Sunday, December 31, 2017

A look back at 2017: My new favourite ingredients (part one)

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I've more than 400 new ingredients - not including micas, colourants, glitters, fragrance oils, or essential iols - including so many new surfactants, surfactant thickeners, cold lotion emulsifiers, conditioners, cationic polymers, preservatives, humectants, silicones, esters, oils, butters, extracts & hydrosols, proteins, cosmeceuticals & complexes, emulsifiers, and more, some of which I have yet to inventory! I've been able to afford these things and the bins in which to store them thanks to the subscribers over on my Patreon page.

Here are a few new ingredients I enjoyed this year!

New favourite fragrance: It's a tie at the moment between Blood Orange & Goji Berry or Manchurian Dragon from Windy Point Soap. I'm also in love with lemongrass verbena (fragrance oil) and Charleston Sweet Tea from Voyageur Soap & Candle. 

New favourite conditioning ingredient: I am having such a love affair with Varisoft EQ 65 (INCI: Distearoylethyl Dimonium Chloride (and) Cetearyl Alcohol), a green, ECOcert conditioner that makes really soft, light, conditioners that don't weigh my hair down. It's a neat, albeit picky, substitute for Incroquat BTMS-50 or Rita BTMS-225 that needs to have the pH altered to work as a positively charged or cationic ingredient.

I think this might be the best cationic or positively charged ingredient I've found for fine hair. In the past, I've used one of the cationic polymers, like Honeyquat or polyquaternium 7, to create light conditioners, but this is my new go-to for that hair type now.

Related posts:
Do you need to measure the pH of your products? 

New favourite butter: That's a hard one, but I think I'm really enjoying cupuacu butter the most. It's a bit like mango butter, but not as dry feeling, and a bit like cocoa butter, but less stiff. It can hold a lot of water, which means it can be good for anhydrous products if you wanted to add a titch of glycerin or aloe vera.

I'll be writing part two shortly, but for now - what were your favourite new ingredients of the year?



Thursday, December 28, 2017

A look back at 2017: The stats

As we all do as December winds down, I've been thinking about this year.

I posted 187 posts on the blog this year as of December 28th. (Some of these overlap the Patreon posts, and I don't have the energy to figure out what is what, so I won't calculate the word count for this one.)

I posted 276 posts on Patreon this year as of December 28th. My average post length is more than 1,000 words, but let's use that as our measuring stick. This means I wrote more than 276,000 words for Patreon posts. If this was a published novel, it would work out to more than 1,100 pages. 

I put out 10 e-zines with an average of 30 pages in each (with this month's being the largest at 63 pages) - which works out to about 139,590 words. If this was a published novel, it would work to around 559 pages. 

Just those two sources brings me to over 200,000 words and almost 1,700 pages! 

I taught more classes than I can count at Voyageur Soap & Candle this year, and six classes at Windy Point Soap in Calgary. 

I taught a workshop at the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild's 2017 conference in Las Vegas, which was very kindly sponsored by Lotioncrafter 

And considering that writing this blog and offering classes is my new job as of November 15th, it's a good thing I love it so much! 

I started a Facebook page for the blog, and I have 1,638 likes. I started an Instagram page for the blog with 928 followers. I started a Twitter thingie for the blog, but I'm not posting much over there as I don't get much engagement. 

And I added more than 400 new ingredients - not including micas, colourants, glitters, fragrance oils, or essential oils - including so many new surfactants, surfactant thickeners, cold lotion emulsifiers, conditioners, cationic polymers, preservatives, humectants, silicones, esters, oils, butters, extracts & hydrosols, proteins, cosmeceuticals & complexes, emulsifiers, and more. (I'm not kidding!) 

Join me tomorrow as I take a look at some of my new favourite things! 

The December 2017 e-zine is here for my Patreon subscribers

I'm so excited about the December 2017 e-zine available to $10 Patreon subscribers all about oils & butters, something I've called Emollients you will love: new oils & butters.

Click here to see the table of contents.

It runs a whopping 60+ pages this month, including descriptions of oils & butters, updated oil chemistry, and new formulas using these lovely ingredients.

As well, I'm offering the newly updated oil and butter comparison charts, something not available on the blog any more. (See more about why I removed the charts in this in this post...)

As well as well, you get a 12% coupon for discounts for Lotioncrafter good for the month of December! (Thanks, Lotioncrafter!)

On top of all of this, all Patreon subscribers have access to the Patreon feed and my new blog, which you can find here, including duplicated formulas.

Thanks so much to my Patreon subscribers for supporting this blog and keeping it ad free, sponsor free, and affiliate link free! 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I'm on Facebook Live today at 1 pm PST!

Join me today at 1 pm PST or 4 pm EST on the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild's members discussion page on Facebook as we make some conditioner and talk about everything related to hair care products! I'm so excited! I love this topic so much!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas from Raymond, Sasja, and me!


A very merry Christmas to you and yours from Raymond, Sasja, and me. As you know, it's been a very tough year for our little family, but it's getting better, and you're a big part of that, my lovely readers. Thank you for supporting the blog on Patreon and our youth programs through the purchase of the e-books!

Whether you celebrate this day or not, we hope you're surrounded by people you love and who love you, loads of great fun, and tons of laughter. Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Schedule for sending out e-zines and e-books!

As we all know, Christmas is coming on Monday, so I'll send out the e-books for which you donate as soon as I can during the hours I'm awake until the evening of the 24th. I won't be sending anything out on the 25th or 26th, which is Boxing Day for those of us in Canada, as I'm spending that time with family and friends. I'll resume again on the 27th during working hours, usually 9 am PST to 5 pm PST.

Click here for a link to all the e-books and e-zines! 

Please check your spam or junk folders within 24 hours of your donation if you haven't received your materials yet. I attach them to email messages, which might get stopped by your ISP or email providers. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do to get them through as that's an issue at your end, but if you can get in touch to let me know something hasn't arrived, that'd be great.

Thank you all so much for continuing to support our youth programs, collectively called Rated T for Teen, this year! We've been able to offer so many new things this year, from working with wearable LEDs, decoden, and jelly soap in our craft program, How's that Made?, to buying a Nintendo Switch and Raspberry Pi for the video game club to buying all manner of new board games for our board game group! You're all so lovely!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Give the gift of knowledge!

If you can't think of what to get the crafters in your life, consider giving a gift card to a local supplier so they can take a class! There are so many reasons to take a class beyond learning formulas. You get to spend time with people who love this craft as much as you do and you get to talk about it for hours with them! You'll learn tips and tricks that can only come from experience, and work together to make something awesome. And you have a whole store full of interesting ingredients you can try without having to buy! 

I love teaching classes as it gives me a chance to connect with people who are passionate about making products and learn more about what interests them. I always learn something new in every class - a technique, a fragrance or essential oil blend, an oil and butter combination - and I always come home recharged from spending time talking about something I love so much!

