Monday, June 17, 2013

What do you think? Water as a filler and preservative levels

I made myself a really basic toner last week to moisturize and (I hope) de-redden my skin. I'm quite happy with it, but I think I need to dilute it! So this got me thinking about those sites that claim "no fillers", with water being one of those fillers. Water isn't some useless ingredient we add to products to "water them down" or make them cheaper. It has a huge role to play!

As much as I love aloe vera, witch hazel, chamomile hydrosol, and other liquids, they all come with a little something extra. They might be acidic or alkaline, they might contain little flecks of biological matter, they might be electrolytes that can mess with thickening or other features, and so on. Water is and has none of those things. We want to add pH 7 distilled water to make things work the way we can predict!

Adding water to something to dilute it isn't a bad thing, either. I like my toner, but I think it might be too much for my skin in the sweaty summer months. It's a bit too sticky for my tastes. With a bit of water, it'll be just perfect. As much as I love my body wash, I don't know if having 90% surfactants is a good idea, so I dilute it by 50% or so.

It dissolves our extracts, hydrates our skin, and reduces the concentration of ingredients. I think it has an important role to play in our products, and I don't consider it a filler. What do you think?

The purple mister bottle is from Aquarius & Aroma Soap (Mission, B.C.), where they have tons of neat bottles, including green, pink, black, blue, and amber. (I'm not being paid to say this - I live near this company and I really like their containers!) 

It also had me thinking about preservative usage in our products. All our preservatives come with a suggested usage rate, and I choose to use my preferred preservatives at the maximum rate. Why? Because it really isn't that much - 0.5% to 1% of the final product - and I can rest assured that it will work as promised at the higher levels.

Here are my thoughts...We aren't as clean as we'd like to be when making products. We can't create a sterile environment, our storage containers aren't always straight from the supplier, and our creating containers and utensils have been used before. We do what we can with gloves and hair nets and rubbing alcohol and dishwashers, but we are never going to be 100% clean. (And let's be honest, do you buy a brand new, unopened container of distilled water every single time you want to make something?) Preserving isn't just about what happens when the product sits on your shelf - it's about how the product starts.

I could use liquid Germall Plus at 0.1% instead of the maximum 0.5%, but that would be assuming that everything possible went right. All my ingredients were opened for the first time, my distilled water was brand new, my containers were spotlessly clean from the supplier - but nothing every goes smoothly in my world! It's safer for me to assume that things aren't as clean and sterile as I would like and use the 0.5% liquid Germall Plus to try to combat anything that might arise.

As an aside, I find a few of the people with whom I correspond who want to be all natural do some of the things that are more likely to create contaminated products, like re-using containers or failing to heat and hold. These good manufacturing processes are in place to help us make great products, not to annoy us or waste our time! If you are planning to use some of the new preservatives considered more natural, you will be working with hurdle technology. This technology requires close attention to every part of the process, and not doing the most basic things like heating and holding is a sure way to have problems.

Heating and holding is not an option in water containing bath and body product making. It must be done. Failure to do it results in poorly made and unstable products that are at higher risk for contamination. I know waiting those 20 minutes or more can feel like forever, but there are great ways to use that time, such as creating labels, getting your cool down phase ingredients ready, enjoying the view from your window, playing a round or two of your favourite phone game, posting on your Tumblr account, and much more! It really feels like so little time in exchange for making something incredible!

What do you think and why? Share your thoughts!

There are no right or wrong answers here, just opinions, so play nice and debate instead of arguing. The goal is to learn from each other, and we can't do that if we're feeling attacked or demeaned. Anonymous posts will be deleted when I see them regardless of tone. Put your name at the end - Bye, (name) is all it takes!) 


Minnie said...

Hi Susan,

Great post! Most of my adult career life has been in restaurant management. I've seen what some will try to do when one's not looking, what they'd do to save time, and do what they think should be done. Because of this I've become quite the germ phobe! Good manufacturing processes shoud be of paramount importance! I know we can't have a completely sterile environment. But, I'm going to be absolutely certain I'm starting out as best I can. This what I do: Wash my hands, clean and sanitize my equipment, sanitize my work area, wear mask, use a hair net, use gloves (with regular replacing) and I heat and hold. Yes, I am bit neurotic, I know. But, what if I cough? What if a hair a falls into my batch? That means I have to throw away an awesome batch of whatever I'm making! Oh, and, the gloves! Just because people use gloves DOES NOT mean the same gloves should be worn during that whole time! We are continually touching different things! For example what are we doing during the heat and hold? I know I'm not just standing there with my hands in the air waving like I just don't care! Do I go a bit too far? Not in my opinion.

johnny somethingerman said...

