Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm away for a few days...

I'll be away for a few days - probably until Thursday or Friday - on our end of summer camping trip. Not really sure where we'll end up as we plan to pack up the car with all the stuff we need and we'll start driving. When we get somewhere we like, we'll stop driving and camp for a few days. I want to be need a lake or river for swimming and I want to be able to have a campfire so I can make my famous roasted corn and potatoes in tin foil in the coals. I want some rest and relaxation - I am bringing my math book so I can practice a bit before school starts, and I've been saving my latest issues of Mental Floss and Scientific American for my on the beach reading - and some good laughs with my wonderful husband and our best friends!

In the meantime, if you're interested in donating to our youth programs and receiving one of the e-books (look to your right if you don't know what this means!), I'm afraid I won't be able to send you the e-book until I get home as I have to e-mail it to you! I can send and receive e-mail thanks to my trusty iPhone, but I don't have a way of sending an attachment out from that device! (I may post, I might not - I'm trying to go technology free and avoid worrying about the phone and stuff!)

If you want to write to me, I probably won't be able to answer until the weekend as there's always that extra day of rest required after a long camping trip (along with washing the campfire smell out of my hair and clothes!).

Hope you're enjoying the last week of August, which is also the last week before school starts around here!

As a note, these pictures are from our honeymoon two years ago. The top one is Raymond posing in front of a sign in Wyoming, and the bottom one is me with the corn mascot from the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. I look half asleep there and quite messy, but we were just about to run out of clean clothes and I didn't realize these colours would clash so badly! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thank you so much for your support this summer!

This summer has been immensely successful for our youth programs. Thanks to your contributions to the Rated T for Teen group by purchasing my e-books , we offered...

At the Yarrow library
- 4 craft groups - scrapbooking, jewellery making, chocolate making, cupcake & cookie decorating
- 1 board & card games night (13 participating)
- 1 video game afternoon (12 participating)

At the Chilliwack library
- 4 tween craft groups with an average of 19 kids per group
- 8 teen craft groups - scrapbooking, chocolate making, pickling & jamming, summer skin care, sewing stuffed animals, sewing little cases, and stencilling with at least 22 kids in every group!
- 2 games nights - more than 29 kids at each night
- 2 video game clubs - 34 in yesterday's group!
- 2 girls' Rock Band afternoons - average about 10 in each group!

As usual, all our programs were free and we offered supplies for all the projects! This is the third year we've offered a tween group (grades 3 to 6), and it's wonderful to see kids who attended that group "graduate" and start coming to the teen groups! We've also increased the number of boys who attend. I think part of that was changing our name from Get Crafty! to How's that Made, and I think part of it is the interest in learning how to make stuff. Making stuff isn't just for girls, as you well know! We're planning a sewing group for anyone who wants to make Hallowe'en costumes, and so far it's all boys!

It has been a great summer and I'm so grateful to you, my wonderful readers, for all the support you offer to our groups. We're taking a break for a week, then we start up again on Thursday, September 8th with games night and a full season of crafts, video games, board & card games, and Japanese pop culture.

I can't believe that after just about six years of games night and five years of craft group the programs are still growing! And that the kids we met all those years ago are still with us, still having fun and still learning (and teaching us a thing or two!). I feel so honoured and blessed to be able to do offer these kinds of groups, to spend time with my husband during the programs, to meet and get to spend time with all these great teenagers, and to be able to offer something to a community I love!

Thank you so much for helping us offer these programs with your kind donations! I can't thank you enough!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Question: Cosmetics Info vs. EWG

Cordy wrote this comment in this postHi Susan, I get what you're saying (and would tend to agree with you that there's a lot of "greenwashing" out there, or pseudo-science) but I have a question: 
The website you linked to is funded by cosmetics companies. Now, that may not mean that there's a conflict of interest there, BUT, and for me this is a pretty big "but", what do you do when a place like contradicts information on, say, the Skin Deep database? Sometimes the EWG data can seem overblown ("In rat studies, this ingredient did bad things when the rats were forced to eat hundreds of pounds of it!") but on the other hand, to be honest, takes a very "there can be no possible downside" approach... and is funded by people who want me to buy their products, which isn't the case for SkinDeep. 

So what's your approach here? Thanks!

From their "about us" page: is an information Web site that includes factual, scientific information on ingredients most commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products in the United States. The Personal Care Products Council (the Council) and its member companies sponsor this Web site to provide consumers with easily accessible comprehensive safety information on cosmetics and personal care products and to help consumers make informed purchases.

Thanks, Cordy. I am aware that the page is funded by companies that also make products, and I use them as my starting point for research, not as all the information I might find. They have some great resources - such as the safe as used chart - that I highly recommend. What I like about them is that they are coming from a position of science, and that's what matters to me.

To answer your question: What do I do when the information on contradicts the information on Skin Deep? I consider what has to say and continue on my merry way to do more research! I never ever trust the opinion or information from one source. I always go out and find another source to back it up, and often times three or four sources.

I don't consult Skin Deep because I don't trust them. I've written about them before, but my main concerns are the data gaps and the use of old studies to support their positions. (This is an older post on much-maligned ingredients that includes my position on the EWG and why I feel this way.) They might not have a specific product to sell, but they have an idea to sell and a cause they need to fund.

