Monday, December 31, 2012

Facial scrubs: Adding the exfoliants to the oil base

As this post is all about the scrubbies, please refer to the physical exfoliants (part 1) and physical exfoliants (part 2) posts rather than having me recap them there. 

You've created your most excellent oil base for your facial scrub (dry and normal skin or oily skin), and now you want to add some scrubbies to it. The level of scrubbiness is up to you, and I suggest that you start on the low side and add more as you need it.

If you have sensitive skin, you'll want to avoid more scrubby things like sugar or salt and go with loofah, jojoba beads, and seeds. If you have heartier skin, choose anything you wish. (I feel comfortable saying that everyone should avoid pumice in a facial scrub! It really is too scrubby to be used regulalry!)

How to figure out how much exfoliant to use? I suggest removing 10 grams of your product (weigh it carefully) and adding 1 gram of scrubby at a time. Stir well, take to your sink, and try it out. If you want more, then add another 1 gram unless it's really obvious that this isn't enough! Write this amount down, then do some math. If you find that you need 5 grams to really feel the scrubbiness, then you'll want to make a note that when you're finished the product, add 50% of that exfoliant. If you find you need 10 grams, then you'll need 100% exfoliant. And so on. It will vary depending upon your exfoliant of choice. I'm using cranberry seeds at 13% in an oil based facial scrub, but I use 140% salt in an oil based body scrub. Keep really great records!

How the exfoliants are suspended in the facial scrub will depend upon the viscosity of your product. If you've used all oils, the scrubbies will likely fall to the bottom of the jar and require a stir each time. If you've added anything to thicken the product - butter, fatty alcohol, fatty acid, Lipidthix, and so on - you have a better chance of having it suspend. Something like salt will likely fall to the bottom, while loofah or jojoba beads might stay suspended.

If you really want something to suspend, you might want to consider an emulsified scrub for your facial products...which is what we'll look at next after a few question based posts on making facial scrubs! 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Facial scrubs: Creating the base of an oil based scrub - specific examples for oily or acne prone skin

In all honesty, those of us with oily or acne prone skin should probably stay away from oil based scrubs and stick to using water based or surfactant based scrubs. If you really want to use one, consult a good list of comedogenic ingredients, formulate something really simple (one or two oils maximum), and keep a really good record of how your skin reacts. Consider using "oil free" ingredients, like silicones, esters, fatty alcohols, and fatty acids.

I know oily skinned people who use the oil cleansing method and swear by it, but there are so many of us who have suffered horribly from trying that method. You will really need to keep notes about how your skin reacts to all kinds of oils!

Acne prone and oily skin can really benefit from exfoliation because the skin can build up around the hair follicle, so we want to do it regularly, but we need to be very gentle with our skin! I like to use a soft brush or slightly more abrasive wash cloth with my favourite foaming cleanser to exfoliate, although I do like jojoba beads and cranberry seeds lately. Remember, though, I'm not a training beautician or anything like that, so this is just my opinion and my experience. Your mileage will vary! 

If we take a look at this comedogenicity list, you can make some decisions about which ingredients you might like to use. Remember to take these lists with a grain of salt. For every one that lists shea butter as 0, I can find one that lists it at 4. (Here's one from Soapnuts and another from Essential Oil U.)

Click here to see the post from earlier today about comedogenicity.

I know someone will comment about the evils of mineral oil at some point, but it really is a good choice for oily or acne prone skinned people for moisturizing. It doesn't offer all the lovely phytosterols, polyphenols, and fatty acids we find in vegetable or seed oils, but it does act as an occlusive and will help moisturize our skin.

Is mineral oil comedogenic? Not according to this study. "Greasiness cannot be equated with comedgenicity. The admonition forces acne patients to seek "oil-free" skin care products has no scientific merit with regards to comedogenicity. Cosmetics are an unlikely cause of the relatively high prevalence of post-adolescent female acne." Wow! That's pretty amazing, eh? Now, this was published in 1996 and there may have been some studies done since then, but I think it's a pretty amazing study in itself! Check out also this study Is Mineral Oil Comedogenic? which came to the same conclusions. 

And consider the silicones - cyclomethicone and dimethicone. I haven't been able to get conclusive evidence about the comedogenicity or either, but they are in a lot of products for acne prone or oily skin. The great thing about dimethicone is that it will offer barrier protection to prevent wind chapping, for instance.

As an aside, really take a look at those "oil free" products. I've seen quite a few of them with shea butter - which is quite comedogenic - and some with sunflower oil. I guess shea butter isn't technically an oil, but sunflower most definitely is. Not really sure about the definitions any more. 

Consider also fatty alcohols - like cetyl, cetearyl, or behenyl alcohol - and fatty acids, like stearic acid used at up to 5% in a product to thicken the oils and behave as oil free moisturizers.

For an exfoliant, use something really gentle, like jojoba beads, clay, baking soda, or seeds. (Physical exfoliants part 1 and part 2.) I don't suggest using something like walnut shells, sugar, or salt for acne prone skin. Clays would be a really great choice because many of them are good at absorbing oils.

What is the point of this product for oily or acne prone skin? To remove dead skin cells gently and moisturize afterwards. We want to avoid things that might be comedogenic or acnegenic.

10% cyclomethicone
10% dimethicone
79% mineral oil
1% essential oil

As a note, this will have an almost indefinite life span, so we don't need to include Vitamin E unless we want its properties of softening in the product.

20% evening primrose oil
80% fractionated coconut oil

Evening primrose oil is great for acne prone skin, but it isn't necessarily great for those of us with a tendancy towards clogged pores, so keep a good record of what you've made and detail how it affected your skin. And fractionated coconut oil is a great emollient that might be comedogenic, so keep those notes!

Facial serum for oily skin blend (click for details about each ingredient)
25% squalane
25% sesame oil
20% borage oil
10% calendula oil
20% pomegranate oil

I really like this combination and haven't found it makes me break out more often! It has a low greasiness feeling. It should have a 6 month shelf life - longer if you add 0.5% to 1% Vitamin E.

50% castor oil
49% oil of choice
1% essential oil (optional)

You will have to play around to see what works for your skin for the optional oil. I would suggest something with low comedogenicity, but you can try just about any oil you like.

The general idea is that like removes like, so oils can be broken up with oils. Some people love this cleansing method, some people hate it, some people don't care either way. If you have some suggestions for great blends, please post them as a comment, but please be civil. And remember to sign off with your name if you don't have a Google/Blogger account - anonymous comments make me a bit nervous these days! 

You've made a lovely blend of oils, but it's not a scrub until you add the scrubbies! Join me tomorrow to add some scrubbiness to our oil based facial scrubs!

Comedogenicity: What the heck does that mean?

What does comedogenicity mean or what does it mean when an ingredient is comedogenic? It means that an ingredient or product causes the formation of comedones (blackheads) in a relatively short period of time. Blackheads form when the outer layers of our skin do not shed properly and the hair follicle is blocked. The blackhead part comes from the oxidation of fatty acids on the surface in the skin. Scienticians still aren't really sure what causes this lack of desquamation. Formation of comedones are not accompanied by skin redness.

