Monday, November 25, 2013

What do you want to know?

I'm getting ready to write a week of Newbie Tuesday posts to go with my whole "it's Christmas, so here's how you make things" and I wanted to incorporate some of the things you want to know into the series. One of the really fun things about teaching is learning from participants what they want to know, right then as they make the products, and I thought I could work with some of those questions you have on the blog.

You don't have to be a newbie to have questions! (In fact, I think I have more questions now that I'm an experienced formulator, but I feel more confident in where to find the answers!) What do you want to know about making your own products? Questions about ingredients, substitutions, processes, equipment, and so on are all welcomed.   If you're stuck on how to make a double boiler, what oils can be substituted for other oils, or how to heat and hold, ask the question! Remember - there are no stupid questions, only questions not asked!

In the meantime, I'm gathering together posts that will offer more information to newbies and veterans alike on the process of making products. If you want to run ahead, may I suggest you start with the creating product series, which I developed more for newbies, or the formulating lotions and creams series, which I developed more for experienced lotion crafters. (In either case, hit "newer post" at the bottom of each page to move to the next entry.

I can't wait to see what you want to know!

Oh, and please subscribe to the post so you can see my questions, comments, or answers. People are asking questions that require a follow up question for me, and it means your question will go unanswered! 

These pictures are from my class at Voyageur Soap & Candle. The top one is of the classroom, and the bottom is of the shop from the classroom. I love that place! 


Wendy said...

I have wanted to make a setting lotion for a while now and my question is: What is the proper way to make a setting lotion for hair? I've found that the majority of the product is water with water soluble emollients and conditioning agents. I've reviewed several recipes on your blog and the 'Cream Rinse with Various Goodies' recipe seems to be the closest product to a setting lotion (based on ingredients).

Thanks, Wendy

Katie Ziegler said...

I've been wondering what would happen if I used two complete emulsifiers together in one formulation.

This came up because I was looking at your emulsified scrub, and it calls for 10% emulsifier. I use Olivem 1000 [INCI: Cetearyl Olivate (and) Sorbitan Olivate], and the recommended usage only goes up to 8%. I haven't been able to determine whether that's a safety issue or a general recommendation. So I was thinking about using 8% Olivem 1000 and 2% BTMS-50. But I didn't know if doing that would cause some kind of catastrophic failure.

I've also wondered if I could alter the skin feel of my creations by combining BTMS-50 and Olivem 1000. BTMS-50 lotions are too powdery for me, but sometimes I want something drier than I could get with the oils/butters I've come to love and Olivem 1000.

I considered just trying it out, but for the past few weeks my chronic pain has been worse than usual, so I'm having trouble with thought of spending a couple of hours on something that could fail spectacularly. I was hoping that you had tried to mix complete emulsifiers at one point or had heard about other people's experiments.

Lynae said...

I'm just starting out and love your mix of both natural ingredients and the more confusing and acronym-laden chemical ingredients. But I am a little overwhelmed with all the possibilities. If you had to pick just 5 or 6 specialty ingredients that most of us had to order instead of buy at a grocery or craft store, what would you pick?

deedee sugar said...


well i would love to know if i dont have a scale that can weight less than 1 gram. Can I use the 0.5 teaspoon to measure the allantoin and other powder ingredients with the same amount. thank you :-)

RAH said...


I know you love cetrimonium chloride and you have included it in many of your hair products however, I live in London and I can't get hold of it, what can I replace it with? Also, what is Incroquat CR, WHAT CAN I replace this product with?

I have frizzy hair and loving making my own shampoos at the moment. The conditioners have been disaster so far.

Thank you for taking the time

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of things i'm interested in learning about.

1) I'm interested in making teas to put in lotions for the water portion but i'm not sure if there are things to watch out for with this replacement or if you have to do anything different with preservatives.

2) have you ever made or thought about making hair sprays?



F. C. Brooks said...

Hi, I'm finding so much invaluable information here. Thank you for all the hard work you put into this resource. My question has to do with the heating and holding part. It sounds important and useful how exactly can you control the temperature to keep it stable for 20 minutes?

