Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weekend wonderings: Rice bran wax, shea butter, and willow bark extract

I have a pot of Earl Grey steeping beside me, a dog curled up at my feet, and some great tunes on the iPod! Let's get wondering! (And if you have something you'd like me to wonder about, click here and add your question to the list!) 

In this post, Anonymous asks: Hello, I have found your blog very, very, helpful, thank you. I am wondering if you can help me with this question please? Can I use rice bran wax successfully as an emulsifier in my skin care products, facial and body creams and lotions, instead of other emulsifying waxes that you have mentioned? If so would it be at the same pecentages or would it alter?

Rice bran wax isn't a replacement for emulsifying wax, and it cannot be used in that way.

Waxes aren't inherently emulsifying, which means we can't substitute any wax for emulsifying wax.  (Beeswax is not an emulsifier unless it is combined with borax.) To be able to emulsify something, an ingredient has to have a hydrophilic (or water loving head) and a lipophilic (or fat loving) tail that can bring our oil and water together. Rice bran wax doesn't have those qualities, so it can't be used as an emulsifier.

You might see the hydrophilic head listed as a polar head and the lipophilic tail listed as a non-polar tail. Water is polar, fat is non-polar. Take a look at this post to learn more about this topic. Or click here to learn more of the chemistry of polarity! And please click here for a really in depth post on emulsification! 

I hate the name emulsifying wax as it causes so many problems! The important word is emulsifying - you can't substitute a wax for an emulsifier!

In an e-mail, Sabine asks: I was making the Brambleberry easy Whipped Shea butter with sucess last year. Then all of a sudden the Shea butter I was getting from WSP somehow changed, it's harder now, and I can't seem to re-create the fluffy kind of whipped lotion. If you have a suggestion that would be neat. 

There are different levels of refinement of shea butter, and it seems like they get softer are they are refined. At my local suppliers, I can get raw, refined, and ultra refined. I generally use ultra refined - see the picture to the right - which is very white and soft with little to no smell.

The raw shea butter is harder and can be a different colour. I've had some that was quite yellow, some that had a browny tinge, and others that were white. They tend to be slightly crumbly to the touch, whereas the ultra refined is soft and squishes in your hands. The refined is in the middle - I couldn't scoop it out of the jar with a spoon like I can the ultra refined, but it isn't as crumbly as the raw. The ultra refined has little to no smell, but I can smell the refined and raw as having a smoky, earthy scent. What kind you get will depend upon your supplier's supplier.

You can use either shea butter in our creations, but it might change the viscosity and skin feel of the product. I always use ultra refined in my products because I have a lot of trouble with earthy smells, so if you make the same recipe with another version, it will probably be stiffer or thicker. And you will notice a big difference with something like a whipped butter where shea is the star attraction. I made a whipped golden shea butter and found it felt lovely on my skin, but it went grainy easily and I had to work to rub it onto my skin. (Having said that, I really do love it!)

This variability in natural ingredients like oils and butters is one of the reasons big companies use mineral oil in their products. These ingredients are different depending upon region, processing, climate, season, and so on, which means there can be differences each time they make products! I like that my products can differ every time I make them! 

Related posts:
Emollients: Shea butter
Experiments in the workshop: Whipped golden shea butter
Experiments in the workshop: Golden shea butter sugar scrub

In this post, Michele asked: What is the difference between white and black willow bark as for benefits to the skin/hair?

Great question! I can't find any differences between the two when it comes to our hair or skin. White willow bark comes from the Salix alba tree, native to Europe and Asia, whereas black willow bark comes from the Salix nigra tree, native to North America. They both contain all that lovely salicylic acid we want, as well as tannins and other astringent things that can contribute to its anti-inflammatory and keratolytic properties. (Click here for the original post on white willow bark!)


Ingrid said...

Hi Susan,

Last fall I ordered a few ounces of Lotioncrafter's Shea Nilotica ~ Fair Trade, and it was total love at first........applicance to my skin. I used this in my usual body butter recipe and could not believe the difference this shea butter made to the texture of my body butter nor the silky skin I felt after using it. My friends and family are raving about my *new* recipe and my poor Kitchenaid whipper surely needs a well deserved rest.
Shipping is not cheap, but I recently ordered another 2 pounds and hope this will last me at least a few months.
LOVE, LOVE, this shea butter.
So soft and smooth right out of the container - just sheer silk.
Ok, I'll stop now, lol

p.s. And no smell to the shea butter.

Ingrid said...

My goodness, it seems I can't even spell the word 'application' correctly today. This is what happens when you try to do too many things at once. :-)


Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

Susa, I read on Paula's Choice web site that "Contains salicin, a substance that when taken orally is converted by the digestive process to salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid). The process of converting the salicin in willow bark to salicylic acid requires the presence of enzymes, and is complex. Further, salicin, much like salicylic acid, is stable only under acidic conditions. The likelihood that willow bark in the tiny amount used in cosmetics can mimic the effectiveness of salicylic acid is at best questionable, and in all likelihood impossible. However, willow bark may indeed have some anti-inflammatory benefits for skin because, in this form, it appears to retain more of its aspirin-like composition. "

Any thoughts here? I haven't seen this statement before...

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

* SusaN - sorry for the mispell :((

catherine said...

Hi again. Looks like some people are inquiring about willow bark extract bc it contains salicylic acid.

May I recommend buying a willow bark extract with a standardized amount of salicylic acid? For example lotioncrafter sells a willow bark extract standardized to 10% salicylic acid:

That way, if for example you want to make a toner with 2% salicylic acid you would use 20% of this particular extract.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Catherine! I love Lotioncrafter's willow bark extract. Definitely find something that is standardized when you can!

Hi Sanziene! That's basically what I have read on white willow bark. And we aren't using low amounts - I use 0.5% to 1% of the powder and up to 5% of the liquid mentioned by Catherine. My goal is to use it as an she talking about it not being a good BHA?

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

Yes, this is how I read it, that it's BHA like effects ae questionable... for antiinflamatory effects it might be good, but no exfoliation..