This is a perfect illustration of why I don't trust the Skin Deep Database. If you have a few minutes today, please read this post at LisaLise - Natural Skin Care (Hi Lise!), then this post at Truth or Scare, then this entry at Skin Deep on polyparaben. This ingredient doesn't exist, yet they managed to find some studies that make it seem that they've done their homework. How can you find data to support a position about an ingredient that doesn't exist? 

I'd like to share with you an example of why I don't trust the EWG or Skin Deep.

I found this section on the Skin Deep Database, a section that claims to help you "Lather up with better brands. Skip the fragrances and cancer-causing contaminants." There's a list of all kinds of shampoos from various companies with a rating (generally 0), then a claim as to how much data they have on the product (low to limited in the first eight pages). What is their definition of data? "Data availability rating: the scope of ingredient safety data contained in Skin Deep, and the number of studies available in the open scientific literature." So my guess is that someone is looking through the ingredient lists and comparing those lists to the Skin Deep's database on what allegedly causes cancer?

What is the definition of fragrance? I would consider an essential oil a fragrance, yet almost every product in this section claiming "skip the fragrances" I chose at random in the first eight pages had some essential oil in it! Anyone who knows essential oils knows they can cause all kinds of wonderful effects, so to ignore said effects on - say - a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, an ill person, a small child, and so on is foolhardy at best!

This is what upsets me so much. The fear mongering. "Skip the fragrances and cancer-causing contaminants"? The picking and choosing of what words mean - fragrance not meaning essential oils. The use of dubious data or the huge data gaps. I like my science the way I like my skating rinks - hard and transparent. I get neither from EWG or Skin Deep.

I have no vested interest in any group or company. No one pays me to write anything on this blog - I don't take advertising or sponsorship - and I am beholden to no one, except you, my wonderful readers! This doesn't make me more right or more wrong than anyone else, but it does mean that I can write what I want and damn the consequences!

I don't care if you use "all natural", organic, vegan, non-vegan, carnivorous, minimally processed, maximally processed, hypoallergenic, or any other ingredients - all I care about is providing information and gentle prodding to help you to make a safe, well preserved product that makes you or someone you love happy! If you've been a reader for a while, you'll know that I do care about accurate information, which is why I continually suggest that you, my wonderful readers, learn to research the information from various sources.

I think what frustrates me is the idea that organic = awesome, not organic = awful. There really is no evidence that organic ingredients in our products are better than non-organic ingredients (I mean overall - we might find some evidence that an organic oil contains more of something than the non-organic version, but there's no evidence that shows organic products perform better, offer more moisturizing or conditioning, or improve the condition of our skin through objective measurements).

But that's just my opinion! What do you think? (Everyone can join in the conversation! Feel free to disagree, debate, and argue without the ad hominem attacks or insults I've seen on other sites! No meanies allowed at Point of Interest!)

And in case you're wondering why this post is illustrated with a picture of my adorable Blondie-dog trying to steal eggs from a basket, it's because I figure we shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket by trusting one website? Because greenwashing is like having a dog lick your eggs before you package them - they get clean, but how clean are they really? Because life is like a basket of eggs. You don't know what you're going to get until you bite into one and find out they're all eggs? I'm sorry. I can't make anything up! She's just so cute and I liked the picture!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Question: BTMS-25 and products not emulsifying

Kathy wrote to me to ask why a recipe similar to this one wasn't working for her. I knew right away that BTMS-25 was the culprit!

If you're using Incroquat BTMS as your emulsifier, please ensure you're using BTMS-50 - not BTMS-25 - as your emulsifier! BTMS-25 contains 25% behentrimonium methosulfate, the active ingredient in BTMS, whereas BTMS-50 contains 50% behentrimonium methosulfate. BTMS-25 can be used as a great conditioner, but it doesn't emulsify as well as BTMS-50. (Click here for some information on substituting BTMS-25 for BTMS-50 in hair care products!) If you're in doubt about what you're getting, check the INCI on your product, as some suppliers will alter the names of products to suit their company's theme or name.

To recap:
BTMS-50 is behentrimonium methosulfate (and) cetyl alcohol (and) butylene glycol.
BTMS-25 is behentrimonium methosulfate (and) cetearyl alcohol.

Click here for a post on INCI as it relates specifically to BTMS and here for how INCI names can make you a more awesome formulator!

This leads to a second question posed by Mya in this post: I am planning on making a conditioner with 25% natural oils and butters. My hair is very dry. I am going to be using Cupuacu butter, Argan Oil, and Avocado Butter. Do you think a combination of BTMS and Emulsifying Wax NF (Lipowax) would work? Last time I used BTMS alone and it did not turn out good. It was globby and part of the mixture was not emulsified.

If your product is not emulsified, there are three possible problems:
1. You aren't using the right BTMS. You're likely using BTMS-25 and not BTMS-50.
2. Your oil phase is too high for the amount of emulsifier you want.
3. You aren't heating and holding or mixing long enough.

The last two points are all about emulsification, and for it to occur we need a chemical emulsifier (the BTMS-50, in this case), heat (which is why we heat and hold), and something to mix it all together, such as a stick blender, Kitchenaid, etc (mechanical emulsification). If one of these things is missing, our emulsification will fail.

Unfortunately, there isn't a rule of thumb about how much BTMS-50 to use with specific oil phases, but my standard amount is around 7% for 15% oils, so for 25% oils, I'd look at something like 10% or so. The down side is that you might not want that much conditioning in your hair and 10% is really kinda wasteful when it comes to conditioners.