Lauren said...

I would love hear your opinions on an acne spot treatment. I'm trying to formulate a recipe, and so far have:

39% Apple Cider Vinegar (infused w/calendula, marshmallow root, and rosemary)
30% Lavender Hydrosol or Witch Hazel
19% Calendula Extract/Tincture
5% Willow Bark Extract (mostly because I have more Calendula ext. than willow bark)
0.5% Essential Oils (Tea Tree, Lavender)
0.5% Green Tea Extract (powdered)
0.5% Tinosan

My math is probably wrong on that but that's the gist.

Sue said...

Hi Susan, To make the most of this fantastic opportunity of asking us what we would like to know, I've been searching my brain for something to ask (as there are so many things to ask), and while working in my workshop this morning it came to me!!! How do I incorporate sodium carbomer with water properly? I always end up with some tiny and some not so tiny lumps that I just can't mix in, and it's very frustrating!!! Thank you for your fantastic blog!!!! So much information, there's not enough hours in a day for me to go through it properly...

Jodi said...

Hi Susan,

This is what I would love to know:

1. Would a lotion bar with harder butters or stearic acid work as well as lotion bars with beeswax? Is my skin getting extra benefits from the beeswax?

2. What do you think about making a whipped butter and adding a starch like tapioca powder or Natrasorb? How would this add to the butter?

3. Finally, why did I buy lanolin? I have some and am not sure how best to use it!

Thanks for your thoughts!


Jodi said...

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!

lucy townsend said...

How do you determine best before dates?

Lauren said...

It would also be great to see a post on the oil cleansing method and a recipe for oil!

Marjo said...

I would like to know
(waw.. this post is almost a holiday wishlist to me ::
- what are the boundaries of the additives phase? i mean how far can or should you go in the cooling phase with adding things without breaking the emulsion?
- Why can fragrance oil be added later on.. does it not ' sweat' out of the endproduct for it is non emulsified oil? i have some drops floating on lotions if i add fragrance oil
so i tend to add the fragrance oil to PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil just in case but still am wondering abouthow this works
- can one make a toner just with quats and water?
- i have amazing trouble to make a salve with the consistency of vaseline eg petroleum jelly i would be gratefull if there will be some salve/balm receipes
(not the balm-tin-anhydrous ones but just a bit... more salvy) :)
- i threw away the babyoil that said : may cause serious injury upon ingestion or inhalation. I replaced it with sweet almond oil.. IF i would add fragrance... a tiny bit
would it be an option or better idea to use a flavourfragrance?
- i would really like to make a face/bodyMILK i have just finished the sprayable conditioner now i have BTMS50 (finally) and i see i can go from there to a milj.. but it is always nice to see a real swiftproof product walkthrough so.. i would be curious to see a milk like consistency here on the blog! :)

Thank you in advance and for writing this blog and sharing your knowledge!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Wendy! Can you please link me to a few different products with ingredient lists so I can see what these products are supposed to be? I've done a few searches, but it's a lot of work to try to figure out what you are thinking about when you talk about this product! Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Katie! I'm writing about your question for Wednesday's What do you want to know post. The short answer is that you can combine these emulsifiers!

Hi Lynae: I've written a few posts with your questions, including Tuesday''s What do you want to know post . I hope I don't enable too much with that post!

Lauren said...

Oh, and also, I posted it on a different post but you may not have seen it. I'm really interested in what actually makes whipped butter whipped. Are we changing the molecular composition of the oils? Just incorporating air? What changes does it go through, and does it effect it negatively, if it is whipped then is melted back down?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Deedee! I'm answering your question on Wednesday for the What do you want to know post.

To everyone...I'm working my way through the comments one by one, answering one or two per day, depending upon how long the answers are! I'll update this thread every time I write a new post!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lauren. I'm answering your question as a Chemistry Thursday question this Thursday, December 12th. Look for it then!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi RAH. Could you share a recipe here or by email to me at so we can troubleshoot it?

Michael Baldwin said...