If you're interested in classes with me, I teach at Voyageur Soap & Candle in Surrey, B.C., and Windy Point Soap in Calgary, Alberta. I'm afraid we don't have any dates yet, but I should have them soon! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Links to my articles in Handmade magazine

I realized I haven't posted any links to articles I've written in Handmade Magazine for a while, so I thought I'd share all the ones I could find to share here! I absolutely love writing about the chemistry of everything from hair care to essential oils to sunscreens, and I hope you enjoy reading about them!

Tips for a successful group fundraising (November 2017)
Degreasing and de-odourizing cleansers (October 2017)
Comparing preservatives (with chart) - September 2017
Solubilizers (with chart) - August 2017
The chemistry of hair care (May 2017)
Proteins in our products (May 2017)
Chemistry of bath bombs (April 2017)
The science of scent (March 2017)
All about natural (February 2017)
The chemistry of colour morphing (January 2017)
All salts are not the same (November 2016)
Understanding the vanilla villain (October 2016)
Fatty acids and rancidity (September 2016)
Science of SPF (August 2016)
Facemask fails from Pinterest  (July 2016)
Substituting oils in cosmetics & soap (June 2016)
Understanding pH balance in products (May 2016)
How do emulsifiers work? (April 2016)
Choosing a preservative (March 2016)
The science of citrus (February 2016)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mark your calendars: I'm doing a Facebook Live for HSCG members on December 27th at 1 pm (PST)

I'm super excited to be offering a Facebook live event in the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild members' discussion group December 27th at 1 pm PST (4 pm EST) on hair care products! I'm offering a live demonstration on making conditioners as well as taking your questions. What a great way to end the year, eh?

If you're a member of the The Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild, join me in the members' discussion group for an hour of formulating fun! Eee! So excited!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Question from Patreon: Why did this lotion fail? Part two - fragrance or essential oils and mixing

Yesterday, we took a look at how changes in oils and preservatives might impact a lotion. What else could be an issue here?

Fragrance and essential oils aren’t inert ingredients: We know vanilla can make things brown, but it can also thin out a product thanks to the vanillin. This is why we may have problems working with vanilla with polymeric emulsifiers (ones we can use cold) that contain a polymer, like Aristoflex AVC, or a gelling agent, like Sepimax ZEN or Ultrez 10, and surfactants. I used vanilla fragrance oil in this formula, and it remained stable, which is a good thing.

More information on this topic:
Understanding the Vanillin Villian (my article from Handmade Magazine
Did vanilla turn my lovely lotion brown?

Is anyone interested in learning more about the chemistry of how vanilla messes with gels? I think it’s really interesting, but I also wear molecular earrings and read chemistry texts in bed, so I can accept my opinion might be in the minority. :-)

What’s in myrrh essential oil? “The main chemical components of myrrh oil are a-pinene, cadinene, limonene, cuminaldehyde, eugenol, m-cresol, heerabolene, acetic acid, formic acid and other sesquiterpenes and acids.” (Reference) I’m not seeing anything here that should destabilize a lotion, so this is probably not the issue, but I can’t be completely sure as I haven’t used it in this formula.

More information on the chemistry of myrrh essential oil:
Compound Interest, chemistry of myrrh
Myrrh - COMMIPHORA CHEMISTRY
Chemical Composition of the Essential Oil and Supercritical CO2 Extract of Commiphora myrrha (Nees) Engl. and of Acorus calamus L.

The way we make the product can have a huge impact on how it turns out. For instance, Olivem 1000 needs to be stick blended, Simulgreen 18-2 needs to be stick blended then mixed with a hand mixer, and Varisoft EQ 65 needs to be stick blended only. It’s all about shear. Stick or immersion blenders are high shear, beaters on a hand mixer are low shear.

I have a drink mixer on my Kitchenaid mixer, and it’s considered a propeller mixer, which is why I bought it. It would be considered low shear. For this product, it shouldn’t make a difference, but I haven’t tried it with that attachment.

Having said this, Simulsol 165/Lotionpro™ 165 doesn’t have an issue with mixing with a hand mixer, stick blender, or propeller mixer, so I don’t think it’s that.

For more information on mixers:
Gift ideas for crafters - mixers!

After analyzing all of this, I don't think the essential oil, oil choice, or mixer is an issue. I think it's all about the interaction with the preservative.

Looking at all of this, what suggestions do I have for working with Simulsol 165/Lotionpro™ 165? I really don’t have much to suggest as it’s a fairly easy to use emulsifier that isn’t picky about how we mix it. It’s one of the ones I consider fairly foolproof in that we can alter the oil phase easily, switching out any oil for any oil, any butter for any butter, any oil for butter, butter for oil, and all of those things for esters or other oil soluble ingredients.

However, if you're using one of the harder to use preservatives, as we discussed yesterday, alter any formula with this emulsifier to below 30% oil phase.

What does this mean? The oil phase is everything that has to be emulsified by the emulsifier, meaning everything that's oil soluble in the formula, including oils, butters, esters, fatty alcohols, fatty acids, fragrance oils, essential oils, and other oil soluble ingredients, like vitamins, anti-oxidants, cosmeceuticals, and more.

In this formula, the coffee butter, oil of choice, cetyl alcohol, and fragrance or essential oil make up the oil phase. If my limit is 30%, I like to keep things below 29% to compensate for hand slips and such, which I did in the modification in yesterday's post.

If you were to use something like Ritamulse SCG with a maximum oil phase of 25% and you wanted to use this preservative, you want to make sure you're using no more than 24% to be on the safe side.

Related posts:
When lotions go wrong!
Why did my lotion fail? Loads of links here!
Why did my lotion fail? Emulsifiers
Why did my lotion fail? Emulsifiers continued…
Why did my lotion fail? Heating and holding
Why did my lotion fail? Optiphen
Why did my lotion fail? Water in oil emulsions
How to make a successful lotion

This post appeared on November 27, 2017, on my Patreon feed. If you'd like to see these posts three to four weeks earlier, click here for more information on my Patreon feed. $10 subscribers get an e-zine as well as discounts from awesome shops, like Lotioncrafterbut you can subscribe at as little as $1 a month to gain access to the feed.

Why sign up for Patreon? Because this is my full time job now, and your subscription helps me write more and experiment with more ingredients and equipment for the blog!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Question from Patreon: Why did this lotion fail? Part one - oils & preservatives

In the November 2017 Q&A on Patreon, Marta wrote, I made your Silken Vanilla Latte Body Butter (Simusol 165) a month ago without any substitutions and followed your basic lotion-making instructions.  All of my lotions emulsified with BTMS-50 have been stable (as of three months - when I began all this fun).  The body butter emulsion failed after two weeks.  What recommendations do you have for using Simulsol 165 (Lotioncrafter 165)?  