Most of the scores we see for comedogenic ingredients come out of the rabbit ear assay or rabbit ear model, which is a test in which "the test material or an extract is applied directly to intact and abraded sites on the skin of a rabbit. After a 24-hour exposure, the material is removed and the sites are scored for erythema and edema." (redness and swelling). This link. As in the name, the tests tend to be done on the rabbits' ears. 

There is a lot of controversy about the rabbit ear model and its application for human skin. As this article notes, this debate is not new as different models show very different comedogenicity levels for the same ingredient. This textbook notes that "Lists of comedogenic ingredients are not necessarily meaningful" because they cannot predict the comedogenicity of the final product as the concentrations used on in tests aren't the same as those used in a product, like a lotion. We've seen how some ingredients can lower the comedogenicity level of other ingredients - for instance, using 1% to 10% mineral oil with IPM can reduce its level from 3.6 (out of 4) to 1.3 and 25% can reduce it to 1 - and we've seen that some ingredients are considered really comedogenic on one scale and not at all on another, like shea butter. 

Having said this, rabbit ear testing is being phased out or has been forbidden (EU) and we're seeing more testing by biopsying the back skin of human volunteers who have been shown to form comedodones easily. (Reference). It's hoped this will produce more accurate scales of comedogenicity. 

Is mineral oil comedogenic? Not according to this study. "Greasiness cannot be equated with comedgenicity. The admonition forces acne patients to seek "oil-free" skin care products has no scientific merit with regards to comedogenicity. Cosmetics are an unlikely cause of the relatively high prevalence of post-adolescent female acne." Wow! That's pretty amazing, eh? Now, this was published in 1996 and there may have been some studies done since then, but I think it's a pretty amazing study in itself! Check out also this study Is Mineral Oil Comedogenic? which came to the same conclusions. Apparently the perception that petroleum products were comedogenic came from a time when the ingredient was poorly purified and traces of tar - which is comedogenic - would be found. This doesn't happen any more. 

What does all of this mean? Keep an eye out for those ingredients that seem to make your skin worse! If shea butter is listed as a 0, it doesn't mean that it won't cause you problems, and wheat germ oil (a 5) won't necessarily bother your skin. Keep a record of these ingredients. This is one of the reasons I suggest keeping your initial formulations simple - using five different oils might seem awesome, but if you break out or hate it, it's hard to figure out the culprit. 

Also keep in mind that comedogenicity isn't just about oils. Ingredients like surfactants or humectants can cause issues as well. (See this study on the safety of sodium PCA - it is not considered comedogenic.) Some studies I've seen suggest that harsh detergent based cleansers can be worse for acne prone skin than applying oils! 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Facial scrubs: Creating the base of an oil based scrub - specific examples for dry and normal skin

Since this product is all about the oils, taking time to choose exactly the most awesome oils for your skin type is a good use of your time! We took a look at a few possible choices yesterday - let's see some examples today!

As a quick aside, I know it's tempting to include dozen different oils at small amounts into this product, but I would suggest you start with two or three oils you really like and modify it once you've tried it and see how your skin reacts. If you use 2% this and 3% of that, you won't know what made you break out or what felt amazing! So let's keep our choices to a maximum of three oils for these examples and the first time you make the product! 

But first, a thought. It is just fine to choose an oil you have in the house and use that at 100% of the recipe, leaving out the Vitamin E, essential oil, and preservative if you want to make something for right now. And it might be that there is one oil that you love so much that you want to use it neat. That's wonderful! Go for it! There are times when we can't afford another oil, we don't have time to wait for the supplier to ship another oil, or we're just too impatient to wait another minute for a lovely facial scrub! Okay...back to the post...

A final aside, if I go over each oil in detail, this post will never get written, so may I suggest a trip to the emollients section of the blog to see the individual posts for all the oils, butters, and esters? If you want to know more about the chemistry of our oils, check out the top part of the emollients section, download the PDF on oil chemistry and polyphenols, or check out the Back to BasicsLotionmaking 101, or Formulating & Creating Lotions e-books for more information. 

What is the goal of this product? We want to create a nice blend of oils that will remain on our skin to moisturize and soften after we've exfoliated.

Let's say you have dry skin. You're all about the exfoliation because the desquamation of your skin is messed up, meaning your skin cells slough off in a sheet and look ashy or white as a result. We want to use either mechanical exfoliation - click here and here for part 1 and part 2 of the posts on mechanical exfoliants - or chemical exfoliation (which we'll talk about shortly when we get to scrubs with water) to help this process along. As well, we want to choose oils that softening and moisturizing. In general, I'd go for one oil high in linoleic acid and one high in oleic acid for those qualities.

Ideally, we'd add an occlusive ingredient, like dimethicone, allantoin, or cocoa butter into a product for someone with dry skin. Allantoin is right out as it is water soluble, but we could put a bit of cocoa butter or dimethicone into the mix. Adding cocoa butter will make the product thicker, so we'll only try a bit of it.

As a note, these blends would be great for normal skinned people as well. But you can use anything you want, can't you? Lucky ducks! 

99% rice bran oil or sesame seed oil
1% Vitamin E

Using either of these oils will give us a nice balance of linoleic and oleic acids, as well as phytosterols that will reduce redness or inflammation. You can use 99% of one oil or 50% of one and 49% of the other. This will have a life span of at least six months and up to a year, so you could leave out the Vitamin E, if you wished. Both of these oils are about a medium level of greasiness.

5% cocoa butter
10% sea buckthorn oil
83% kukui nut oil
1% Vitamin E (optional)
1% essential oil (optional)

Kukui nut is pretty high in linoleic acid and feels quite dry, so this blend will be a drier feeling product.

Please note: If your sea buckthorn is particularly orange, try it on your skin neat for a few days to see if there is staining. The stuff I get doesn't seem to stain my skin, and I would hate to receive an email from you saying you look like an Oompa Loompa!

45% avocado oil
48% fractionated coconut oil
5% cetearyl, cetyl, or behenyl alcohol (thickener)
1% Vitamin E (optional)
1% essential oil (optional)

Heat and hold this version until all the thickeners have melted and you have a uniform product. You may be able to whip this version, depending upon the other oils you've chosen. Otherwise, let it cool to 45˚C or 113˚F before adding your Vitamin E and/or essential oil

I chose avocado oil because it is absorbed by our skin and because it is filled with oleic acid to provide some serious moisturizing and softening. I chose fractionated coconut oil because it will balance the slightly heavier feeling of avocado oil and will feel really nice on your skin.

The fatty alcohols are included to be a thickened product, but they also moisturize and leave a bit of a film on your skin after washing.

If you want to learn more about using fatty alcohols with our oils, check out these posts on the topic, although I'd go with 5% instead of the 20% I tended to use in these experiments!
Whipped shea without butter - cetyl alcohol
Whipped shea without butter - esters and cetearyl alcohol

Using fatty alcohols or acids as moisturizers is a great choice for oily skin, and we'll get to that tomorrow! 

40% fractionated coconut oil
38% soy bean oil
10% cyclomethicone
10% dimethicone
1% essential oil (optional)
1% Vitamin E (optional)

If you've heated your product, please wait until it reaches 45˚C or 113˚F before adding the dimethicone and cyclomethicone and fragrance/essential oil. (There isn't a need to heat this, but some people might like to include a preservative, so I make this suggestion for them!)

