My facial moisturizer recipe needs better preservation, or ???

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I have been making a recipe adapted from one on Humble Bee and Me’s website for about 4 months now and I like it pretty well, but I definitely think it needs more preservative.

Water phase:
69 g distilled water
2 g glycerin
1 g allantion

Oil phase:
5 g almond oil
5 g Argan oil
5 g mango butter
5 g E wax NF
3 g cetyl alcohol
2 g vitamin E

Cool down phase:
1 g Panthenol (B5)
0.5 g Germall Plus liquid

As an extra precaution, I have been dividing my batch into two 2 oz. jars and keeping half it in the frig until I need it. It’s pretty thick which is why I have been using jars (and a scoop, not my fingers). But based on what I’ve been reading, I bought some tubes with flip caps that I think will work for the next batch, which I need to make soon.

I’m not getting to the end of a portion (out of the frig) before I detect what I would call a very slight change in odor. Although I’m not seeng any obvious growth, I have a very sensitive nose, so I’m assuming that something is starting to grow :( I would like to be able to make some for my sisters, but I don’t want to share anything until I’m 100% confident about the shelf life.

Base on a recent thread about using two preservatives, I’ve been thinking about adding some Optiphen Plus. Do I need to test the pH first to determine if I’m in the right range, or is it obvious to the more experienced makers based on the recipe? If I need to measure pH, can I do that with paper strips from the drug store(?). My recollection is that even the expensive pH meters used in science labs can be kind of finicky to calibrate and maintain, so I am assuming that anything I could afford for home use would be unreliable.

I recently bought some BTMS-50 that I want to try because I read that it creates a silky feel compared with the e wax. I haven’t done enough research yet to know if it would work in this recipe. I think the original recipe I adapted had olive squalene instead of the almond oil. I haven’t ordered that ingredient yet and would be interested to hear what others think of it.

Thanks in advance for any advice about my recipe, preservatives, methods, or anything else! :)
 
Wer would need a more advanced lotion crafter to chime in. I can see that that your recipe in theory should be more creamy in consistency and that your preservative levels look about fine. The questions I would ask is did you sanitize your jars with alcohol after washing them (if needed)? A lotion-making soaper named Anne Watson recommended I thing 50 or 70% alcohol for sanitizing to ensure that all surfaces are coated with the alcohol.
 
Wer would need a more advanced lotion crafter to chime in. I can see that that your recipe in theory should be more creamy in consistency and that your preservative levels look about fine. The questions I would ask is did you sanitize your jars with alcohol after washing them (if needed)? A lotion-making soaper named Anne Watson recommended I thing 50 or 70% alcohol for sanitizing to ensure that all surfaces are coated with the alcohol.

Thanks for your question and advice! I should have mentioned that to date I have been rinsing everything with 50% isopropyl, but I found 91% locally and will use that to dip or rinse everything before I make the next batch. I’m planning to sterilize the canning jars I use to prepare and mix my oil and water phases, and anything else that I think will survive the heat, by boiling them in advance. I do that before canning vegetables and it’s easy enough.
 
Thanks for your question and advice! I should have mentioned that to date I have been rinsing everything with 50% isopropyl, but I found 91% locally and will use that to dip or rinse everything before I make the next batch. I’m planning to sterilize the canning jars I use to prepare and mix my oil and water phases, and anything else that I think will survive the heat, by boiling them in advance. I do that before canning vegetables and it’s easy enough.
There's no need to use 91% alcohol for disinfecting. As a matter of fact, according to the article linked below, 70% is more effective at disinfecting than 91%.

https://blog.gotopac.com/2017/05/15...UcmnlA_M2UC7Lxwx0okaALVuj_VXU-bhlkbkOSy-Ipgg8
 
There's no need to use 91% alcohol for disinfecting. As a matter of fact, according to the article linked below, 70% is more effective at disinfecting than 91%.

https://blog.gotopac.com/2017/05/15...UcmnlA_M2UC7Lxwx0okaALVuj_VXU-bhlkbkOSy-Ipgg8

Great link, thank you! The page also mentions the use of hydrogen peroxide for killing mold. I worry a bit about mold in my old house because I live in a very humid part of the US and it gets very steamy in the summer. It’s not the Gulf coast, but it’s steamy enough.
 