A quick aside: When I’m analyzing a product fail or helping you troubleshoot something, I always ask people for their exact formula in percentages and their exact process is because different hands make different things. Some people measure over, some under, but we never make the same thing twice. I also need to know the exact fragrance or essential oils used as that might alter the viscosity or ruin the product completely, as well as the exact preservative and amount used. I also need to know how you mixed the product as that can have a massive impact on what we make.

I hope these questions don’t sound like I’m trying to make the lotion fail someone else’s problem: I have to ensure that everyone who wants to make this product makes something they love. I know this formula worked for me in my home as well as in a class I taught at Windy Point Soap in Calgary*, but if it doesn’t work for you at home, then I need to re-evaluate it.

Marta provided more information, which you'll see after the formula.

SILKEN VANILLA LATTE BODY BUTTER (SIMULSOL 165)
HEATED WATER PHASE
43% distilled water
10% aloe vera
3% glycerin
2% propanediol 1,3
2% silk peptides
0.5% allantoin

HEATED OIL PHASE
15% coffee butter
15% liquid oil of choice
5% Simulsol 165
3% cetyl alcohol

COOL DOWN PHASE
1% vanilla type fragrance oil
0.5% liquid Germall Plus

Follow the general lotion making instructions.

Marta noted she made the following changes: She used coffee butter from Brambleberry, unrefined sweet almond oil from Lotioncrafter, 0.3% myrrh essential oil, and 0.7% Euxyl PE 9010.

This was Marta's process...
The weight of boiled, reverse-osmosis water was adjusted to give 100 g of formulation.
Followed your basic (lotion making) instructions on page 13 (of the Shiny Things, volume 1 e-zine) with the the following specifications:
1) poured heated water phase into heated oil phase;
2)  blended with KitchenAid mixer equipped with drink attachment on speed 4 for 10 minutes;
3)  mixed from time to time until lotion reached 113 F;
4) mixed 5 minutes after adding cool-down ingredients.
Packaged in a 4-oz natural HDPE tottle (w/ snap cap).  Perhaps the Lotionpro 165 requires faster (have a Minipro Mixer), longer blending?

Let’s take a look at a few things that might destabilize a lotion…

You’re using a different type of coffee butter than I used in this lotion. At Windy Point Soap, the coffee butter is INCI: Hydrogenated soy oil (and) Coffee arabica seed oil (and) Tocopherol.

At Brambleberry, the coffee butter is Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond), Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Seed Oil

The hydrogenated vegetable oil and hydrogenated soy oil are such similar ingredients, I don’t think they’ll make a huge difference.

What about the sweet almond oil? I’m not worried about that as this formula can handle using whatever oils you choose.

Preservatives can have a massive impact on the stability of a product. We’ve all heard that some of the Optiphen preservatives, like Optiphen (INCI: Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol), Optiphen ND (INCI: Phenoxyethanol (and) Benzoic Acid (and) Dehydroacetic Acid), and Optiphen Plus (INCI: Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid), can curdle lotions. But what about Euxyl PE 9010 - INCI: Phenoxyethanol (and) Ethylhexylglycerin? Yep, it can be a picky bugger, too.

From the awesome Jane Barber of Making Skincare: "NOTE – caprylyl glycol which is in mikrokill COS, Jeecide CAP-5 and the optiphens can destabilise if your emulsion system is fragile or on the edge even if added at cool down.  Caprylyl glycol has an HLB of 7.5 – if you are using the HLB system to tailor make an emulsifier, you should include this item as well as Ethylhexylglycerin (HLB 7.5) if you are using Euxyl PE 9010 in your HLB calculations...Also for stability add a gelling agent like sodium polyacrylate."

Again, from Making Skincare, "Euxyl® PE 9010 ...INCI: Ethylhexylglycerin (oil soluble and soluble in glycerin) and Phenoxyethanol.  Do not use this preservative with water soluble oils or high load of surfactants. Use level: 1.1% cool down phase.  Not very water soluble so needs glycerin in an aqueous solution. Note: Ethylhexylglycerin can destabilise your emulsion if your emulsion is fragile or on the edge so do include it in your HLB calculation.  pH range: up to 12 (but more likely up to pH8)."

So what does this mean? It sounds like using Euxyl PE 9010 in this formula would require a gelling agent, like a carbomer, somethine like Sepimax ZEN. As well, you will want to use it in the cool down phase and mix with it glycerin as it's not very water soluble. It notes that it can destabilize the emulsion if it's fragile.

I know this lotion works using liquid Germall Plus, but it sounds like it might be too fragile for Euxyl PE 9010. What can we do about that? Simulsol 165/Lotionpro™ 165 likes an oil phase of up to 30%. I've used it and have seen it used many times at higher than that, but if we're using a preservative like Optiphen or Euxyl PE 9010 that can destabilize lotions, we should ensure we are well within the guidelines of the emulsifier.

We have glycerin in the formula, but it sounds like we should move that to the cool down phase to mix with the Euxyl PE 9010 and use 1.1% preservative.

Let's see what that modified formula might look like. I've altered the oil phase to be less than 30% by removing 5% of the liquid oil and adding that back to the distilled water amount so we have a formula that continues to add up to 100%. I'm adding 1.1% Euxyl PE 9010 preservative, so I have to remove 0.6% distilled water to get us to 100%.

SILKEN VANILLA LATTE BODY BUTTER - SIMULSOL 165 AND EUXYL PE 9010
HEATED WATER PHASE
47.4% distilled water
10% aloe vera
2% propanediol 1,3
2% silk peptides
0.5% allantoin

HEATED OIL PHASE
15% coffee butter
10% liquid oil of choice
5% Simulsol 165
3% cetyl alcohol

COOL DOWN PHASE
1% vanilla type fragrance oil
1.1% Euxyl PE 9010
3% glycerin

Follow the general lotion making instructions.

Are there other things we should consider? There are! Join me tomorrow for part two of this series...

Related posts:
When lotions go wrong!
Why did my lotion fail? Loads of links here!
Why did my lotion fail? Emulsifiers
Why did my lotion fail? Emulsifiers continued…
Why did my lotion fail? Heating and holding
Why did my lotion fail? Optiphen
Why did my lotion fail? Water in oil emulsions
How to make a successful lotion

This post appeared on November 27, 2017, on my Patreon feed. If you'd like to see these posts three to four weeks earlier, click here for more information on my Patreon feed. $10 subscribers get an e-zine as well as discounts from awesome shops, like Lotioncrafterbut you can subscribe at as little as $1 a month to gain access to the feed.

Why sign up for Patreon? Because this is my full time job now, and your subscription helps me write more and experiment with more ingredients and equipment for the blog!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Series from a question from Patreon: What's a cosmeceutical? What's an active? And how much can we use of these things in combination? Part four - considering a formula

Let's analyze a potential formula here to see if I can include all the ingredients I want. In yesterday's post, we set out a list of things to consider when making something, and I'll review that after we consider all our products...

