Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Back to the very basics: Defining terms for anhydrous products

When you start out making bath & body products, we can get bumfuzzled by all the terms for different products, which makes it hard to figure out what to make. We might see a recipe and think we'd like to make that, only to find out that it isn't what was promised or it was something completely unexpected. Let's take a look at a few terms that you'll see when looking for anhydrous or non-water containing recipes...

Lotion bar: These are generally solid-ish, anhydrous products made with oils, butters, and waxes. The basic recipe is generally 1/3 butter, 1/3 oil, 1/3 wax, but you can make loads of modifications to this ratio.

Balm: These are generally solid-ish, anhydrous products made with oils, butters, and waxes. Because they generally end up in a container - a tin, for instance - you might use less wax or a softer type of wax or more oil in a balm than you would for a lotion bar because you aren't trying to get them to stay stiff enough to twist out of a tube, for instance. They generally come with some kind of claim or utilize ingredients that might be good for a specific condition. We cannot make claims about a balm that can be construed as being a medical claim, so saying things like "cures" or "soothes" or even "calms" are right out. You can choose your ingredients so it will help some condition - for instance, you could use essential oils that cause warming or cooling of the skin to work as a Tiger Balm type thing or Vick's or a foot lotion - but you cannot make the actual claim to someone.

If you see a claim like "cures eczema" or "makes something go away" on Etsy or eBay or any other place, they are doing something they aren't supposed to be doing. This doesn't mean it's okay for you to say it as well.

Lip balm: A lotion bar or balm made without water, used for the lips. You can add a flavouring or fragrance/essential oil to it. There isn't a big difference between a lotion bar and a lip balm, although I would also consider the flavour of the oils I choose for the product and I might consider adding a flavour oil. (For instance, extra virgin olive oil might not be my first choice in a lip balm!) The consistency is pretty much the same.

Whipped butter: Generally a butter - mango, cocoa, or shea butter, but there could be others - with an oil whipped to increase by 50% in volume. The product is whipped because it is easier to get out of the container, and it looks really lovely! The general ratio can go from 50% to 90% butter depending upon the butter used. For instance, I'd use shea butter at 70% to 80% of the recipe with 20% to 30% oils (depending upon the refinement of the shea butter). Because it's harder and slightly crumblier, I would use 60% to 80% mango butter to 20% to 40% oils, and 50% to 70% cocoa butter because it's a very hard butter and will solidify too much in the container. (Even 70% might be a bit much, but you'll have to try it and see what you like!)

What I mean above is that the amount of butter you use will vary according to the stiffness it brings to the product. I use 80% shea butter and get a very whippy and light product, but I might use 50% cocoa buter to get the same results. So I'd use 50% cocoa butter and 50% oils for the product. If I'm using mango butter, I generally use 70% butter to 30% oils. For shea butter, 80% shea butter to 20% oils. You won't go below 50% butter in a whipped butter as the butter is the main ingredient in the product. 

For more information, check out these Newbie Tuesday posts - choosing your oils for the whipped butter and recipes to try for whipped butters - where I go into loads of detail on how to make whipped butters with an explanation of ingredients and processes. Here's the post on other butters, and here's a post I wrote on babassu oil, which is amazing in a whipped butter recipe

Body oil: Generally a liquid oil in a bottle. It can consist of any oils you wish, but they will be liquid, so you won't be adding any butters or waxes to these products!

Bath oil: Again, a combination of liquid oils in a bottle. These can be made from any oils, and you might notice an emulsifier or solubilizer in the product as well, something like polysorbate 80 that will help it disperse in the tub. You might see these called "blooming bath oils" or "emulsified bath oils". You can make them without the emulsifier, but they will sit on the top of the water instead of mixing in well.

Bath oil recipe
Blooming or dispersing bath oil recipe
Bath melts recipe

If you're looking for recipes, look at how similar they are as you visit various fora and blogs. Lotion bars and lip balms generally follow the 1/3 rule. There will be variations, but you won't find a lip balm that is only 10% beeswax, for instance, or 85% oils because the products simply won't work that way! And you won't find a 10% butter, 90% oil whipped butter because it would end up being a mess. These products will generally have the same composition and the differences will be about the types of oils, butters, and waxes used.

As for waxes, if you want to use something other than beeswax, you'll have to do some experimenting. If you want to use candelilla or carnuaba wax, you'll have to use half the amount in your product. With soy wax, you generally use about 50% more. You will have to experiment to see what works. I suggest trying the wax at the same amount as the beeswax, and reduce it or increase it from them when it cools. This is something you'll have to play with to get the right consistency. 

