Monday, January 31, 2011

If you want to make products without preservatives, then make them...

If you are going to make a product that contains water or might be exposed to water, you need to include a preservative.

If you want to make a preservative-less product or want to use alcohol as a preservative or want to store things in your fridge, do it. If you've read all that I've written about preservatives (like why we use preservatives and what kind of contamination can wreak havoc on your products) and read what others have written about them in great forums like the Dish or great blogs like the Soap Queen and you aren't yet convinced that preservatives are necessary and far better for your skin than the inevitable contamination that you'll see in unpreserved products, then make your products without preservatives.

I've done what I can to educate on the value of preservatives and I'm exhausted in fighting what seems to be a losing battle. If you don't want to use preservatives, then don't. But please stop asking me how to do it because I can't be a party to something I consider a dangerous practice.

I'm not sure how to end this I'll just stop writing.

Question: What does "coconut derived" mean?

As people refer me to things they consider to be natural products, I keep seeing the words "coconut derived" beside surfactants, fatty alcohols, fatty acids, and other ingredients that are, in fact, coconut derived. But what does this mean?

Coconut oil is often the starting point for surfactants because it has a fatty acid profile that is very compatible with those ingredients and it's inexpensive. Lauric (C12) and myristic (C14) fatty acids are the types we want in foamy and lathery surfactants - the C12 to C14 chains are the ones most likely to create foam and lather as opposed to the higher carbon chains that behave as emulsifiers or conditioners.

Remember that surfactant doesn't always mean foamy and lathery things we use in bubble baths and shampoos. The word surfactant is short for "surface active agent" and has a hydrophilic (water-loving) head and a lipophilic (oil-loving) or hydrophobic (water-hating) tail. This means it can bring things together like oil and water. So an emulsifier, like emulsifying wax or Incroquat BTMS, is a surfactant.

So when you see a surfactant like sodium laureth sulfate (SLeS), you know that it has been derived from lauric acid, most likely from coconuts but sometimes from palm oil (look at the "laur" in the middle word). Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfoacetate (SLSa) are derived from coconuts. If you see something like sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI), the "coco" part means it's derived from coconuts. Some of these are very lovely mild cleansers, but one of them - SLS - is not.

Fatty alcohols and fatty acids can be derived from coconuts as well. Myristyl alcohol, found in this Aubrey Organics product, is derived from the myristic fatty acid (C14). Is myristyl alcohol more natural than cetyl alcohol (C16)?

So what does it mean when a manufacturer puts "derived from coconuts" or "derived from sunflower" or "derived from insert some natural sounding thing here". It means the starting point of the ingredient was coconuts or sunflowers or other natural sounding thing, but it doesn't mean that because it's derived from a coconut it contains any of those wonderful things we find in coconut oil, that it's natural, that it's mild (take SLS for an example), or that it's not very processed. In fact, being derived from coconuts means just that - the original starting point of the ingredient was a coconut. I think it's a sneaky way for manufacturers to make their products seem more natural and, therefore, more appealing.

Question when you see something as listed as being "derived from something or other". My favourite example was to see dimethicone and cyclomethicone, both silicones, listed as being "derived from sand" and, therefore, natural. I love my silicones, but I wouldn't consider them natural in any way!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Iron Chemist: Lanolin

Welcome to Workshop Stadium. This week the Chairman, Raymond (my lovely husband), has chosen the sixth Iron Chemist ingredient - Lanolin!

Here are the rules. (Click here for the long version.) Raymond rolled a seven, which means he chose from the assorted butters and things that haven't been put away properly box. I have until next Saturday, February 5th to make two or three recipes using this ingredient. 

Let's take a quick look at lanolin (click here for a longer post on this ingredient). 

Lanolin is extracted from sheep's wool grease (the sebaceous secretions of sheep), and is composed of 138 saturated and 32 unsaturated fatty acids with wonderful sterols like cholesterol, lanesterol, and agnesterol, which we know offer great moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, and cetyl and stearyl alcohols, which are great emollients and thickeners. (The cholesterol is of particular interest for moisturizing as our stratum corneum lipids are made up 20% to 25% cholesterol and our skin particularly likes this type of sterol.)

We see lanolin in a lot of nail products, especially nail polish removers, because it is such an amazing emollient that offers serious moisturizing and water repellancy. It helps create a barrier to keep water in to help moisturize our skin, and it will help keep lotions and balms on our hands even after washing. This barrier helps reduce trans-epidermal water loss and may help with superficial wound healing. Lanolin can increase absorption of active ingredients in our creations, and it is great for creating a uniform consistency for a balm or ointment.

So I'm working with lanolin this week! Yay! 

A few thoughts for a lazy Sunday morning...

As I'm waiting for my wonderful husband to wake up and choose the next Iron Chemist ingredient, I wanted to share a few thoughts based upon the e-mails and comments I've seen this week...

I mentioned the other day it's the International Year of Chemistry and I think one of the things I can do for the betterment of this awesome science is to encourage everyone to use the word "chemical" properly. Chemicals are all around us: Everything we touch, everything we breathe, everything we eat, everything we love is composed of chemicals. Water is hydrogen and oxygen. Air is oxygen, nitrogen, and other gaseous elements. They are not evil and without them, we would be dead.

We are composed of chemicals. Our skin is filled with oils and acids and cells and more, and each one of these is composed of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and other elements that make up our bodies. So to say you want to make something "chemical free" or you make products "without chemicals" is wrong. What you want to say is you aren't using synthetic ingredients, because you can't make anything without chemicals. (In fact, if you can, there's 1 million pounds in it from the Royal Society of Chemists!)

So please stop using "chemical" in the pejorative sense to mean evil, toxic, poisonous, or wrong. Chemical is a neutral word, meaning something composed of elements, which is to say everything in our world. So if I can do one thing this year, it's to get people from using chemical to mean evil!

I know I've written about the necessity of using preservatives many many times (click here) but I need to write this again. Preservatives are not optional in any product that contains water or might be exposed to water. At the very least, leaving out a preservative when you're just making a product for yourself or trying a recipe out for the first time doesn't give you the full idea of how the recipe works - some preservatives can mess with emulsions, make them thicker or thinner, and so on - and at worst it can set you up for a world of ick as your product becomes contaminated. (And products can be contaminated long before you can see it with the naked eye!) Yes, putting your products in the fridge will slow down microbial growth, but it can't stop it. Even if you hate the idea of using preservatives for health reasons, consider which is worse - using 0.5% of a really good preservative or slathering contaminated products on yourself, your children, your pets, and anyone else?

I know the idea of making your first lotion can be daunting, but I say throw yourself in and try it. You won't know what it's like to make a lotion until you've actually gone through the process, and you won't know the skin feel of the various ingredients until you've made a lotion and you can experience all the sensory components yourself.

Everyone says they want a less greasy lotion, but how do you know what a homemade lotion feels like until you've made one? I find store bought lotions - let's say the Jergen's hand lotion my mom had around the house before I started making it for her - always feel greasier than anything I make (due to the use of mineral oil). So if the only comparison you have is with store bought products, especially mass market lotions, you probably don't have an idea of what greasiness means.