If I were to make an oil free gel for my rosacea prone skin, what ingredients might work together?

1. Niacinamide and n-acetyl glucosamine: I'm using this combination to help reduce sebum production and increase hydration in my skin by boosting production of hyaluronic acid. I know niacinamide needs a pH around 6, so that limits the other ingredients I could use.

I can't use most forms of Vitamin C as they generally need a more acidic pH, but I might be able to use tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is an oil soluble version, as it doesn't need a specific pH level. I could also use magnesium ascorbyl phosphate as it doesn't need a lower pH. I couldn't use AHAs as they also need lower pH ranges, although I might be able to use something like a fruit acid complex that can handle a pH of 6.

Related posts:
Adding Vitamin C to a product
Chemistry Thursday: All about acids

2. Hydrolyzed protein: I can't use this ingredient in most gels as it'll break down the viscosity, so I can't use this with Sepimax ZEN, Ultrez 20, or Aristoflex AVC, to name a few. (It might work with Siligel, which can also handle pH 2 to 11, so that's an option.) I like this for the film forming properties, but I might be able to get the same effects using something like sea kelp bioferment or seaweed extract, so I'll keep that in mind.

3. Panthenol: I love this as a humectant, film former, and wound healer*, and it's pretty much compatible with any gelling system I might like to use.

Eek, wound healing is a claim, so you can't say that about a product. But given I'm not selling it and I'm making something for me, I'm allowed to consider those kinds of claims. 

4. Sodium lactate: I love this humectant for my oily, acne and rosacea prone skin as it's not sticky, and it's very effective. But it doesn't play well with gels that can't handle electrolytes, so I can't use it with Ultrez 20, Sepinov EMT 10 (at more than 1%), or Aristoflex AVC. It will play nicely with Sepimax ZEN or Siligel, so those are options.

5. Allantoin: One of my favourite ingredients, this is a great barrier protectant ingredient that helps with soothing skin. It plays nicely with everything!

6. Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate: I think I want this ingredient in my product, and it'll be the only oil soluble ingredient in the product. I think Vitamin C would help with promoting a more uniform complexion for me, so I could use it at 2%. All the gels I'm considering will incorporate 2% oils, so this may be a good choice for me. There are other Vitamin C ingredients I could consider, but almost all of them require a lower pH or can't play well with water.

7. Antarcticine: This ECOcert ingredient is used at 3% to 5% in the water phase of a product to help increase hydration and reduce the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles. It can handle a pH of 3.5 to 7. (Lotioncrafter*)

8. Hyaluronic acid: I like this humectant in my products at 0.1% as it isn't sticky like glycerin and works very well to hydrate my skin. It can thin out gels, so I don't want to use it at over 0.1% in something like Aristoflex AVC. It works with many different pH levels.

9. Aescin: This is an interesting powder derived from horse chestnut extract that works as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory that can reduce redness, something those of us with rosacea battle with every day! (It's also a good anti-oxidant.) It can be used at 0.2% to 2% in the cool down phase of the product, but we have to dissolve it in glycerin, propylene glycol, or propanediol 1,3 before adding it. I've used the powder from Lotioncrafter* and the liquid from Formulator Sample Shop* (1% to 10%). It's great in under eye and foot care products, too.

9a. I have to include glycerin, propylene glycol, or propanediol 1,3 in this formula to dissolve the aescin. I'll include that if I'm using the powder. 3% to 5% will be more than enough. I think glycerin will be too sticky, so propanediol 1,3 it is!

10. I could use a nice extract here to help with inflammation and redness, something like powdered chamomile extract at 0.5% or chamomile hydrosol at 10%.

11. I could include an anti-oxidant, too, although I have one in the form of aescin, so why double up?

Let's review what I have here. If I want my central ingredient to be the niacinamide and n-acetyl glucosamine combination, I need my pH to remain around 6. If I want to create a gel, I think I'll go with Sepinov EMT 10 as it creates really nice, slightly creamy feeling products. With this ingredient, I can't use hydrolyzed proteins as that will thin it too much, and I can't go over 0.5% sodium lactate powder or about 0.8% sodium lactate liquid. Panthenol is good to go, as are the rest of the ingredients. They all fall within the proper pH ranges and work well together. Nothing is doubling up on the effects of something else, and none will cause something else to fail.

Do we have too many exfoliants? Hmm, n-acetyl glucosamine can exfoliate gently, as can allantoin, so we're okay .

What might my product look like?
  • I have to substitute the hydrolyzed proteins for something like 2% sea kelp bioferment. 
  • I'll use 0.5% sodium lactate, 0.1% hyaluronic acid, and 3% propanediol as my humectants. 
  • I'll add 0.5% allantoin and 2% panthenol as soothing ingredients. 
  • I'll use 0.5% aescin in 3% propanediol 1,3 to start. 
  • I'll add 0.5% powdered chamomile extract. 
  • I can use 2% n-acetyl glucosamine with 4% niacinamide with 2% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, 3% Antarcticine. 
  • Oh, and I want the tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate to act as a Vitamin C. 
  • And I'll make it up using Sepinov EMT 10. 
Do all the ingredients actually work or do I have some "fairy dust" in here? I don't think so. I think there's some lovely sound science for each of these things.

Join me tomorrow to see what kind of formula I've created for this!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Series from a question from Patreon: What's a cosmeceutical? What's an active? And how much can we use of these things in combination? Part three - things to consider when formulating

On November 27th, we started this review of cosmeceuticals by looking at different definitions. On Sunday, December 3rd we established different categories for these ingredients. Let's continue this discussion...

Here's the problem with these categories: They can be a bit vague.

What does anti-aging mean? It means that something might treat the signs of aging, like age spots, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, or roughness of our skin. In this category, you'll find so many things, so it might be a better idea to break this down into smaller categories, like photo-aging and so on. One of the terms you'll see a lot is "brightening", which means the skin looks less rough and reflects more light, or "illuminating", which means the same thing, really.

But I think it's the best we can do for now...

So can we find a definition for the word "cosmeceutical" or the word "active"? I think it's a hard thing to do as something as simple as olive oil might be considered an active as it can plump your skin by preventing transepidermal water loss and reducing inflammation thanks to all those lovely phytosterols.

After all of this defining and re-defining, I think it's safe to say that cosmeceuticals and actives are things we think may have some kind of effect on our skin. They're ingredients we use for some kind of effect beyond "moisturizing" or "hydrating" or "smelling pretty". They're things like vitamins and enzymes and exfoliants and skin lightening agents.

I would like to stop here a moment and acknowledge this isn't a good definition, but I think it's the best working definition we can use at the moment. I welcome any and all suggestions to change or refine this further. 

