Sunday, January 11, 2015

Weekend Wonderings: Why are you using willow bark in a rinse off product? Do we need preservatives in our cleaning products? Why doesn't handmade soap make a good shampoo?

In this post, Experiments in the workshop: A 3-in-1 that might be good for swimmers, Marg asks: Can you explain your thinking on adding white willow bark extract to your 3 in 1? I love that product, and use it in my aftershave lotion to soothe tiny nicks or scrapes, but not sure if its purpose in a rinse-off cleansing product. 

I've always used willow bark extract in my body washes because it increases mildness, offers anti-inflammatory properties, and makes the product feel more astringent. It is a keratolytic, meaning it behaves as an exfoliant, which is the main reason people use this ingredient. I use it in a lot of rinse off products - like this facial cleanser - because I can't handle it on my skin for a long period of time, like in a toner or moisturizer. I can't find the reference now - I have looked for quite a while this morning! - but I read that it can be used in a cleanser as it doesn't need to be on the skin for long, hence its usage in my cleansers as well as toners.

Related posts:
White willow bark: Formulating skin cleansing products

In this post, Preservatives: What can get into our products?, Thalia asks: I also make my own cleaners using distilled water, vinegar, castile soap, baking soda and borax. I wonder if I should also include preservative when I make those. I don't want to spray beasties on my countertops when I'm supposed to be cleaning them. Would cosmetic preservative work in my cleaning mixes?

Yes, a cosmetic preservative will work for your product, and yes, I would use one if I were you. Every time we use water, we need to include a preservative because things can grow in our products. I think it's even more important in a cleaning product as we are using that to clean up, not spread around even more problems! I use 0.5% liquid Germall Plus in my products, and that seems to work well.

Related posts:
Preservatives section of the blog
Using d-Limonene in your cleaning products

In this post, Shampoo: Formulating with greener ingredients? Laura asks: Would it work if I made some castile soap and added panthenol, and silicones, and phytokeratin--to make a shampoo? I'm wondering if castille could work as the surfactant. Then add other things to make it into a shampoo. Would the castille lose its lathering ability? Any insight?

I write at length about why we don't want to use soap as a shampoo in this post, so I encourage you to visit that post, but the short answer is that the pH of a soap is far too high for our hair and scalp. We want our hair care products to be from 5 to 6 or so, and the pH of a castille soap is always above 8, which is far too alkaline. Most of us using any cold process or handmade soap as a shampoo will find our hair feels brittle or very tangled or generally in poor condition. Adding those lovely things your hair likes, like hydrolyzed proteins and panthenol, aren't going to make a difference to your hair if the pH is out of whack.

To those of you who want to use castille soap as a shampoo, I'm asking the question - why? What is it about castille soap that is so appealing as a shampoo? I get asked this question once a week, and I'm just curious why castille for a shampoo? Why not another liquid soap? Why not another type of solid soap? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Join me tomorrow for more formulating fun with niacinamide!


coriander said...

I think that Dr. Bronner may be the reason why so many people want to formulate shampoo with Castile soap.

I mean, c'mon, it's Magic!!

Alexis said...

A true castile soap has only olive oil as the oil. Today's labeling has become rather lax for castile soaps since I've seen some with no olive oil. I suppose they're just considering the oleic acid content of oils when no olive oil used. The lore occurs because all those lovely skin and hair benefits of olive oil are supposed to follow when it becomes castile soap.....

Having used true castile soap, its physical appears is different from other soaps, whether the olive oil is saponified with NaOH or KOH. It wasn't a favorite of mine, but some love it.

Melanie said...

I think the reason people want to use soap in general and Castille soap in particular is because of greenwashing. They think it is more natural and therefore better for you than shampoo. It is the logical fallacy called the appeal to antiquity. In other words "if it is old or people have been using it for hundreds of years it must be good." Which of course is false. And it is not that "natural" or good for you either. It is made with lye - a caustic chemical that will burn through your skin. That doesn't seem more natural or safer than some nice cocamidapropyl betaine derived from coconut oil which will be gentle on your hair!

Vicki said...

For me, it isn't Castile soap, per se, that is so appealing. It's the simplicity. I love the fact that I can make something with just two ingredients and have a soap that really works and is good for my skin. It just seems that the same should be possible for hair.

Anonymous said...