Susan, first, great blog, it is a blessing, and a curse to my checking account. I make CP soap and figured why not try other things, and that is when I found you. Second, this might help out a reader. I was looking for Incroquat Cr to make a leave in conditioner/detangler for my girls. the only place I could find it in the states is at The Herbarie. Looking for something else, I came across Natural Hair Conditioner Flakes from Elements Bath and Body, INCI: cetearyl alcohol, PEG-40 Castor Oil, stearalkonium chloride. Looks the same to me, and Elements says they ship world wide. I have not done business with either company, but thought I would toss it out there for people. what I did end up using, because I found it first was Hair Conditioner Concentrate from Wholesale Supplies Plus with an INCI of Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Stearalkonium Chloride. Not sure what the PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil brings to the mix, even after reading your post on it. Either way, out of the three different leave-in conditioner/detangler formulas I have tried, 1% BTMS-50, 1% Hair Conditioner Concentrate, and 2% Hair Conditioner Concentrate with 2% cetac, with 1% FO and water to 100%, all have worked better on our girls' hair than anything we have purchased in the stores. Hope that wasn't to confusing. We have received comments on how clean and nice our girls' hair looks and stuff, even though we still use the same old cheap store shampoo every other day on them. The detangling is not quite where I want it yet though, but I have some more ideas in mind to try. All of that to basically say thank you for the information you give on your blog so freely. Now on to what I would like to know.

When formulating stuff for kids' skin/hair, is there much difference in the process? I have three girls 3, 5, 7, oh and one unknown on the way. I am hoping that learning this now will save me money when they are teenagers, and really start to be concerned with how they look for the boys. I can tell them "nope, you do not need that $100 per ounce crap, daddy will whip something up very similar". my thoughts are that it should be made for sensitive skin, promote skin elasticity, because of them growing, and protect the skin/hair from damage. Do you think I am on the right track here? Would it be possible to do a post, or a series of posts on formulating for young developing skin/hair? Or, are some products not suited for kids no matter how it is formulated? Okay, I know shaving and after shave products would not be needed for kids, but talking like toners, and a separate facial wash and stuff. Not sure they would need a scrub of any kind, but then again, maybe there skin could benefit from a very gentle exfoliation every so often. to define kids, I am talking about 5 to 12 or so. I was thinking on this after I was thinking how nice a toner would be for my 7 year old after gymnastics practice. Something for a quick clean, but relaxing and gentle before bed when there is not time for a full bath/shower.

Oh, and before someone wants to turn me in for cruelty to animals, oops, kids, I do test everything on myself or my wife before letting it near my kids.

Anonymous said...

okay, this is a bit lame, but...

1. do you get bad reactions to certain colours of product?
....eeeew! that's GREEN! (etc etc)
2. is white the default setting for "posh" products?
3. what are the smelliest ingredients and how do you disguise that?!
(neem oil is a classic....!)

thank you for everything. You are a STAR!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Nicole! I'm answering your question on Wednesday, December 11th as the What do you want to know post. The short answers are that I haven't made hair spray and please don't use infusions in your products!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi FC Brooks! I'm answering your question in Friday, December 13th's What do you want to know post. The short answer is you are so right that heating and holding is vital and there are many different ways to do it! The long in the post! Thanks for the question!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lauren. What's your goal with this product? And have you tested the pH. It looks fine so far, but take into consideration that the vinegar smell could be really awful for some people (like me). Does the vinegar do anything for acne prone skin?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sue! Which carbomer are you using? Let me know so I can figure out if I have it and maybe make a little video to show you?

Antonio said...

Hello Sue,
I've been looking for a deodorant gel formula that I can scent with my favorite fragrance oil, I believe your formulations are for deodorant bars unless I'm missing it. Do you have any suggestions?
I find our blog as an amazing resource for newbies keep the good work!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jodi! I'm answering the first of your questions about beeswax on Saturday, December 14th. What great questions you've asked! Look for the answer then!

Lynae said...