Is there a limit to how many actives we can use in a formula? I'd say no, there really isn't a hard and fast rule we can follow, so we'd have to analyze our formulas on a case by case basis by considering a few things...
  • Most effective usage: What's the suggested usage rate? What rate seems like it will produce the results you want?
  • pH level: What's the ideal pH level? Very important for things like Vitamin C or AHAs with pH levels of around 3.5 and niacinamide, which works best at pH 6. 
  • Compatibility with other ingredients: Does this work well with that?
  • Incompatibility with other ingredients: Does this work well with that? Or do you have too much of something by combining ingredients? (Lke chemical exfoliants, like AHAs or salicylic acid or papaya extract.)
  • Combinations that work well together: For instance, niacinamide and n-acetyl glucosamine or Vitamin C and ferulic acid. 
  • Doubling up on an action: Is there a point in using three things that work as anti-oxidants or three things that help with aging? This is the hardest one, I think, as we have to figure out how each thing works and go from there. 
  • Compatibility with the product you're trying to make: Will that ingredient work with gels, emulsions, surfactant blends, and so on? 
  • Stability of the product: Will this ingredient speed up oxidation or reduce the shelf life? Will this ingredient work with your preservative system? Do you need a chelating ingredient or anti-oxidant?
  • "Science versus science fiction": Does this ingredient really work? Is there science behind it or just "fairy dust"?
This isn't quite everything, but I think it's a good start. I'd love to hear what you think so we can keep working on this list!

Previous posts in this series:
What's a cosmeceutical? Part one - definitions
What's a cosmceutical? Part two - categories

Join me in the next installment as we analyze a formula to see if we can't answer the question - Is there a limit to how many cosmeceuticals or actives we can include in a product?


Don't forget, your comments and interaction with this topic will unlock part four! I'd love to hear what you think for categories or ingredients! Please comment and share your thoughts!

This post appeared more than a month ago, on my Patreon feed. If you'd like to see these posts three to four weeks earlier, click here for more information on my Patreon feed. $10 subscribers get an e-zine as well as discounts from awesome shops, like Lotioncrafterbut you can subscribe at as little as $1 a month to gain access to the feed.

Why sign up for Patreon? Because this is my full time job now, and your subscription helps me write more and experiment with more ingredients and equipment for the blog! Plus, if you don't feel like commenting, you don't have to to unlock the next post in a series!

Monday, December 4, 2017

If you've purchased an e-book or e-zine, when will you get it?

Please note, if you have donated for e-books or purchased an e-zine, I send them out Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm Pacific Standard Time, except for Canadian holidays, via e-mail as an attachment. If you've purchased or donated outside of those times, I will send your materials to you by e-mail on the next business day. Sending these to you is not an automated service: I have to receive notification from PayPal, which may take a minute or it may take a few hours, then send it to you by e-mail. 

If it's past 9:30-ish am PST and you haven't received it, please check your spam or junk folder as things with attachments may end up there. If it still isn't there, me sending it again may not solve the problem, but I'm happy to try. Please just write me a quick note from the e-mail address attached to the PayPal account and let me know which one I should try sending again. Commenting on the blog, messaging me or commenting on Facebook, or messaging me or commenting on Patreon won't help as I can't send you an e-book that way. 

I appreciate so much that you've donated for an e-book or purchased an e-zine, but I'm human and I need a break away from the screen so I don't burn out. We are working on a few ideas to make this more automated, but this is still a while off. In the meantime, know that if you received confirmation from PayPal of a donation or purchase, I have received notification, too, so you don't need to send me your receipt. These notifications go into a mailbox on my laptop and I send them out in the order in which they were received as per the times above.

For more than seven years now, I have sent out these materials when I've received notification from PayPal, which means I've been on call day and night, at work or at home, away on vacation or out with friends, every single day including holidays. I've found wifi when I've been camping and responded while sitting at my mother's bedside in the hospital.

In recent weeks, I've noticed a new and more intrusive phenonmenon: People writing to me repeatedly on Facebook messenger as well as sending me multiple emails and commenting all over the blog asking about their e-books. It is very distressing to wake up to 10 messages in many different formats from the same person. (This has happened three times in as many weeks.) I get that you want the e-book and you want to make sure I received the notification from PayPal and I want to send it to you right away, but I can't do that if I'm sleeping.

Please have some patience for those of us running one-woman or a few-woman shows as we need down time, too. (If you knew how many of us did work while in the bathroom, you'd be shocked!) 

As always, thank you so much for your support and interest in what I do! I really appreciate it. I just can't be on call all hours of the day and night and retain my sanity.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Series from a question from Patreon: What's a cosmeceutical? What's an active? And how much can we use of these things in combination? Part two...

We spent a great deal of time trying to define the idea of "cosmeceutical" and "active" in this post, so let's get to the next parts of the questions posed in my October Q&A on Patreon.

Michelle asked: I am wondering what exactly is considered an 'active' ingredient, and if there is a maximum percentage recommended for total active ingredients in a formulation.

In the same post, Belinda said: I will second Michelle’s comment. I, too, have been wondering how many cosmeceuticals is too many. Right now I’m experimenting with the ones I have one at a time, but when I’m sure I’m not reacting to any of them individually, I’d like to use combinations of them in an anti-aging facial lotion. Are there any guidelines for formulating with multiple cosmeceuticals?

In the same post, Mimi added: I have the same question as Michelle and Belinda.  Is there a limit to how many cosmeceuticals you can add to a face cream?  I put about 6-7 anti aging products that I bought from Lotioncrafter into 1 face cream, but I'm not sure doing this will cause one product to react with another and nullify the effectiveness. 

As there's no real definition of what active might be, I'll go with the Australasian College of Dermatologists defintion:
Cosmeceuticals are products that have both cosmetic and therapeutic (medical or drug-like) effects, and are intended to have a beneficial effect on skin health and beauty. Like cosmetics, they are applied topically as creams or lotions but contain active ingredients that have an effect on skin cell function. In some cases, their action is limited to the skin surface (such as exfoliants), while others can penetrate to deeper levels, either enhancing or limiting normal skin functions. Cosmeceuticals are available “over-the-counter” (without prescription) and are generally used as part of a regular skin care regime to help improve skin tone and texture, pigmentation and fine lines. 
I've been thinking about defining these ingredients by what they might do for our skin...

Anti-aging: This can mean quite a few different things. I generally find it means something that reduces the look, depth, or number of fine lines and wrinkles. It can mean something that prevents you from experiencing the symptoms of aging like a decrease in the production of collagen and elastin, a decrease in sebum production, an increase in wrinkles, and the production of age spots. It can mean your skin is moisturized and hydrated, which will make any wrinkle look less obvious, or it can mean you’re producing new skin cells by using something with AHAs, which will make wrinkles less obvious. It’s kind of a catch all phrase, and I prefer to use something more specific when I can.