This is something I can't stress enough. You will learn so much from getting into the workshop or kitchen and trying the recipe! I know we don't want to waste supplies, but you're wasting time researching and researching for answers you could easily answer in a few minutes making stuff! 

If you end up on a site that has a recipe you'd like to try, but you find you don't have the supplies, don't worry - break the recipe down into generic terms, using words like "oil" or "butter" instead of sweet almond oil or avocado butter. We can get pulled in by lovely sounding names and ingredients instead of looking at the recipe. I can't count how many times I would see something like "Sweet Almond & Cocoa Butter balm" and want to make it, only to realize it was the same recipe as the soy bean and cocoa butter, sunflower and mango butter, olive oil and shea butter recipes I'd seen a thousand times. Learn the what the ingredients do and you'll be able to choose a recipe better and save money on ingredients.

For the most part, you can interchange one oil for another in these kinds of recipes. It might change the skin feel a bit, making something greasier or drier feeling, but the product should still work. If you switch the butter for another one, you might see a larger change in the stiffness and ease of application of the product. For instance, switching shea butter for cocoa butter will result in a softer and greasier product. Switching from shea butter to cocoa butter will result in a stiffer, less greasy product.

I haven't got a moment now, but later today I'll update the categories with links to recipes on the blog. If you don't want to wait, visit the search engine and look for "Back to Basics" with the product name ("lotion bar" or "whipped butter") for more detail. 

Join me tomorrow as we define some of the terms you'll see for lotions, creams, butters, and other emulsified products!


Yvette Griffin said...

My first time on your site and I love it!! I am a beginner at homemade things like lotions, soaps etc... What you mentioned regarding interchanging oils is so true! I just made a massage oil and substituted the Sunflower Oil from the recipe. It turned out GREAT!! I got all my products from if anyone is interested in knowing. I'm making some soap later this week. I will let you know how it turns out :-)

Anonymous said...

I love your Blog!
Just made one of your tweeked lotion bars, and used safflower oil instead of sunflower (I didn't have thesunflower)

I want to ask, is there a reason why a person can't just add exfoiliates to a lotion bar recipe and have a shower scrub bar?

And for the scrub bar, can I substitute stearic acid for the cetyl alcohol?


Anonymous said...

Also, I know you don't like to duplicate things, but L$sh usd to av a solid oil cleanser/srub bar I really loved, called sweet Japanese girl.
Can you adapt a recipe that can be used on the face?


Finola Prescott said...

Hi - first, thanks for sharing all this info - I am learning a lot

I have a little question on this post: in the whipped butters, when you say
"The general ratio can go from 50% to 90% oil depending upon the butter used."
Do you mean, for instance, in a whipped cocoa butter, you could use 30% cocoa butter and 70% oil? or is it the other way around - 70% cocoa butter and 30% oil?
thanks for help clarifying that - I read a few times but can't figure it out!

Mesha Tucker said...

I was wondering the same thing as Finola.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Yvette! Could you please visit the American suppliers' page on the FAQ and put in your comment about this supplier? It helps to have it all in one place.

Hi Karen. You can add scrubbies if you want - do a search for a scrub bar on the blog (there are many many recipes) - but it might be better to use a scrub bar recipe as they are designed to include emulsifiers that will help rinse the product cleaner than those without. And you could substitute stearic acid for the cetyl alcohol, but I'm not sure why. Stearic will make the bar harder and draggier on your skin, while cetyl makes it harder but glidier. I don't like the feeling of stearic over cetyl, but that's a personal choice.

As for duplicating...I've address this question many many times...

Hi Finola and Mesha! I have tried to clarify this in the edited post. Does it make sense now? If not, please let me know and I'll try again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I asked about the stearic acid becase that iswhat I have already.

I know you don't do duplications, I was wondering about about adapting one of your existing recipes to use on ones face.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Karen! I answered your question in today's Weekend Wonderings! Thanks for the great comment!

Selah said...

I'd like to add a preservative (phenonip) to my whipped butter because it will be in a jar and my fingers will be dipping in and out of the jar, so I'm afraid water might be introduced. Is this a good idea? TY!

Selah said...

Wait! nvm.. I just found your post on this same topic. Thanks!

Denise Banks said...

Hi Susan,

I found your site and am loving it. I am a newbie. My sister, who recently passed, had a business, and we were getting ready to expand together. I have totes and totes of essential oils, organic shea butter, and other products I am now inventorying to getter a better feel for her products. I love your advice about newbies taking time and getting acquainted with what works and fails. Thank you and yes I will be donating shortly.