Make a basic lotion recipe and see how you like it. Keep a lot of notes about your process and any tweaks. You might not like hydrolyzed protein or IPM or all the other things I like in your version. But you won't know until you've tried it!

I've written on this topic before, so here are more thoughts in trying something for the first time! And you will make mistakes, but that's how we learn! I could write an entire blog about the mistakes and horrible products I've made!

Join me shortly for the new Iron Chemist ingredient!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Iron Chemist results: Floraesters IPJ

As I've mentioned repeatedly (and probably annoyingly) this week, work has been incredibly busy and I've had little time to play in the workshop. As a result, I failed in making the two Iron Chemist products this week. I did make one, but I didn't make a second - but I plan to do that during my holiday time this week (I do have loads of ideas for coloured lip balms and an eye cream!)

The one product I did make is an oil based manicure scrub as you can see to the left. I really like the manicure scrub I made with lanolin, but I thought the inclusion of some drier oils and esters might make it less greasy and more suitable for day time use (I use the linked one at night before bed, so I really don't care how greasy it feels!). So let's take a look at the recipe...

10% Floraesters IPJ
10% kukui nut oil
10% cetearyl ethylhexanoate
5% lecithin
5% lanolin
1% fragrance or essential oil (I used green tea fragrance oil - very fresh!)
39% sugar
10% jojoba beads

I heated up the lanolin to melt it and heated up the Floraester IPJ to remove the cloudiness - it's very cold in my workshop - then added all the oils. I mixed them, then added the fragrance oil (you might need more than 1% as some types of lanolin can be quite strong smelling). I added the jojoba beads first and mixed, then the sugar.

I really like the feeling of this scrub - it leaves behind a light film of oil that's not too greasy. One problem though, I couldn't get those little beads off and I actually had to wash my hands to remove them! Having said that, the oils stayed on after washing, so I'd say that was a success! (This is why I encourage you to try things and make mistakes - I learned this is a pretty tenacious oil combination!)

Since you're very unlikely to have Floraesters IPJ at home - I only have them as a sample - you can substitute a light, dry feeling oil - for instance, increase the kukui oil or use a little hazelnut, macadamia nut, or camellia seed oil - or add another ester. You could increase the cetearyl ethylhexanoate to 20% as well or something like C12-15 alkyl benzoate or ethylhexyl palmitate. If you don't mind a little more greasiness, you could substitute 8% jojoba oil and 2% Isopropyl myristate or IPP in place of the Floraesters IPJ.

I definitely recommend leaving out the jojoba beads and use all sugar. You can also use salt, and I have done in the past. I used sugar this time as I have a bunch of little cuts on my hands from paper and crafting and sewing, and salt can sting. But use either as you wish.

So sorry for the let down in not making the second product, but tune in tomorrow to see what our new Iron Chemist ingredient might be and tune in through the week to see how I'm enjoying my week off work!

Eye cream - attempt number one

I've been asked many times to help make an eye cream, so I thought I'd give it a go. I haven't used eye creams in the past as I find they tend to be greasy and get all over my eye lashes and bug the heck out of me, so I thought I'd figure out how to make one that isn't greasy and wouldn't do that. (Note: This picture isn't of the eye cream as I've been using it out of a small Pyrex jug and putting plastic wrap over it and that isn't very pretty. So I put a picture of a whipped butter here to break up the text a little. But this would be what it would look like in a container!)

What do I want in an eye cream? I want something that is light and sinks in nicely. I want something that isn't greasy but is very glidy and spreads nicely. I want something with some active ingredients that can help with inflammation and, I hope, aging skin.

My first thought was to deal with the non-greasiness first and the lightness would eventually follow, which means planning my oil phase. The first ingredient I think about when I'm trying to reduce greasiness is BTMS-50 as my emulsifier. As we know, this emulsifier leaves behind a powdery feeling in the lotion, and that's what I want.

My next thought is about the oils I'll be using. I could use esters like cetearyl ethylhexanoate or ethylhexyl palmitate as they spread very well and offer lightness, but I want some active ingredients in there and I don't have any cosmeceutical type things I can add, so I need to use my oils for their properties. As much as I love esters, they don't offer those phytosterols or polyphenols I think essential for this kind of product.

I'm not planning to include a butter as I need something that is light, so I think about my oils. Most of the exotic oils are light and non-greasy, so which ones to choose. I considered quite a few, but eventually chose to use squalane and pomegranate oil. I chose squalane because our skin soaks it up quickly and it offers some nice glide and moisturizing. I chose pomegranate oil because it has the highest amount of phytosterols of all our oils, which means it offers great anti-inflammatory properties, and it has fatty acids that can improve skin's elasticity and stimulate regeneration. The polyphenols in pomegranate oil have been studied and ellagic acid has been found to reduce the destruction of collagen, regenerate skin cells, and offer thickening our skin. These are all amazing qualities for our eye area.

I decided to use cetyl esters to thicken this eye cream as it would be lighter and thinner than using cetyl alcohol. It would feel glidier with the cetyl esters, and this is a bonus.

And I wanted to include isopropyl palmitate (IPP) in the mix to reduce greasiness. I could have used IPM in its place, but IPP is less comedogenic than IPM and I don't want to have break outs on my upper cheeks! Oh, and IPP can behave as a penetration enhancer, which means my lovely active ingredients will have some assistance in reaching deeper into my skin layers.

I've also decided to add cyclomethicone in my cool down phase to help increase glide and silkiness.

Okay, so that's the oil phase. What do I want in my water phase? As I mentioned, I don't own any cosmeceutical ingredients, so I want to choose each ingredient to maximize its offering to the eye cream benefits (which are only theoretical and I'm making no claims about them!).

I know I want some green tea in the mix because it not only behaves as an anti-oxidant, which is fantastic for facial products, but it contains a ton of polyphenols - proanthocyanidins - that play a role in the stabilization of collagen and maintenance of elastin in the skin. They are being studies as water etention reducers, and capillary protectors. It also contains some lovely flavonoids that can help with UV damage, inflammation, and wound healing. I'm going to use 5% liquid green tea extract in my cool down phase.

And I thought I'd include some Multifruit BSC as well in the cool down phase as a form of AHA (click on the link to read more about AHAs as it's too long to repeat here). I'm going to add some panthenol as a humectant and film former. I'm adding Phytokeratin to the mix to behave as a film former and moisturizer. I'm adding honeyquat to the mix because it will offer skin conditioning and behave as a humectant.

Instead of water, I want to use a hydrosol, and I've chosen chamomile hydrosol because it is anti-inflammatory and soothing. I'm going to be adding witch hazel to this mix because it is an astringent anti-inflammatory hydrosol that can offer a feeling of cooling to the product (and some people expect a cooling feeling from an eye cream). Plus it contains more of those lovely proanthocyanins that can help with the stabilization of collagen and maintenance of elastin in the skin. And I'm going to use a little water, mainly because I ran out of chamomile hydrosol and I didn't want to use more than 20% witch hazel in the mix.