Photo-aging: This refers to skin issues arising from too much exposure to the sun. In general, it refers to wrinkles and redness as well as uneven skin tone and blotchiness.

Plumping: This generally means it increases the amount of water in your skin or prevents transepidermal water loss.

Firming or maintaining skin tone: This tends to mean the ingredient helps generate more collagen or elastin in our skin.

Brightening or illuminating: This generally means your skin will look more youthful, perhaps through chemical or mechanical exfoliation and removal of old skin cells to produce new ones, or by evening out skin tone and removing age spots.

Treating age spots: This generally means the ingredient will reduce the look and size of your age spots over time. This can happen by bleaching the age spot and reducing the amount of melanin in it, or it can happen by blocking some biological mechanism that would produce an age spot. This can be referred to as hyperpigmentation or an uneven skin tone.

Skin lightening: This could come under the category of photo-aging as this is about evening out the complexion to be more uniform with fewer darker or lighter patches.

Hydrating: This means the water in your skin is increased in some way, usually by a water soluble ingredient that forms a film on your skin to prevent transepidermal water loss or by adding a humectant like glycerin, propylene glycol, or hyaluronic acid to draw water to the skin.

Behaving as an anti-oxidant: These ingredients can behave as free radical scavengers to reduce the amount of reactive oxygen species that could cause damage through the process of oxidative stress. (More about this shortly…)

Reducing skin roughness: This refers to skin that appears to be mottled or bumpy, and the ingredient will help smooth out your skin. There is a way to measure this and it's done by seeing how much light is reflected back from our faces. Rough skin or deep wrinkles reflect less light, so this can be part of the "brightening" idea above.

Reducing puffiness: This generally refers to your eye area, and it means your eyes look puffy, often because you’re retaining water.

Reducing dark circles: This is again about your eyes, and it's generally about increasing circulation.

Reducing sebum production: This would be all about reducing how much sebum someone with oily skin might product.

Reducing pore size: This is generally done with astringent ingredients, but there could be others.

Treating cellulite: Using anti-inflammatories and ingredients that increase blood circulation to even our skin tone and reduce the appearance of cellulite.

I realize this is a very generic list, but it's the best one I can come up with when thinking about what we might want our products to do for us. With these categories in mind, I thought I could come up with a few examples of what ingredients might seem to be cosmeceuticals or actives to us...
  • Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), Vitamin B5 (panthenol), Vitamin E
  • Anti-oxidants: Vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid, Co-enzyme Q10, alpha arbutin
  • Cell signalling: Copper peptides, DHEA, DMAE, amino peptides (including palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3, and acetyl hexapeptide-3 aka argireline)
  • Skin lightening agents: Arbutin, glycolic acid, liquorice extract, niacinamide, retinoids, Vitamin C
  • Exfoliants: AHA, salicylic acid, fruit enzymes like those found in papaya
  • Acne ingredients: Salicylic acid
  • Anti-aging: Argireline, 
  • Photo-aging: Co-enzyme Q10, genistein, Alpaflor Gigawhite, Fision Active White
  • Hyperpigmentation: Vitamin C
  • Sebum reduction: Niacinamide
  • Anti-inflammatory: Aescin, genistein
Sunscreens, anti-perspirants, dandruff shampoos, and acne treatments are also considered cosmeceuticals, but we don't make those things as they are drugs, so I'm not including those in this list.

Wow, this is far too long at this point, so let's start again in part three as we take a look at further defining our categories and figuring out what we have to take into consideration when creating combinations for formulas.

Previous posts in this series:
Series from a question from Patreon: What's a cosmeceutical? What's an active? And how much can we use of these things in combination? Part one - definitions

Don't forget, your comments and interaction with this topic will unlock part three! I'd love to hear what you think for categories or ingredients! Please comment and share your thoughts!

This post appeared on a few weeks ago, on my Patreon feed. If you'd like to see these posts three to four weeks earlier, click here for more information on my Patreon feed. $10 subscribers get an e-zine as well as discounts from awesome shops, like Lotioncrafterbut you can subscribe at as little as $1 a month to gain access to the feed.

Why sign up for Patreon? Because this is my full time job now, and your subscription helps me write more and experiment with more ingredients and equipment for the blog!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Unlock posts with your comments!

As I mentioned in this post, Huge news that will affect the blog, I miss is being a part of a community of creators, connecting with people who love this thing as much as I do, and I'm really feeling the isolation when I look for a place to recharge my batteries.

Think of every single post - new and old - as a tiny Kickstarter type thing that needs your attention to unlock the next installment. If you see part one of a post, you won't see part two until there's a certain amount of interaction in the form of comments. If there isn't that interaction after a week, it won't be posted as I'll assume you aren't interested that topic, ingredient, or formula. For older posts, if I see a topic that's suddenly filled with comments or feedback, I'll make sure I spend time on that topic again in the future. 

If you're interested in seeing part two of the series on cosmeceuticals, share your thoughts! If you aren't interested in it, that's fine. I'll move on to another topic. (The rest of that series will remain on my Patreon page as I write these things a few weeks in advance now for those subscribers.)

You don't have to say much - share a thought about the topic; something you love or hate about the oil, emulsifier, or surfactant; write about your experiences; tell me about the fail you had with it so we can fix it; think about how you might make substitutions; share your favourite fragrance in it; or anything else you can think of - but say something. The only rule - as of this moment - is that you must do it with kindness, with an understanding that every single person who reads it, including me, is a human being who has feelings. We can totally disagree, but we do it as adults without condescension or insults.

Some of you have mentioned that you're surprised to see me wanting you to comment as I'm probably swamped with things already. Yeah, I definitely am, it isn't about you asking me questions and me answering them. It's about you sharing your feelings, experiences, and thoughts. It's about you asking questions and other people answering them. It's about creating a community in which we support each other and provide awesome, science based information as we all take this journey together. It's not about me as I'm just your guide to faciliate this process, but I want to learn about you and what you like, too! How can I write about things that interest you if I have no idea what interests you?

Quite a few of you have written to me privately or posted on here that it's hard for you to comment as you're really busy. I get that, believe me, I get that, but it would be nice to see you around here some time. If you value what I'm offering, why not make time when you're sitting at the doctor's office or having a coffee break or using the toilet - oh, you know you do it, we all do it! - to add your voice to the conversation? It only takes a minute, and your helpful comment might be the thing that helps someone fall in love with this craft all over again!

Finally, if you get these posts by e-mail, you won't see the edits or updates I've made to them, as well as the comments from other people that might spark something in you! Please come visit the blog and be part of this community to see what you're missing!

