Thursday, March 1, 2012

Should we reconsider the everything-in-1 type product?

I'm all about the multi-tasking, but before you decide to make a product that's both a floor wax and dessert topping, decide if you might be better off having separate products for each task. (And not just because of the ewwwww factor!)

When I first started making products, I went on a mighty quest to create the perfect leave in conditioner that detangled my hair and offered amazing anti-frizz properties. Every time I increased the amount of silicones, I had to increase the emulsifier (Incroquat BTMS-50). I eventually ended up with a product with enough BTMS-50 to qualify as a rinse off product (about 8%) that didn't detangle well, left my hair feeling really gross, and didn't do well as an anti-frizz product. I realized that I was better off formulating a good detangler with conditioning properties and an anti-frizz spray and leaving them as separate products.

When it comes to making products, I always ask myself about my goal. What exactly do I want? If it's winter and my elbows are trashed, I want something really moisturizing that will make them feel less dry and itchy. That's my primary goal. If I want something that might do well for my itchy legs or really dry knees, then I can probably use the same product for those issues. But this probably won't work well as a hair conditioner, as I'd have to compromise quite a bit to get a product that my elbows and hair would both enjoy.

I'm thinking about someone who wanted to make a hair and body butter in one. You could do this, I guess. If you used BTMS-50 as your emulsifier, then you've got the start of a conditioner, but there are things your skin likes that your hair won't like and vice vera. My skin loves shea butter and hydrolyzed silk, but this would make my hair feel really awful. To make this product, would I have to compromise to the point where it doesn't perform either task properly (that is to say, moisturizing my skin or conditioning my hair.)

When you're asking yourself how much is too much, ask yourself about your end goal. Think about your facial moisturizer. I know we want something that will reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, protect us from the sun, chase away pimples, give us a healthy glow, and make our skin dewy and lovely, but those goals may conflict with other ones.

Some ingredients simply shouldn't be combined with others - too many exfoliants in one place might start to create burny feeling skin, and that's not the kind of rosy glow we're thinking about - and some ingredients can't combine with others due to chemical reactions. Sometimes we hit formulating limits - I can't have 20% silicones in a leave in conditioner with only 1% emulsifier - and sometimes we hit personal limits - I can't afford to buy the kind of Vitamin C that will work in a facial product. There might be very good reasons that you can find a moisturizer with ferulic acid and an SPF of 30, and there might not be. (For the record, I have no idea if the two can be combined...just an example...)

"I didn't say you couldn't. I said you shouldn't!" Marg Simpson to Homer after he deep fried his shirt. 

After all of this, the question oftentimes isn't "can we do this?" but "is it a good idea to do this?"

Related posts:
How much is too much when it comes to oils?
Combining extracts
Using cosmeceuticals in our facial products


Miss E. said...

I'm not sure why the all-in-one idea is so appealing? I'm the opposite, I want a whole battery of products, each with a strong focus. You can always layer products or adjust your routine based on if your skin is breaking out, dehydrated from the dry winter heating, etc.

rzonis said...

An eternal formulating truth! The more different functions you try to get a product to perform, the more likely it is that your product won't do anything well. And, yes, this applies whether you're formulating floor wax or whipped toppings.

(And feel free to let me know if you need help getting samples from raw material suppliers - sometimes I've been able to get folks things that independent formulators have had trouble getting a hold of by themselves)