I'd like to suggest this - try making a 15% oil phase product with 7% BTMS-50 and 3.5% cetyl alcohol and see how you like it. Moisturizing dry hair isn't just about the oils; it's about the conditioning agents, humectants, and other things that can help make your hair less brittle and more lubricated. Also, consider using coconut oil. Studies have shown that..."coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair when used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product...Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft." It's one of the least expensive oils and one of the greatest for our hair!

For more information on hair care products, click here for that section of the blog!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Question: Are the ingredients I mention on this blog safe to use in beauty products?

Anonymous wrote in this post: Are phosphate esters derived from chemical or organic? Are they safe in beauty products?

As there are really two questions here, let's take a look at each one. The quick answers are no, and yes.

From the post: Phosphate esters are a category of anionic surfactants that include alkyl phosphates and alkyl ether phosphates. We don't use phosphate esters in our bath & body products much as they are generally used in household cleaning products due to their low pH. They are very mild to the skin and might show up in facial or body cleansing products.

To answer the first question - phosphate esters, along with everything in the world, is a chemical. It is composed of elements, and is therefore a chemical. Technically, because it contains carbon, it is considered an organic chemical.

But I don't think this is what you mean. I think what you mean is it is organic in the sense of being "certified organic", and my answer would be no. I wouldn't consider any surfactants as being organic because of all the processing they go through with various other ingredients, but I think there are some that might qualify under some standards (I don't know about these standards as it isn't something I've researched, but you can do a search online to see if you can find some information.)

As for the question about safety - yes, they are considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredients Review by their standards.

I'm asked this question regularly - is this or that ingredient safe? - and I have two answers for you. Check the "safe as used" list from the Cosmetics Ingredients Review (link above) and see if it is and at what level. If it's safe as used, this means that a reputable body somewhere did a study and found it was safe or not unsafe.

The second part of this answer is this - I use the ingredients I write about on this blog. I use them on my mom, my husband, my dog (sometimes), my best friend, people I know, the kids in my youth group, and me. If I thought they were unsafe, would I let the people I care about use these products? If I thought they were unsafe, would I suggest that you, my wonderful readers, try them on the people you love?

I know we read all the time about the horrors of "toxic chemicals", "chemicals", toxins, and so on, but always question your source and why they're saying something is bad or good for you. I know that science can't explain everything, but we do know that neither GSE (grapefruit seed extract) nor love are preservatives and there is no evidence that SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) causes cancer, for instance. (We don't know about 85% of the bacteria that is found in our intestines or every chemical found in garlic, two things I find fascinating!)

These are my sources, in case you're curious...The Handbook of Cosmetic Science & Technology (3rd edition), Chemistry for Pharmacy Students, Surfactants in Personal Care and Decorative Cosmetics, Poucher's Perfumes, Cosmetics & Soaps (10th edition), as well as Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry and Surfactants. I refer to the web (scholar or books) for more information, and use Ebsco and the search engine at the university and library. I also refer to the manufacturer's data bulletins. I supplement my research with visits to various cosmetic science sites.

I don't consider writing a blog post about something unless I've found the information confirmed in at least two reputable sources. If I'm wrong, I admit it and correct the blog post.

I feel that I do my homework before I write about an ingredient, and I like to know everything I can about it before I even consider a blog post. I like to experiment with the ingredients - although some are too expensive or too obscure for me to source - and I like to give you my opinion (which you can take or leave as you wish!).

Here's a past rant about defining your products by what's not in it and a post on how to research ingredients, which is less ranty.

Would I use phosphate esters in my products? Sure, if I could find them to buy, but I haven't been able to source them anywhere. I would want to raise the pH to a decent level, though.

Join me tomorrow for more questions!

Question: Are floral waters and hydrosols the same?

What a week! The pickling cucumbers aren't at their peak yet, so another week goes by without us making some awesome kosher dills! But we did get to be on the TV (the interview isn't on the site yet, but I'll link to it when it is!), and we had a great class with the tweens on Thursday making bubble bath and a fantastic class with the teens making mud masks, toners, facial cleansers, and perfume spray, so it was a great week! The only pictures I have of the kids creating these awesome things show their faces, so instead I'll illustrate this post with a picture from the Mitchell Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota we took during our honeymoon in 2009!

As an aside, I love this program called Instagram for my iPhone! It makes my pictures look like those ones my dad took with our Sears camera when I was a kid! It's free, and it makes everything look really awesome! 

Roxine commented in this postHi, I'm new to making my own body products so I apologize in advanced for my ignorance but are Hydrosols and Floral Waters the same?

If you take a look at this post, I note that hydrosols and floral waters can be the same. But as usual, check with your supplier to make sure you're getting what you expect. For instance, the lavender flower hydrosol at Voyageur has as its NCI: Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) flower water. At New Directions Aromatics, the lavender floral water contains lavender floral water, and less than 2% vegetable glycerin, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, potassium sorbate, citric acid, and dimethicone defoamer. (Take a look at the MSDS to see the ingredient list.) This isn't to say the NDA product is inferior or the Voyageur product is superior, but it's important to note that they do contain different ingredients.

We all know I'm a great fan of preservatives and I suspect - but can't confirm - that the Voyageur product contains some preservatives of some kind as I can have the bottle in my workshop for months without it going off, so check with your supplier if you want to know exactly what's in that floral water/hydrosol!

So the answer to your question is yes and no. I use the terms interchangeably, but the products at our suppliers' shops might not be the same.