I do get what you're saying about CP soap being too alkaline for a shampoo. However, its all I use and I love it. I wash my hair only every other day and I follow up my wash with a citric acid rinse every other time. So the rinse comes about once a week. My scalp doesn't itch anymore, my hair is shiny. The only thing I have noticed sometimes is that it can have some static. I am assuming that is because my ions are out of whack (still learning from your site!) The reason I wanted to do CP soap is because it is so basic and I know where all the ingredients come from. That being said, after consuming your blog like its my air for the last week, or so, I have learned that the ingredients I always thought were unnatural and "chemically" are derived from the same ingredients in my CP soap. Who Knew?! Granted, they do go through more processing, but still naturally derived. I can hang with that. So, I have decided to begin experimenting with my own shampoo bars, lotions, facial moisturizers, emulsified scrubs and as many other products I can think of!!! Thank you so so much for this wealth of free information!!


Bonnie in SJ said...

For the folks who want the simplicity of an all-in-one shower substance, I wonder about approaching it from the opposite direction: designing a shampoo that can also be used as a body wash. On trips, I've certainly used whatever trial-size shampoo I brought as a body soap, and nobody's skin caught on fire (ha ha) but I guess it is mostly about finding a balance between something that is friendly for hair vs. not unnecessarily washing nice ingredients down the drain when using more of it on our skin ... or finding a formulation that cleans "enough but not too much" for both skin and hair. Thoughts, feelings?

Anonymous said...

Before I got into shampoo-making, I was using baking soda to wash my hair, followed by diluted white vinegar as a rinse. It worked just fine, up until the cold weather arrived. My hair seemed fine, but my scalp started to itch. After switching back to shampoo, my scalp is OK again. In summary, I think it's fine to use soap or any other alkaline product, but it's just not going to be ideal, and the weather and your own hair/skin type will play a big role in whether you can get away with it or not.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Coriander! It is magic! Dilute! Dilute!

HI Anonymous. Sorry I had to delete your post, but we don't allow anonymous posts around here. To answer your question, check out the entry on fractionated coconut oil in the emollients section of the blog.

Hi Melanie! I definitely agree with you!

Hi Vicki! As you saw in the posts I wrote last week on shampoo, we can't make something simply with two ingredients for a shampoo as our hair is more complicated than just having a foamy thing and water. As you know, there is an actual chemical reaction happening when you mix your oil, water, lye, and other ingredients together to make a liquid soap, something that isn't happening when we make a shampoo. And I would challenge you that making a liquid soap is easy or simple! It takes some serious skill, math, and planning to make a liquid soap, let alone one that is awesome! :-)

Hi Bonnie! My 3-in-1 is intended as a body wash and shampoo. I use my shampoo bars as body wash and I use my body wash as shampoo all the time when I'm on holiday or at the gym!

Hi Scott! This is why these methods don't work for everyone. If I did something like that, my hair would be knotted like crazy! I think hair length, climate, temperature, hair type, and so on play such a big role in how we wash or cleanse our hair, and something like using baking soda - an alkaline ingredient - just doesn't work for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Melanie you need to educate yourself first in the chemistry of soap making. Lye saponifies the fatty acid chains in fats oils butters etc and after complete saponification occurs there is no lye left unless batch is not calculated correctly and this is easily tested with pH strips. so enough of scaremongering. The heat of the oven can burn your skin when baking but doesn't remain in the bread after it's cooked. Pure ingredients in hand crafted soap won't harm your health like the myriad ingredients added to bath and beauty products. that are banned in the EU but not in the US. You can have your cocamidapropyl betaine and any other harmful synthetic ingredients you wish to use. I'll stand by a good Castile soap any day.


B. said...

I think we can agree to disagree here. Some people will stand by their (castile) soap or baking soda as shampoo, whereas most of us have regular hair that cannot survive being attacked by alkali on regular basis. And while it's true that US allows many weird ingredients to be used in food and cosmetics that have been banned in EU, cocoamidopropyl betaine is not one of them. Nor is it harmful, or even that much more synthetic than soap (both can be made from coconut oil by adding "weird" stuff to it - I think that's what Melanie was referring to).
Anyway, to each their own - I don't go around putting down people who use soap to wash their hair (even though I find it bizarre to say the least), and neither should you put down "weird" ingredients just because they are not soap. How is soap less toxic or synthetic? It does not grow on a tree, nor can you make it with your bare hands... I don't think there's anything wrong with castile soap, I just don't want it in my hair.