Wow! This is a bizarre mix of ingredients, eh? I thought I'd use fractionated coconut oil as a light, almost ester like ingredient and the soy bean oil for all those lovely fatty acids and polyphenols it brings to the mix. Dimethicone is an approved barrier ingredient and it will offer this property to your skin after rinsing. Cyclomethicone and dimethicone are a great combination for our faces and we see them all the time in commercial lotions. You really don't need Vitamin E in this mixture as it has a life span of a year - leave out the soy bean oil and you've got at least two years! - but it is a nice softening ingredient. (Soy bean oil has a ton of Vitamin E, so really, you can leave it out.) This mixture will feel greasy on your skin. If you want it to feel less greasy, consider using an ester like cetearyl ethylhexanoate or ethylhexyl palmitate. Both of these will give the product a less greasy feeling and a shelf life of up to 2 years!

Here's the great thing about making a product like this - you can make up whatever combination you wish. If you like the idea of using esters, then use them. If you hate silicones, leave them out. If you adore a short lived oil like grapeseed, use it instead. The only way to create something really awful is to add a water based ingredient to the mix.

Consider using one of the not-really-butter butters like shea-aloe, aloe butter, green tea butter, avocado butter and so on as the base of one of these scrubs. (I call them not-really butter butters because they aren't true butters like cocoa, mango, or shea. They are hydrogenated oils that are turned into butters by saturating them.) The one to your left is avocado butter, which has a very earthy smell! Or just add some Lipidthix to your oil combination at 5% to 10% before heating and holding for a bit. (Click here for some examples!)

Create your own not-really-butter butter with a little Lipidthix! Click "newer post" to see my experiments! 

Remember that the shelf life of your scrub will be the shelf life of the shortest lived ingredient. If you use grapeseed oil or unrefined hemp seed oil, that'll be 3 months. Use only shea butter, you're looking at 2 years. We add the Vitamin E to retard rancidity - if you don't want to use it or don't have any, that's fine, make the scrub without it, but make sure you are aware of the shelf life. Rancidity starts long before we can smell it!

Join me tomorrow to create a base for oily skinned people (like me!).

Related posts:
Can we substitute one oil for another?
Question: How to heat and hold our ingredients?
Heating, holding, freezing, and thawing our ingredients
Shelf lives of our ingredients (part 1)
Question: Can we use oils from the grocery store in our products? 
Why do we heat and hold if we aren't using water? (scroll down a bit)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Facial scrubs: Creating the base of an oil based scrub

Making an oil based scrub for your face is pretty simple. Get some oils, pour them into a container, add some exfoliant, you're done. The hard part is choosing which oils and exfoliants to use.

I tell the kids in the groups this all the time. It takes maybe 5 minutes to make an earring, but it can take hours to find just the right combination of beads! Choosing the right combination of things - that's the craft in craftsmanship! 

Take a look at this recipe - it really is just that easy!

98% liquid oil of choice (I love sunflower and olive oil mixed together...)
0.5% to 1% Vitamin E
1% essential or fragrance oils (optional)

Mix your oils together well, pour into a clean jar, then add your exfoliant. You can make a large batch of this and put it into jars, or small batches that you use just after making.

We have included an anti-oxidant - the Vitamin E - to help retard rancidity. We haven't included a preservative here as this is an anhydrous product, and you don't need preservatives in anhydrous products unless they are exposed to water. But wait...this will be exposed to water because you will be putting wet hands into the product! Then we need a preservative! There are a few choices for preservatives for oil only products - Liquipar Oil and Phenonip (I prefer Phenonip).

If you are using Phenonip in your product, you will need to heat the oils up to 70˚C or 158˚F so it can dissolve properly. I don't know about Liquipar Oil, but it seems that it would need the same treatment. 

If you wish to include a preservative, add it at 0.4% to 0.8% for Liquipar Oil and 0.5% to 1% for Phenonip and remove an equivalent amount of oil.

As an aside, if you are using this at the sink, you probably won't be putting your wet hands into the product. If you haven't used a preservative and are worried about this, use a spoon or some other implement to stir the product then put it on your face. I like large popsicle sticks from the dollar store, but you can get all manner of lovely implements at your local supplier, like these boomerang spatulae or scoops! (Click here to see Voyageur Soap & Candle's selection. I'm not endorsing them specifically, but I do like what they have!)

Related posts:
Water activity and sugar/salt scrubs

Which oils do you wish to use? It depends upon your skin type, your preferred skin feel, and the comedogenicity level of the oil.

If you have dry skin, odds are good you can use whatever oil you wish. If your skin is damaged in some way, then you might want to consider using something filled with linoleic acid, like soy bean oil. (click here for a lengthy post on formulating for dry skin).

If you have normal skin, you are a very fortunate person indeed! You can use any emollient you choose for this product. If you have chapped or wind annoyed skin, consider using an oil with high levels of linoleic or gamma-linoleic acid, like soy bean, borage, evening primrose, or rice bran oils.

If you have oily skin, definitely consider the comedogenicity of an oil before using it. Mineral oil is considered non-comedogenic, as are some of our esters. (Check out this post I wrote on making a facial serum for oily skin for more information on suggested oils.) Avoid things like my beloved soy bean oil or cocoa butter on acne prone skin.

There is so much interesting information on comedogenicity out there. Look for an updated post shortly! 

Related information:
As for skin feel, that's really up to you. Some of us don't mind greasiness and some want our products very dry feeling. Some of the less greasy oils with decent shelf lives include a lot of the exotic oils including borage, evening primrose, kukui, or pomegranate oils, to name a few, and oils like hazelnut, macadamia nut, or avocado oil. You can add IPP or IPM to your product to reduce the feeling of greasiness, but these can be comedogenic ingredients.

Join me tomorrow as we look at a few different combinations of oils before we add our exfoliants!

Related posts:
Emollients: Oils, butters & esters
Frequently asked questions
Skin chemistry

Back to basics: Oil based scrubs
Back to basics: Modifying the oil based scrubs
Chemistry of our nails: Oil based scrubs
Body scrubs - oil based scrubs

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Facial scrubs: Which exfoliants to choose? Physical exfoliants (part 2)

What other exfoliants can we use in facial products? (Click here for part one...)

Seeds: You can find a variety of seeds at our suppliers, and you'll have to check which ones stay crunchy even in water! Ask your supplier for the suggested usage rates. I'm loving cranberry seeds right now, and I added them at 13% in the cool down phase of my oil based scrub and I really liked that! (This was for a hand scrub, so I used more than I would for my face!) I've seen blueberry, strawberry, cranberry, raspeberry, kiwi, pomegranate, and grape seeds available for scrubby goodness.

Shells: I've seen walnut shells and apricot kernels as exfoliant and a lot of people like them. I would only use them in oil based products, but some people like shells in products with water. These can be a bit much for people with sensitive skin.

Clay: This a great choice as a very mild exfoliant. Some clays will dissolve in water, so you might want to reserve those clays for dry scrubs to which you would add water right before application. (Look for more about clays in the next few days!) I've made nice clay masks out of lotion recipes and the clay added some nice viscosity to the product. (I used kaolin and rhassoul clay - more soon!)