Join me after my breakfast for more questions I've been asked this week!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Almost Friday

It's been a great but busy week as I've been offering craft groups every day!
Yesterday, our local TV station stopped by to interview Raymond and me about our groups, the blog, and my obsession with cosmetic chemistry.
Today we had 19 tweens make bubble bath from scratch followed by 26 teens making mud masks, facial cleanser in foamy bottles, toner with extracts, and a water based fragrance spray!
Tomorrow we're making desk tidies!
See you on Saturday after I've caught my breath!

In response to all the questions: A desk tidy is a small box or can that is decorated and placed on your desk to keep your pens, pencils, erasers, and other stationery items tidy. I wasn't really sure what it was until I created the pattern for it. But they turned out kinda cute!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Millions of peaches (and tomatoes) for me!

We had such a great day on Sunday with all the making of peach salsa with heirloom tomatoes and tomato ketchup with Okanagan sweet tomatoes! I had to share our results!

The ketchup recipe is from the book Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects from Karen Solomon. We used the Okanagan sweet tomatoes, Walla Walla sweet onions, and a whole ton of spices, like cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, and Raymond's favourite, cumin. I think we reduced it too long as we have ended up with about 2 1/4 cups instead of 3, but it tastes amazing! I'm not a fan of ketchup or mustard, but I love this! I want to try making mayonnaise next weeked so we can have a chip party (sweet potato and regular) and try dipping into various condiments!

The peach salsa (click here for pictures) is from a book called Put 'Em Up!, which is my favourite of our four preserving books! We didn't use anything spicy in our version - I'm a spice wuss, and anything stronger than mayo tastes like burning - and it is amazing stuff. If you have peaches nearby, get some and make something like this!!!

As a note, it looks like we've accidentally joined the Can-A-Rama, a week (August 14th to 20th) where people are encouraged to hold canning parties. (Click here for the blog and some great recipes!) We've been doing this all summer, although we call them jamming parties and Raymond puts together a great music mix so we can dance and sing as we create awesome things in jars!

Next week, pickles and finishing up some sewing! Later this week, I need to get into the workshop. I organized it on the weekend, so now there's some space in which I can move around! And we're introduced our craft groups to making freezer jam, refrigerator pickles, and Kool-ickles on the 25th!

As a note, I find that making things in a group is a great way to overcome your fears. You'll help each other out, make constructive comments, and push each other to try something new! It's hard to wuss out when you know five other people are counting on you! So if jamming or pickling isn't your thing, invite some friends over for a body wash or lotion or hair care party and learn together!

A pep talk for a Monday morning

Why are you scared to make a lotion, a shampoo bar, a conditioner (and so on)? What's holding you back from getting into the workshop and trying something new? I know, there's the chance of wasting supplies, and wasting time, but those wastes will teach you something you can use for your next project, which will be more awesome than this one! (I admit I still have trouble throwing away products I don't like because I figure someone I know will like an extraordinarily greasy lotion or a very dry body butter, but in the end, no one likes them and I write it up as a learning experience!)

I know I'm part of the problem. Oftentimes, we're nervous about trying something new because we feel we don't have all the information, and I realize this blog is contributing to the sense that you can always learn more, but I think there's a point where we need to start experiencing the process, the ingredients, the end product for ourselves. We can talk about all the benefits of hazelnut oil until the cows come home - literally, we have cows in the field outside our house! - but if you don't like the skin feel, then it's pointless to invest in a bottle.

It's not easy diving into something new! I always joke around that although I want a challenge, I wanted one I knew I could do (thanks to the Simpsons, specifically Lisa, for that line!)

If you're feeling you need a little push, here are a few posts I've written on the topic of overcoming your fears - overcoming your fears and experimenting in the workshop - which might be helpful. Here's another post I wrote about keeping your notes in order, which is a vital part of this process. (I love bookbinding and I've been doing quite a bit of it lately as I try to organize my life!)

I would have liked to write a longer post this morning, but it's been 10 years today since my dad died, and we're off to scatter his ashes. Believe it or not, it'll be a good day of remembering my dad and spending time with my mom. The last time we did this in England, we had so many laughs! I'd test the wind to make sure it was blowing in the right direction, and almost every time it switched directions and hit my mom. He said he'd never leave her and I think he was right! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday is all about the peaches!

The Presidents of the United States had it right when they sang about peaches - there are indeed million of peaches, peaches for me and Raymond and Wanda and my mom and everyone else I know! (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here for the video, which is a good representation of a jamming party at my house, although we do tend to experience fewer ninja attacks in this part of Canada.)

We had hoped this week would be about the pickles, but cucumber and dill supplies aren't as reliable as we had hoped and by Saturday, they were all gone! Fingers crossed for next week! Instead, we're making more peach salsa with heirloom tomatoes (unbelievably delicious! and I generally don't like tomatoes) and canning some of the freestone peaches!

Yes, I'm obsessed with canning, jamming, and pickling this year (click here or click here for other posts on the topic). We enjoyed strawberries in June, raspberries and blueberries in July, now peaches, cherries, and tomatoes in August. (To your left, you'll see our cherry walnut relish!) We have made enough for our own enjoyment, and I only hope we have enough of everything to make baskets for our friends and family at Christmas! It seems like we're eating it all now!

As an aside...don't these tomatoes look amazing? Those on the left are Okanagan tomatoes - my mom says they're very sweet - and those on the right are local heirloom tomatoes. Yes, the orange thing in the middle is a tomato and not the Great Pumpkin come early!

