Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Formulating on a budget: A tester recipe

As I mentioned in this post on formulating on a budget, learning about your ingredients can really save you money when you find an amazing recipe that you think you'd like to make...so let's take a look at a sample recipe and see where we can save some money!

When I started making products, I would buy ingredients so I could make products based solely on the name! I'd see something with an awesome name like Fruity Flowers & Oats or Orange Blossom Body Butter, and think I needed to have all those ingredients to make something awesome. One of the things I hope you can take from this series - and the other substitution posts - is that once you know your ingredients, you can take any body butter recipe and make it an orange blossom body butter by either adding some neroli or orange blossom hydrosol or by using a fragrance oil with that kind of name!

Let's see where we could save some money on this recipe!


20% chamomile hydrosol
10% aloe vera liquid
20% rose water
3% hydrovance
1% water
2% sodium lactate or glycerin

15% shea butter
5% pomegranate seed oil
5% cranberry seed oil
7% Polawax
3% cetyl alcohol

5% liquid green tea extract (water soluble)
0.5 to 1% preservative
0.5% rose geranium essential oil
0.5% Roman chamomile essential oil

What we have here should be a medium level of greasiness body butter that should be scoopable out of the container with a consistency of Cool Whip. Shea butter makes things feel greasy, but the dry feeling oils will make it feel less greasy. Not a serious reduction in greasiness, but enough.

When thinking of substituting an ingredient, ask yourself these questions...
Question 1: What does this ingredient bring to the mix?
Question 2: Is there something that could take ingredient x's place?
Question 3: Do I need to make any alterations if I take out that ingredient? (For instance, if I leave out the cetyl alcohol, my product will be thinner. If I switch it for stearic acid, the product will be thicker.)

Chamomile hydrosol: It's a lovely substitute for water that might offer some anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. You can use water in its place, but if you want the same properties, consider using 0.5% powdered chamomile extract in the cool down phase. Using the chamomile hydrosol will cost $0.69. Using the powder would cost $0.05 instead, so you could add that to the cool down phase instead. Using the powder can make the lotion a slightly yellowy-brown colour, whereas the hydrosol doesn't do that. Make sure you dissolve it first in a tiny bit of warm water. For 0.5 grams, you could use 5 ml of 1 tsp of water to dissolve it.

Rose water: Good for all skin types, it offers anti-bacterial properties and may help control sebum. It also smells really lovely. It would cost $0.69 to use 20 grams in this product. You can leave it out and just add water. Leaving out this ingredient might make it smell less rose-like.

Aloe vera: Too much information to summarize here, but it offers soothing, moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-reddening properties. You can leave it out and just add water.

If you were to leave out these ingredients and just use distilled water, you'd be using one cent's worth of that distilled water as compared to $1.88 in hydrosols and aloe vera. You'd be losing some of the beneficial qualities of those hydrosols and aloe vera, but you'd be saving a substantial amount of money! 

Hydrovance: It's a humectant. It isn't sticky like glycerin, so it's a good replacement for it. I would normally use sodium lactate here, but I already have it in my recipe and going over 3% can make you sun sensitive, so I have to find a different humectant. If my goal is to save money, then glycerin is my first choice every time! Glycerin works out to about 1 cent per 1 gram, so using 3 grams in this recipe would cost about 3 cents as compared to 23 cents for hydrovance. If you wanted to use the sodium lactate at 2% and glycerin at 3%, you would spend 7 cents on your humectants. The down side of glycerin is that it can feel sticky, but given this has a ton of shea butter in it, you probably won't notice.

Shea butter: This is the main butter in this product. Shea and cocoa butter are the least expensive butters you can buy. It works out to 35.5 cents to include 15 grams in this product. Cocoa butter isn't really an option because it will make the body butter very very stiff compared to shea butter, which should be more of a whipped butter (food type) consistency. If we used mango butter, it would be about 41.6 cents to include it in the recipe, so it defeats the purpose to use that ingredient if we're trying to save money. If, however, you want to make the product a little stiffer or want to make it feel drier, than mango butter is a good choice.

Pomegranate oil: At about 19 cents per gram, we're looking at using 96 cents for 5 grams in this product. What does pomegranate oil bring to the product? It's a light and dry feeling oil. It is a really unique oil in that it has a ton of phytosterols and a weird fatty acid called punicic acid, is regenerating to skin, offering anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It can help with sunburned or chapped skin and improves skin's elasticity, and can stimulate regeneration in skin cells! Here's the problem with pomegranate oil - it's hard to come up with something similar in one oil. It really is a unique oil that brings something really interesting to our products. 5% isn't a bad amount to use, although I personally like to use at least 10% of an oil in a product to get all the goodness. I'd consider using all pomegranate oil or all cranberry oil in this product if I wanted to get all those benefits.

Cranberry oil: This is a light, dry feeling oil that contains a lot of Vitamin E with an interesting balance of oleic, linoleic, and linolenic fatty acids that would offer softening and moisturizing as well as some help to repair skin's barrier. It contains a lot of wonderful phytosterols and polyphenols. Again, it's hard to find a great substitute for this oil, but like with pomegranate oil above, consider using all cranberry oil in this product to get all the goodness.

  • If you're looking for something with similar levels of vitamin E, soy bean oil is the closest.
  • If you're looking for something with similar levels of phytosterols, sesamesoy bean, or sunflower are probably the closest. 
  • If you're looking for something that feels light and dry, hazelnut, grapeseedmacadamia nut, or fractionated coconut oil might be the closest choices. 
  • If you wanted to use something like soy bean or sunflower, both of which are greasier feeling oils, you could use 8% of that oil and add 2% IPM or IPP to the product. 