So here's what I came up with after all this thinking...

20% chamomile hydrosol
20% witch hazel
10% water
2% Phyokeratin

6% BTMS-50
2% cetyl esters
10% squalane
10% pomegranate oil
2% IPP

2% cyclomethicone
5% Multifruit BSC
5% liquid green tea extract
2% panthenol
3% honeyquat
0.5% liquid Germall Plus
0.5% Vitamin E

Please use the basic lotion making instructions to make this product.

So what do I think? I've been using this for a few days and I really like it. It dries to a matte finish and feels like it sinks in quickly. It doesn't leave a feeling of greasiness on my under eye area or eye lashes, and it's easy to apply. mom thinks it's too heavy. She wants something lighter for her eye cream, but likes it as a night cream for her dry, aging skin. I think it's too heavy as a moisturizer for my oily, rosacea prone, aging skin, but she likes it.

So I'll try again. What will I change? I'll take out the cetyl esters, reduce the BTMS-50 to 5%, remove some of the oils, and increase the hydrosols. So join me tomorrow to see how that turns out!

Friday, January 28, 2011

A few helpful hints for a Friday morning...

It's been a wacky and busy week around my house, so on this last day of work before a week of holiday time to be spent bumming around the house crafting and writing, I give you a few thoughts for Friday...

If you get a chance, read this wonderful dialogue between a University of B.C. chemistry professor and his daughter about how surfactants work. It's fantastic! (And I love the comment that "his favourite element is the element of surprise"! Fantastic!)

And check out this post from the Chemist's Corner on "killer questions", those you ask yourself to come up with new product ideas. This is one of the types of exercises I do when I'm thinking about playing in the workshop (especially for the Iron Chemist challenge). Could this ingredient be used in an anhydrous product? A lotion? A surfactant mix? What if I eliminated this ingredient or that one? It's an interesting exercise and it's how we see products like shampoo and conditioner bars or emulsified scrubs come onto the market. (This isn't to say all brainstorming is useful! After making scrub, conditioner, and shampoo bars, I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to make solid body wash...yeah, I know, it's soap, but my mind does a lot of wandering in the shower!)

If you have your choice between glass and plastic containers in which to make your products, I'd go for the glass every time. Not only are they less likely to float around in the double boiler, they conduct the heat better, which means your ingredients will melt faster! You can use Mason jars or Pyrex jugs, but I definitely recommend Pyrex type jugs - you never realize how much you need a handle as when you pick up a heated Mason jar with your hands. I have two in each size - 1 cup, 2 cup, 4 cup, and 8 cup - and they are always handy to have around! (I noticed the other day that my Pyrex jugs say not for "lab or stovetop use". I guess I don't technically have a lab, but I kinda want one!)

I can tell when it's getting more humid thanks to my hair (I call myself the human barometer)! When my hair strands start to swell up, my hair not only gets bigger, but it loses its shine! If you're a frizzy haired girl like me, make sure you're removing the humectant from your conditioner and leave in conditioner this time of year, and don't forget to use something to seal out the moisture. I prefer silicones, like cyclomethicone and dimethicone, but there are some silicone alternatives you can use. (I'm hearing a lot about broccoli oil, but considering I hate broccoli more than I hate patchouli - which is a lot - and considering you can smell the broccoli through it, I think I'll give it a miss). You can make yourself a really easy anti-frizz spray with just 90% cyclomethicone and 10% dimethicone in a mister bottle for a quick way to seal out that nasty humidity! (Click here for hair care recipe ideas!)

I am having a love affair with the facial cleanser I made for the Iron Chemist: LSB challenge two weeks ago! It is a bit foamy so I only need a little bit to wash my face, but I've noticed the red spots on my face are dying down and I feel more moisturized during the day. I know the colour is a little weird, so I'll bottle it in a white or opaque bottle next time, and I would like a pump instead of the disc cap. But this one is a keeper!

I've been thinking about caps on bottles lately. Not only do we choose certain caps for their functionality, but we choose them on the basis of reducing contamination in our products (click here for more information). I couldn't find my disc caps for my larger bottles anywhere, so I chose to use a turret cap for a few products like my d-Limonene dish washing liquid, my favourite moisturizing body wash, and my conditioner, and I've noticed I'm using less of each product. The disc cap may allow things to flow easily when I squeeze the bottle, but perhaps that's too much of a good thing. I use a ton of body wash, but I'm finding that using less results in a good amount cleansing lather without wasting it! (And I'm not the only one - see this post on using more than you should just because we can make more!)

Well, those are a few of my thoughts on a rainy Friday morning in January. Join me over the weekend and into next week for the results of the Iron Chemist challenge, the new Iron Chemist challenge, and recipes for kukui nut oil products. Yay, I'm on a stay-cation next week, so there's tons of things to do and craft!

Sponsored by readers like you - chocolate making!

Valentine's Day will soon be upon us, and the best way I know of to tell someone you love them is with loads of chocolate. So why not make your own? It's easy to make chocolate bark - get something you want to add to the chocolate, like cinnamon hearts, almonds, macadamia nuts and coconut, or any other dried fruit or nuts, mix it into some melted chocolate, pour into a mold of some kind and put in the fridge. In twenty minutes, you've got yourself a bark!

Or make some tiger butter. We made ours with milk chocolate and Nutella last night, but you can make it with peanut butter. I like to use a teaspoon for about 30 grams. Get your spoon, scoop out some peanut butter or Nutella, pour the melted chocolate over it, mix well, pour into a mold, and put into the fridge or freezer. In twenty minutes, you've got a lovely tiger, hazelnut, or panther butter!

Don't forget about the packaging! I like to use foils and cellophane bags for packaging our chocolates because they're fun to use and look very professional and adorable. Emily's chocolate here is a black foil with a pink foam glitter heart (I bought those from Michael's). Add an adorable tag or card (for instance, these are sweet as are these ones) on the ribbon or twist tie and you have yourself a fantastic Valentine's day chocolate-y gift!

If you'd like to learn more about making chocolate, please visit this post or  this post (with the hand outs), or this one, or this one!

If you want to give something that looks like chocolate but isn't, consider making the black cocoa emulsified scrub, black cocoa scrub bars, or some bath melts, which you can decorate in foils (but make sure you put a big DO NOT EAT warning on the label!)

And you know Jay had to make some replica of the Bob-Bombs from the Mario games, so I made sure he had all the stuff he needed to make his awesome little characters! 

As you know, our youth groups are funded by readers like you who donate by buying the e-books, Back to BasicsHair Care Products: Shampoos & Conditioners, and Lotionmaking 101. If you'd like to learn more about our groups and what we do, please click here. I'm posting these pictures because not only do our youth love seeing their work shared with others and to encourage you to make these projects with the kids in your lives, but to thank you for all the support you give them. We couldn't do these programs without the donations you've offered, and I simply can't thank you all enough.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kukui nut: Anhydrous recipes

Kukui nut oil is kinda pricey - 30 ml was the same price as 1 litre of soy bean oil - so using at really high levels can be a very expensive proposition. I've been trying it at 20% in these products, which I think is a really nice level of usage. Add to the heated oil phase with the rest of your lovely oils in any product!