Anonymous said...

I need to interject here. Melanie, Soap made from lye and fats is closer to natural than any syndet hands down. Cocamidapropyl Betaine (CB) may be derived from coconut oil, but it is farther from the source than a coconut oil soap due the to the processing it must endure to attain its final form. Soap is made with 3 ingredients: lye, fats and water (used to carry the lye), and lye is a very basic (see what I did there?) molecule of 2 ions: a sodium and a hydroxide. It's naturally found in wood or plant ash, which used to be what was used to make soap to begin with and is still used in the creation of Alata Samina (African Black Soap). Not withstanding, you can't use CB by itself. It must be paired with some other syndet, or other ingredients to make it milder to use. However, any single oil bar of soap can, with the exception of one: sodium cocoate, or coconut oil soap, since it's lauric acid content is considerably high, and is what contributes to the high cleansing power of this particular soap. Which is again, what CB is derived from.

As a soap maker, I've rarely heard of complaints of soap being irritating to the skin. Yet there are proven studies that CB actually does have a moderate irritation risk. Both being a type of detergent, only one of them is called a SYNTHETIC detergent.

Susan, while this is definitely a good discussion to have, and I totally agree with you, saying that you "definitely agree" with Melanie is saying your agree with her inaccurate comparison of soap vs a synthetic detergent, along with her portrayal of the "green washing" and the antiquity appeal of soap. Considering you have lots of soap makers who follow your blog, it's disconcerting to say the least. Maybe clarification is needed in this respect?


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Quick note: I agree that there is green washing going on...

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'm not sure what it is about the idea of washing one's hair with soap or talking about soap that gets everyone heated, but it seems like every time I bring up the topic, there's some hurt feelings going around.

Hi Melanie. There is no lye left in a soap once the saponification process is done. It is turned into another chemical that won't burn your skin the way lye might, something you'll know because the soap doesn't hurt your skin! Wikipedia has a lot of information on the topic, if you're interested.

Hi beautifulhunter. Where did you get the idea that cocamidopropyl betaine is harmful? I hate to say it, but you're accusing someone of scare-mongering, then you're doing it yourself, accusing a very very mild surfactant of being harmful. Why do you think castille is less "harmful" - and I put this in quotes because I don't think any of the ingredients we are discussing in this post are harmful in any way - than a surfactant? What does the soap do or not do that a gentle to mild surfactant can't?

Thanks, B for your thoughts. I really appreciate them. I'm getting closer to getting answers to the questions I posed in the post.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Christine. To be honest, I'm not really sure why we can't compare surfactants to soap. They both undergo a chemical process to become something else. The olive oil in a castille soap is no longer olive oil in the soap, and the coconut oil is no longer coconut oil in a surfactant.

I think of decyl glucoside, which, "is produced by the reaction of glucose from corn starch with the fatty alcohol decanol which is derived from coconut." How is that different than soap, in which "the triglyceride is treated with a strong base (e.g., lye), which accelerates cleavage of the ester bond and releases the fatty acid salt and glycerol."? That sounds like a pretty complicated process as well. I recognize that one can be done at home and the other in a lab, but does the way we define an ingredient depend on where the process happens?

I need to jump in on your comments about cocamidopropyl betaine. It is added to other surfactants to make them milder. It is very safe on its own and is considered a gentle to mild cleanser, more gentle than most surfactants, so it's not used on its own as it might not be cleansing enough. I've never seen a study saying cocamidopropyl betaine is irritating to skin - could you send me those links as I'd like to add them to the post. On the other hand, I have written about alkaline soap being irritating to skin - take a look at the studies in this post - so I don't think it's fair to say that surfactants irritate skin, but soap doesn't. (And if we're speaking anecdotally, I can tell you that handmade soap really irritates my face and scalp pretty badly! I guess I don't like alkaline things in my head area!)

I think greenwashing is endemic. I can't count how often I see an "all natural" shampoo that contains exactly the same ingredients as one in the drug store, but the natural one has "derived from" or the names of the oils and such after the names of the surfactants. This is so wrong, but people buy up the stuff in droves, so it's working!

