Monday, December 5, 2016

Presents for crafters: Mixing and measuring

I know it's only a few weeks until Christmas and Hannukah (and my birthday, hint hint), so I thought I'd share some ideas for presents you could get for bath & body crafters or yourself. (I encourage you to look at this post on presents for crafters from 2014 as I have many more ideas there and figured I shouldn't repeat myself...)

I've added to my mixer equipment this year as I found this Minipro mixer at Lotioncrafter, which is powerful enough for my small batches. I tried a milk frother from Bed, Bath & Beyond and it wasn't powerful enough, which is why I'm recommending this one specifically.)

I've been using it quite a lot for making gels, like the ones you'll be seeing shortly using Sepinov EMT 10, and I love it for that purpose. It's a great little machine for your smaller batches, and it cleans up really easily.

You can get any hand mixer you want for our products, but I am having a love affair with my new 9 speed Kitchenaid hand mixer. It has all kinds of attachments - beaters, whisk, dough hooks, drink mixer - so I can mix pretty much anything I want!

I have a few different mixers that range from my mom's mixer we bought when I was a kid to the Hamilton Beach I have with those neat mixing blades covered in silicone ( link). Any of those are great for mixing your products. I'm just in love with the drink attachment you get with the Kitchenaid hand mixer because it can work as a propeller mixer for things like Sucragel AOF or Sepimax ZEN gel.

As an aside, I keep referencing Sepimax ZEN and Sepinov EMT 10, but I haven't discussed it yet. I'm hoping to get to it in the next few weeks as it's my new Saturday night thing when it comes to thickening things like decyl glucoside or making easy gels. I wrote an e-zine for my Patreon subscribers with information and recipes if you're interested in learning more before I get to that series. 

You know I love the beaker set I just purchased from a hydroponic store with beakers from 5 ml - which is just adorable! - all the way up to 1 litre. I use these all the time in the double boiler as they're heat tolerant, and when making cool products, like gels or body washes. There's never not an opportunity to use beakers, and I cannot recommend enough getting a set with one of every size from 100 ml to 1 litre.

You can find a set at Lotioncrafter, which I own and love. If you're in Canada, check out to find this set of 50 ml to 250 ml or this set of 50 ml to 1000 ml.

I love Erlenmeyer flasks as they're heat tolerant and they reduce evaporation when we heat and hold our lotions and potions. You can get all kinds of sizes, but I have found the 100 ml, 250 ml, and 500 ml to be the optimal sizes for the smaller batches of products I make.

You can find a great set of smaller ones here at  or this set of 5 from (and both will ship in time for Christmas)

I love these tri-corner beakers (from Lotioncrafter) for heating and holding as well as making smaller batches. They clean up really well, and they seem to last forever! (You've probably seen pictures of them all over the blog - I bought a set from Lotioncrafter four years ago, and I'm still using the same ones!)

You need a digital scale that can weigh as little as 1 gram to make bath & body products for accuracy, but if you want to make things like facial products that require a titch of this and a bit of that, you'll want to invest in a digital scale that weighs lower than 1 gram. I love this Salter diet scale I bought from London Drugs for $34.99 or, if you want to splurge, this Escali Professional lab scale at for $109!

There are so many places to get a scale that weighs tiny amounts. Look at jeweller's scales, epoxy scales, and completely legitimate
drug scales as options. (I will share that my epoxy scale that was supposed to be safe from spills and such died violently after a bit of resin spilled on it. This disappointed me greatly.)

I've never ordered from this company, but Canadian Weigh has loads of options! 

Those little pH strips you get from our suppliers' shops are okay for getting an estimate of the pH of your product, but they aren't going to help you when you're trying to measure the pH of that alkaline body wash with decyl glucoside or your facial cleansers with AHAs.

I love my Jenco Vision Plus, model 630, but there are loads of other ones that you can love as much as I do. I found a few when I went into my local hydroponics store last week and saw they had some really fancy ones that would work well for less than $100. Lotioncrafter has a very nice one (but they won't ship outside the US for this item), and you can find tons on Amazon.