20% kukui nut
40% fractionated coconut oil
38% sesame seed oil
1% Vitamin E
1% fragrance oil

I've chosen fractionated coconut oil and sesame seed oil as both are considered non-staining to fabrics, while kukui nut oil is not. You could use all fractionated coconut oil for a very light feeling body spray or use all sesame seed oil for a slightly heavier body spray with more linoleic acid and phytosterols. I feel this combination offers the best of all worlds! I get the linoleic and oleic acids (the latter offers moisturizing and regenerating properties) as well as a silky dry feeling from the kukui nut. I get the additional dryness and silkiness from the fractionated coconut oil. And I get all the phytosterols (which behave as anti-inflammatories and can reduce itchiness), linoleic acid, and oleic acid from the sesame seed oil.

You know I love my esters, so I had tweak to my favourite body mister recipe with esters to include some kukui nut oil!

30% cetearyl ethylhexanoate
23% kukui nut oil
45% capric/caprylic triglycerides or fractionated coconut oil
1% to 2% fragrance oil

Get a spray bottle. Add all the ingredients. Use. Rejoice.

I substituted kukui nut oil for the C12-15 alkyl benzoate in this recipe as it will offer a lighter feeling with the same level of spreading. It feels absolutely lovely, and it adds so much needed linoleic oils to this recipe! This is a great choice for those winter months when you need the linoleic acid in the kukui nut oil to help with skin's barrier repair needs and preventing transepidermal water loss. (As a note, if you remove the C12-15 alkyl benzoate from the original recipe, you won't get the fragrance fixative part of the recipe, but that's not a bad thing! Your fragrance will stick around long enough as it is!)

As I need to get to Voyageur to buy more kukui oil, you'll have to wait until next week for more recipe ideas with this oil! Sorry! It's been a really busy week! 

International Year of Chemistry!

Today marks the beginning of the International Year of Chemistry, as declared by UNESCO and IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry). This year we'll celebrate chemistry and how it has improved the lot of humankind under the theme of "Chemistry - our life, our future".

2011 was chosen as it has been 100 years since Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for "[for] the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element", so we're also celebrating the role of women in chemistry. (She also win a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband, Pierre Curie, for their research on radiation. Check out this link to see all the Nobel prizes awarded for chemistry. Interesting reading!)

How can you take part in the International Year of Chemistry without having to be a chemistry obsessed geek like me (I'm so obsessed, I married a man named Nichols!)? Learn a little more about an element (although I'm partial to nickel, I also enjoy silicone and sodium). Read a book like The Disappearing Spoon or one of Joe Schwarcz's books and learn more about the every day chemistry in your life. Learn more about a chemist from your home town like Charlotte Froese Fischer (who resided in Chilliwack, and writes about her youth here).

I think we should take this year as an opportunity to show that chemistry is more than blowing stuff up (which is what the boys in my youth group think) or making the world a more horrible place. I think one of the best ways to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry is to take it upon ourselves to help educate those who don't know how much fun chemistry can be! Teach just one person how much fun it is to make a lotion or shampoo or enlighten one person who thinks "chemical free" is a valid concept and we're that much closer to a more science literate society!

Yay for the International Year of Chemistry!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kukui nut oil continued...

I know I promised a recipe with this oil today, but things have been so insane around the house and at work lately, I only have time to write a short post today (and the new version of Safari keeps crashing, ARGH!), so I thought I'd write a little more about kukui nut oil today.

After much searching through various textbooks, the web, and the EBSCOhost thingie at the library, I feel like I still know very little about this oil. I still can't find out the specifics about the anti-oxidants, although I know there are some and one of them is Vitamin E. Why the mystery about this oil?

I did, however, find this: Kukui nut oil was tested in a small pilot study to see if it was more effective than mineral oil against psoriasis. The findings were not significant, meaning kukui nut oil was not more effective than mineral oil, although the authors caution that more study is required (and this is usually what you find at the end of most studies that have a null result, but this was a small study with 30 participants, and only 24 completed the study).

Thanks to Regina for the data sheet and madpiano for information on the different name! 

I still can't find much, but I do know I like the feeling of this oil. It's a very dry feeling oil, but it still feels very silky on my skin (I find some of the drier feeling oils feel dry, but not silky). It feels almost like a thicker ester, which is very nice.

I plan to use this in an eye cream I've been working on - somewhere you want to be quite dry, light, and easy to spread with very little effort - and I've already tried this in a body oil in place of the esters. (Very nice, and more on that tomorrow.)

Sorry for the short post, but I'll make up for it in the next few days with lots of recipes! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kukui nut oil

I bought a bottle of this from Voyageur Soap & Candle and thought I'd try it out, but first, I need to do some research on this oil!

Kukui nut oil (INCI: Aleurites moluccana seed oil) is derived from the kukui nut or candlenut and produces a light, clear yellow liquid with little odour and is considered to be a non-greasy oil. It has an interesting fatty acid profile - 5% to 8% palmitic acid (C16), 2% to 5% stearic acid (C18), 15% to 30% oleic acid (C18:1), 35% to 45% linoleic acid (C18:2), and 24% to 34% linolenic acid (C18:3). (Oleic acid is great moisturizing and skin regenerating fatty acid with some anti-inflammatory effects and linoleic acid offers an increase in skin's ability to repair barrier damage and a decrease in transepidermal water loss. Click on the links for more information these fatty acids!) With all these double and triple bonded fatty acids, we'd expect to see a very short life span for this oil, but it's reported to be 12 months!

So why might that be? It's hard to find information that doesn't consist of "used by Hawaiians for centuries..." and actually has some proper details on this oil. (Reminds me of my research on camellia seed oil, which contained a lot of statements like "Japanese women have used this on their hair...", which aren't helpful!) I haven't been able to find any information on anti-oxidants in this oil - although there must be quite a lot considering the shelf life - and I can't find out anything on the polyphenols or phytosterols. There have to be some tannins or other chemical in the oil that makes it feel less greasy, but I can't find anything on this topic either. There really is very little information out there on kukui nut oil, apart from the traditional uses of the oil, which, although interesting, really doesn't help me decide if I want to use it in my creations. (If you have any good links for information on this oil, please comment so I can do more research!)

I did find out that we should add kukui nut to our creations in the cool down phase to ensure we don't ruin the oil and it's suggested that we store it in a cool dark place. I've seen suggestions that you can use this neat as a hair or massage oil, but the suggested usage is up 30% in our products, used in the cool down phase.

Edited on June 2, 2012 - After more research, I'm going to suggest that you DON'T use this in the cool down phase. You won't hurt the oil by heating it up, but you could ruin your emulsion if you add a bunch of oil to the cool down phase. So please, use the kukui nut oil in the heated oil phase! 

