Thursday, September 5, 2013

Duplicating products: My process

Two of the more popular posts on the blog are the Duplicating Products: Lush's After Life moisturizer (part one) and (part two) posts, and one of the more popular topics is how to duplicate products. I'm not planning on getting into duplicating products for the blog again - although I'll always post those I'm working on to give you some ideas for what you might do at home - but I thought I'd give you some ideas on how to do it on your own.

I hope I've offered you enough information on the blog to learn about your ingredients, to give you some ideas on how to use them, and to support you when you're experimenting and feeling a bit nervous. I really can't stress enough how important it is for you to get into your workshop, kitchen, or lab and play with the ingredients because you can't know whether to include cetearyl alcohol or cetyl alcohol unless you know the difference between the two ingredients...and the only way to know that is to play with them in different products!

  1. Get the complete ingredient list. 
  2. Look at what each ingredient brings to the product. 
  3. Figure out what's really important and what's there for label appeal. 
  4. Figure out how much of ingredient to use. 
  5. Create a starting recipe in percentages. 
  6. Make the recipe, then tweak it to get the skin feel and viscosity you want. 
The first step is to get the complete ingredient list. You can't do much without this. I always check a few different places - the product's website, although those are almost always unhelpful, and bigger sites like,, and so on - to make sure the list is correct. You can get this from the side of the bottle or from the store with a quick click of the camera!

Step two is to look at what each ingredient brings to the product. Take a look at every ingredient and ask what it is doing in the product. Something like an oil is probably an emollient, something like "...paraben" is a preservative. If you don't know what an ingredient does, look it up. On this blog, I have a list of ingredients on the right hand side as well as sections about groups of ingredients, like surfactants, emollients, humectants, and preservatives, to name a few. If you can't find something on that list or can't remember what section you might find it, do a search. (I search this blog all the time. I know it's big, and I try to categorize things as I can, but it's still a really handy way to get around!)

Related posts:
Newbie Tuesday: Learning about our oils and butters (start of the series.) If you're new to bath & body products, I really encourage you to follow along to learn more about our emollients!

Where do I get my information? (research related post with my resources)
How do you know when to add an ingredient?
How do I know how much of each ingredient to include in a recipe?

Step three is to figure out what's important in the recipe. We want to think about the skin feel, the viscosity, and what skin benefits each ingredient brings to the mix. Consider what's in there just for label appeal and what's really benefitting your skin or hair. Things like infusions of something are generally there to sound pretty, but there are also benefits to using chickweed extract (for instance) that might be good in one ingredient but pointless in another.

Step four is to figure out how much you're going to use of each ingredient.

Step five is to figure out a starting out recipe in percentages and try it. Remember that this is only our starting point. I have no idea what the skin feel or viscosity of this product might be as I've never tried it, so I'm trying to come up with a recipe that will work as a prototype so I can see if I'm on the right track. You'll be lucky to come up with a duplicate the first time you try it, but making it will give you an idea of where to go next.

Related posts:
Newbie Tuesday: Learning how to read a recipe and convert it into percentages

If you are new to the product - for instance, if you've never made a conditioner before - please please please don't try to create your own recipe for your first go. Seriously. You will drive yourself insane, and drive me insane in the process as you ask questions. You need to know the product and your ingredients before you can even ponder the idea of creating a recipe. So please, find a recipe that works for the kind of product you want to make, and make that. Then tweak it.

Related posts:
Why are you trying to make recipes from scratch?
How can you tell if it's a good recipe?

Step six is to tweak the recipe to get the skin feel and viscosity you want. If you make this, try it out and see if it matches what you want in a lotion. How to tweak it? That's up to you! I have some ideas in this post on formulating, but you're the one making the product, so you have to be the one who tweaks it!

Related posts:
Duplicating products, the series. Start with this post, then scroll to the bottom and hit "newer post" to see the next one. 

I hope I've given you a little insight into the process I follow when I'm considering duplicating a product. As you can clearly see, knowing your ingredients is such an essential part of the process!

Join me tomorrow as we work a little bit more on the gel liner sealant product!


Aljonor said...

Thank you for this information it is very helpful for me.

Chant de la Mer said...

Hi Susan,
I've been working on figuring out what was in my son's lotion, not so I can duplicate it exactly but to see if I can make one at home that would have similar qualities. I think I've gone as far as I can on my own as I simply haven't as much experience. Don't worry I"m not trying to formulate a crazy complicated lotion for my first attempt, for now it's just a mental exercise until I get some more lotion making experience under my belt. But in the spirit of learning I thought I'd share what I had so far and see what you might be able to add. This is an eczema creme, very thick like a butter but squeezable from a tube, with colloidal oatmeal. I've gone through all the ingredients and learned a few cool things!
8% Shea Butter
2% Cetearyl Alcohol*
2%Cetyl Alcohol
2%Isopropyl Palmitate
6% Glycerin
?% Glyceryl Stearate*
3% Hydrolyzed oats
2% Tomato Seed oil
2% Black Cumin Seed oil
2% Raspberry seed oil
2% Cranberry Seed oil
?% Cetearyl Glucoside*
0.5% Tocopherol
?%Glyceryl Dilaurate*
1%Caprylyl Glycol (preservative)
0.1% Xanthan Gum
Sodium Phytate (chelating agent, booster)
Ethyhexylglycerin (preservative carrier, also used as an ointment for eczema!)
Citric Acid (preservative booster)
Potassium Sorbate
I have starred the items I think are the likely emulsifiers and they can also be used as emollients/esters and if I ever make this lotion at home I would remove them and try with polawax as I have no experience with HLB nor can I get some of them. I would also remove some of the exotic oils and substitute something like sea buckthorn oil, evening primrose oil, or squalane as being good for dry skin as well as available to me.

So basically what my question boils down is this: have I got reasonable proportions and have I correctly identified the emulsifiers? Again, I'm not planning on making this anytime soon, just want to see if I've learned anything. Thank you so much for sharing everything on this website, this little exercise has helped me really learn and remember information but I couldn't have done it without the resources available here!