Related post:
A crafter's Christmas list (2014 edition)
Creating products: Equipment (part one)
Creating products: Equipment (part two)
Equipment for measuring pH

Please note: Clicking through the links takes you to the shops at which you can find the thing about which I'm writing. These aren't affiliate links, and I don't benefit in any way if you click through or buy anything at that shop. These are offered as informational links only for you, my lovely readers. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Weekend Wondering: Measuring in drops?

I'm still working my way through my e-mail and comments. I'm currently on Novemer 19th for comments and in early November for mail. Thank you for your continued patience. 

In this post, Preservatives, tafchk asks: How do you know how many drops to use for a given percentage please?

The short answer is that we don't use drops in our recipes or products, so I don't know that information.

We don't use volume measurements like drops for our ingredients - like preservatives, cosmeceuticals, essential oils - because it's simply too inaccurate. Is that drops from an eye dropper, a large eye dropper, a large or small pipette, an orifice bottle, a dropper bottle like the picture, and so on? Drops aren't the same out of each container, so to tell you that 10 drops of liquid Germall Plus is equal to 0.5 grams would be completely wrong because that only applies to my eye dropper, pipette, or bottle.

Viscosity plays a huge part as well. Every oil is slightly different than the next, so to say that every essential, fragrance, or carrier oil is x drops to 1 gram is incorrect. Avocado oil is much thicker than fractionated coconut oil, and you'd end up using too much or too little even if we were using the same dropper.

Lest you think this isn't a big deal, there are a few huge problems you'll encounter if you want to measure in drops. The first is accuracy. If you're dealing in drops for essential oils, you could be using too much or too little of what you want. You might be adding too much oil to a lotion, which can throw the emulsification out of whack. Or you could be adding too little preservative, which can lead to icky contamination. All of these are concerns when you're measuring by volume or other inaccurate methods.

The second is scaling up. It's not the worst thing in the world to measure out 20 drops in 100 grams of lotion, but do you want to measure 200 drops in 1000 grams of lotion, a reasonable size for a batch?

The third is the ability to duplicate what we've done before. If you measure out 10 drops of something, are you sure the next time you make it you'll use the same dispensing method and same vicosity ingredient to end up making the same awesome product?

By using grams, we ensure we get exactly how much we want in a product and can duplicate it again. You can convert those drops in a recipe into weight by measuring them on a scale and making a note of how much you used. You might need a tiny scale - see tomorrow's post for information on those - but it'll be worth your time to figure it out.

As an aside, I know there are standardized measurements in different fields like pharmaceuticals and medicine for what constitutes a drop, but those aren't applicable to cosmetic chemistry. And even then I couldn't find information on a standardized measurement that works for every possible oil. 

Related posts:
Why we weigh our ingredients
Weight vs volume

Friday, December 2, 2016

Weekday Wonderings: How to get a gel without using synthetic ingredients?

In this post, Oil free moisturizer, Tim asks: I'm thinking of formulating a completely water-based soothing moisturising gel using natural/nature-derived ingredients. So far I'm thinking of Honeyquat for the humectant as well as a marshmallow glycerine extract a bit of extra humectant and as the emollient. The rest of it would be something like a camomile or other soothing hydrosol with additional water added. I'm just wondering what gelling agent/thickener you would suggest to get a similar consistency to the common Aloe vera gels? I'd like to stay clear of Ultrez-21 and other synthetic thickeners.

Aloe vera gels that we buy from our suppliers is not a natural gel. It's aloe vera liquid combined with something to create a gel, like a carbomer or other gelling agent.

Most of the time, aloe vera gel'll have an INCI like this one  INCI: Aloe Barbensis Leaf Extract (and) Aqua (and) Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Cross-Polymer (and) Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate (from Voyageur Soap & Candle) or Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (and) Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (from The Herbarie). So it's aloe vera liquid and Ultrez 20, a carbomer or gelling agent that I like to use quite a bit, mixed together to make a gel.