Thanks so much for answering my questions! I love your blog. I do have a followup that I bet other people have confusion about too. When adding ingredients by weight, how do you know if the original recipe called for powdered or liquid ingredients? and is there a guideline for converting? I believe you use panthenol in a liquid form but I have some powder. 2g of powdered panthenol is quite a lot, seems like a lot more than 2g of liquid would be. I also have a question about powdered extracts, like the chamomile you show. Do you add them by weight as well, or do you dissolve them in some water? I used some calendula that ended up making my lotion gritty and want to avoid that.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lucy! I'm answering your question as the What do you want to know post for Tuesday, December 17th. The short answer is that it's about the shortest lived ingredient.

If you want to read more before the 17th, check out the frequently asked questions section on shelf life of products (scroll down) and you'll see some posts on the topic.

Melissa said...

What do you think about Elderberry OS? It claims to be antimicrobial and literature on LotionCrafter claims it passed the challenge test. In my quest to understand preservatives, do you think this is a good one, or one worth experimenting with?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jodi! I'm answering your questions on Sunday, December 15th and Monday, December 16th. The short answers? You bought lanolin because it's awesome and adding a starch will make the butter a little stiffer and drier feeling.

Hi Lauren! I'm starting a four part series on the oil cleansing method on December 18th! Click here to see it (on or after the 18th). Thanks for bringing up this topic!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Marjo! I'm answering your questions over a series of days, with the first being on Sunday, December 22nd with the first one about how much to include in the cool down phase!

Great questions, everyone! Keep them coming!

Beth McMillan said...

I'm trying to make a lotion bar using shea butter, coconut oil and jojoba wax. I tried a 1:1:1 ratio, which I found left the bar too soft to keep its shape, but still too draggy and unpleasant on my skin. Can I fix this by changing the ratios of the ingredients, or should I change the wax? I completely adore your website, by the way.

Marjo said...

Oh! Cant wait, i may have asked some ignorant questions .. (Pardon me if i did!)
Thank you susan! And this new series is great!
Kind regards//

Sophia said...

I just came across your blog a week ago and was wondering if you had recipes for light face lotions or hair heat protectant. They have always been hard to find and I still haven't found a good recipe.

Agne said...

Hi Susan,
I want to make a lip balm with honey, glycerin, and cocoa powder. Can you give a suggestion how much emulsifier should I use and how to incoporate all ingredients together? Thanks!

Leann said...

I was given some Myristic Acid. I know this is a fatty acid used in medical products and food. It can increase absorption is what I've found in searches but is there any way you could elaborate on its practical uses in formulating bath & body products? Thanks

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Marjo! I have a series on making body milks planned, starting on Monday, December 23rd that will go over 3 or 4 parts! What a great suggestion for a topic! And then I'll get to your other questions!

Hi Sophia! If you do a search for moisturizers or look under the label "facial products", you'll find a lot of moisturizer recipes. As for heat protection for hair, I haven't made anything that can claim this as I would hate to make this kind of statement and find out that it doesn't work for heat protecting! You can use silicones for those reasons.

Anonymous said...


Do you ever use Tamanu, Moringa, or Baobab oils? It seems like I keep reading a lot about them, but didn't see anything on your blog. I love your blog by the way. It got me started!!! I made some shampoo and conditioner and I am hooked. Thanks for all the work!!!!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Michael! What a great topic! I'm trying to do these comments in order, but I need to do more research for your question. Plus, it's generating a lot of posts! You are completely on the right track. All the information I keep finding is about protecting sensitive skin and preventing water loss. As they get older, around age 10, we need to start thinking about oil removal and acne products.

But I'm working on this and would love to hear your thoughts about the topic! What else are you thinking? I suspect it will take me about four weeks to finish researching, try a few products, and write some posts on the topic!

As an aside - and I'm sure you've heard this before - there are not one, but two!, classic British characters with your name. One is from the Monty Python Australian sketch, the other a long time Cockney speaking, factoring owning, womanizing character on Coronation Street!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lynae! I'm answering your questions on Monday, December 23rd (liquids vs. powders) and Elderberry OS, so I'm afraid I can't comment on it. It looks like it is good as an anti-fungal, but notes it has to be combined with other preservatives to create a broad spectrum one. It's anhydrous, so it'd be great in scrubs, but what other preservative could you combine with it in that capacity, I wonder?

