Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Question: How do I come up with recipes?

I originally thought I'd missed this very interesting question from Always.Looking.4.1.More in this post, but it turns out that I've already written about it. But it's such a neat idea, I thought I'd use it as a starting point to get you interested in coming up with your own basic recipes!

I wonder how you come up with such great recipes. Do you re-make your batches over-and-over until you figure out which ingredients are best and at what percentage each must be? Or do you use a list of basic formulas that are industry guidelines and then modify them? I'm still in the "everything-looks-like-it-might-be-fun-to-add-to-the-formula" stage. :-) In other words, I'm still playing while I learn. When I feel like trying something simple of my own I write down how much of everything I use when I'm making a batch, but mine are nowhere as elaborate as yours.

Thanks for the kind words. I'm blushing right now! I hope the recipes are good ones, and please remember to leave feedback on them for other readers. If they aren't great, I need to know so I can make alterations! (Click here to learn more about how to tell me I'm wrong!)

As you have all probably seen in various places in this blog, I come up with my basic recipe for a product and then I tweak it. That can take what seems like forever at times, but I've spent that time coming up with what I think is the typical recipe for that product. I have no idea about industry standards - since I don't plan to sell my products, I don't really care much about the official standards are for the products I make - but I did get ideas of what each product should contain by reading recipe after recipe on the Dish forum, various suppliers, and manufacturers. For instance, I want to have about 30% oil phase in my body butter, but it can be a little higher or lower. This doesn't mean that every body butter must adhere to this standard, only that this is what I like and think makes for a nice product.

As an aside, I'm still in the everything looks like it would be fun to add to the formula phase of formulating. I think if I stop feeling that way, it's time to shut down the workshop and go home! I do have some recipes that include everything I can find in the workshop that morning, but I have learned over time that it's better to have a product that works really well instead of a multitasker that's only okay. That's one of the reasons I don't have an all in one leave in conditioner and anti-frizz product - I couldn't make one that did both of those things really well and left my hair feeling great. I can enjoy a very basic product - like my 6 ingredient lotions - as much as I enjoy something really complicated. The point is that the product needs to fulfill the goal I've set out for it, and that might require a ton of ingredients or just a few.

Let's take a look at my basic recipe for an emulsified sugar scrub recipe.

10% emulsifying wax
10% cetyl alcohol or stearic acid
10% cocoa butter (or other really hard butter)
10% shea or mango butter (or quite soft butter - shea aloe would be great here)
56% oil
1% Vitamin E
2% fragrance or essential oil*
1% Phenonip

When I got the black cocoa butter, I knew I had to make this version.

10% emulsifying wax (e-wax, Polawax, or BTMS)
10% cetyl alcohol or stearic acid (5% cetyl and 5% stearic is very nice)
20% black cocoa butter
56% oil - I'm using soy bean oil here
1% Vitamin E
2% fragrance or essential oil*
1% Phenonip

The only real difference here is that I used all black cocoa butter instead of using some shea or mango butter. But it's the same recipe. Then I got some behenyl alcohol, and I had to make this version.

10% behenyl alcohol
20% black cocoa butter
56% oil
1% Vitamin E
2% fragrance or essential oil*
1% Phenonip

The recipe is pretty much the same again, only I used behenyl alcohol in place of the cetyl alcohol or stearic acid.

I can keep modifying this recipe and keep it looking pretty much the same, if I wish. Or I can go a bit crazy with new ingredients and make something like this golden shea sugar scrub...

10% emulsifying wax
10% cetyl alcohol
25% golden shea butter
5% C12-15 alkyl benzoate
22% fractionated coconut oil
20% apricot kernel oil
2% cyclomethicone
2% dimethicone
2% fragrance oil
1% Vitamin E
1% Phenonip

125% to 150% sugar

If you look at this recipe, I've altered it a little by using 25% golden shea butter instead of 20% butter and I used 51% oils - 5% of the original 56% went to using more shea butter. It's pretty much the same as the original, but I tweaked it a little bit. Since I wasn't using cocoa butter to make it a stiffer product, I chose to use more shea butter. I could use any fatty alcohol I choose and any oil I want.

By coming up with a basic recipe, I can mix and match and try new recipes really easily. And because I know my ingredients really well, I can come up with new versions just sitting at my desk. For instance, I know that cetearyl alcohol will make it feel more waxy and using only shea butter will end up with a softer sugar scrub than using it with cocoa butter or using all cocoa butter. Using less greasy oils will result in a less greasy product, and using BTMS-50 instead of Polawax or e-wax will result in a product that feels quite powdery.

Give me a concept - let's say you want a stiff scrub that feels quite occlusive and greasy on the skin - and let's see what we could make.

10% emulsifying wax
10% cetearyl alcohol 
10% cocoa butter 
10% mango butter 
56% oils - let's use 25% hazelnut oil and 25% avocado oil
5% IPM
1% Vitamin E
2% fragrance or essential oil*
1% Phenonip

Cetearyl alcohol will make the product feel more occlusive and will make it feel stiffer. Using cocoa butter will make it feel more occlusive and mango butter will make it less greasy. Hazelnut and avocado oils are less greasy feeling, and the IPM will help make it feel less greasy. I haven't tried this combination in the workshop, but I know that it will feel less greasy than the version with shea butter or a version with soy bean and olive oil. 

If you want to come up with your own recipes, here are my two big suggestions - spend as much time as you can in the workshop and accept that you will have some major fails at times. You will learn more from your failures than your successes, and be open to the feedback offered to you by the people who use your products, good or bad. Learn what each ingredient brings to the party and be prepared to make many versions before you get to the product you want. Believe me, it's worth it!

Related posts:
Learning to formulate: Introduction
Question: When making stuff, how do you know what to do? (part one)
Question: When making stuff, how do you know what to do? (part two)


Always.Looking.4.1.More said...

Hi Susan! You have a way of answering my questions like few others do. Once again, thanks for explaining in such a great way! I would say great minds think alike...LOL! Instead I'll just say, "Yeah!" :-)

Anonymous said...

Susan, could I do this same product and sub in ecomulse?

Mychelle said...

Timely post! I love the formulating tips, and I have been going through the archives on the Dish studying up on scrubs lately. I love mine but it can always be better! I think I'll go make some now. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan! Love love love this blog. I sincerely appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us. I'm knew to formulating and have learned so much from you.
I was wondering if you might do post on BB creams. They're the latest craze and I've been trying to make one, just can't seem to get the consistency right.

Thank you again!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. Do you mean Ritamulse SCG? If so, then go for it and let us know how it works out!

Hi Anonymous. What is a BB cream? Do you mean this product? I don't think we want to make something that has that many claims attached to it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
Thank you for replying. Yes I was referring to Beauty balms. I understand the claims are a bit outrageous, I just wanted a nice balmish type moisturizer for my skin. Would a regular body balm be suitable to facial skin or is that pushing it?
Thanks again!

Melanie Klar said...

This is all so fun! Thank you! I feel a little stupid asking but what am I missing? None of the recipes above for sugar scrub have any sugar in them. I read it a couple of times. Do you say somewhere else how much sugar to put in?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Take a look at the golden shea recipe...