You could make a gel with my new favourite gelling ingredient, Sepimax ZEN, as seen in the picture above, which can handle aloe vera and all its electrolytes much better. I promise I'll share more with you about this ingredient shortly. There's just so much to write about and I'm trying to catch up on comments first! 

You can find some gels, like this one - INCI: Aloe barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Sclerotium Gum, Gluconolactone, Sodium Benzoate (from Ingredients to Die For) - that contain other gelling agents, like the sclerotium gum, but there is always a gelling agent in the mix. Otherwise, you're buying aloe vera juice that is a liquid.

As an aside, I've seen "aloe vera gel" sold at some suppliers, but it's very clear that it's a liquid, not a gel. I'm talking about ingredients that are thickened like gels that contain aloe vera. 

You have some choices in how to gel your products - carbomers, Sepimax ZEN, Sepinov EMT 10, xanthan gum, sclerotium gum, guar gum, and so on - and I'm not really sure what to suggest to you. It's hard to make any suggestions without knowing your exact ingredient list, so my suggestion is to write up your recipe, get the ingredients, have some fun in your workshop, then record the results. You can do some research beforehand to learn a few things that might conflict, like honeyquat as a cationic with xanthan gum, to save you time and money!

I have to be completely honest with you when I say I haven't found a gum that I like. I have found they feel sticky and a bit snotty on my skin. (I'm not trying to be mean; this is one of the words used to describe xanthan gum). I'm working with guar gum quite a bit lately, which I definitely prefer to xanthan gum, but I'm still not in love with it the way I am with Sepimax ZEN or Sepinov EMT 10. Gels aren't inherently sticky; it's what we add to them that makes them that way. Keep that in mind as you work with the your recipe!

I know my lovely readers will have some suggestions for you, so I'll open the floor to them: What would you suggest for making a gel without using synthetic ingredients for Tim? 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Weekday Wonderings: Did my oil turn my lovely body butter brown?

I'm slowly working my way through the comments you've left me over the last few months, and I'll be posting those I think would appeal to a larger audience over the next little while. If you have a question, please comment on a relevant post, regardless of how old it might be, and I'll do what I can to answer it!

In this post, Pumpkin seed oil: A whipped butter, Adele asks: This is my favorite body butter, but I saw that in time (after 2 weeks of use) it turned its color from light green (due to the pumpkin seed oil which was unrefined cold pressed) to a more brownish color, which I don't like. What can be the cause? Oxidation or the temperature (which was above 20 Celsius degree in the room I kept it)? Thank you!

I love this recipe so much, so I'm glad someone else loves it, too!

There are so many reasons a product can change colours, and most of them are pleasant and okay. For instance, in the picture above, a tiny change in oils changed the colour. Add something like sea buckthorn or rosehip oil that has a very orange hue, and you'll have yourself a darker coloured product. Add something like fractionated coconut oil or squalane, which are colourless, and you've got yourself a clear or very white product. Something like unrefined hemp seed oil could make something quite green, and so on.

We see this a lot in extracts. Powdered rosemary extract has coloured this shampoo a deep green, something you can avoid by using a clear, liquid extract instead.

This is the risk in using botanically derived ingredients: A different climate, a different growing season, a different soil, and so on can lead to very different colours from the last batch you bought. In general, if you see a brown or green colour in the ingredient, it'll show up in the product. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you were looking to make a colourless, clear shampoo with green tea extract or a facial cleanser with grapeseed extract, you'll be sad with the end result. (I love the colour of that cleanser so much!)

Fragrance and essential oils can have a huge impact on the colour of our products. These body washes are the same with the exception of fragrance oil, and look how one is almost red-orange with the other almost clear. You can get an orange-y tone from citrus based ingredients and a brown-beige from using vanilla.

Related: My article in Handmade Magazine: Understanding the Vanillin Villain

In the case of your green oil turning brown, I think you're right - there's oxidation going on, but it's not a horrible thing. You could add an anti-oxidant like Vitamin E to slow down that process, you could use a more refined, less coloured oil, or you could keep it in a cooler place.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Point of Interest: Preservatives!