I think I'm going to use 10% sesame oil as it has the closest balance of fatty acids, phytosterols, and polyphenols for these two exotic oils. It will cost me about 31 cents to include sesame seed oil instead of $2.46 for 5% pomegranate and 5% cranberry.

Polawax: It's not a cheap emulsifier - making your own through the HLB method or buying generic e-wax would be cheaper - but I do like it as it's a very stable, all in one emulsifier. It's about 22 cents to include it in this recipe. To change it for another emulsifier will require some work on your part. If you wanted to use BTMS-50, just exchange it at one for one, which means you'll use 7% BTMS-50. It will be much thicker and powdery feeling than using Polawax. If you want to use Ritamulse SCG, you'll want to use 8% and remove that 1% water in the heated water phase, and make sure you don't go over 25% oils if you don't want an epic lotion fail. This means you'll have to remove 1% oil or butter to compensate for the 1% essential or fragrance oil you'll be using later. If you want to use anything else, follow the rules set out by your supplier.

Cetyl alcohol: 3.5 cents to include it in this product. The other fatty alcohols will cost you more, but stearic acid is about the same. As Sarah once said, "Cetyl is click while stearic is thick!" Using cetyl alcohol makes the product glidier and thinner than using stearic acid. I think I'll leave it in because I like a glidier feeling product.

Liquid green tea extract (water soluble): This brings a ton of anti-oxidants, vitamins, and polyphenols to the party as well as some caffeine. Using this at 5% in the cool down phase works out to about 63 cents. Using the powdered extract at 0.5% in the cool down phase would cost about 5 cents. The down side is that sometimes powdered extract can cause a reaction in our product that can lead to separation and it can make the product take on a greeny-browny colour - a light colour, but still a colour - so if you're new to product making, you might want to leave it out entirely. This is one of the reasons I use the liquid stuff - it's worth the increased cost to ensure my product won't go all wonky!

Chamomile essential oil: It works out to about $5 for 1 ml or 0.9 grams, so you might want to replace this with a fragrance oil or another essential oil. If you are replacing it with something else, make sure the essential oil of choice is okay for leave on products at 0.5% to 1%.

Rose geranium essential oil: This smells absolutely lovely, but at $1.50 for 1 ml (about 0.9 grams), this is an expensive addition. Again, if you're replacing it with another essential oil, check on the safe usage rates.

Preservative: Leaving it out is not an option. It works out to about 5 cents to use 0.5 grams of liquid Germall Plus. Your preservative cost will vary.

So there we have it! The lotion as written originally is about $12.41 for a 100 gram batch, not including taxes, shipping, or container. The lotion as we modified it costs about $1.16, not including taxes, shipping, or container. What a difference! If we wanted to use the exotic oils, it would cost $2.77 for a body butter with 10% pomegranate oil or $3.85 for a body butter with 10% cranberry oil.

Here's the final recipe for a more budget conscious product.

55% water
3% glycerin
2% sodium lactate

15% shea butter
10% sesame seed oil
7% Polawax
3% cetyl alcohol

0.5% powdered green tea extract
0.5% powdered chamomile extraxt
0.5% liquid Germall Plus
1% fragrance oil

Follow the basic lotion making instructions to make this product!

Now, this isn't to say that the other recipe wasn't good or that the ingredients aren't worth the cost, but I think it's always worth looking at alternatives. Knowing what the ingredients bring to the party means you can make something today without having to wait to receive your order! And you can make the original recipe when the ingredients show up in a few days and compare the skin feel and viscosity.

Join me tomorrow as we take another look at some budget formulations!


melian1 said...

is btms more conditioning for the skin than ewax or polawax?

catherine said...

What a great, great lesson...not just on cost cutting,but even better cost evaluating!

When I started out I bought lots of powdered extracts to save money. I ended up not liking them so much. Lent a 'muddy' look and feel and I, who never thought of myself as an aesthete, just didn't like the look/feel of these powdered extracts in lotions.

So now the only powdered things I buy are vitamins (eg niacinamide, vit b3) and I invest in liquid green tea and other extracts.

Fyi dry pomegranate extract is *horrible* and if I ever experiment with this ingredient it will be the oil only, no matter how pricy. It will be worth the investment.

Leslie said...

Excellent article Susan! I found it really helpful. I especially love the line, "weird fatty acid called punicic acid". Thanks again for all you have taught me.

lorrwill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lorrwill said...

Inspired by this post, I just looked up the ingredients for a product I used to love, but stopped using mostly because of the price (Laura Mercier Crème Brûlée BodyButter).

It has 157(!) ingredients! I am absolutely convinced that at least 100 of them (probably more like 147) could be skipped and several others substituted and I would have something I could love AND afford.

Unknown said...

Hi Susan, reading your blog has inspired me to make my own lotion. This is what ive used

60% water
5% glycerin
10% soy bean oil
15% shea butter
6% ewax
3% stearic acid
1% preservative

I'm really happy with its moisturising effect. It absorbs to the skin really quickly however, my skin still feels tight and rough to the touch. I have been using e45 all my life. I can see that the moisturising is clearly better but it fails to last as long. I find the need to reapply over and over again. What am I missing? I think I either need to add a more occlusive oil or add a feel enhancer. I was under the impression that feel enhancers only affect the way the lotion feels as you apply to the skin and not how it makes your skin feel after.

I've already posted this on /r/diybeauty, but I'd really love your two cents