Monday, April 18, 2011

Duplicating products: What have we learned so far?

I'm planning to continue with duplicating your suggestions tomorrow, but I thought we should take a moment to review what we've learned about formulating through duplicating commercial products!

Here's my suggested list of steps when duplicating products...

Step 1: Get the complete ingredient list. You may refer to the bottle or you might have to go to a few websites to get a complete list.
Step 2: Look at what each ingredient brings to the product.
Step 3: Figure out what's important in the recipe.
Step 4: Figure out how much you're going to use of each ingredient.
Step 5: Formulate a starting out recipe in percentages and try it.
Step 6: Tweak the recipe to get the skin feel and viscosity you want.

As you've seen, sometimes it's hard to find a complete and accurate ingredient list. Check a few websites if you notice something out of whack (like the preservative near the top or water near the bottom of the list). When you know your ingredients, you can see pretty quickly that something's wrong!

Look at the function of each ingredient in the ingredient list. Some ingredients can have two functions - perhaps it's an emulsifier and emollient, or a skin conditioner and thickener - so you might have to figure out if it's necessary for a chemical reaction like thickening and emulsifying or if it's used as an emollient (which is still important, but you can switch emollients very easily without messing up an emulsion).

I really can't stress the importance of knowing your ingredients and knowing the INCI names for things other than oils, butters, and essential oils. Knowing your ingredients is obvious - the more you know, the less research you need to do for a recipe - but knowing the INCI names can prevent you from ordering conditioning emulsifier from this supplier, emulsifying conditioner blend from another supplier, Proprietary Name conditioning agent from another only to find out that you've bought BTMS-50 three times! 

I have some standard amounts I use for adding ingredients. I add hydrolyzed proteins and panthenol at 2%, aloe vera and hydrosols at 10%, stearic acid or cetyl alcohol at 3%, and so on. I rarely use oils at less than 10% because that seems to be the level required to get the goodness out of the more expensive ones, and I'd rather than 10% of one oil than 2% of this and 2% of that. These might not be the right amounts for this specific product, but I know this is a good level that will give me the benefits of those ingredients. There's really no point in adding aloe vera to something at 0.5% or evening primrose at 1%, apart from label appeal.

Knowing your ingredients will help you tweak the skin feel and viscosity of your product. Too waxy? Switch the cetearyl alcohol for cetyl alcohol. Too greasy? Switch that shea butter for mango or another dry feeling butter, switch the sunflower oil for hazelnut oil, add 2% IPP or IPM, or use an ester in place of an oil. (Or you could use BTMS-50 as your emulsifier - there are tons of options for making your products drier feeling. Here's a post I wrote on the topic.) Too thin? Add some stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, or a butter. Too thick? Substitute an oil in place of a butter. And so on.

Don't like mineral oil? Use any oil you prefer but make a note of the shelf life. Don't like petroleum or can't find it? Use any butter you like! 

If you come upon a product you really like and want to duplicate, but notice there are no preservatives (water based) or anti-oxidants (anhydrous), then add them. Choose your favourite preservative and add it at the suggested amount. I use liquid Germall Plus for my water based products at 0.5% (the maximum suggested) and Phenonip in my anhydrous products that might come into contact with water (like shower bars and scrubs) at 1% (the maximum suggested).

Be prepared to spend some money. You are unlikely to get it right the first time, but it gives you an idea of where to start. Once you get a recipe you really like, your costs will plummet as you can buy larger quantities of packaging and ingredients, you won't be throwing away failed products, and your friends will be slipping you twenties in the hopes that you will make a little extra in your workshop for them!

All right! Let's get back to some duplicating, shall we? Join me tomorrow for another great product!

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