If all goes well today, we'll have more peach salsa, some canned peaches, and homemade tomato ketchup! Yum!

Join me tomorrow for more fun crafting!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A few thoughts for a summery Saturday!

Okay, so not everything in the world is a chemical. (Shock and horror! Gasp!) Electrons, protons, and neutrons are not chemicals - they're parts of a chemical, but not chemical themselves. (Thank you to my wonderful husband for pointing THAT out!)
When should we include panthenol? Everything I've read indicates the liquid form can be heat sensitive, and suggests we should use it in the cool down phase. (The powdered type I bought was okay for the heated water phase, but it was a pain to use it then, so I moved back to the liquid kind.) If you're in doubt, ask your supplier.

When the did word "conversate" start to mean talk or have a conversation? The word is converse, as in, "We conversed last night," which sounds a lot more pretentious than, "We talked last night" or "We spoke last night". I heard this word as I channel surfed the other night - I think it was some reality show where a bunch of women try to get the attention of minor male celebrity - and this girl was very upset that she had "conversated" with him all night long when he was paying attention to someone else. ARGH!

Which recipes should you try if you like a greasier or wetter feeling lotion? On this blog, I tend to prefer the greasier or wetter feeling lotions, and I try to let you know about the skin feel. Read the description and you should get a good idea of what it will feel like in the end, keeping in mind that this is just my opinion!

If you want greasier feeling lotions, check out the information about emollients on the blog. Click here for the description of each oil, butter, and ester or click here for the handy dandy chart for the oils (there are other charts for butters and exotic oils - click for the section to see them). Look for words like "dry feeling" and avoid those things. For the butters, you'll want to choose shea or cocoa butter over mango butter, which can feel drier on our skin. 

One of my favourites is the six ingredient lotion with shea, soy, and sesame oil. I know this one has BTMS-50, which generally offers a drier feeling lotion, but all those oils and butters overcome the powderiness. Anything with Polawax or e-wax will feel greasier than those with BTMS-50 or some of the other emulsifiers (I find Natramulse/Ecomulse/Ritamulse is less greasy than Polawax but not as dry as BTMS-50. I really have to write those posts!)

Join me tomorrow for more formulating fun!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The great conditioner experiment: Modifying the recipe!

I've been agonizing over this post for a few days now over this recipe because my original recipe adds up to 105 grams, so if I add 50 grams of water and 0.25 grams of preservative, the grand total of the product will be 155.75. So I could just leave the recipe as is and recognize that it will equal 155.75 grams every time I make it - or I could figure out the percentages!

There's nothing wrong with having a recipe total more than 100% and you can multiply each ingredient to make larger batches if you want, but the standard is to work with weighed ingredients and have your recipe total 100% (a part of this is so the formulators can write "water q.s,", add enough water so the total of the recipe is 100%. If your recipe can total 105% or 112%, then you won't have added enough water!).

If you want to figure out the percentage, divide the amount of each ingredient by the total this...

123.50 grams of water = 123.50/155.75 = 79.2%
2 grams of hydrolyzed protein = 2/155.75 = 1.18%

and so on, resulting in some really annoying numbers like 1.9261637239165% Incroquat CR and 0.3% preservative. I know I want to have 0.5% preservative (maximum usage for liquid Germall Plus) and 1% fragrance, so those numbers need to be rounded up so others must be rounded down.

When I finally worked on the the recipe this is what I found...

79% water
1.3% hydrolyzed protein
1.3% cetrimonium chloride

4.5% Incroquat BTMS-50
2% Incroquat CR
2.6% cetrimonium bromide
2.6% ethylhexyl palmitate

1.3% panthenol
1.3% dimethicone
1.3% cyclomethicone
1.3% dimethicone
1.3% polyquat 44
1% fragrance oil
0.5% preservative

My recipe totals 100% and all is well. It's a pain to work with 1.3 grams or 0.5 grams so here are my suggestions - get a small scale that can weigh down to 0.1 grams or make larger batches. I never make less than a 10 times batch (1 kg) when I'm using a recipe I know I'll use a lot and want to store, like liquid conditioner, leave in conditioner, body wash, and so on. If I were to make this recipe for the first time, I'd make a small batch so I wasn't wasting supplies if I hated it!

As a note, if you want to make a small batch but don't have a small scale, you could multiply this recipe by 3 to make all those 1.3% turn into 4% (well, 3.9% but close enough!) and the 2.6% turn into 7.8%, which you could round up to 8%.

How did I know to multiply by 3 to get a rounder number? I don't know the name for it, but it seems logical that if we have something like 1.3 and 2.6, if we multiply by 3, we'll get a number we can round up to being a whole number. I've been looking for the mathematical explanation, but I can't find it. I just know that multiplying by 3 or a multiple of 3 will work well. 

If you're still a little intimidated by the math, click here for my post on not fearing math, then move on to this post on calculating percentages from weights and this one on converting from percentages to weight.

Join me tomorrow for more formulating fun!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The great conditioner experiment: Results!

In June, I decided to undertake the great conditioner experiment to see just how much conditioner my hair might really need! (Click here for more information, although I'll summarize it below!) I've got below-my-waist length, coarse, oily, prone to frizzy hair, but other than the period of time where I went pink (look to your left), I don't dye, perm, or heat style my hair, so it should be in fairly good condition.

I made up a batch of my favourite conditioner, and I've been diluting it every other week or so to see how much water I can use in the product!