Baking soda: This was mentioned by quite a few people, and I really like to use it in foot scrub bars with pumice. It won't dissolve in oils, but it will dissolve in water. This is a great choice for a dry scrub to which you might add water just before application or an oil based scrub. It will dissolve in water and could raise the pH slightly, so keep it away from water based scrubs or products!

Aluminum Oxide - Dermabrasion Crystals: These are white aluminum oxide crystals I found at Lotioncrafter (although they might be found at other suppliers). They are used at 1% to 10% in your water or oil based products. They are 120 size grit (102 microns). The supplier notes we must not be aggressive with these and advises we shouldn't use AHAs or retinoids on reddened skin. (For more information visit Lotioncrafter and read the listing.)

Bamboo exfoliating powder: This is made from bamboo. It is used at 5% to 8% and is 160 microns. I don't know much more than that. (I found this ingredient at Brambleberry. Click there for more information.)

Vanilla bean specks (INCI: Vanilla planifolia (vanilla) bean seeds): Created from ground vanilla bean pods that are dried and sifted. Use this dark brown fine powder at up to 50% in your anhydrous products. Try it first in your product in a small amount as it seems like these specks would get soggy in water. (Found this at Creations from Eden.)

Anyone have experience with these last two powders? Comment below! 

Always consider the skin type of the person for whom the product is being made. Every skin type can handle a little exfoliation, so it is a matter of finding the right exfoliant and level. For my sensitive, acne prone skin, I like to use lower levels of smaller and finer exfoliant, like jojoba beads or cranberry seeds.  I've tried low levels of dermabrasian crytals and that worked well also. Other people might be fine with shells or salt. My mom's best friend used my foot scrub bar with pumice in her face and liked it!

Always start at the lower amount - say 3% to 5% - and work your way up to using more. My best friend and I will make the cleanser or moisturizer first, then we remove about 95 grams of the product and add the exfoliant to it, then try it. If it feels lovely and scrubby, we leave it that way. If it isn't scrubby enough, we add more. If it is too scrubby, we add more product. Measure every single time you add something so you can make it the same next time!

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at some oils you might want to consider as the base of an oil based scrub.

Remember that I have no affiliation with any retailer, and I offer this information based on my own experience or interest. Lotioncrafter does offer my e-books through its site, which is very lovely, but I don't have any other affiliation with Jen or her company. Having said that, I've shopped at Lotioncrafter, Brambleberry/Otion, and Creations from Eden and I was most pleased with the service and ingredients I bought. Okay, this disclaimer is getting a little long, but I want you to know that I was not rewarded in any way for writing this post. Except for the reward of feedback from you, my wonderful readers!

Share your experiences and pictures!

It was really lovely to get all those nice e-mails and comments from you about the products you had made for Christmas with the recipes on the blog. I'd love to see more! Comment here or email me at and share your pictures with me. (If you don't want me to put those pictures on the blog, please let me know in your e-mail. And if you sent me an e-mail before today, I won't assume I can post it and will ask you in advance if I can.)

I love teaching, and there are so many wonderful moments in any given class. That a-ha moment when someone gets it. The excitement when someone masters a project. Watching a student teach another something they've just learned. And the way you can share that with me and other people learning along with you is to share your experiences!

You have no idea how much joy I felt in seeing the pictures of Rosi's beautiful curls or Janice's bath bombs! It really does mean so much to me that you have had success in making someting from a recipe I created or ingredient I recommended. I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Hope you had a great Christmas and an awesome Boxing Day! I'm off to get a few things from the shops while there's still a sale on! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Garnier Fructis Haircare Fall Fight line of products: The shampoo

What's the deal with Garnier Fructis Haircare Fall Fight Fortifying Shampoo For Falling, Breaking Hair product line? It seems like everyone at the pool is using them (possibly because they got free samples...) Here's the marketing stuff...

Strengthen Hair from The Inside Out to Reduce Breakage
Save up to 1500 strands of hair per month**
Fuller-looking hair after just one use
Noticing hair in your bathroom sink or brush?  Fight back with the new fall fight 3-step system!  Fall fight from Garnier Fructis helps improve hair's resistance to everyday hair-fall.  The formulas with energizing caffeine, fortifying biotin and fruit vitamins, strengthen hair from root to ends, reducing falling, breaking strands.  The result is stronger, fuller-looking hair.
**When using the Fall Fight 3-Step System of Shampoo, Conditioner And Strand Saver Anti-Breakage Spray

Let's look at the ingredients, then break it down into what each brings to the mix. Please click on the link for each ingredient to see a more detailed post.

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamide MEA, Glycol distearate, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Dimethicone, Sodium Benzoate, Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract, Apple Fruit Extract (Pyrus Malus Extract), Salicylic Acid, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Carbomer, Pyridoxene HCl, Menthol, Hexylcinnamal, Citric Acid, Sugar Cane Extract (Saccharum Officinarum Extract), Benzyl Alcohol, Linalool, Amyl Cinnamal, Caffeine, Biotin, Lemon Peel Extract (Medica Limonum Peel Extract), Camellia Sinensis Extract, Sodium Hydroxide

Water: The universal solvent.

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLeS): Has good foam stability in hard water, good skin tolerance (less irritation), and is easily thickened by salt, Crothix, glycol distearate, or cocamidopropyl betaine. It is considered a mild cleanser.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): The dreaded SLS is very poorly tolerated by our skin - is is considered not so mild - and the irritation potential is quite high when compared to just about every other surfactant! It is normally used in combination with other, milder surfactants to make it less irritating to our skin. It is very easy to thicken SLS with salt, but you can use Crothix or glycol distearate (EZ Pearl) as well (and both of these are good moisturizers for your skin, so they will reduce the irritation potential). It is a good foamer and detergent.

Cocamide MEA: Used as foaming agents and cleansers. Non-ionic. Can also behave as an emulsifier.

Glycol distearate: A thickener, pearlizer, and moisturizer that can be used in surfactant based products.

Sodium chloride: Salt, which is used to thicken the product.

Fragrance: Makes it smell pretty!

Dimethicone: A silicone used as a conditioning agent.

Sodium benzoate: A preservative, a salt of benzoic acid. It converts to benzoic acid, which is a good anti-microbial and fungicidal preservative, when it's in an acidic mixture.

Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract: Contains a ton of vitamins and phenolic acids and can behave as an exfoliating ingredient.

Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is a keratolytic (exfoliant), anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-itching ingredient we can add as a powder or as part of an extract like willow bark.

Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride: A substantive conditioning agent, cationic guar acts as a film former, anti-irritant and mildness enhancer in surfactant systems, and foam increaser.

Carbomer: A gelling agent included to thicken the shampoo.

Pyridoxene HCl: Vitamin B6. It is used as a skin and hair conditioning agent, but I'm not seeing anything that says it is effective in that capacity.

Menthol: It makes our skin feel cooler and sometimes tingly!

Hexylcinnamal, Linalool, Amyl Cinnamal: Components of fragrance or essential oil.

Citric Acid: Might be used to alter pH, might be used as an adjunct to a preservative.