Great link, thank you! The page also mentions the use of hydrogen peroxide for killing mold. I worry a bit about mold in my old house because I live in a very humid part of the US and it gets very steamy in the summer. It’s not the Gulf coast, but it’s steamy enough.

My second husband taught me a little trick that really has stuck with me because it works so well. For household mold cleaning & prevention, diluted bleach works extremely well, and it's not very expensive. We lived in the mountains in California, and although it's not very humid in that part of the state (comparatively to where I live now and many places I've been in the US), we still got mold on the windowsills & mold would grow on ceiling above the shower. When I used a strong dilution of bleach with a sponge to wash those areas, it killed and seemed to inhibit re-growth. It would come back over time, of course, but it really did seem to inhibit the speed of re-growth. Of course that may be because I was paying more attention and dealing with it on a regular basis. Of course, Kilz paint might be a better deterrent, but if a major re-painting project is not in the offing, this works very well.

Sorry for the off-topic, Mobjack. I know this thread is about facial moisturizer, but I thought I'd chime in this.

Regarding sanitizing your personal care product containers, there is a thread or two that talk about using Star San, which I think is even better than alcohol for this purpose.

Here are the links, plus one to the product (a fair priced link, but there are many other places it can be purchased):

https://www.soapmakingforum.com/threads/best-practices-to-sterlize-containers.74834/
https://www.soapmakingforum.com/threads/star-san-calculation.75014/
https://www.soapmakingforum.com/threads/bottling-sanitizing.65555/

Link to Star San product
 
Another thing for you to consider is the odor change may be due to the oxidation of the fats (aka the fats are going rancid). When you whizz fats with water and incorporate some oxygen, that's a prime environment for oxidizing fat. The odor doesn't necessarily become full on stinky-rancid, but the product can smell musty or "old". If your fats are fragile -- and I'd say argan is one of those -- or already somewhat oxidized but not quite smelly, the risk of rancidity is higher yet.

You have vitamin E in there, but I have been reading on the Chemist's Corner and Making Skincare that the tocopherols we call vitamin E are not an effective antioxidant for fats, although they are nice for the skin. I'd have to hunt up the information again to give more details, so forgive me for not sharing more than a vague outline.
 
I think your recipe, including preservative amount, looks fine.
How does the scent change? Hopefully, I'm not being naive, but I don't think a slight change in scent means the preservative is failing. Because you are trapping more air into your container, it might just be the oils/butters oxidizing a bit. I've noticed many of my products changing scent with age, and I've home-tested several of them and had no growth (I know this isn't fail proof but I tested the products again at 6 months, 9 months, & a year and still no growth detected on the slide).
You could always try testing yours at home too. You can buy microbial testing kits at Lotioncrafter or Formulator Sample Shop. Again, they aren't the end-all, be-all for testing but it might ease your mind some.

PS I love squalene! It's very light & silky.
 
There’s a lot here for me to consider. The oils I started with were fresh as far as I could tell, and I store them in an extra refrigerator, but I can see where whirling them with the water could speed up oxidation. I’m going to have to do my homework on the rest, but that can’t happen until the weekend (long day at work today...). Thanks for the input.
 
After doing some research here and on the web, I’ve learned that switching to a more stable oil like meadowfoam and subbing it in for the almond oil and possibly for some of the Argan oil might make my life easier if my issue is oil oxidation. I would hate to lose the Argan entirely because my face likes it!