I might try some new preservatives in the new year, but it will take some time to test them out and, as usual, my anecdotal experiences aren't really that applicable to other people's products! Here's the data sheet on this product. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll put it on the to do list for 2014!

Hi Beth! If you take a look at this post Back to Basics: Lotion bars, you'll be at the start of the lotion bar series I wrote a while ago. If you click "newer post" at the bottom of each page, you'll see the tweaks we made to the bars, including changing the oils, waxes, and butters. I hope this is helpful.

Hi Agne! Why do you want to incorporate those things into a lip balm? What does each ingredient bring to the lip balm that you like? I don't think you want to use an emulsifier in something that you are going to taste on your lips all day, so you'll need to use something like lanolin or lecithin to incorporate them. Here's a lip balm recipe that will give you some ideas on how to incorporate liquid things into lip balm. Please don't use cocoa butter - it won't incorporate well and it is a magnet for contamination! Instead, find a nice chocolate flavour, if that's what you want!

Anonymous said...

First, thank you very much for your fantastic oils comparison chart. I have been obsessing over it and am currently adding some of my own notes to use as a quick reference for my projects. I have been searching for reliable information on Walnut Oil, and am wondering if you have formulated with it or have a good source that i could use? My goal is to find out what its components are and what it can do in a product. similar to what you have pulled together in your chart, but i'm having no luck finding that kind of detail. I would be grateful for your input. Thanks so much!

melian1 said...

i was wondering what actually happens to the cool-down phase ingredients when they're added during a hotter phase? for instance, dimethicone is a cool-down phase ingredient. what actually happens to the dimeth and/or it's qualities if it is added at, say, 150F (65C)? i know the emulsification works ok and the stability doesn't seem to be affected (over a year period). but what happened to the dimeth itself?

Anonymous said...

Hi susan, why is it that when I add even 2% of Sodium lactate (pH 6.8) or sodium PCA (pH 7) or 0.5% Sodium hyaluronic acid, it instantly destabilizes my emulsion with 4% Emulthix (from lotion crafter) as the sole emulsifier? The emulsion using just 20%rice bran oil, 4% Emulthix and the rest with water is nice and stable until the addition of the above ingredients. Just makes it watery, and increasing the amount of Emulthix up to 6% does not help either!
Emulthix INCI Sodium Polyacrylate (and) Dimethicone (and) Cyclopentasiloxane (and) Trideceth-6 (and) PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone

as always, thank you for your time.

d.anaya said...

Hi Susan... my question is:

If we follow your recipes as they are only changing the butters and/or oils but keeping the quantities as is wouldn't they be considered safe for public use? Given your experience and expertise I'm curious why you still recommend we have them tested.
Thank you so much for your consideration of my question.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

An update - I have been answering questions, but forgot to post the links here...

* Marjo's many questions on December 30th
* Marjo's question about toners on December 31st
* Sue's questions about smells and colours on January 2
* Leann's question about myristic acid on January 3rd
* Leann's question about walnut oil on Monday, January 6th

Keep those questions coming. They're so inspirational!

2014 said...

My family hate products that doesn't get absorbed right away. So my question is what can we do to make products absorb faster? IPP, IPM?

Anonymous said...

I am so very excited about this series and am so thankful for your willingness to share your knowledge.

When I first started making anhydrous products, my opinion was that they were the best possible thing for my dry chapped winter hands and dry feet, and that lotions would be better for me for summer. My logic was that if some oil is good then more oil is better, and I viewed water as a filler or a means of diluting the oil if you don’t need that much of it. After reading a lot if your website, I'm starting to wonder if there isn't more to it than that. I know that commercial companies want to save money so they reduce the oil and add thickeners back in, but does water have a special role that I’m overlooking?
The inspiration for this question is that I was pondering humectants. I understand that humectants draw water from the air into your skin. So do they work better if there is water in the product to draw into your skin right away? Does a humectant in a lotion work better than in an anhydrous product (I’m thinking olive oil here, with natural humectant properties) What is the full role of water in a lotion?
Again, thank you for the time and energy you spend on your blog. It is so refreshing finding something this valuable on the internet.