Sugar Cane Extract (Saccharum Officinarum Extract): A keratolytic.

Benzyl Alcohol: A bacteriostatic preservative (click here for the Wiki entry or here for the CosmeticsInfo entry). It can be safely used at up to 5%.

Caffeine: Supposed to be the active ingredient in this product.

Biotin (Wikipedia link): A water soluble B vitamin. Considered ineffective for hair loss when taken orally (click here). Not a lot of data about it being good when applied topically (click here).

Lemon Peel Extract (Medica Limonum Peel Extract): A keratolytic ingredient.

Camellia Sinensis Extract: Green tea extract - a good anti-oxidant.

Sodium Hydroxide: Probably used to gel the carbomer.

Where does the 1% start? It could be around the sodium benzoate, which should be used at 1% or lower, although it could be where the sodium chloride or fragrance is found. Which means that pretty much all the active ingredients are being used at 1% or lower. That isn't necessarily a bad thing - there are loads of ingredients we can use effectively at 1% or lower, like powdered extracts - and knowing what is used at above 1% and what is used at lower amounts can help us understand what this product contains!

It appears this shampoo is using SLeS and SLS as the surfactants with glycol distearate as the moisturizer and cocamide MEA as a foamer. Dimethicone and the guar offer some conditioning, but there are no humectants or film formers to be found. (Glycol distearate might also be considered a mildness enhancer.) It is thickened by the use of glycol distearate, carbomer and lye, and salt. I think the active ingredients would be the pyridoxene, biotin, and caffeine. I think the fruit vitamins would be the extracts from lemon and sugar, but they also offer some exfoliating features.

As an aside, you can buy these extracts in the form of Vital Hair & Scalp Complex (click for the data bulletin). I bought mine at Voyageur Soap & Candle. INCI: Water, Saccharum officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Citrus medica limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Betaine & Hexylene Glycol & Pyrus malus (Apple) Fruit Extract & Camellia sinensis Leaf Extract & Hexapeptide-11. I've used it at 5% in the cool down phase in shampoo and conditioners. It is supposed to behave as an anti-oxidant and it claims it can reduce hair loss. From the data bulletin about the exfoliants, "This helps clear the follicles of excessive build up of dead cells, allowing more room for thicker hair growth." I really recommend you read the data bulletin for more information. 

Can caffeine, biotin, or pyridoxene help reduce the amount of hair you will shed every day? In this study, "Caffeine was identified as a stimulator of human hair growth in vitro...", which is promising, but it is not clear if this would work on something other than disembodied scalp tissue in a lab. And there is evidence that caffeine can penetrate our hair follicles - but to what end? It can penetrate our hair follicles, but it might not do anything when it's there!

Consider this quote, "There is no shampoo that has shown evidence of hair growth effects simply because shampoo is not absorbed enough into the scalp to offer the ability to have any significant effect on the hair follicles. For the same reason it is very unlikely that a shampoo could have an adverse effect on the hair follicles." (Belgravia Centre.*) Hmm...interesting thought. I wonder if this is why Garnier suggests using their three product to prevent hair falling?

*As an aside, I'm not saying the Belgravia Centre is a trusted source, but their comments definitely put the whole thing in perspective. 

Let's stop for a moment and consider the biology of our hair. You'll see that our hair has three phases - the anagen phase, when the hair grows; the catagen phase, when the hair is squeezed upwards; and the telogen phase, when the hair rests and is shed. We lose somewhere between 10 to 100 hairs a day. How much you lose depends on your hair type, the season, and how much you wash or treat your hair with products or heated appliances. It is normal to find hair on your pillow, on your brush or comb, on your chair at work, on the floor, and so on. If you're like me and don't brush your hair regularly, you might see more hair in the tub after a shower than people who brush regularly.

Normal hair loss is not the same as male pattern baldness. In the latter, the hair follicle actually shrinks and goes away. And normal hair loss isn't the same as losing your hair due to illness, medical treatment, or pregnancy. 

Does this product fight falling hair? I have no idea. It seems like a very basic shampoo that will wash your hair and scalp. It sounds like a great idea to use exfoliants to clear out dead cells and to use caffeine as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. If we think about the idea that shampoo isn't on our hair long enough to make a difference, perhaps the conditioner is a better idea? (I'll take a look at that another day...)

If you wanted to try making something similar to this product, you'd want add some caffeine (click here for a post with information on caffeine for an ingredient called Revital-eyes), biotin (possibly), and this Vital Hair & Scalp complex (5% in the cool down phase). Make a basic shampoo - click here to see the recipes I have on this blog - and add those ingredients.

Join me tomorrow for more formulating fun!

Disclaimer: You better believe I wasn't compensated for this post!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Point of Interest, including the kids to whom you have been making all those wonderful donations! I hope you're spending today with people you love eating food you like. I hope you are somewhere warm and comfortable and happy. I hope you are smiling and laughing and singing today. I hope you are having the most wonderful day you can remember!

I'm so unbelievably blessed with a wonderful husband, loving mother, and gorgeous dog. To add to that the joy of spending time with these amazing kids playing video games or board games or teaching them a craft...well, it's just the icing on what is already a pretty fantastic cake! It's the joy of seeing that a-ha moment when they get something or when they ask if we can do that project they loved again or when they show us what they've made it at home...those are the moments that make it all worth while.

If you aren't celebrating Christmas, I hope you're having a lovely Tuesday! 

Thank you for helping us offer these programs to kids in our community! We really can't thak you enough, although I'm going to try by posting the kids' favourite projects of the year for you over the next week, along with the handouts and instructions.

Merry Christmas to you and the people you love!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

I had this great post on exfoliant a mostly prepared for today, then I started researching clays and before I knew was lunch time! So look for that post later this week with far more information than I had expected!

As an aside, it might be a white Christmas around here! Hope you have a lovely evening!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Facial scrubs: Which exfoliant to choose? Physical exfoliants (part 1)

We've decided we want to make a facial scrub, but we aren't yet sure what kind of scrub we want to make or what exfoliants we want to use. Let's take a look at the different scrubbies we could include in a facial scrub, then take a look at the different kinds of scrubs we could make! We'll start with part one of the physical exfoliants today, part two tomorrow, then on to the chemical exfoliants after Christmas.

What kinds of exfoliants can we use in a facial scrub? We can use many different things, but I would suggest we confine ourselves to more delicate exfoliants, rather than salt or sugar. I guess if you used berry sugar you'd have something finer, but I think that might still be a bit too scrubby for the face.

There are two types of exfoliants - physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants are things you add to a scrub that will remove the dead skin by abrading your skin, like pumice, seeds, or ground walnut shells. Chemical exfoliants are things you add to a scrub to remove the dead skin by penetrating the skin and removing the upper layers through a chemical reaction, like salicylic acid or AHA.


Jojoba beads: These are little spheres of jojoba that come in different colours and different sizes. The smaller ones are suitable for your face, the larger ones for the rest of your body. I tend to use the 60/100 in a facial product. (See an example of a surfactant based scrub here...) I've used them at up to 5% in a product, but you will have to tinker to see what you like. These do not dissolve in water or oil, but they can melt, so don't use them in anything that isn't around room temperature.