So kukui nut oil contains a ton of great fatty acids that will moisturize, regenerate skin cells, increase skin's barrier protection abilities, reduce dry skin and scaling, and reduce transepidermal water loss. It will feel light and less greasy on your skin than other oils, and it should offer some anti-inflammatory benefits. Thanks to the oleic acid, it should be absorbed by your skin well, and thanks to the linoleic acid, it could benefit those with acne.

You can use this oil anywhere you might use rice bran or sesame seed oils, as it has that balance of oleic and linoleic acids. You can use this in place of any light oil to decrease the feeling of greasiness, and it would be a great substitute for oils like grapeseed or hempseed oil as they have much shorter life spans.

Join me tomorrow as I experiment with kukui nut oil in some moisturizing products!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shampoo bars & long hair

I keep seeing people talking about not using shampoo bars because they have long hair and need liquid instead. I'm not getting this. As you can see by the picture, my husband and I are long haired people we use shampoo bars every shower!

One of the complaints I see is that the shampoo bars aren't lathery enough to get the ends of long hair. Uh...I don't get this at all! My bars are sudsy enough to get Catherine Howard's split ends clean (she was reported to have hair down to her knees!) and there seems to be no end to the amount of lather and bubbles I get out of these bars.

I'm wondering how people are washing with shampoo bars. I wet my hair, give it maybe 5 swipes over my head to cover the sides, top, and underneath, then I massage my scalp and I get tons of bubbles. I do rinse and repeat because I have oily hair, but it's not necessary for other hair types. The second time I wash, I make sure to wash the ends of my hair with the copious lather I have on my scalp.

As a note, ever wonder why the first wash isn't as bubbly as the second wash? It's because the oils in your hair reduce the bubbles and lather in any surfactant or soap product, and you've rinsed most of the sebum out the first time around! 

Or are they talking about soap based shampoo bars, because those would definitely offer less lather than syndet bars? Anything with SCI or SLSa is going to offer a ton of lather and foam, and if we formulate our bars with foam and lather in mind, we can make them super ultra mega bubbly and lathery! (This isn't to put down CP soap, but that's not its role in the shower!)

I'm posting this here because I really don't get it. As someone with waist length hair, I have no trouble washing my hair with shampoo bars and find them easier to use than liquids. What are your thoughts on this? Do you avoid shampoo bars because you have long hair or do you find your bars aren't very bubbly? I'm really curious about this!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Iron Chemist: Floraesters IPJ

Welcome to Workshop Stadium. This week the Chairman, Raymond (my lovely husband), has chosen the fifth Iron Chemist ingredient - Floraesters IPJ!

Here are the rules. (Click here for the long version.) Raymond rolled an eight, which means he chose an ingredient from the sample box in my workshop. I have until next Saturday, January 29th, to make two to three recipes using this ingredient.

So what the heck are Floraesters IPJ and where can you get them? I'll answer the latter first - I have no idea. I received them as a sample, so I don't have a lot with which to play, maybe 100 ml or so. (If you have an idea of where to find these, please comment!) What are they? That I can answer!

IPJ is an ester derived from jojoba oil with an INCI isopropyl jojobate (35%), jojoba alcohol (35%), jojoba esters, (30%), and 0.1% tocopherols. Because it's an ester, this means it will be a better spreading and less greasy ingredient than a typical oil. It's a low viscosity ester with a light yellow appearance and no odour (although having said that, low viscosity is a relative term because it seems lighter than rice bran oil to me!). It's considered a silicone alternative because of its high spreadability and light, dry feeling, so you could use it in a conditioner or anywhere you might be using silicones. (I found some information indicating it could be used in a shampoo, but another data sheet said you couldn't and it isn't soluble in SLS or decyl glucoside, so I'm going with the you can't use it in shampoo without some kind of emulsifier camp). I would like to include a picture of it here, but I can't find one online and my bottle is covered in oils, so it looks just awful. I'll have to re-bottle it and put a picture up shortly.

Floraester IPJ is soluble in all our usual oils - vegetable and mineral - as well as other esters like IPM or IPP, as well as cyclomethicone and it isn't soluble in dimethicone, the glycols (butylene or propylene), glycerin, polysorbate 20, water, or surfactants, so you'll have to mix it with polysorbate 80 or another solubilize to use it in a water only product (it's definitely an oil soluble ingredient). I'd add it to the heated oil phase when making a lotion of some kind or melt it with the oils in an anhydrous product. It's recommended for lip sticks and balms at up to 30% because it forms an interesting matrix with the waxes (much like castor oil would) and for oil free type products (because it's not an oil!). The suggested usage is up to 20% in a cream or lotion in the heated oil phase or use it at up to 5% in a deodorant to increase glide and decrease white streaking or up to 5% in a bath or massage oil to increase glide.

It's supposed to be awesome for colour cosmetic products like foundations because it has a matte finish, so it's a great inclusion in cream or liquid products like blushes, concealers, lip sticks, and anything else you want to make that shouldn't be shiny. I'm thinking that it would be great for an oil free moisturizer or eye cream.

The melting point of Floraester IPJ is 6˚C to 12˚C, so you'll treat it like a normal oil at room temperature, although you can heat it before using to remove any crystals if you've had it in a cold workshop and find it's solidified a bit (this would be when the ester has reached its titer point.)

I'm going to start off by substituting it for cyclomethicone in one of my usual products so I can get an idea of the skin feel, then I'll have some fun playing. This is going to be a fun week indeed! 

Experimenting in the workshop: Avocado butter

Randi from Creations by Eden sent me out some green avocado butter, which is "...made from solid fraction of raw-green avocado oil, then fortified with sal butter-stearic fraction and virgin oil de coco-crème® solid fraction." It's light green in colour and has a very earthy smell to it. It's quite hard and would need to be melted to include it in anything - you can't just whip this butter from room temperature!

I decided to do something basic with it and make a whipped butter. I used rice bran oil, because that was the challenge for the Iron Chemist and it was sitting right on top of my work table, and fragrance so I could get a better idea of the consistency and feel of the butter on my skin.

77% green avocado butter
22% rice bran oil
1% fragrance oil (Clementine Cupcake, what else?)

I melted the avocado butter and rice bran oil in my double boiler and heated until it melted. I put it in the freezer to harden. After 40 minutes, the middle was still liquidy, so I left it in for another 10 minutes. (I would normally leave shea, mango, or cocoa butter for about half an hour.) It was still liquidy, but I wanted to play with it so I removed it from the freezer, added my fragrance oil, then started whipping it with my whisks. It whipped up very nicely...but I can't get over that earthy smell. I added another 1% Clementine Cupcake fragrance oil and whipped a little more. Nope, still smelling it. So another 1% - I wouldn't go higher than 3% in a leave on product - and more whipping.

What do I think of it? I really like the feeling of this butter. It feels a lot like babassu oil in that it melts on contact with your skin. It's greasy-ish at first, but starts to feel drier after about 10 minutes or so (I think the greasiness comes from the rice bran oil, not the butter). I really like it...but I can't get over the earthy smell.