Bonstergirl said...

Thank you so much for sharing all this information. I have a couple of your books, and I've been reading your blog, and I've learned SO much! But there's something I'm having a hard time wrapping my hear around.

What exactly is a conditioner, and how is it different from a moisturizer?

Kateri said...

Hi Susan,
Here's my wondering. Say I'm looking to formulate a hair product for high shine, as an example a conditioner. Out of all our wonderful ingredients we can add, that add shine, is there one key ingredient that brings to the table the best result to leaving hair shiny?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi d anaya! Hi Bonstergirl! I've addressed your questions in today's Weekend Wonderings.

D Anaya: the short answer is that we test to ensure we don't have contamination in our products. My products are definitely safe.

Bonstergirl: The short answer is that conditioners go on our hair, moisturizers on our skin, and they can be the same!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi eeting. I'm afraid I have no idea how to use Emulthix, so I'm thinking you'll have to refer your question to Jen Welch at Lotioncrafter and see what she says. (She is great at responding to our questions!) Sorry I can't be more helpful.

Hi 2014! Do you really want products that absorb faster or products that are less greasy or light feeling? I'm wondering if you want to know about penetration enhancers or just a feeling of being less greasy.

Hi Nicole! I'm addressing your question on Monday, January 13, 2014. The short answer is that water is essential for helping our skin maintain hydration. It's definitely not a filler!

Thanks for the great questions!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Kateri! Your question is scheduled to be one of the Weekend Wondering questions for Sunday, January 12th. The short answer is that there are loads of ingredients that can offer shine!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan and thank you for all your wisdom you are sharing!

I'm looking for a natural/ecosert kind of presarvative that I can use for my creams and lotions, sugarscrubs and also for use in surficants with a high ph up to 11.4. (liquid castille soap wich I want to dilute with water)
I've looked everywhere but I cant seem to find anything.
Can you help me with this please?

Thanks, Tania Nicholls, The Netherlands.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tania. Have you visited the preservative section of the blog. I take a look at a number of preservatives, including three that are ECOcert.

Lauren said...

I'd like your advice on some recipes I'm thinking about that use clay. I recently made a really simple face "wash" (recipe below. Really more of a toner, but it seems to work well for me as a wash). I like this base and want to take it a step further by making it into a thin cleansing lotion. Do you have any advice on this recipe?

70% Aloe Vera Juice
20% Witch Hazel
5% French Green Clay
2% Green Tea Extract (powdered)
1% Lavender EO
1% Calendula Ext.
0.9% Willow Bark Ext.
0.1% Silvereon

Also, I recently saw a face moisturizer that included 4 different clays as a "primer" moisturizer. After reading the reviews on this product (a lot of comments that it makes their skin feel smooth), I'm interested in experimenting with clay in a moisturizer. Have any thoughts on clays in moisturizer?

Anonymous said...

I have "backne" (break outs on my back) and I am allergic to beans (ie: guar, castor, lupine, argan, jojoba) and tree nuts (ie: coconut, walnut), so some supposedly "hypoallergenic" ingredients are off limits for me. Trying to formulate a non-comedogenic shampoo and conditioner without these allergens has been tricky! I haven't been able to find comedogenic ratings for surfactants, but I suspect the bigger issue is formulating surfactants in a way that they rinse off completely without residue. Also, any ingredient I've tried with a comedogenic rating over 0-1 has caused me to break out more. Perhaps there is no solution, but any thoughts or suggestions would be helpful:)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Wendy! I realized I never addressed your question, so here it is, over a year later. So sorry about that! I'm writing a post on the topic that should be on the blog on Monday, January 19th, 2015. Again, so sorry about the delay!