I've used these many times and they can be awesome and they can be annoying. It depends upon the product and your usage. I have found the little ones are quite good in a surfactant based scrub, but I've never liked them in an oil based product.

Loofah: You can buy ground loofah at many suppliers. It can be very fine or coarse. You can use as much as you wish in your product. It will not dissolve in water or oil and isn't picky about temperature.

Pumice: It comes in many grades, from very fine to coarse. It might not be the best choice for facial products, but it is lovely for foot scrubs. It isn't water or oil soluble and can be added to warm or even hot products. Consider the fine pumice on par with sand.

Salt: It comes in many grades, from very fine to no way is this dissolving in your tub, and many types, including sea, Dead Sea, solar, dendrite, and Epsom. It will dissolve in water based products, but it isn't that picky about temperature, but I tend to include it at the end of my product making in the cool or relatively cooler phase.

Sugar: It also comes in many grades from very fine berry sugar to very coarse Sugar in the Raw. It will dissolve in water based products and that solubility increases with temperature. I think most people would find the coarser stuff far too scrubby for our sensitive facial skin.

Sorry for the short post, but we're having guests over for brunch to celebrate my birthday in about a hour, and I still have to shower and make the mulled cider! 

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at a few more exfoliants!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Facial products: Scrubs!

Rosi suggested we take a look at making some facial scrubs, and I thought we'd start with some oil based scrubs then move to some surfactant based ones after Christmas. As usual, let's review what we should know before we start!

Why use a scrub? What's the goal of this product? The goal is to exfoliate our skin, removing all those horrible dead cells and dry patches, and to moisturize afterwards.

Can we use a emulsified sugar scrub, like one of these? Or an oil based scrub, like one of these (scroll down)? Sure, some skin types might be able to handle the extra scrubbiness of a sugar or salt scrub, but some might find them a bit too scrubby and exfoliating. For a facial scrub, we want to choose different exfoliants, ones that are nicer to our delicate facial skin.

What kind of scrub should we choose? There are five different scrubs I can think of....

1. Oil based scrub. A bunch of lovely oils and an exfoliant. Best for dry skin, probably not a good idea for oily or acne prone skin.

2. Emulsified scrub. This one contains an emulsifier so it rinses off cleaner. Best for dry skin, probably not a good idea for oily or acne prone skin. This type would include scrubs in jar or bar form.

3. Lotion based scrub. Make a lotion, then add your scrubbies to it. Ensure you are using exfoliants that won't dissolve in water. You can rinse this off or wash it off. Good for dry or normal skin, might work for oily or acne prone skin if you're using a suitable lotion - perhaps an oil free lotion? The nice thing is that you can use any lotion you like, even one you purchased or made months ago, and you can add the exfoliant to whatever amount you wish to use that day.

4. Surfactant based scrub. Again, ensure you aren't using scrubbies that might dissolve in water. This one is definitely a rinse off product. Good for normal to oily skin, probably not great for dry skin as you might want more moisturizing. You can add the exfoliant to a product already made or one you purchased.

5. Soap based scrub. Made with a lovely liquid soap, this one is good for all skin types, although dry skin types might want more moisturizing. Can be made as you need it and you can add scrubbies to an existing product.

I think I've covered all the types - did I miss something? Let me know! 

You can include all kinds of exfoliants in our products, so let's start tomorrow by looking at various exfoliants and what we could do with those!

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's not the end of the world...

Did you really think it would be?

For my 11th birthday I was given a hard copy version of the Book of Lists 3 in which it was mentioned that the end of the world could happen on December 21, 2012, my 43rd birthday. "Yeah, whatever. I'll be dead by then." (I was a nihilistic child and was fully convinced a nuclear war would take us all out before I was 20.) Well, here it is. AND IT'S AWESOME! My husband bought me an iPad mini and my mom got me a lovely full length mirror/jewellery holder! I'm having dinner with my bestie tonight - corned beef patties, my favourite - and we're going roller skating tomorrow night. Life is great!

Hope you're enjoying not-the-end of the world!

A few comments I missed: Emulsifiers, scrubs, and facial scrubs!

As you probably know, I've been really busy over the last few months, and I missed some great comments. I'm going back through the archives to see what I missed...and here are a few that caught my attention!  

In this post on modifying the eye cream to include different oils, Robert asks: Also, great work on the eye cream. You have been very ambitious experimenting with various emulsifiers. Of the ones you tried, which one did you like the best?

I like the Ritamulse SCG version best. Not too greasy, not too dry, it felt like it was absorbed quickly but left behind a mild greasiness that let me know the product was still there. It wasn't shiny when it put it on - which, to be honest, isn't an issue if I use it at night!  I admit that I'm having a love affair with this emulsifer because it seems to fall right in the middle of Polawax's greasiness and BTMS-50's powderiness. It seems like my mom likes the BTMS-50 version best, but then she's a big fan of powderiness. I'm using the Polawax version as a very small hand cream I carry in my purse. It's lovely that way!

In this post on salt & sugar scrubs, Patricia asked: I agree about the scrubs being great for dry skin, but worry about making my Mom's shower slick! Perhaps the emulsified scrub rinses better off the floor? 

I think they do. One of the nice things about the emulsified scrubs is that they rinse off fairly clean from our skin, and they do the same in the tub. I tend to reserve the oil based scrubs for my manicure scrubs, which I use in the sink, because of that slipperiness!

In this same post, Rosi asked enthusiastically: HOW ABOUT A SCRUB FOR THE FACE?

Great question! I don't tend to use oils on my skin because I'm really oily and I break out easily, but I can see how someone with dry skin might like one. Let's start a series on making facial scrubs tomorrow! The quick answer is that you might want to use something as an exfoliant other than salt or sugar. There are some nice things like jojoba beads, bamboo, loofah, or other light exfoliants you could include. And you might want to choose different oils - or maybe not.

Rosi: Can you email me at

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at making a scrub for the face!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A few comments I missed: Preservatives

In this post, Shell asked: Hi, I'm VERY MUCH a newbie to making bath & body products. I would like to give them away as Christmas gifts but I cannot make them the night before... I also would like to tell the recipients of these gifts how long they will last and how to properly take care of them. I'm starting with Melt & Pour soap, (I will be misting with rubbing alcohol) do I need to add a preservative? If so, which one would you suggest? The same question goes for the lip balm, shampoo (I bought a gallon of shampoo base), body butter (with cocoa butter, shea butter & coconut oil), body mist (I bought a gallon base). Eventually I'd like to make bath bombs as well. I'm very new to figuring percentages, I'm finding it difficult. It is common with almost all recipes. I can't tell you how much I'd appreciate your help! This blog is awesome!!

Welcome to the blog, Shell! Sorry for the delay in answering your comment, but it's been a bit busy around these parts for the last few months. I'm so glad you want to use preservatives!

For melt & pour soap or CP soap, you don't need a preservative. The pH of these products is high enough to repel any beasties that might want to live on your soap. If you add things like goat's milk, you might need to preserve the melt & pour.