I'm so happy when I hear people want to use preservatives, but a few questions have been posed to me lately that I thought required a blog post. Preservatives are ingredients we add to our products that contain water soluble ingredients or will be exposed to water. They prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, yeast, and fungus. (Click here for more information...) Without a good broad spectrum preservative - one that works for all kinds of ick! - your product has a shelf life of 3 to 7 days.

Polysorbate 20 is not a preservative: It's a solubilizer that will help you incorporate small amounts of fragrance or essential oil into your product.

Propylene glycol isn't a preservative: It's a humectant that draws water from the atmosphere to our skin. It acts as an anti-freeze, reducing the freezing point of water and water soluble things in our products, making it easier to ship things in cold weather.

Stearic acid isn't a preservative. It's a fatty acid that we find in our oils and butters that makes them thicker, as well as a thickener we can add to our lotions.

Preservatives are ingredients like liquid Germall Plus - INCI: Propylene glycol, diazolidinyl urea, and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate - or Germaben II - INCI: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, and Propylparaben - or Phenonip - INCI: Phenoxyethanol (and) Methylparaben (and) Ethylparaben (and) Butylparaben (and) Propylparaben (and) Isobutylparaben - or Optiphen ND - INCI: Phenoxyethanol (and) Benzoic Acid (and) Dehydroacetic Acid - and so on.

If you'd like to learn more about preservatives, I encourage you to check out the section of this blog on that topic, or check out the comparison chart if you want some quick information. It's a fascinating topic, and one that will keep your products safe and effective!

Related topics:
Why do we need preservatives in products containing water?
Preservatives: How the heck do they work?
What you need to know about making products (part one)
What you need to know about making products (part two)
Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant, not a preservative
Packaging and preservation

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Newbie Tuesday: Modifying your facial cleanser into a foamer bottle recipe

Two weeks ago we talked about adding chemical exfoliants in our cleansers: Today we'll look at turning them into foaming facial products using these cute foamer bottles.

Sorry for being a week late on this. As you know, things have been pretty awful around here and we're still trying to figure out how to do everything that needs to be done in a day, and the blog was a casualty of the chaos. 

Foamer bottles require a very thin product, generally one that's about 2/3 or 66% water. Most of our recipes have about that level of water, so it's simple to add a bit more and call it a foaming cleanser! And we generally don't want a ton of extracts as they can precipitate back into a powder and clog up the tiny tube that pumps the cleanser.

Check out this post on adding aloe to our facial cleanser. These recipes would all work in a foamer bottle the way they are f you aren't thickening them, but I'd encourage you to modify them slightly by reducing the surfactants and upping the water. For the normal skin recipe, I'd reduce the surfactants to around a total of 15% and increase the water amount. You'll notice here that I added some rose water as it seems to be all the rage right now. If you don't have it, just add 10% more water to the product.

5% LSB
5% BSB
5% cocamidopropyl betaine
3% glycerin
3% cationic polymer - I like polyquat 7
2% hydrolyzed protein of choice
0.5% liquid Germall Plus

56.5% distilled water
10% aloe vera liquid
10% rose water or rose hydrosol (or just add more water)

Add all the surfactant phase into a container and warm slightly to make it easier to mix well. Add the cool down phase, pour into foamer bottle, and you've got yourself a lovely facial product!

The recipe we find here in a post on modifying your recipe to be in a foamer bottle is a great choice for a foamer bottle with just a few modifications.

Remember: Anything water soluble and liquid is considered water for our purposes. So in the next recipe, we have 45% distilled water, 10% aloe vera, and 25% rose hydrosol for a total of 80% water! Yes, the glycerin, protein, cationic polymer, and preservative are water soluble too, so really, you have a grand total of 87.5% water soluble ingredients. The problem is that the glycerin, cationic polymer, and preservative are thick and aren't helping with the idea that we want a really liquid product, so I tend not to include them in my final tally of the amount of water in my product.

