Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What interests you? Can we make an anhydrous body butter that doesn't block pores?

In the What interests you? post, Lucy asks: Is it possible to make an anhydrous body butter type product but that does not block pores? Would sucragel work? 

Here's the question - what does it mean to block pores? I think a general idea is that something is in the pore of your skin keeping it from doing its normal skin things and could lead to a pimple or blackhead. Do anhydrous products - those made from oils and butters without water - block pores?

Let's take a moment to take a look at a few ideas about how our products work. There's nothing wrong with occlusion - a layer of something on your skin intended to prevent your skin from losing water, a process called transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Occlusion is the reason we make our skin protecting products like balms, lotions, creams, butters, and so on. We want a layer of something nice on our skin to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. So if we want occlusion, why do some of us not get along with oils, especially on our faces?

I think what we're talking about here is comedogenicity, which means that an ingredient or product causes the formation of comedones (blackheads) in a relatively short period of time. Blackheads form when the outer layers of our skin do not shed properly and the hair follicle is blocked. The blackhead part comes from the oxidation of fatty acids on the surface in the skin.

So when it comes to the idea of blocking pores, what we're worried about is something entering our pore and causing problems, because we really don't care if something enters our pores and causes awesome things to happen, like cleansing. I'd like to re-define this question to be about the comedogenicity of certain ingredients and how that might affect our skin. Is that okay? (Yeah, I know, I'm picky about language!)

Here's the problem - there are a lot of questions about comedogenicity of ingredients, some arguing that the scale is pointless because (a) they were established by testing ingredients on rabbits' ears, which aren't the same as human skin and (b) they are only considering the ingredient in isolation, and don't take into consideration how ingredients interact in products. For instance, something like IPM is 3.6/4 when on its own and 1.3/4 when combined with mineral oil. Is an oil more or less comedogenic when combined with in a smaller quantity in water than when put into a butter? (The only way to know is to do some tests...)

As for using the emulsifier Sucragel AOF to make it less pore clogging, I'm sorry, I really have no idea. Sucragel can create oily gels when used with an anhydrous product, so it's worth a shot, but I've found those gels to feel a bit sticky when used as a leave on product.

To get back to the original question, yes, we can make loads of anhydrous products that don't block pores or aren't inherently comedogenic. They create an occlusive layer, which is something we want to keep our skin from losing moisture through transepidermal water loss. To see if you can use an anhydrous product without running the risk of breakint out, you will have to test each ingredient to see how your skin reacts. Yeah, I know that's not the answer anyone wants to hear because it takes effort and the risk of having horrible break outs for a bit, but I think everyone reading this blog can point to an ingredient that wasn't supposed to bother your skin that caused a huge break out on even the most resistant skin. (Shea butter is listed as 0, but even a tiny bit on my glove in the workshop can make me break out! I have a huge spot on my chin right now from the so-called non-comedogenic shea butter!)


Mich T said...

Wow. So this is the first time I'm learning that body butter can block pores. Maybe that's why I keep on getting this spots on my arms...

Zink said...

I put more faith in anecdotal reports than rabbit ear studies, e.g. for acne, reading that several people break out from shea butter (you're not alone) is much more relevant to me that it's c-index.

Ideally you'd run your own studies on treatments, starting with very different ones, e.g. your active in a anhydrous vs hydrous solution.

Lucy Townsend said...

Hello Susan,
I'd like to ask you a question on workshop design if I may... You've written about the benefits of storing materials before in the fridge and/or freezer before...
I'm converting a corner of my kitchen into a workshop and probably only have room for one under-counter fridge or freezer....which do you think would be the best to get? I'm going to be making most products with oils and butters and surfactants... I will probably also be making whipped butters...do I need a freezer for this or could I use a fridge?
Many thanks for advice..