If you'd like to see posts from the blog a few weeks earlier or don't feel like commenting, click here for more information on my Patreon feed. $10 subscribers get an e-zine as well as discounts from awesome shops, like Lotioncrafterbut you can subscribe at as little as $1 a month to gain access to the feed.

Why sign up for Patreon? Because this is my full time job now, and your subscription helps me write more and experiment with more ingredients and equipment for the blog!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Series from a question from Patreon: What's a cosmeceutical? What's an active? And how much can we use of these things in combination? Part one - definitions

In the October Q&A on Patreon, Michelle asked: I am loving the latest e-zines with all the lovely cosmeceuticals. I am wondering what exactly is considered an 'active' ingredient, and if there is a maximum percentage recommended for total active ingredients in a formulation. I have been experimenting with many of the cosmeceuticals in an eye gel that I want to be anti-aging with antioxidants. I am working with a formula as follows: 51% water, 20% hydrosol (neroli), 10% oil, 5% mulberry root extract, 3% Eye Complex 4 (from Making Cosmetics [Palmitoyl tripeptide-5, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, algae (dunaliella salina) extract]), 2.5% D'Orientine, 2.5 Sepimax Zen, 2% Sea Kelp Bioferment, 2% propanediol1,3, 1% Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, 1% Penoxyethanol SA. This is a lovely eye gel but it does tingle slightly (but goes away in less than a minute) when applied to my eye are. As far as I can determine, each of these ingredients alone shouldn't cause this sensitivity so I am wondering if in this case too much of a good  thing is just too much. What are your thoughts? My pH meter is on order, so with the pH strips, it measures at 6.

In the same post, Belinda said: I will second Michelle’s comment. I, too, have been wondering how many cosmeceuticals is too many. Right now I’m experimenting with the ones I have one at a time, but when I’m sure I’m not reacting to any of them individually, I’d like to use combinations of them in an anti-aging facial lotion. Are there any guidelines for formulating with multiple cosmeceuticals?

In the same post, Mimi added: I have the same question as Michelle and Belinda.  Is there a limit to how many cosmeceuticals you can add to a face cream?  I put about 6-7 anti aging products that I bought from Lotioncrafter into 1 face cream, but I'm not sure doing this will cause one product to react with another and nullify the effectiveness. 

Okay, this is the kind of question I could use as the starting point for weeks of posts, and it's one that will take some time to unpack, so let's start at the very beginning...which I understand is a very good place to start. (Hey, Julie Andrews never lies! Never!)

FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT'S A COSMETIC?
"In the USA, according to the FDC act of 1938, a cosmetic is defined as an article intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting structure or function (1). It is noteworthy that in this definition the cosmetic is not allowed to have any activity (i.e., without affecting structure or function)." (Reference: Cosmeceuticals and Active Cosmetics, page 11).

In Canada, Health Canada defines a cosmetic as "any substance or mixture of substances, manufactured, sold or represented for use in cleansing, improving or altering the complexion, skin, hair or teeth and includes deodorants and perfumes. This definition also includes cosmetics used by professional esthetic services, as well as bulk institutional products (e.g. handsoap in school restrooms)." For instance: "Products that have a therapeutic claim or that contain certain ingredients that are not permitted in cosmetics are considered to be over-the-counter drugs and are handled by the Therapeutic Products Programme, for example sunscreens." (More on this topic at Health Canada).

The moment that cosmetic has some activity - for instance, a dandruff shampoo to treat dandruff versus a shampoo that cleans your hair - it isn't considered a cosmetic under these rules, it's a drug. This is why we can't say something like "gets rid of age spots" - because that alters the appearance. Instead, we have to say something like "may promote a more even complexion".

Albert Kligman notes, "With the great advances in our understanding of skin physiology, it is impossible to think of a single substance that cannot, under some circumstances, alter the structure and function of skin, especially when repeatedly applied, which daily grooming practices ensure." 

I understand definitions in the EU, Japan, or other parts of the world may be different, but I figure if I start with Canada - which is where I live - and the States, which is where most of my textbooks are written, I'll have at least two countries to compare, if necessary.

WHAT'S A COSMECEUTICAL?
What is a cosmeceutical? I've written about this at length on both this blog and in a few e-zines that will eventually become an e-book over the next few months - fingers crossed! - but I find it helpful to go back to my books and references to make sure I'm on the right track just in case I lost something in translation somewhere.

They're "cosmetic products with properties very similar to a pharmaceutical product (drug-like benefits)". (p. 295, Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology.)

"Increasingly though products which are considered cosmeceuticals actually do affect the structure or function of the skin and thus have drug-like effects but are marketed using appearance-based claim." (Cosmetic Formluation of Skin Care Products, page 187.)

From the coiner of this controversial term, Albert M Kligman:
I defined cosmeceuticals as topical formulations which were neither pure cosmetics, like lipstick or rouge, nor pure drugs, like corticosteroids. They lay between these poles, constituting a broad-spectrum intermediate group. Some were closer to drugs, such as the alpha-hydroxy acids—designed to exfoliate the outer, loose stratum corneum, a structural effect—whereas others were closer to cosmetics, like rouge—designed to give color, a purely decorative effect. (Reference: page 1, Cosmeceuticals & Active Cosmetics)
The Australasian College of Dermatologists notes,
Cosmeceuticals are products that have both cosmetic and therapeutic (medical or drug-like) effects, and are intended to have a beneficial effect on skin health and beauty. Like cosmetics, they are applied topically as creams or lotions but contain active ingredients that have an effect on skin cell function. In some cases, their action is limited to the skin surface (such as exfoliants), while others can penetrate to deeper levels, either enhancing or limiting normal skin functions. Cosmeceuticals are available “over-the-counter” (without prescription) and are generally used as part of a regular skin care regime to help improve skin tone and texture, pigmentation and fine lines. 
Most moisturisers restore barrier function and water content to the skin, improving the appearance of aged or dry skin. Cosmeceuticals should ideally deliver the active ingredient in a biologically effective form to the skin and reach the target site in sufficient quantity to have an effect.
(Read the rest of that post, as it's very interesting and has loads of examples of cosmeceuticals.)

I could provide you with post after post, reference after reference, but the general idea is the same - they're ingredients we add to our products to offer a specific benefit, like anti-aging, creating a more uniform skin tone, alleviating acne, and so on. You can never make a claim that the product you make with those ingredients will fix, heal, or repair anything, but that doesn't mean you can't include ingredients in your products that might be of benefit. Ingredients like Co-enzyme Q10, niacinamide, or MSM would be considered cosmeceuticals by this definition.

Having said this, the FDA (US) states, "The term "cosmeceutical" has no meaning under the law."

This is still kinda vague, but I feel like I know what a cosmeceutical is when I see it. But do I?

WHAT ABOUT CALLING THEM ACTIVE INGREDIENTS?
I've spent the last few days researching this topic, and had at least five pages of notes, and I think it's definitely something we can call them. I think cosmeceuticals implies something that active ingredients doesn't, but it is a term we can use.