These are just my thoughts. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I look at the simple process of soap making compared to how most syndets re processed to achieve their final form. Oils+Alkali=Soap. So simple, it can be done in a high school chemistry lab, from things found 100% naturally. Wood Ash+Home Rendered Lard=Soap. Even when using commercially acquired oils, most don't under undergo a chemical process to be extracted. Raw shea butter is hand gathered, washed, mashed and cooked by the women of Africa; same for the coco butter.
Olive oil is pressed, except for Pomace, which does undergo a slight chemical extraction.

Even coconut oil can be extracted from the coconut at home, if you have the time and patience to try.

The only thing in the entire process that I'm unsure of as far as how it's made, is the lye. For the life of me I can't find a "how stuff is made" type article or video on the commercial lye making process. But I'm fairly certain its lot simpler than how the constituents for syndets are made. In any case, you can still make your own at home, again, with hard work and ingenuity.

So I guess, comparatively speaking, soap is literally a natural substance that can be done at home 100% from extraction of ingredients to finished product, if you choose, or, at home after out sourcing those same ingredients. We can't duplicate the creation of decyl glucoside, or coco betaine. All in all, we can compare the 2, and each has their pros and cons. Never once was that implied that they couldn't be compared. But if we are to compare syndets vs soap, an understanding of what both are is needed. And obviously, Melanie lacks that understanding. And by the way, thank you for clarifying what you meant. Again, I do agree with you, soap is too alkaline for hair and there's plenty of info out there to affirm this, if folks are interested. But hey, if it works for some, more power to them. I personally have almost ruined my hair using my soap on it. Even though in the beginning, it made my hair look and feel nice.

As for my comments on the cocomidopropyl betaine (such a mouth full!), here's an example for you:
And while not the most scientific of sources, it stands to show that irritation to this ingredient is well known.

Most of the studies that you've linked, epecially the Sri Lankan study, don't indicate that alkaline soaps/syndets are irritating. Just that the acid mantel takes longer to regenerate after being washed away under alkaline conditions. The only think that presents irritation isn't even a soap, but a hair coloring product that uses hydroxide to severely open the cuticle of the hair shaft and allow colorant to be better absorbed. This is usully followed by a very acidic conditioner that comes in the kits.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying syndets are bad, and as I said, soap for hair isn't good, but eh, to each their own. I just find it wrong to try and compare the 2 when a person knows very little about one or the other.


Aine said...

Bonnie, I use shampoos as body washes all the time. I have a very sensitive scalp and have spent years and a lot of money looking for shampoo that works for me. All the extra shampoo has to be used for something.

On the other hand, I can't find a use for castile soap. I can't use it on my hair or body. I can't even use it to clean my bathroom.

Anonymous said...

Christine, are you aware of any "simpler", not-so-alkaline recipes for a shampoo? If so, I'd love to hear about them.


Responseblogger said...

Hi all: here's a question; in formulating a shampoo or body wash/ shampoo that is mild fir children and safe fir adults with allergies to: Methylisothiazolinine, Decyl glucoside ( yes, Decyl glucoside IS one of the NAS ( Noth American Series )skin patch test of 200 skin contact allergens ))

Anyways. Need to cut natural oils safely without stripping the skin off hands that are damaged due to Methylisothiazolinone preservatives ( Kathon CG, NEOLONE 950, mi, MCI, MIT)

What sudsing is available other than sodium laurel sulfate if we can't use Decyl glucoside ( and... Does anyone know if the use of coconut derived priducts might all flair or elicit reactions in finding highly allergic to Decyl glucoside? I'm stumped. I'm not a fan of the olive oil Castile bar soap. Smells terrible feels waxy. Big a fan of less is more ( I need to formulate with minimum ingredients as most will need non synthetic preservative and non fragrance - pure essential oil is possible) thoughts?

Rebekah said...

The Decyl glucoside post including need to not use synthetic preservatives due to multiple patch test positive chemical sensitivity to most synthesized preservatives... Is from me , Rebekah- I'm struggling to make only oil based anhydrous lotions- and avoiding beeswax ( allergy to propolis) and some reactivity to coconut derived ingredients ( due to Decyl glucoside over exposure from Burt's bees used for years? Anyways...
Shampoo ideas is at desperate level . Help

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rebekah! There are loads of other surfactants and preservatives you could use. Check out the respective sections of the blog to see the assortment from which you could choose!