73.5% water
2% hydrolyzed protein
2% cetrimonium chloride

7% Incroquat BTMS
3% Incroquat CR
4% cetrimonium bromide
4% ethylhexyl palmitate

2% panthenol
2% dimethicone
2% cyclomethicone
2% cationic polymer
1% fragrance or essential oil
0.5% to 1% preservative

Experiment one: I added 50 grams of distilled water with 0.25 grams of liquid Germall Plus to 100 grams of product, which I used for 7 washings, using about 25 grams of conditioner per washing. My hair felt soft, shiny, defrizzed, and detangled. It's very watery, so I've taken to just squishing the bottle over my head and running it through my hair with my fingers, with an extra amount on the ends. I've managed to get three days between washings, so that's a fine thing indeed! (This was before the heat of the summer, as a note! That is relevant!)

Experiment two: I added 75 grams of distilled water with 0.37 grams of liquid Germall Plus to 100 grams of product. I used that for about 9 washings (I think it was 9 - I wrote it down, but someone threw the Post-It note out before I finished with it). I'm finding my hair is soft and shiny, but a little more fly-away than I would like. I'm not that worried about the frizzies right now, and I'm getting two to three days between washings. I would like three, but I don't think that's possible during the summer!

Experiment three: I added 100 grams of distilled water with 0.5 grams of liquid Germall Plus to 100 grams of product. I really don't like this - my hair doesn't really feel conditioned and I find I have to struggle to get the knots out (which defeats the purpose). I think this would make a really great leave-in product, but it doesn't work as a rinse off conditioner. I used this twice, then gave up.

So far, my favourite is experiment 1 with experiment 2 coming in second, although I did need to use a little more anti-frizz spray those days. Experiment 3 was a bust, and I'll reserve that for my leave in conditioning needs. The summer isn't a good time for me to experiment with my hair because I tend to be greasier because of all the sweating and being outside and things. (Cleaning the gutters the other day with the pressure washer wasn't exactly good for my hair, unless a moss and lichen soak is the new salon treatment I haven't heard about!)

How do I modify the conditioner recipe so I can make it as the experiment 1 or 2 version next time? Join me tomorrow for more detail on that question!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Question: What does active mean in our surfactants?

Ruth wrote to ask me this question: What does it mean, when a ingredient says it is 25% or 30% or etc. active? Do you use them differently? Depending on the active %?

Great question, Ruth!

We see this mostly with surfactants in that the ingredient contains 25% of the active ingredient - something like cocamidopropyl betaine or sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) - with the rest being filler, such as water, preservative, glycerin, and so on. In theory, we use those ingredients differently. For instance, if the maximum safe usage level of a surfactant (let's call it foamy A) is 20%, and it's 40% active, then we'd use a maximum 50% of foamy A in a product. If another company makes their own version of foamy A at 80% active, we'd use 25% in a product to get to that maximum amount.

Let's stop and do the math for a second...If you need 20% active ingredient, and your bottle contains 40% active ingredient, then using 50% of the whole ingredient in your product will give you 20%. If you need 20% active ingredient, and your bottle contains 80% active ingredient, using 25% of the whole ingredient in your product will give you 20%. 

It's hard to say if the active will have a difference on the product or not. If you're using something like 25% cocamidopropyl betaine versus 30% cocamidopropyl betaine at 10% in your product (meaning you have 2.5% cocamidopropyl betaine in one product, 3% in the other), it might not be immediately noticeable, but using something like 40% active surfactant versus 25% active surfactant at 20% will be, so it's difficult to offer an across the board kind of statement about it.

Also heck what makes up the non-active percentage in the product. Is it water, alcohol, preservative, various humectants, and so on? In the case of powdered surfactants, does it contain extra fatty acids, extra fatty alcohols, or other emollients that bother someone with oily hair or skin? These things might have an impact on your product as well!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Question: Why are behentrimonium methosulfate and cetearyl written together?

Angel wrote to me to ask: Why are behentrimonium methosulfate and cetearyl alcohol often written together as though they are a compound solution?  I understand your explanation of why the cetearyl alcohol is used with the behentrimonium methosulfate in hair conditioners.  But is there a reason why I’ve found the two written together as one compound in almost every definition of behentrimonium methosulfate or explanation of what this single product is? What is all the hoopla about concerning behentrimonium methosulfate in the “natural” community? Isn’t this a synthetic?

A note before I get to the question...I don't discriminate between what I call minimally processed ingredients - those that are closer to how we find them in nature, like oils, butters, or hydrosols - and those I think of as being more processed - like fatty alcohols, fatty acids, esters, preservatives and so on. I don't think any of our ingredients are straight from nature; everything is processed in some way. We don't use olives, we use olive oil. We aren't using salt directly off the shores of the Dead Sea - they're cleaned before we see them. Clay, mud, hydrosols, essential oils - every last one of these ingredients is processed in some way before we can use them in our products. Synthetic ingredients would be those made in the lab, like cyclomethicone or some of the cationic polymers, for example.

If you really want to mess with your conception of natural vs. synthetic, read this article about the poor little mineral oil molecule. I feel a bit like that Ikea guy - do you feel sorry for this molecule? (Click here for that great Ikea ad! And people wonder why I'm a bit hoarder-ish?)