Every supplier is different, and it's hard to make a blanket statement about every base, but they should include enough preservative to handle the addition of 1% or 2% fragrance oil. If you want to add more liquids - water, aloe vera, hydrosols, milk, and so on - you will need to preserve it further. Give your supplier a call and find out what they suggest.

In this same post, an anonymous poster writes: Question. Can I use .03% of the Liquid Germall with .05% of citric acid and .05% of potassium sorbate and my water and oil based products last at least 2-3 months?? If not what is the best way to preserve these products and have them last at least 2-3 months or more? Thank you

The suggested usage rate for liquid Germall Plus is 0.1% to 0.5%, and this should keep your product preserved for its shelf life. (I would expect any products I make today to be well preserved until next Christmas!) There is no need to use another preservative along side liquid Germall Plus as it is a broad spectrum preservative, which means it will fight yeast, bacteria, and fungi.

Citric acid can be used as a chelating ingredient and pH adjuster, but keep in mind that as little as 0.2% can alter the pH to the acidic side up to 1 level, which is a big deal. You could also use potassium sorbate at up to 0.39%

As a quick aside, please sign your anonymous posts with your name (first name only is just fine) as per my new policies about posting on the blog. It's nice to know who you are! 

A few points of interest about our products, preservation, and shelf life...

  • If you are using a broad spectrum preservative, you don't need to use another preservative. You can add a chelating ingredient like citric acid or EDTA or an anti-oxidant like Vitamin E, but you don't need to double up on the preserving power. 
  • If you aren't using a broad spectrum preservative, make sure you are combining them so the preservative can combat yeast, bacteria, and fungi. 
  • The shelf life of your product is the shelf life of the shortest lived product. If you are using something like grapeseed oil, the life span will be 3 months. If you are using something like shea butter, you could have a life span of up to two years. 
  • You don't need to preserve an anhydrous (waterless) product unless the product will come into contact with water, like a sugar or salt scrub. You can add an anti-oxidant to extend the life span, something like Vitamin E, which also offers some skin softening properties. 

Related posts:
Preservatives - an entire section on the blog
Shelf life of your products - scroll down to find the four posts.
Water activity and scrubs

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Substitutions: Only six days to go until Christmas!

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and if you're like me, you're frantically rushing to finish the last of your Christmas presents only to find you're missing an ingredient and there's no time or opportunity to visit a local supplier. No fear - let's take a look at some substitutions you can make for those last minute gifts!

Let's say you want to create a lovely lotion bar - 33% butter, 33% oil, 33% beeswax, and 1% fragrance - but you are missing one of those components. What can you do?

If you're missing the beeswax, you could substitute another wax like candellia wax or carnauba wax at half the amount of the beeswax. Remember to increase the oil and/or butter amount. You could also use something like soy wax, but you will have to play around to see how it works with the oils and butter you've chosen. (Related post: Waxes!)

Here's an example of a wax substitution...
17% candellia wax
41% oil
41% butter
1% fragrance oil

If you only have a bit of wax left - say 10% to 20% of what you need, make yourself a balm! What can you do if you're completely out of wax? Make a lovely whipped butter, body oil, or an oil based scrub!

What if you're missing your favourite oil for a product? Consult the oil comparison chart to see what you could use instead! (Or visit the emollients section of the blog for detailed posts on each oil!)

My favourite oil has to be rice bran oil. It has a lovely balance of oleic and linoleic acid, high levels of phytosterols, and lots of Vitamin E. It is light to medium weight, and it doesn't have much of a smell. It is a greasier feeling oil. If I don't have any, what could I substitute instead? Quickly - to the chart! Sesame oil seems like a great choice, as does soybean oil, although that one is slightly greasier feeling than sesame or rice bran.

As an aside, here's the reality of using oils - we can pretty much substitute any oil for any other oil in a recipe and make a great product. There might be a difference in skin feel, viscosity, and properties of the product, but you will still make a great product. (The only exception to this would be coconut oil because it is closer to a butter than an oil...)

What this means is that you can make that awesome sounding product without having to spend a fortune on oils! Seriously! Anyone interested in seeing a detailed post about this? Let me know! 

What if you're missing your favourite butter? That's a bit of a harder substitution because the three butters we use the most - cocoa, mango, and shea - are so different. It's easier to substitute something like kokum or sal for cocoa butter and get a similar stiffness and skin feel than to substitute shea for cocoa butter! If you do need to substitute shea for any other butter, be aware that your product will probably be a little thinner and greasier feeling than normal. I suggest making a tester lotion bar without fragrance that you can pop in the freezer for a few minute to test the stiffness. I find that I generally use 33% wax with shea butter, but can go as low as 25% with mango butter, so there is a difference!

Are you missing an ingredient? Post it here and we'll see what we can suggest! The amazing readers of this blog will have loads of ideas! 

Related posts:
Click here for all the posts labelled "substitutions"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Converting to and from metric!

I get a lot of email asking me to convert my recipes into non-metric measurements. I can't. I don't have the time and my brain doesn't think that way. I've been metric since grade one, and I measure in Celsius and grams. (Although I can't figure out how to do height and weight in anything other than Imperial because we learned that bit in kindergarten!) Besides, I find using ounces confusing as heck! Liquid ounces and weighted ounces, and it is far too confusing to figure out which one is in a recipe!

I'm Canadian, so I use Celsius as my temperature measurement. The general rule I learned about converting from Fahrenheit was to subtract 32 and divide by 2. To find Fahrenheit you can double it and add thirty.

20˚C would be doubled and add 30 - about 70˚F. It's actually 68˚F, but we got close.
70˚F would be subtract 30 and divide by 2 - about 20˚C. It's actually 21.1˚C, but again close enough.

If you want to be really accurate, check out this conversion site or memorize these formulas!

˚C = F - 32/1.8 (Fahrenheit minus 32, then divide by 1.8)
˚F = C x 1.8 +32 (Celsius times 1.8, then add 32)

An ounce is about 28.35 grams by weight. We work in grams for bath & body products because it's easy to convert from percentages to grams - just substitute the % for the word grams and you have a recipe! You can do this with weighed ounces, but substituting the word "ounce" for % in the example below would result in a massive batch of lotion - about 100 ounces - whereas doing that with grams will result in a batch of about 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces! Big difference, eh?

If you want to make more of something, just multiply the grams by the amount you want and you've got a larger batch! (I have already written a post on this topic, which I definitely suggest you read if you want more detail!)

Click on the picture to see the entire thing. I'm not sure why it's not coming up properly! 

You have to love the highlighted possible spelling error, eh? I should have caught that before I captured the picture. Oh well! 

Related posts:
How to convert recipes from percentages to weights!
Weight vs volume
Doubling, tripling, and quadrupling our recipes!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Question: Is it okay to use small amounts of lots of oils.

In this post, Art asked: In order to make a whipped body butter, I have been reading up about the benefits of lots of different oils. I have come up with a recipe that includes four different types of butters (avocado, mango, shea, and aloe) and about 7 different types of oils (olive, sweet almond, coconut, argan, meadowfoam, macadamia nut, and castor), plus extracts! Because the recipe includes many different types of butters and oils, I will have to use each in fairly small quantities. My question is, how small a percentage is too small for the benefits of a certain oil to be cancelled out (if that's possible)? Is there any kind of scientific/chemical drawback to using so many different types of oils? Or does it make a better whipped butter for the skin to include a little bit of everything?