45% distilled water
5% C14-16 olefin sulfonate (Bioterge AS-40)
5% disodium laureth sulfosuccinate
2.5% cocamidopropyl betaine
10% aloe vera liquid
25% rose water, chamomile hydrosol, rosemary hydrosol
3% glycerin
2% hydrolyzed protein of choice
2% cationic polymer, like polyquat 7

0.5% liquid Germall Plus

Add all the surfactant phase into a container and warm slightly to make it easier to mix well. Add the cool down phase, pour into foamer bottle, and you've got yourself a lovely facial product!

5% BSB
5% cocamidopropyl betaine
5% glycerin
3% cationic polymer - I like polyquat 7
2% hydrolyzed protein
0.5% liquid Germall Plus

59.5% distilled water
10% aloe vera liquid
10% rose hydrosol (optional)

Add all the surfactant phase into a container and warm slightly to make it easier to mix well. Add the cool down phase, pour into foamer bottle, and you've got yourself a lovely facial product!

In any recipe, reduce the surfactants to 10% to 15%, add water to make up the difference, you've got yourself a foamer bottle of awesome facial cleansing!

This isn't to say you can't use the awesome power of powdered extracts in your foaming facial products, but I would suggest using a little less - say 0.25% instead of 0.5% - or find some liquid extracts that'll do the same job. For instance, this liquid green tea extract from Lotioncrafter or this willow bark extract from Formulator Sample Shop could easily take the place of your powders.

You can see how much I love powders in the picture to the left. My bloody looking grapeseed extract foamer bottle cleanser has all the awesome power of grapeseed from a powdered extract.

Lest you think foamer bottles are a waste of time - they're a great way to present a surfactant mix that you don't want to thicken or one that refuses to do so.

Related posts:
Weekend Wonderings: How do I turn a recipe into a foamer bottle recipe?
Modifying the low foaming facial cleanser to be a foamer bottle recipe
Facial cleansers: Foaming bottles
Facial cleansers with tons of extracts
Formulating a facial cleanser good for lash extensions #1
Formulating a facial cleanser good for lash extensions #2
Creating a foaming soy cleanser
Creating a foaming rice cleanser
Creating a foaming protein cleanser

If you'd like to play along or if you've missed a post, here's a listing of the complete series...
Newbie Tuesday: We're making facial products! 
Shopping list
Equipment list
Let's start making facial cleansers! - Your skin type
Surfactants - what are they?
Meet the surfactants
pH of our surfactants
Facial products - the base recipe
Turning your cleanser into an exfoliating cleanser (part one) - physical exfoliants
Turning your cleanser into an exfoliating cleanser (part two) - physical exfoliants
Turning your cleanser into an exfoliating cleanser by adding chemical exfoliants

Join me next Newbie Tuesday as we take a look at toners, then the week after that when we dive into creating gels. After that it's your favourite and mine, oil based facial serums and moisturizers!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

New e-zine! It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I've just put out my Christmas e-zine - It's the most wonderful time of the year! - filled with all kinds of ideas for Christmas presents, like wax tarts, whipped butters, bath salts, lip balm, and more! (Click here for the table of contents! or click here to buy!)

I put these e-zines or short e-books of 25 to 40 pages out every month for those who subscribe at my Patreon page for $10 or more. Then the next month, you'll see them here for purchase. I'm also basing some of the classes I'm offering at Voyageur Soap & Candle around the e-zines like the Gels: Ooey Gooey Fun class and the Bath Time Fun Class! I am doing a Christmas gift class, but it's sold out. (Get in touch with Voyageur to get your name on the waiting list or to see if we can offer another one before Christmas!)

Take a look at all the e-zines available in this link!

I've just issued a men's products e-zine - This isn't your father's shaving book (part one) table of contents - to my $10 Patreon subscribers. If you join Patreon today, you'll get a copy right away. Otherwise, that'll go on sale in mid-December.

If you'd like to know more about being a Patreon subscriber, click here.

As a note, all the money raised by the sale of these e-zines and Patreon goes directly to me and my family. The proceeds from the e-books still goes 100% to the youth programs my husband and I run called Rated T for Teen. I really wanted to make that distinction. 

Thank you for your continued support of this blog! You're all so awesome!