So why BTMS and cetearyl alcohol are always written together? Behentrimonium methosulfate is an ingredient that can stand on its own, but it's generally found with a fatty alcohol. This would be what we call a compound (specifically a cationic quaternary compound). You'll find BTMS-25 or BTMS-50 or other types of BTMS or BTM as product names, and it could be the writer is referring to the compound instead of the ingredient. I don't think you can buy behentrimonium methosulfate on its own - we always find it with a fatty alcohol, regardless of manufacturer - so this is why you see it referred to in this way.

The reason you find behentrimonium methosulfate paired with a fatty alcohol, often cetearyl alcohol but sometimes cetyl alcohol? Because fatty alcohols work to boost the substantivity of cationic quaternary compounds, making them more conditioning and moisturizing (click here for more information).

There is no way I would consider something like behentrimonium methosulfate as being even remotely close to minimally processed, and I wouldn't consider cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and the other fatty alcohols minimally processed. Anyone who considers these things as natural is fooling themselves. The problem is that you can't make a natural conditioner and people really want to make a natural conditioner. So instead of accepting that they can't make a natural conditioner, they stretch the definition of natural to include anything they want to use.

If you want natural, then accept there are ingredients you won't be using. Don't twist the definition so you can get what you want. When you see the phrase "derived from" ask yourself why is this ingredient listed in this way? We don't write olive oil (derived from olives) but you will see cyclomethicone (derived from sand) or sodium coco-sulfate (derived from coconuts), for example. These last two ingredients are heavily processed to become what they are, and the phrase "derived from" is generally used as a weasel word to hide something that's not really natural but the manufacturer would like you to believe might be. Behentrimonium methosulfate may be derived from Colza seeds, but everything is derived from something - that doesn't make it natural!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A thought on small batch product making

If you're just starting out or trying a new recipe, consider making small batches of products, maybe 100 to 300 grams to start. (And yes, I recommend using metric because there's nothing more frustrating than having to figure out what 40% x 8 ounces is when you're in the middle of measuring in the workshop!) I realize this isn't a lot - sometimes a 100 gram bottle makes as little as 2 ounces/60 ml if you're using a lot of butters and oils - but it means you aren't wasting supplies on things you might hate!

There is a down side to using small amounts - it's really easy to mis-measure. For instance, let's say you're making a 200 gram batch of lotion and require 2% hydrolyzed oat protein (so a total of 4 grams of hydrolyzed oat protein in the product). All it takes is a little hand slip and you have 5 or 6 grams instead of 4. Not a huge deal - maybe you wanted a little extra? - but make sure you write it down in your trusty workshop notebook!

Where it does become a big deal is when you have a situation like this: If you have 10 ingredients and you end up with 0.1 gram extra for each ingredient, that's now an extra gram you have in your product. Again, not a huge issue (for the most part), but if you add 0.5 grams of each ingredient, then you have 5 grams extra, and that is a big deal for 200 grams of product (2.5% more than you expected).

This might mess up the emulsification or it might mess up the preservatives, which is one of the reasons I suggest using the maximum allowable preservative in our products. Or you might be making a product you love but can't recreate because of that tiny difference, so make sure you check your measurements twice and write everything down!

If you are going to be a small batch maker, consider getting a scale that weighs down to the 0.1 gram, like this one. This is an epoxy scale I bought from a hardware store for about $30. This is a great way to weigh your smaller things like preservatives, Vitamin E, and additives that might go into the cool down phase. It's also fantastic for mineral make-up.

For more information on how we measure in bath and body products, click here! And for more information on why we use percentages, click here

Sunday, August 7, 2011

If you've never made jam...try it!

I'm addicted to making jam this year! We made strawberry jam in July, and raspberry and blueberry last week. Today was supposed pickling day, but the cucumbers aren't ready yet, so it's peach and cherry jamming day! We're going to make a salsa, a chutney, a spread, and a few jams! I thought it was quite awesome that we currently own 30% of a bushel of peaches (a bushel is 50 pounds, and we have 15, so it's 0.30 of a bushel!)

Every year I think about making jams and pickles, but most years I make a small batch and call it a day. (We did make strawberry and blueberry jam last year, but not pickles! We missed the season!) But this year, we've made it a point of picking up the ripe fruit of the week and making something fun with it. (We still have apple and pear season, as well as garlic and asparagus season, to enjoy yet!)

I think it's because we have so many wonderful local markets offering wonderful local produce, and there is such a taste difference between a cob of corn picked last week and one picked this morning! I can't believe how fantastic the peaches taste this week compared to last week, all because they had a little longer on the tree. We are so fortunate to live in the Valley where the food is plentiful! I get my eggs from my massage therapist (the chickens are so free range, they can end up wandering around her back garden), my veggies and fruits from the side of the road or from my local market, and my bread from my talented husband, who gets his flour from a local mill. I've always liked the idea of eating local, but if you read the book or watch the TV series, it seems like a lot of hard and annoying work! When friends drop by with a salmon they caught that morning or some corn picked that morning, that's not work - that's yummy!

We always invite our friends over for a jamming day, and for dinner, we have some kind of communal meal, like a crab boil (last week) or fajitas (tonight). It's a wonderful way to end a great day!

If you're looking for some recipes, we've been using two books - Put It Up and Well Preserved - as well as the B.C. (fruit name here) council. Bernardin, the makers of the jars, has some great recipes, and there are tons of ideas on line.

As an aside, Gina (a lovely reader of this blog) made me the most wonderful apron out of green gingham with a towel hanging from it so I can wipe my hands. I've been using it for formulating in the workshop, but it's been spending time in the kitchen with the jams, jellies, and other preserves. It's getting well used and well loved, and I can't thank you enough, Gina, for the kindness. I'll have to take a picture of it so you can see how well loved it is! 