I don't tend to use unrefined butters because that earthy smell really gets to me, and this is one of the strongest I've smelled in a while. It's not an unpleasant smell, but it's something I don't tend to like in my products. If you like earthy smells - for instance, I can't stand having patchouli in the house or even catching a whiff of it at the farmers' market - then this is a great butter for you. If you don't, then use the butter at lower levels in your products.

Why use avocado butter? Avocado oil is filled with phytosterols and polyphenols that are fantastic for reducing inflammation and itchiness. It's great in a hair care product as it's easily absorbed, and it might help with dandruff prone hair. (Click on the link for more information on this oil.)

As an aside, my husband woke up yesterday morning and said to me, "You're lucky you don't have a stupid husband." I agree with him, but why? "Because you leave out these containers with things that look like icing and smell like cupcakes, and a stupid husband would eat them and die." One wouldn't die from eating whipped avocado butter, but it wouldn't taste like cupcakes. "But how do I know it doesn't taste like it smells? It looks like icing! You're so lucky I'm not stupid." He went on to suggest I should bake some cupcakes so we had something in the house that smelled and tasted like cupcakes. I think he's right - we need some real cupcakes! (I think you've figured out by now that I'm obsessed with cupcakes! And I haven't even shown you my cupcake fabric pillowcases!) And I am a lucky woman to have him (not just because he avoids eating my products)!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sponsored by readers like you - fun with fleece

More awesome creations from our craft group where we had a little fun with fleece! Jay's Bob-Bomb in fleece is a work of art (it's a character in Mario Brothers' games) that took him the full two hours, and they had great fun making scarves and pillows with appliques in the group.

Fleece is a great fabric because it doesn't fray, so you can just cut and wear if you aren't the sewing type. You can find some cute appliques - I found a lovely cupcake here and here - cut them out of felt or fleece, sew them on my by hand, and you've got a one-of-a-kind scarf! Or get some of that plaid fleece you see in the picture to the right and just cut along the lines! Cut a little fringe on the bottom and you have yourself something lovely and easy to make! We made ours about 6 inches (15 cm) for the girls and about 8 inches (20 cm) for the boys. (The green mushroom is a 1-UP from Mario as well.)

As you know, our youth groups are funded by readers like you who donate by buying the e-books, Back to Basics, Hair Care Products: Shampoos & Conditioners, and Lotionmaking 101. If you'd like to learn more about our groups and what we do, please click here. I'm posting these pictures because not only do our youth love seeing their work shared with others but I need to thank you for all the support you give them. We couldn't do these programs without the donations you've offered, and I simply can't thank you all enough.

As a side note, we've raised enough for a sewing machine! Yay! Thanks again so much!

Iron Chemist results: Rice bran oil

Another week, another Iron Chemist challenge!. I love rice bran oil and use it by the bucketload in so many products I make, so it was hard to create two products in which I could use it in a different way. I chose to add to the challenge this week and attempt to duplicate two products from the Body Shop that people have asked me about - the Body Shop's Hemp Hand Protector and the Body Shop's new spa wisdom™ japan yuzu & rice body milk.

I've had a few people ask about duplicating Body Shop's Hemp Hand Protector and thought I'd try tit out this week. I'll admit it was a little ambitious considering I've never tried the product myself, but I've read what it's supposed to feel like, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Ingredient list: Water, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Myristyl Myristate, Hemp Seed Oil, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Glyceryl Stearate, Dimethicone, PEG-100 Stearate, Beeswax, Lanolin, Panthenol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Allantoin, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Evernia Furfuracea (Treemoss) Extract, Limonene, Citronellol, Talc, Geraniol, Linalool, Citral, Chromium Oxide Greens, Iron Oxides.

There's a ton of stuff left out if you compare this ingredient list from the Canadian site to the American site. Huh? The American one lists far more ingredients including castor and camellia seed oil, carnauba wax, tocopherol, citric acid, potassium sorbate, and many many more. I wonder which is really different, the ingredient list or the actual ingredients? And the British site appears to have a little from each! What's going on here?

In my humble opinion, the key ingredients in here are the water, glycerin, cetearyl alcohol, emollients, beeswax, emulsifier, allantoin, and preservative. The xanthan gum is a thickener, which I'm leaving out; the disodium EDTA is a chelating ingredient, and the rest are all fragrance or colours and I don't care about those at the moment. 

I know this product is supposed to stay on after washing, so I think leaving the cetearyl alcohol and beeswax will help that because they tend to be waxy feeling. I don't have any myristyl myristate, so I went with cetearyl ethylhexanoate (another ester) and kept in the C12-15 alkyl benzoate because I wanted it to have that not so greasy feeling. I went with Polawax as my emulsifier, although BTMS would have been a good choice as well. (Oh shoot, I didn't see the lanolin in this recipe until just now! I'll have to tweak it to include it next time.) I used glycerin, propylene glycol, and panthenol as my humectants to offer more moisturizing without greasiness. 

I wanted to use rice bran oil instead of hemp seed oil because it has a longer shelf life and that's the challenge this week, and I included the dimethicone and allantoin as occlusive ingredients. 

You'll notice I added some IPM to this recipe - I really felt it needed to be less greasy - and I have my fragrance oil at 0.5%. This is for two reasons. One, because I'm giving this to my husband and his manly friends and they won't want something overly fragranced. And two, because I'm using C12-15 alkyl benzoate, which is a fragrance fixative, and I have found when using this I need to reduce my fragrance amount because it'll stick around for a long long time! (And it does! I could smell the cedar & saffron on my hands hours later!) 

As this is meant to be a very thick and rich cream that doesn't feel greasy, I figured I'd use about a 50% to 60% water phase and a 40% or more oil phase. So here's the result! 

47% water
3% glycerin
2% propylene glycol
0.5% allantoin

7% Polawax
3% cetearyl alcohol
8% cetearyl ethylhexanoate
10% rice bran oil
10% C12-15 alkyl benzoate
2% beeswax 
2% IPM

2% dimethicone
2% panthenol
0.5% fragrance
0.5% - 1% preservative (I use liquid Germall Plus)

Follow the normal lotion making instructions for this recipe. This recipe makes about 250 ml if you multiply it by 3 (8 ounce bottle), so if you make the recipe at this amount you'll get about 80 ml (or 1/3 cup). 

So what do we think? I think it's a very thick lotion that feels slightly greasy going on your hands but soon dries to a more powdery feeling. I don't think it stayed on after washing my hands, but it did feel like it was still on my hands two hours after application when I didn't wash my hands. I'm not the biggest fan of cetearyl alcohol in this recipe - I know I was going for a waxier feeling lotion that would stay on my hands, but I think it could be slightly too waxy for my personal preferences, although my husband liked it and reported that he felt it stayed on his hands after washing. 

