Sunday, July 15, 2012

A few quick note about formulating or tweaking recipes!

I'm getting a lot of people lately wanting to make products for the first time from a recipe they've created. They're writing to me to help them write it, figure out ratios, and so on. If you're new to making bath & body products, please choose a recipe from a reputable site and try that first. It takes a while to learn how to make recipes from scratch, and my suggestion is to find some recipe you like, try them, then make some tweaks until you feel comfortable making those substitutions. Only then are you ready to write your own recipes.

If you find a recipe you like that has an oil or ingredient you don't have, learn about that ingredient to see if you can leave it out. You can substitute oils for other oils, for the most part, and butters for other butters.

I suggest reading the learning to formulate series if you really want to make products of your own. And if you've never made anything, check out the newbies link below or come back in a week or two when we start the newbies posts again!

Related post:
Why are you trying to make your own recipes when you're a newbie?
The newbie Tuesday series...
Learning to formulate series...
Frequently asked questions section

Secondly, it's feeling a little insulting when you find a recipe on another site and ask me to help you make it work after it fails for you. I realize I might seem a little petty of me because I know I'm not your only blog, that you'll visit other blogs and sites you like, but when you write to me and ask, "I love this recipe, but I don't have these ingredients, so can you rewrite it for the ingredients I have?" I feel a bit irked. I'm not sure why - I think it's probably because I don't have a lot of time to answer e-mails, and it feels like you should be writing to the person who wrote the recipe instead of me. If you do have a non-blog recipe you want to tweak or need help figuring out, please consult the appropriate sections of the blog for more information. I'm sure you can find what you want there? I don't mind answering a question like - why didn't this work? or what did I do wrong? - but to send me a recipe and ask me to analyze it and rewrite it, I just don't have the time...

I suggest you write to the person who wrote that recipe and ask them for help. You'll get help and you'll be letting them know that their recipe isn't working well. They need to know this to alter it on their blog or site! The same goes for ingredients. If you need information on an ingredient, the best person to ask is your supplier. They sold it to you - they should have more information on the product that you can access.

Thirdly, if you want to alter one of my recipes to be more natural, please note that I can't help you as I'm not a natural formulator. Natural is a subjective thing, and as we've seen from recent posts, there's no agreement on what would qualify as "natural". I can tweak it for one person, and have ten people ask me to tweak it another way. I simply don't have time!

I say it all the time - learn about your ingredients so you can learn how to tweak your products! - and I'm saying it again. I really recommend that you spend the time figuring out which ingredients fit into your philosophy, then figure out how to tweak the products you can make.

For instance, if you want to use Ritamulse SCG instead of Polawax, learn what the differences are, the rates of usage, the skin feel, the ingredients you can't use with it, and so on. If you really want to be natural or green or Ecocert, it's up to you to learn what ingredients you can and can't use.

When I started this blog, people were always asking me how to replace this ingredient or leave out that one - generally silicones - and I tried so hard to accommodate every perspective. I don't have time to do that any more - heck, I barely have time to get into the workshop these days - so I'm putting the onus upon you to create a solid philosophy built upon good information, then learn about the ingredients you can and can't use. You need to figure out what ingredients you will use in your products and how to switch them out for ones you won't. If you don't like sodium lactate, find out what it brings to the product - it's a humectant and a bar hardener - and figure out what you can use in its place.

If you want to put liquid soap in my shampoo recipes, I'll advise you against it - read this post - and I'm not going to modify it to help you make what I think is a bad choice. If you want to leave out the preservative in something, please don't ask me how you'd alter the product because that's also a bad choice. 

The whole point of this blog is to help you learn how to make products. A huge part of that comes from you - spending time reading and experimenting, talking to people, listening to ideas, and so on - and I can't do that work for you. I don't have time to do it, and I don't have the inclination. I learned so much from LabRat on the Dish forum - he wouldn't give me a fish, he wanted me to learn myself. Oh, he gave me a rod and some bait from time to time, he recommended great fishing holes, but he wouldn't come with me. I had to learn for myself. And, although I cursed him almost every single day, I learned far more than I would have had he handed me the fish. (Okay, analogy over!)

Instead of asking if you can use olive oil in place of the hazelnut oil in a recipe, why not get into the workshop and try it! You'll learn so much more than just listening to my opinion. You'll get a different viscosity of the lotion, a different skin feel from the oils and possibly hygroscopicity, a different way it pumps through a bottle, a different colour, a different smell, and so on. The best way to learn is by reading a bit, then trying your idea. It's amazing how much you'll discover in a few hours in the workshop! And making mistakes is a great idea to learn what not to do!

(You can substitute one oil for another oil quite easily. Check out the frequently asked questions for more information on substitutions!)

I think I've told this story but bear with me...When I was first learning to make products, I wanted to turn everything into bars. I had my shampoo bar, my conditioner bar, my scrub bar - now I just needed a body wash bar. I thought of every ingredient I could use to make a body wash bar while taking a shower, and I triumphantly declared my recipe to Raymond...who said, "Isn't that just soap?" D'oh! I'm not sure how this fits into this post, but it was what sparked the idea! 


Lise M Andersen said...

Oooh I love the soap story! I hadn't seen it before and it gave me a chuckle. :)

On another note, I don't think you need to apologize for not having time to formulate for everyone. Just keep handing out those fishing rods Susan!

Sarra Bess said...

I just finished reading through your blog from the beginning, and I just wanted to say, thanks so much! I've been making CP soap and simple lotions for ages, but wanted to move into bath and beauty products where CP soap doesn't work well (like facial cleansers and shampoos). Your blog is a wonderful source of information and formulations, and as an MD with a BS in chemistry, I am very grateful for your efforts to make all your claims scientifically justified! The anti-science crowd aggravates me so much.

I'm especially grateful that you put so much effort into emphasizing how important preservatives are. I'm an infectious disease specialist, and I can't count how many patients I see whose infections are caused by unsafe sanitary practices, including using unpreserved bath products (sometimes homemade, sometimes from a homecrafter, and most disturbingly, sometimes from a large company -- I have the FDA complaints department on speed-dial, not that I've seen much evidence that it helps). As I am stuck saying so often -- staph is "all natural", but it just made you sick, didn't it? *sigh*

melian1 said...

it occurs to me that so many newbies ask can i change this oil for that one and other sub questions because they don't yet realize it is okay to fail.

if a person wants to use olive oil instead of tamanu oil that is called for,simply do it - and then evaluate the results. maybe it fails, and if it does, they will learn something valuable. but more likely it will give a resulting cream (or lotion or whatever) just fine. they might like that cream, or they may not, but by doing it they learn. and not waste your precious time and energy.

besides, if anyone reads the link/posts you've already written, they would have 99.9% of the answers they seek.

never apologize for taking this stand!

Michele said...

Melian1 I agree about failing. I have so many times wanted to contact Susan but I hear her "go to your workshop and try" in my head. It's so true.

Susan you have inspired me. I graduated with a BS in Biology/Microbiology and never used my skills. It's surfacing again now. I love being a mad scientist.

Thanks for bringing it out in me.

I have spent months reading your site. I still reread some post and learn something new each time.