Do I see a difference between "cosmeceutical" and "active"? Sort of, I guess? I'm not completely sure given that there really isn't consensus on what cosmeceuticals are, but I think there's a difference between adding magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (a type of Vitamin C) liposomes into a product and adding some rosehip powder. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but there may be more standardization of the amount of Vitamin C we find in those liposomes and what we find in rosehip powder.

Having said that, I've spent some time at Perry Romanowsky's Chemists' Corner, and he has some good posts on the topic. If you'd like an interesting read, check out his posts on the topic - including three categories of ingredients, and do active ingredients in cosmetics work?. 

Okay, so now that I've messed with your head quite a lot, let's take a break and resume this when we see enough comments!

This post appeared on a few weeks ago, on my Patreon feed. If you'd like to see these posts three to four weeks earlier, click here for more information on my Patreon feed. $10 subscribers get an e-zine as well as discounts from awesome shops, like Lotioncrafterbut you can subscribe at as little as $1 a month to gain access to the feed.

Why sign up for Patreon? Because this is my full time job now, and your subscription helps me write more and experiment with more ingredients and equipment for the blog!

Want to see part two of this series? Unlock the next post with your comments!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Do you need to measure the pH of your products? If so, do you need a meter, or can the strips work just as well?

We took a look at various pH meters yesterday, so let's ask the most important question of all today - Do you need a pH meter? And what's the advantage of using a pH meter over pH strips?

The first question should be - Do you need to measure the pH of your products?

If you're making lotions with oils, butters, and so on, probably not. The pH will be in the right range.

If you're making lotions that contain active ingredients like AHAs, Vitamin C, salicylic acid, and other cosmeceuticals, definitely yes. These ingredients require very specific pH ranges and they're useless outside of it. As well, you want to make sure you aren't going too low as this could burn you. It is vital if you're using these kinds of acids that you measure the pH accurately.

If you're making body wash, facial cleaners, or shampoos with surfactants that have an acidic starting pH, like cocamidopropyl betaine or disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, then no, probably not.

If you're making body washes or shampoos with ingredients like decyl glucoside, pH 8 to 11, or sodium lauryl sarcosinate, pH 7.5 to 8.5, then yes, as we want the pH of these ingredients to be below 6.

If you're making shampoo bars with sodium coco sulfate (SCS), you definitely need a pH meter. I can't believe how many blog posts I'm seeing where people are making shampoo bars with this ingredient and aren't lowering the pH drastically. SCS is a very alkaline ingredient with a pH over 9, which will wreck your hair if you don't alter it!

If you want to make a shampoo bar and don't want to test the pH, then use sodium cocoyl isethionate or SCI as it has a perfect pH for our hair.

Related posts:
How to melt SCI
pH of shampoo
Shampoo bars for dry hair
Conditioning shampoo bars for oily hair

As a note, check out the surfactant section of the blog for more information on these wonderful, bubbly, lathery, foamy ingredients! 

If you're making conditioners with Incroquat BTMS-50 or Rita BTMS-225 probably not.

Related post:
pH of conditioner

If you're making conditioners with ingredients like stearamidopropyl dimethylamine or Varisoft EQ65, both of which require adjusting the pH to lower than 5 as they aren't cationic or positively charged until then. No pH adjustment, no conditioner.

By the way, Varisoft EQ 65 is an amazing conditioner! It's ECOcert, green, and readily biodegradable, which is great, but it makes my hair feel so soft!!!

The essential question is whether you need to adjust the pH to make the ingredient work or make the product safe.

When I present a formula on this blog, in the e-books, or in the e-zines, I make sure it's pH balanced. If you follow my formula exactly, you can rest assured it's in the right pH range. If you change a water soluble ingredient, like a hydrosol or extract and so on, or an emulsifier, it might not be any more. 

To give you a very specific example, I made a salicylic acid toner with the rose geranium hydrosol from Windy Point (pH 5.26), which worked out very well. When I made it the next time with Voyageur's rose hydrosol (ph 6.99), it went all weird and cloudy as the pH was increased, and fell outside the necessary range.

For other things, it's no big deal, but for something that is so pH specific, this small change made all the difference.

So part of the answer is that you need to measure some products, but not others. 

Could you use pH strips instead of a pH meter for products? Yes, and no. It depends on how accurate you need to be. If you're looking for "anything below pH 6" for a body wash or shampoo, then strips could be all you need.

If you're looking for between 3.0 and 3.5 so you don't burn yourself and so the AHAs or Vitamin C or other ingredient is effective, go with the machine as accuracy is vital here.

I've been experimenting with pH strips from Lotioncrafter. They have three test areas, and it's definitely the more the merrier here!

So when looking for strips...

1. More testing areas = more better. These ones have three measurements, while these litmus strips can only give you one measurement for pH 1 to 14.

2. Choose the testing range wisely. Lotioncrafter has pH 2 to 9, and 7 to 14 strips. For everything but soap, you'll want the pH 2 to 9.

3. Get a lot. You'll need to test your product with every adjustment, so you can go through five or six quite quickly.

An aside...why don't I use the strips? Because I suck horribly at matching the colours to the pH range. I'm not kidding about this. If it weren't for the fact that it's rare for women to be colour blind, I'd think I might be at times. I don't do well with slight variation like those on the strips. My mom used to tell me all the time something was "mauve" instead of "purple", but I have no idea how to tell the difference!

So do you need a pH meter or not?  If you're making things exactly as they are presented to you on a website or blog you can trust, then no, you don't need to get a pH meter. For everything else I listed above, yes, you need to be able to test the pH of your creations.

If you can't afford much, then get the strips that measure at least 2 spots. The more, the better. Having said this, you'll be using quite a number for each product you make, so get a pack of 100. (I found this brand that I know nothing about on Canadian Amazon. I can recommend this package I have been using from Lotioncrafter, the pH 2 to 9 version, that also comes in 100 packs.)

If you can afford to $25 to get a meter from Amazon, I'd suggest the Etekcity (from yesterday's post). I'm sure there are others, but that's the one I tested yesterday. I can't recommend the WeePro at this time, but I'm hoping to find time to test it in the next few weeks.

If you can afford $100 to get a meter from Amazon, I'd suggest the PH200 (from yesterday's post) or the Jenco pH 630 in the States. There are also some great ones from our vendors, like Lotioncrafter.

Check your local hydroponics store for pH meters as well. I know a few near me have some lovely ones, the kind we use at university, but they're $300 to $400 and I just can't afford that.

As a note, again, I don't have any affiliate links, ads, or sponsored posts on this blog. When I recommend a vendor or shop, it's because I like the vendor or shop. 

Related posts:
How to test the pH of our products and more (updated for 2017) - loads of links in this post

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