Sunday, November 6, 2011

Question: When making stuff, how do you know what to do? (Part 1 of 2!)

I thought I'd spend a couple of days answering this awesome question. We'll return to the experiments later in two days!

Always Looking 4 1 More commented in this post: Your recipes are interesting, for sure. I bet you've already answered this question, and I probably didn't do a good enough search for it, but I wonder how you come up with such great recipes. Do you re-make your batches over-and-over until you figure out which ingredients are best and at what percentage each must be? Or do you use a list of basic formulas that are industry guidelines and then modify them? I'm still in the "everything-looks-like-it-might-be-fun-to-add-to-the-formula" stage) In other words, I'm still playing while I learn. When I feel like trying something simple of my own I write down how much of everything I use when I'm making a batch, but mine are nowhere as elaborate as yours.

You've been really busy keeping our days fun with your new entries. I hope you're taking good care of yourself cause we miss you when you're gone. :-)

Hi Always! Thanks for your kind words. I am working on taking better care of myself, on setting and maintain my boundaries, and making sure I take time for myself every day! (I'm a family counsellor, so I thought it was time I should counsel myself a little bit!) I'm actually waking up earlier again -  hence the ability to write posts in the morning, instead of having to wait until the weekend - which is making me very happy! This is also the reason that I might not be answering your (not you, Always, but my wonderful readers) e-mail as quickly as some people would like. I've managed to not have a cold or stomach flu for three weeks! Woo hoo for me!

But enough about me - on to your question, which is going to take a few days to answer...

The short answer is yes, I do a lot of experimenting. I don't post the duds here...Okay, sometimes I do as an example of what won't work, but for the most part, you don't see the ones that failed! I didn't know there were industry guidelines because to me, this isn't an industry, it's my hobby! (Okay, it's really more of an obsession! I admit it!) I spent the first few years learning from people who generously shared their wisdom on the Dish forum before I felt comfortable sharing what I'd learned with this blog.

The long answer is this....I start with a general idea of a product I'd like to make. For instance, if I want to make a lotion, my first question is about the lotion itself! Do I want a cream, a body butter, a facial moisturizer, a hand lotion, and so on? Once I've chosen, I can refer to the templates I've created for myself for each product. For instance, my hand lotion will be a 60% water to 70% water product, whereas the body butter will definitely be a 60% product. (Click here for a longer post on this topic!) Or let's say I want to make a body wash or shampoo. I keep mine at around 40% surfactants, so I know I need to choose at least 2 surfactants to make up that 40%, then I can add things like hydrolyzed proteins, humectants, moisturizers, and so on at the suggested usage rates.

Let's say I want to make a body butter. Here's my template recipe for a body butter. There are many different ways to make it and many different templates you could develop - this is just one of mine. (Click here for original post!)

59% 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)
7% emulsifier*
3% cetyl alcohol

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

How did I come up with the template? I originally found a few recipes on the Dish forum and tried them. (Thank you to those amazing recipe writers for sharing your knowledge!) Based on what I liked about those recipes, I figured out what was common to each of them. For instance, I realized that a recipe with about 60% water, 10% or more butter, and 3% stearic acid or cetyl alcohol would result in a thick recipe. Take out the butter, and I have a much thinner recipe. I made up a few versions of the 60% water recipe that will work as hand, body, or foot lotions and body butters. I tried stearic acid, I tried cetyl alcohol, I tried cetearyl alcohol, I left out the thickeners, I modified the butters, and eventually I figured out what I like. I know for a body butter, I want something really thick and rich, so I want to have a lot of butter. I know that most of the emolliency will come from the butter, so I don't need a ton of oils.

For the emulsifier, if I'm using Polawax, I need to calculate my oil phase (28%) then use 25% of that amount in emulsifier in the heated oil phase. In this case, I have 28% oil phase (oil, butter, cetyl alcohol), so I will use 7% Polawax. (This rule ONLY applies to Polawax. Click here for more information.)

In the water phase, I know I need to have some water and I want a humectant. I don't tend to formulate lotions without humectants because they are an inexpensive and great way to get moisturizing into my product. I will make changes and add hydrosols, proteins, and other water soluble ingredients, but I won't include those in the template recipe because the modifying comes later, when I've decided on the goals of my recipe.

In the cool down phase, I know I need my preservative (I generally use Liquid Germall Plus, but I will use Germaben II for those harder to preserve products or Phenonip for things like sugar scrubs), and I will want a fragrance oil, so I'll include those in the template recipe.

With all this information in mind, I created my template recipe! You can do this for many other products.

For something like a lotion bar, you'll find most people recommend that you start out with 1/3 butter, 1/3 beeswax, and 1/3 oil. It's a good place to start, but you'll soon find that this might be too hard for cocoa butter, just right for mango, and not hard enough for shea butter. The only way to know this is to get into the workshop and make a version with each butter and compare!

For something like whipped butter, you could go with a basic recipe of 80% butter and 20% oils, but after playing with it for a bit, you might realize you want to put 1% Vitamin E, 1% fragrance oil, and mix the oils up a bit!

To summarize, the only way to know how to do it is to do it. Find some good recipes. Buy a lot of supplies. Make a lot of mistakes. Then find some more recipes. Buy supplies. Make a lot of mistakes. After doing this for a while, create your own recipe. Take a recipe you love and change one thing, then another, then another. Make mistakes. Get frustrated and think you suck. Try it again. Continue until you are happy!

If this post interests you, please click here to get to the start the learning to formulate series. Or look for the e-book on the topic I'm hoping to have out in a few weeks! 

Join me tomorrow as I continue with this question when we take a look at modifying the template recipe and choosing our ingredients!


Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Susan, the bottom pic has an interesting container I'd love to know where came from.
PS. Thanks also for an ever-interesting read!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I bought that from Voyageur (click here for all their deodorant containers). It's the 10 gram deodorant container. I put my pain relief lotion bar in it because you can use it to apply the product without getting your hands icky AND you can press hard enough to give yourself a little massage!

Always.Looking.4.1.More said...

Thaaaaannnnk U Susan! This is the kind of info I'm looking for. I'm not even going to wait til tomorrow to tell you how helpful this is to me because I know whatever you write tomorrow will only add to today's post.

Lise M Andersen said...

thanks much Susan!

Deborah Jones said...

Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, thank you so much for the great post it has answered a lot of my questions. I am trying to improve the quality of my lotions and have searched for quite sometime for a way to improve the whitish film that my lotions leave on skin until it gets absorbed, is this what you refer to as the soaping effect? I have experimented with different products and emulsifiers without success, do you have any suggestions that I might try? thank you again for your help