Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A few thoughts on supplies...

Someone commented the other day that they don't have a full workshop of supplies like I do, and asked for suggestions for substitutions for those I used in a recipe.

I think you'd be surprised by my supplies. I don't think I have much more than you have in your workshop. I do buy supplies that don't really interest me at first - for instance, an emulsifier like Olivem 1000 or different preservatives - so I can share my thoughts with you on the blog. If I only bought the things that I use regularly, I'd have a few plastic boxes of stuff.

I buy all but a few of my supplies with my own wages from work - it's not like I'm getting tons of stuff for free. (Having said this, Voyageur Soap & Candle gives me a discount for the groups, and the Formulator Sample Shop has sent me quite a few interesting ingredients to try out for free.) Wouldn't it be lovely to get all kinds of stuff for free? But I do worry it would compromise my objectivity, so I guess it's a good thing.

My goal isn't to get to you to buy things you don't need; my goal is to teach you how to modify recipes for what you have. For instance, you'll notice my basic lotion recipes say things like "oil" and "butter", not this or that oil or this or that butter. That's because I want you to learn what your ingredients bring to the mix so you can modify my recipes or other recipes you find out there in the world. I want you to learn that when you combine macadamia nut oil and babassu oil you'll get a drier, less greasy feeling oil than if you combined soy bean oil and shea butter together. And although I can tell you those things, what does it mean to be less greasy or more greasy feeling? The only way you know that is by learning about your ingredients.

If you are going to make products with surfactants, I want you to find the two or three surfactants you love so you don't end up like me with tons of different ones in a box, only a few of which you love now and use regularly. (I admit it. I'm a surfactant junkie!) I want you to find one or two emulsifiers you really love. You will have to experiment to find out what those things are, and yes, that costs money and takes time. And it is totally worth it!

Don't buy huge quantities of things if you're using them for the first time. Think for a minute how much oil you'll use in a lotion. Let's say the recipe calls for 15% lotion. In a 100 gram batch, that's 15 grams. If you buy something like 250 ml or 8 ounces of oil, you're buying enough for 16.7 - 100 gram batches of lotion or something like 10 to 15 - 4 ounce or 120 ml bottles of lotion. If you've never used that oil, why would you invest so much money into it?

Or consider something like an emulsifier. If you buy a pound of it - 454 grams - and you generally use no more than 6% in a lotion, then buying 454 grams or a pound means you will be able to make 75 - 100 gram batches of that lotion! 75! Can you use 75 bottles of lotion in a year? I can give some away to my friends and family, but that's still quite a bit of lotion using only one type of emulsifier.

I know it seems tempting to buy greater quantities because it's cheaper, but if you buy 250 ml of oil and only use 50 of it, is it really cheaper than buying 100 ml? Think about the shelf life. If you buy something like a pound of cetyl alcohol, you can have it up to five years. Yeah, I think I can use 454 grams of cetyl alcohol in five years (90 grams per year). But oils can have short short shelf lives, some as short as three months. Will you use that ingredient in that period of time? (Having said this, you can freeze oils easily!)


Anonymous said...

Hi Susan!

This is such a great post and so timely! I feel like such a product junkie because I do BIG orders of stuff at a time just to try different things out. Then after I make that order I look for more stuff! I've easily spent over a $1000 in the last month just getting everything I thought I needed. It's a never ending cycle of mistakes, poor discipline, and an empty checking account lol. But I'm starting to get the hang of it through you and some other sources. I know now that I don't need EVERY oil known to man to make a quality product haha. Your blog did kind of jump start my habit though lol :-P

As quick side note- I attended a class thought by Gable Cosmetics' Steve Miller and he said Cocoamidepropyl Betaine is nothing more than bubble bath. He also mentioned it was quite difficult to remember, though he did share your sentiment that the more you add to a shampoo the milder it becomes. He recommended just using the SLES or the like. It's cheaper, can be used in high concentrations, is effective, and doesn't foam which less work for the customer/client. What are you thoughts on this? Just out of curiosity.


Clive said...

Maybe I can contribute something useful. CAPB is essential stuff, but there is one thing about it that I dislike. It doesn't produce proper foam, for me. It is small-bubble foam. When you use a lot, the foam quality becomes really poor; it goes 'stringy' like snot.
As Susan has said in many of her posts, SLeS is irritating above a certain amount. I use it in liquid soap but I won't use it in shampoo or facial cleansers; for those applications I prefer to go sulphate free.