Why are you coming up with your own recipes your first time out?

I'm regularly asked by my wonderful readers to help with modifications to recipes. I'm always happy to help, but I have to ask the question - why are newbies coming up with recipes from scratch? I get that you want to make something really wonderful and customized and all about you, but I really suggest finding a recipe you like and trying it exactly so you can learn what you want to make in the future.

If I use someone else's recipe or pattern for food, sewing, bath and body and so on, I make it exactly the way I'm told the first time out. I keep my notes and ensure that I have done everything the way the creator intended. This way, I know what I like, what I don't like, what I could modify, and what is essential for the project.

A cautionary tale: I really wanted to make this Amy Butler messenger bag, but I didn't have the canvas required to line the bag and I really didn't feel like going out shopping that day, which would waste valuable sewing time, so I made it without. I like the bag, but it wouldn't work as a book bag for university or a computer carrying bag, so it's a purse now. Don't get me wrong - I love the bag, but it's not as useful as it would have been had it been stiffened!

As an aside, I love Amy Butler's designs but I find the pattern instructions so overwritten! 

As a fairly newbie sewer, I can't be expected to know everything I need to know the first time I decide to sew something, so I need to follow the instructions on the pattern and ask experienced sewers for help. What does nap mean (other than the best part of the day?), bias, or stretch mean? What needles should I use for stretch fabric (and should I be using stretch fabric at all as a newbie)? What kind of thread is best for cotton fabrics? And so on.

Now think about making your own bath and body products. How can you know the feel and how you feel about hazelnut oil, emulsifying wax, cyclomethicone, or oat protein if you haven't used them before? You might love lavender essential oil when you huff it from the container, but do you want it on your skin all day long? How can you know what greasy means in a homemade product if you haven't made a single lotion? (Click here for some thoughts on skin feel between homemade and commercial products.)

This is where finding a starter recipe works well. Find a basic recipe, make it, and assess it. Then play with it. This works for hair care products as well. Find a basic recipe - for instance, for a conditioner, my basic recipe is 7% BTMS-50 or BTMS-25, 0.5% to 1.5% preservative of choice, and water - and try it. See how your hair likes it. If you feel you need more oils, then add some oils. If you feel you need less conditioning or a thinner product, remove some of the BTMS. And so on.

You can't learn if you don't try. Let's say you make a lotion you don't like - what's the worst thing that happened? Yes, you used some supplies, but you've learned about heating and holding, emulsification, what ingredients you like and don't like, and why you won't be making that product again! That's a lot to learn in an hour or so!

I'm all about making products that are wonderful and just for me, but we need to take baby steps to become proper homecrafters. This isn't a hobby you're going to learn in one class - you need to be open to learning with every batch - and this isn't a hobby you'll ever feel you've mastered. And that's what makes it so fun!

If you want to learn to make your own lotions, may I suggest starting here with the first of the learning to formulate posts and work your way forward? But after you've already tried making a lotion or two! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A few random thoughts for the day

Do we really believe that Suzanne Somers' "ageless beauty" comes from her line of organic products that don't contain toxins? (It looks like she uses Japanese honeysuckle as the preservative, something we know is a natural paraben. I have nothing against parabens, but it looks like this ingredient isn't as an effective preservative as once was thought. Click here for some information, then click here for another point of view!) And what is a toxin anyway? One person's toxin is another person's favourite ingredient. Heck, I took Raymond into a radon mine on our honeymoon, and some people actually consider radon to be a healing gas! (As a point of interest, he still mentions this as my attempt to kill him only a week after we were married!)

She's coming to Vancouver to give some talks for the Power of Women series, and her specialty is anti-aging. I don't want to get sued here, but based on her appearance on TV last night, I would find it hard to believe that Suzanne Somers has reached the age of 65 without the use of some cosmetic surgery or injections.

Women can be beautiful at all ages! Have you seen Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn or Helen Mirren (and my mom and grandma, but I think it more unlikely that you've seen them)? These are all interesting, amazing, fascinating, and beautiful women. Every line on our faces we've earned: Each one represents a time I smiled or cried or frowned, and if you take those away, what do I lose? There's no way a 65 year old woman can look like a 30 year old, and when you see their pulled back eyes and plumped up lips, it's clear they have to lose who they are to get there.

I realize this might all seem quite ironic considering I have to get Botoxed every eight weeks for muscle spasms in my head, which has the side effect of removing all the wrinkles on my forehead, but I find it frustrating. (The kids keep mentioning they miss my eyebrows! So do I!)

Why does every store you enter have to play music? Why can't I sit down for a nice warm cup of tea in a cafe without having to listen to a folk singer wailing away about times not changing or things changing too much? Why do I go into Wal-Mart (which is really the bigger question, but sometimes one needs a few packages of glue sticks on the cheap) and hear Katy Perry in the electronics department, some rap song from the staff area, and the Carpenters echoing through the store? Don't get me wrong - I like music. I'm a headbanger from way back, and if you throw in a good bass line, a great singer, and a few time changes, I'm a happy girl (think Iron Maiden, Rush, Queensryche, etc.). But sometimes I like to think. I like to sit in a franchised coffee shop and contemplate my thoughts. Why can't I find quiet in the world any more?

Just a few thoughts for the day....I'm getting crochety in my old age, eh?