wet hands, being in the shower, and so on - I believe you need to add an oil soluble preservative, which will generally be a paraben based preservative, like Phenonip or Liquipar Oil. I'd suggest putting an anti-oxidant into either product to make the oils and butters last longer,

As an aside, my mother is very good at never putting her wet hands into a scrub, always using a one-time use plastic spatula or spoon, but most people will put their wet hands into the product regardless of their good intentions! And good intentions won't preserve a product, no matter how many people put it on their cutesy labels along with "love" and "blessings". (I always think of Ned Flanders going off on the townspeople of Springfield after they re-build his house when I hear the phase "good intentions". It makes me laugh.) 

Here's one of my favourite manicure scrubs with lecithin and lanolin. It can feel very greasy at first, but after a few minutes, that feeling will dissipate and you'll just feel moisturization. When I make this recipe at home, I admit I don't use a preservative because the product is primarily for my mom (and secondarily for me) and we are both really good at not putting our hands into it. But when I make it for others, I always include Phenonip.

Just a few thoughts for today!


Zenobiah said...

So does that mean you can preserve an emulsified scrub with something like, say, Cosmocil CQ or Opthiphen?

By the way, have you checked out Snowdrift Farm's "new" preservative, Perform? If you have, could you please add it to the preservative chart?

Celine Blacow said...

I've started making a fab emulsified scrub, I really love it and far prefer it to an oil based one, especially for shipping in the Summer!

Totally seperate to this topic, I was wondering if it was possible to make a completely anhydrous hair conditioner bar? I've seen your recipes which sound lovely but they do seem to have some water based elements - in the EU, that means that I'd have to have everything with water in it, tested which increases the costs substantially. So was wondering if a completely anhydrous hair conditioner was possible?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Zenobiah. If it's a paraben based preservative suitable for anhydrous products, then you can use it in an emulsified scrub. You can't use Cosmocil or Optiphen as they are both intended for products with water. The two I mention in the post are the only ones I know of as of this moment that are suitable.

Hi Celine. Yes, you can make an anhydrous hair conditioner bar. I use cationic polymers, panthenol, proteins, and cetrimonium chloride, but you can leave those out and see how you like the product.

Zenobiah said...

The Herbarie lists Optiphen as suitable for anhydrous products, like scrubs.

But your preservative chart says only water soluble products?

BrittaandGeorge said...

Have you ever had a problem with your emulsified scrubs changing color as they age? Getting a green cast. It does not effect, smell or quality, just tends to change colors. Do you know what might cause this?

Anamaria said...

I made an emulsified sugar scrub ten days ago, and it still is liquid some, I even add more e-wax, stearic acid and beeswax but it didn't help, could it be the fragrance oil?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anamaria. Please include your complete recipe in percentages so we can figure this out.

ahoi said...

Hello Susan- I am a newbie at this and wanted your expert inputs.I like making body scrubs for my own use- I usually mix sugar with a bit of aloe vera gel , glycerin and little oil. I like to store them but no idea on what presevative i should be using . Would be great to know. Thanks

Chris Karagiannis said...

Hi Susan, I'm currently formulating an emulsified coffee scrub and my products are on the organic side and I use preservatives like Geograd, Leucidal complete...are any of these compatible woth emulsified anhydrous scrubs? I would prefer not to use Phenonip.
Big thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi ahoi and Chris! I've written quite a lot about preservatives in the preservatives section of the blog. You'll find post on scrubs there as well as a nifty comparison chart that will help you on your quest to find something for your specific product and philosophy.