Hi Susan, thanks for all your work on this blog! I'm forever in your debt!

I don't get how people can read the information your provide and then turn around and believe that they can get away with not using preservative in their water containing products. The best I can come up with is that these folks are unaware that one of the only reasons the population of the world today exists is because of the advances in germ theory. We solved this problem over 100 years ago, the Panama Canal stands as a testament to its practice.

Oh well, if anything your rants on this topic constantly remind me that other folks aren't as keen on the reality in which they live as we are, and that I need to scrutinize any labee that says "all natural" in the event that bacterium may be included int hose natural ingredients!

Alexis said...

I only use distilled water!!!!

Ok. When I first started making products I would use filtered water that I bought for drinking, the kind that goes through 5 different stages of filtration. Then it occurred to me it was stored in a container I was constantly refilling and might be too germy for lotion that would give those few germs the environment to grow. I have far fewer problems now that I use only distilled water.

I confess. The biggest draw for me to make my own products was to put as much stuff in it as I wanted! And of course I find that often I need to water stuff down to make the product usable. Lessons learned are distilled water is a wonderful ingredient and most of the time the tiny sample size of an ingredient is plenty large for me to make products for my family.

Anonymous said...

Susan! thank you so much for this amazing resource!! I try to sanitize my work area and use gloves/rubbing alcohol/etc to start off each project as clean as possible but i havent used the heat and hold method yet. i only make 50-100g batches for my own personal use. i use them up within a few weeks. i try to get my supplies from reputable suppliers like mountain rose herbs and fnwl so when i get a shipment i add my preservative immediately. im unsure about those natural preservatives people like to hype because they dont always provide broad spectrum protection according to what ive researched. germaben II and germall plus have worked for me at the lower concentrations but i would definitely be more careful if i was making anything water based for someone else.

im a bit skeptical about the heat and hold method and it seems that so many additives are heat sensitive... and the temps required to sterilize them would just obliterate them. and with small batches it almost seems like a waste to let all that liquid evaporate. i think if you start out with a good preservative system in place then that should cover you. heat and hold seems excessive for simple water based formulations unless you know you are using something contaminated like old water thats been sitting out or something... but then you wouldnt use that in the formulation anyway knowing contamination was present. right? ahh idk!

i found a great thread about this elsewhere that i was reading recently.


Anonymous said...

Water is essential not just as a filler but in making things rinsable. Having a body wash be 90% surfactant will only leave a bad film on your body. I am a formulation chemist and know that if I want a counter cleaner to be ready to use it can't contain more than 2% solids...anymore than that and it leaves a film. 90% Surfactant body wash will have the same affect as using dish soap to clean your will always have a film left behind, that is why water is important to me. ---basbarbab

Melissa from Naturally Good Soaps said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks so much for your posts and research. I love reading your blog every time it is published. You are my go to gal for credibility!

I do have a question about heating and holding when making lotions/creams. I never really understood what this means. I know you heat the ingredient to a certain temp. I get lost on the hold part. Is it supposed to stay the same temp for 20 minutes?
Thanks again!!

Lorraine said...

Hi Susan,
Thanks again for an interesting post. I admit I was one of those people who thought of water as a cheap filler, but you made me stop and think about it and I think you've got a good point there. Thanks. :)

Regarding the heat & hold issue in terms of GMP, I was wondering what your views are then on cold process emulsifiers like Sucragel or Imulsi-Fi (which I tried out the other day - very easy to use!). Obviously no heating is required with those emulsifiers so I guess you have to pay greater consideration to your preservative and GMP.

Maia Singletary said...

Hi Susan,

Thank you so much for writing this! I have also seen a few companies claiming water is a "cheap filler" and so they don't use it. (I wonder if this is disingenuous and just a roundabout way to getting around using preservatives?) I was really turned off by that concept. I know a lot of companies avoid making water based products because they want to claim that everything is preservative free - which is fine, but that doesn't mean that water is useless... ah, preaching to the choir, lol.

When making lotions, I do heat and hold the water and oils and add anything heat sensitive in the cool down phase. I also use distilled water. Evaporation is an issue. Not sure there's much way around that though.

Thanks again for another informative post!

Leslie Dimond said...

Water and water chemistry is so cool! I had an entire class on it in school.
Love your