When I make this again, I think I'll add some cyclomethicone to increase the feeling of silky powderiness a little (2% in the cool down phase) and remove 2% of some oil to make up for that change. I think I'll add some aloe vera because I always like more soothing goodness for trashed hands. If you want to make this recipe and leave things out, feel free to substitute the various emollients for other oils, but bear in mind that it will change the skin feel. And feel free to substitute the cetearyl alcohol for either stearic or cetyl alcohol. If you keep all the ingredients relatively the same - that is to say, you keep the silicones and esters - then I'd go with stearic to make a tenacious cream.

Another product I've been asked about a lot lately is the new spa wisdom™ japan yuzu & rice body milk from the Body Shop, so I thought I'd try making my own version of a sprayable lotion. 

Here's the ingredient list: Water (Solvent/Diluent), Ethylhexyl Palmitate (Skin Conditioning Agent), Glycerin (Humectant), Cyclomethicone (Emollient), Orbignya Oleifera Seed Oil (Emollient), Glyceryl Stearate (Emulsifier), PEG-100 Stearate (Surfactant), Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil (Skin-Conditioning Agent), Fragrance (Fragrance), Dimethicone (Skin Conditioning Agent), PEG-40 Stearate (Emulsifier), Phenethyl Alcohol (Fragrance Ingredient), Caprylyl Glycol (Skin Conditioning Agent), Camellia Sinensis Seed Oil (Skin-Conditioning Agent), Propylene Glycol (Humectant), Cetearyl Alcohol (Emulsifier), Butylene Glycol (Humectant), Linalool (Fragrance Ingredient), Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (Stabiliser/Viscosity Modifier), Xanthan Gum (Viscosity Modifier), Disodium EDTA (Chelating Agent), Sodium Carbomer (Emulsion Stabiliser), Sodium Hydroxide (pH Adjuster), Citronellol (Fragrance Ingredient), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract (Hair Conditioning Agent), Sorbitol (Humectant), Citral (Fragrance Ingredient), Citrus Junos Peel Extract (Skin Condtioning Agent), Tocopherol (Antioxidant).

Again, I picked out what I think are the key ingredients - water, emollients, humectants, emulsifier, preservative, anti-oxidant, and fragrance - and tried as best as I could to use the same or similar ingredients, with the exception of adding the rice bran oil. But I couldn't. There were things I wanted to include in a sprayable lotion that aren't in this recipe, so I used this as a template but went on my own merry way! 

I decided I needed some extra stuff, so I included lavender hydrosol for its great properties of soothing wind or weather chapped skin and the anti-irritation properties. (You could use lavender essential oil in this but I really can't stand the smell of it on my skin in leave-in products, so I go with the hydrosol every time). I added allantoin at 0.5% and dimethicone at 2% as barrier ingredients. I wanted a humectant in there, so I tried this new one I've been testing - Zemea - at 3% (which, as a point of interest, is considered all-natural and is Ecocert certified). You could use any humectant you like in place of it. And I included Phytokeratin as a protein because for some reason I thought it contained rice when I was in the workshop, but it doesn't. 

In the oil phase, I went with rice bran oil - because that's the challenge, after all - and included the ethylhexyl palmitate and babassu oil found in the original. I used Polawax as my emulsifier after debating including BTMS-50. (I decided not to as I didn't want it to be too dry feeling.) 

In my cool down phase, I included cyclomethicone to give it a drier but glidy feel and Vitamin E as my anti-oxidant. I included honeyquat as a humectant and skin conditioner as well. 

So what did I create?

48.5% water
20% lavender hydrosol
0.5% allantoin
3% Zemea (humectant)

5% rice bran oil
5% ethyhexyl palmitate
5% babassu oil
5% Polawax

2% honeyquat
2% dimethicone
2% cyclomethicone
0.5% Vitamin E 
1% fragrance
0.5% liquid Germall Plus

Use the general lotion making instructions for this recipe. I doubled the recipe and got 250 ml (8 ounces) of product. 

What do I think of this product? I really like it. It has a nice consistency - it's sprayable and but it doesn't feel too thin - and it makes my skin feel very moisturized. I don't think I'd alter any part of this recipe as it has both the dry feeling from the babassu oil, ester, and cyclomethicone but a little greasiness from the rice bran and dimethicone. If you want to make this recipe and don't have the ethylhexyl palmitate, feel free to use another ester you like or another oil, but try to make it a light, drier feeling oil like hazelnut, evening primrose, borage, or camellia seed oils, for instance. 

I realize I got the "rice" part of the name in there - the rice bran oil - but I didn't get the Yuzu part. I do have Yuzu fragrance, which is very nice, but I really prefer to smell like cupcakes! 

Join me tomorrow to set off on another Iron Chemist challenge! 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Vitamin C

I recently bought some Vitamin C in the hopes of using it in my products. So let's see what this vitamin brings to the party!

Vitamin C is a water soluble anti-oxidant has been proven in studies to be an anti-inflammatory that can stimulate collagen formation, lighten skin, treat hyperpigmentation, and heal wounds. It's water soluble ingredient that works best in creations with a pH of less than 3 (now that's acidic!) and concentrations up to 5% are well tolerated by our skin. It's present in every layer of our stratum corneum and it's essential for stimulating collage synthesis and the formation of the barrier lipids. Applying a lotion with a concentration of 5% over 6 months have been shown to improve the appearance of skin with photo-damage (and this isn't the "improve the appearance" like the cosmetic companies use this phrase - this was an actual study!) and it's been shown to reduce sunburn cell formation and reddening in humans. And it has been shown that it can influence the synthesis of specific ceramides, which can improve the water retaining properties - well, at least in vitro. (This hasn't been confirmed in living human skin yet.)

Ideally we'll partner Vitamin C with Vitamin E to create an anti-oxidizing powerhouse because the Vitamin  C will help the Vitamin E regenerate to keep the anti-oxidizing awesomeness going for quite some time, and we can throw in up to 0.05% beta-carotene to increase the anti-oxiding power. This combination has been shown to quench free radicals on our skin.

So why aren't we using it in every single product we make? Because it's really unstable in water and it doesn't easily penetrate our skin. Plus pH 3 is really acidic and that's not a great pH for our lotions or serums to be. And it degrades easily when exposed to oxygen.

So let's say you want to use Vitamin C in your creations. Is it possible? It is. The ideal product would be a non-ionic anhydrous product or emulsion in an air tight container (so a lotion or serum not including any cationic ingredients - like BTMS or cationic polymers -  or anionic ingredients - like our bubbly surfactants - is right out). You can use it with silicones or oils as an anhydrous creation. But Vitamin C is water soluble, so how the heck would we get it into a creation with little to no water?

You can use an ester like ascorbyl palmitate in a serum or lotion as your source of Vitamin C, for instance. You can use the water soluble Vitamin C in an emulsion, but you will see some degradation of the ingredient, so don't choose a pump bottle but something like a malibu/tottle or disc cap to keep it less exposed to the air. (As I note, I found tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate at Lotioncrafter's site. This is another ester with Vitamin C and very stable. I also found VitaC Stable at the Herbarie, which is Vitamin C with a phosphate added for stability.)