This question comes up a lot, so let me give you the short and long answers...

The short answer: There isn't any drawback to using so many oils and they won't cancel each other out, but it just doesn't seem like we get all the benefits of an oil if we're using tiny amounts of a bunch of oils. Check the suggested usage rates for each oil, but in general consider that less than 5% probably isn't that helpful. I generally choose one oil and one butter for a project, then branch out to see what would complement or supplement them.

The explanation of the long answer and the process of choosing oils: When I'm making a product, I can often times get so caught up in the chemistry of the oils and what they bring to the product that I fail to ask myself the question - what is the goal of this product? I find asking myself a few questions will help me narrow down what I want to use quite quickly...
  • Why did you pick the oils you did? 
  • What does each of them bring to the mix? 
  • What are the suggested usage rates? 
  • What is the skin feel of each oil? 
  • What is the climate and skin type of the user?
  • Do the properties that interest you overlap with another oil or ingredient? 
  • What is the end goal of this product? 
Once you've asked yourself these questions, it might be easier to figure out how to use a lot of one oil instead of tiny amounts of lots of different oils.

You don't have to answer all these questions, but I do suggest you consider them! 

As a note, all of the oils and butters we use should help moisturize your skin, and they will all behave kind of occlusively, meaning they will form a barrier on your skin to protect it from the outside world. You can slather on Crisco, mineral oil, or the fanciest oils you can buy in the exotic section of our suppliers and they will do those things for you. What we're trying to do here to choose oils that have good phytosterols, polyphenols, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and other features that will bring all kinds of awesome properties to the product.

If you want to be able to compare these things, please visit the emollients section of the blog or download the oils, butters, or exotic oils comparison charts found in that section or in my e-books! If you want a handy dandy reference to the chemistry of oils, click here for the oil chemistry PDF. 

If we consider a whipped butter might have 80% butter and 20% oil, consider that the butter will most likely be the main thing we feel in the product, so I would start choosing my ingredients from there.

Let's say I wanted to make something with shea butter. Shea butter contains 3 to 7% palmitic acid (C16), 35 to 45% stearic acid (C18), 40 to 55% oleic acid (C18:1), and 3 to 8% linoleic acid (C18:2). It also contains some nice polyphenols and phytosterols that will offer anti-oxidizing and moisturizing properties. I know that a butter made with shea butter will be more whippy and soft than one made with mango or cocoa butter. And I know it will feel more greasy. So I'll see what oils will make this feel less greasy - if that's what I want!

You have seven oils in mind - let's take a look at how a few of them might feel or perform with shea butter.

Olive oil: A medium to heavy weight oil that brings some great moisturizing and softening properties. It contains 55 to 83% oleic acid (C18:1), 4 to 21% linoleic acid (C18:2), 1% linolenic acid (C18:3), 10.5% palmitic acid (C16), and 2.6% stearic acid (C18), It has great phytosterols, which would be great for reducing redness or inflammation, and squalene, which is fanastic for softening and soothing chapped or cracked skin. Combine this with shea butter and you'll have a greasy feeling whipped butter that offers moisturizing, softening, and soothing of chapped or cracked skin that may help with redness and inflammation. It will hae a lot of oleic and stearic acid, with up to 29% linoleic acid and very little linolenic acid. Your product could have a shelf life of up to one year.

Sweet almond oil: A light oil that contains 3 to 9% palmitic acid (C16), 2% palmitoleic acid (C16:1), 3% stearic acid (C18), 60 to 78% oleic acid (C18:1), 10 to 30% linoleic acid (C18:2), and 2% linolenic acid (C18:3). It contains 164 ppm tocopherol and about 58.1 ppm cholesterol. Combine this with shea butter and you'll have a greasy feeling whipped butter with lots of oleic acid, up to 38% linoleic acid, and 2% linolenic acid that will have a shelf life of one year.

Macadamia nut oil: A light, not so greasy feeling oil with 8.9% palmitic acid (C16), 18.7 to 22.6% palmitoleic acid (C16:1), 2.9% stearic acid (C18), 58.4% and higher oleic acid (C18:1), and 1.8% linoleic acid (C18:2). (Palmitoleic acid offers some wound healing properties, which is a nice feature.) It also contains some good levels of phytosterols and squalene. Combine this with shea butter and you'll have a less greasy feeling whipped butter with lots of oleic acid and very little lineoleic or linolenic fatty acids. It will have a shelf life of a year.

Just looking at a combination of one oil with shea butter tells us that there will be a lot of oleic acid in the product - which is great for moisturizing and cell regeneration. This fatty acid offers some anti-inflammatory properties and can help soften our skin.

If we combined two of these oils together at 10% each would that be a good choice? Sure! A lot of our oils have a suggested usage rate of 5% or higher, so we should be getting the lovely qualities we seek for our products if we use them at 10%.

Are we getting all that we could in a product by using these oils? Mostly. I admit I'm obsessed with using something with linoleic acid in every product because I love the barrier repair functions of this fatty acid, but you don't have to be!

Are we getting the skin feel we wish using these oils? If you want a greasy feeling product, you'll want to go with olive oil or sweet almond oil and shea butter. If you want a less greasy feeling product - but still greasy feeling - you'll want to use macadamia nut oil and shea butter. If you want a far less greasy feeling product, then turn to mango butter!

A few more thoughts for this product:

  • You mention you might like to use avocado butter. Why the butter and not the oil?
  • Check what butter is with your aloe butter. It could be coconut oil or shea butter.
  • At what temperature will this product be used and stored? Coconut oil melts at 76˚F or 24.4˚C, which can be room temperature in some offices and homes, and is an easy temperature to reach in the summer in most places. 

Have you tried this recipe yet? If not, why not? I think we learn about our oils and butters best by using them and testing the skin feel. One of the first recipes I tried was a cocoa butter whipped butter with mostly cocoa butter and a few oils. It whipped well, but went hard as a rock pretty quickly. I learned that cocoa butter needed to be mixed with something like shea butter to be less hard and it helped me figure out what I liked in a body butter!

If you get stuck on what oil to use, create a chart, then get into your workshop and see how they feel on your skin. We could spend weeks gathering information on oils and butters, but if you hate the way they feel on your skin, what is the point?

BUT BUT BUT...Please don't get bogged down by the different oils you could use! You can make amazing products with one oil and one butter! You don't have to know the fatty acid profile of this or phytosterol content of that to make something that feels great! When I started I had a bottle of olive oil, sweet almond oil, and grapeseed oil. I soon figured out that I hated grapeseed oil - it goes rancid quite quickly (3 months) and it feels quite dry - and that sweet almond oil and olive oil kind of fit into the same fatty acid profile. If I didn't write the blog, I'd probably only have a few oils in the workshop with a couple of exotic ones like kukui or evening primrose thrown in for good measure. Many of them fit into the same fatty acid profile or property profile, and we don't need to have all of them in one product to make something awesome!

If you've zoned out and just scrolled to the end, I suggest you confine your choices to one or two butters and one or two oils...Wow, you can tell I'm on holiday time, eh?