Or you could dissolve it in water and create an emulsion, although this will be less effective than using the ester. And it can oxidize quickly, making your products an orange/brown colour (that's when you know it's oxidized!), which isn't great. So it's looking like using one of the esters is the best choice.

So what am I making with it? Well, probably nothing as I have the unstable water soluble kind and I can't think of a creation (yet!) that I'd be able to use it in, although I have some ideas.

Here's an idea from Lotioncrafter for using the water soluble Vitamin C in an oil based product along with the ester. Looks interesting! I can't comment on the end product as I don't have any of those ingredients, except for the water soluble Vitamin C!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's been a busy week!

It's been a really busy week at work, so I've had little time to write blog posts or get into the workshop. So let's take a look in the virtual mailbag to see what question or interesting things have shown up (and as you can tell by the photo, I'm always excited to get mail!).

Pam asks: How important is to test the ph? In other words if I were to use an established recipe that had already been formulated then wouldn't the ph have been taken into consideration? Another reason for asking is the cost.

Testing your pH is a good thing, but if you're using recipes from suppliers' sites or blogs that you know to be good ones, they've taken that into account. You don't generally need to worry about lotions - most of the ingredients are pH neutral (like oils) or in the right range (like proteins, panthenol, preservatives, and so on).

If you have a surfactant based recipe and you decide to switch out the surfactants, you'll want to make sure you take the pH into consideration if there's a big difference - say something like DLS mild to decyl glucoside - and alter it. You don't need to own a pH meter - I'm just excited I got one for Christmas and have been trying it with everything - but you do need to think about it when using certain ingredients.

The other thing that came up this week was this website - Lotion Secret's Harmful Ingredient Glossary. I'm not really sure where to start with this website, which deserves to be in the Trifecta of Argh Hall of Fame, but I think the line about glycerin possibly being derived from liposuction fat was the one that pushed me over the edge. The fact that most of our bottles of glycerin are labelled as vegetable derived just shows me how little she knows about this topic. (She also sells her own stuff, which doesn't contain any of these awful things or any broad spectrum preservatives, so again, take the information with a grain of salt.) And don't get me started on her definition of occlusion (For the record, it is not like wrapping your skin in plastic so it can't breathe!)

As a note, I'm not saying all the information presented on that web page is wrong, just that there's so much that is wrong, misquoted, or misinterpreted, it's hard to read it for what might be right.

So that's it for today! Join me tomorrow for something else...not sure what yet. It's going to be another busy day, then we have our youth group tonight for "Fun with Fleece", so I'll have to see what ends up in the mailbag tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Question: Why can't we use tea in our products?

I'm asked all the time about how to make infusions or steeped teas for use in our products, and I generally give the same answer - don't. I know it sounds like a great idea to use something like green tea - both plentiful and inexpensive at the local grocery store - but inexperienced formulators can make a really lovely product turn bad in a few short days if it isn't well preserved.

Botanical ingredients are harder to preserve than non-botanical ingredients, and you definitely want to use a good broad spectrum preservative for any products in which you're using powdered or liquid extracts. (Even though most hydrosols and other liquid botanical ingredients contain preservatives, there's only enough for that ingredient, not your entire batch.)

Think of it this way. Would you drink a cup of tea you'd steeped seven days ago? No. Because it would be contaminated with all kinds of nasty things that would make the tea taste horrible and your stomach feel queasy. It's the same way with the infusions. You simply can't remove all the bits and pieces from the tea or infusion, and those bits and pieces attract contamination. Even if you can remove every last molecule of the tea leaf, you'll still get bacteria and fungi that can't wait to swim in that lukewarm broth. This works the same way with an infusion of lavender or calendula or other botanicals we find in our suppliers' shops.

It is possible to make an infusion with those lovely herbs and flowers, but you need to be an experienced formulator who uses preservatives at the maximum level and has access to testing facilities or supplies. You need to know how to infuse, store, and preserve the products well to ensure you won't see a layer of brownish goo floating in your tea a few days later. (You do not want to hear the story of the bottle of unpreserved aloe vera I once bought from Wal-Mart! Let's just say it was a good example of why we preserve our products! Ick!)

If you're a novice, please just buy the extracts or hydrosols and enjoy them. Then find someone who has a lot of experience in the area of making infusions and ask them for help (that person isn't me, by the way) so you can learn how to do it right. I know it sounds lovely to steep some green tea and use that as the liquid in that body butter or facial cleanser, but if you don't do it right, you're bathing in bacteria!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thinking about claims...

I touched on this lightly in a short rant at the bottom of the previous post, but I thought I needed to writer further on this topic.

I'm not a fan of what I call "blah blo" talk. You know, when your boss says some important issue is "under review" or takes your concern "under advisement". When people use words like "going forward" or "at the end of the day" instead of using real words like tomorrow, next week, or never. I really hate using nouns as verbs - impacting your business - and I despite the use of passive verbs as active ones - like "grow your business" despite the fact that you would nurture or encourage something to grow and you can't make something grow! Anyway...

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the claims that are made about products. You can use words like "appears" or "seems" without any repercussions. You can also use phrases like "women report" or "subjects stated" without any problems.

A few examples of what they say, and what I hear...

In field tests, skin appeared younger. 
I was carded at the liquor store for the first time in years!

Women report skin being more attractive. 
The dog wouldn't stop licking my arm - she loves cupcakes, too!

Hair is more manageable. 
I didn't get it caught in any doors or laptop computers today!

And I hate the asterisk with the small print in the left hand corner of the screen (although they've been putting it in the right hand corner to make it harder for me to read it in the two seconds it's on the screen)! My current favourite is a skin care product from L'Oreal (I can't remember which one, but it's an anti-aging serum of some sort) where the word "fantasy" shows up at the bottom of the screen when they air brush the model all to heck. At least they're being honest, eh?

You can also compare the use of the product to the non-use of the product. For instance, "this conditioner is great" compared to what? Compared to not using conditioner at all, according to Pantene! Well, the worst conditioner is better than no conditioner at all, so what does that mean? It means that Pantene sells conditioners! 

Even the phrases "dermatologist recommended" or "clinical trials" are irrelevant because I'm sure you can find a dermatologist to recommend anything - this iPod touch is dermatologist recommended because it's awesome! - and clinical trials only mean they did some kind of testing. (I'm so tempted to get my medical degree so my new cupcake pot holders can be "doctor recommended". I'd recommend everything to everyone! This pillowcase, this shower curtain, and this toaster oven are all doctor recommended!) 

And don't get me started on the term "hypoallergenic". This word means "low allergic potential" not "no allergic potential", but they have us convinced that being hypoallergenic means anyone can use it. There are so many allergies we don't even know about and so many skin types and possible reactions that the term loses meaning. It generally means it's unlikely to cause problems in most people, but there isn't a standard definition for what hypoallergenic means! 

And why the picture of my dog in a raincoat at the top of this post? Because 100% of dressmakers, family counsellors, social workers, psychology students, and master armourers for films recommend looking at a picture of a cute dog at least once a day. It won't necessarily do anything for your health, but it'll make you smile!