I don’t have a subscription to the SCM blog, but I found an interesting recent article from Realize Beauty on oil oxidation in lotions called “So which of my oils will go rancid first?” I’m going to need to re-read, probably a few times... She mentions a bunch of antioxidants for the oil phase: Tocopherols, Rosemary Antioxidants, Carotenoids, Coenzyme Q10, some lycopene extracts and specialized antioxidant blends AntioxGt and Phytocide Elderberry, which is carried by Lotion Crafter. She’s advocating for a holistic strategy of protecting the oils and the interfaces in an emulsion, e.g. by putting antioxidants into the water phase. The discussion also covers production, protective packaging, etc.

A couple of other articles I found on the Realize Beauty site may also be of interest:
https://realizebeauty.wordpress.com...rvative-and-can-too-much-cause-pro-oxidation/
https://realizebeauty.wordpress.com...he-microbes-dont-get-you-then-oxidation-will/

@Cellador I found a microbial test kit at LC. Is it what you were talking about above? It seems like it would be worth testing one or more batches early on and then at intervals, just to be sure. While I make sure to keep my work area and equipment clean and using good techniques and care, I am using a kitchen in my house and not a lab.
 
Good information on the antioxidants-thanks! You can still use argan oil, but maybe invest in a smaller (or more precise) scale, so you can make smaller batches. I also store some of my more fragile oils in the fridge.
Yes, those are the kits I am referring to at LC. You don't need a lab or any additional equipment to use them. There's a couple of videos on YouTube that provide instructions with visuals, if you need them.
Happy Crafting!
 
The comments section of the post is helpful, too, e.g. she adds this:
“Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) consistently out performs all other types of simple antioxidant, it may not always be as good as proprietary blends but on a cost basis it is still very good. So, I’d not rush to throwing vitamin E out unless you are particularly sensitive to it. It is wise to create a blend of antioxidants to secure the shelf life of a product that is likely to undergo complex oxidation. There is more than one oxidation reaction to quench.”
 
Tracking down info online is so much work. The “signal to noise” ratio is soooo low. It makes me think about taking the SCM plunge, but I’m worried that if I do that I will be totally distracted (from making soap, of course :lol:).

In the Realize Beauty post on Vitamin E, she did a May 2019 update, which includes this statement:
“the bottom line is that using mixed tocopherols is the best idea, keeping below 2% is a given for all applications but for antioxidant I typically tell people 0.1-0.5%. This may be too much in some cases but stability testing can help you work that out.”

Based on that, I can lower the vitamin E in my recipe, as long as I get the right kind... per this article. The Vit E I have is the dl- form (synthetic) rather than d- form, which apparently is the one I should be using:
“All tocopherols (the D-form of alpha, beta, gamm and delta) are effective antioxidants. When it comes to protecting your ingredients against oxidation, gamma-tocopherol seems to be the most effective isomer. When it comes to biological activity and inhibiting membrane and extracellular lipid peroxidation, it seems that alpha-tocopherol is the most effective one.”

They have natural Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) at Lotion Crafter. I added that to my cart along with the microbial test kit, Meadowfoam oil and green tea extract! And let me not forget the olive squalane, which I was super happy to read is chemically inert :). The lotion ingredients are accumulating in my frig, but considering the price I was paying for small quantities of commercial products before I started down this path, I will keep trying to get it right.
 
@earlene I agree about the power of chlorine. We used to use a small amount of bleach in a tub of water to disinfect dishes, forks, knives, spoons, etc. when we were out on the smaller of our research boats. It didn’t have a dishwasher and we thought it would help if someone had a cold, especially since we were always in tight quarters.

@cmzaha thanks for the tip. I will look more closely at BHT.

Does anyone use a pH meter? I’m wondering about the reliability of the small handheld units. As I mentioned above, my experience is with the expensive science grade meters, and that is 15 yrs out of date at this point. It’s possible the technology has changed a lot.
 
I have a pH meter- it's the one also found on LC. I have started using some surfactants & extracts that need some pH adjustments. I don't use it often, but I'd rather have it than not.
The SCM blog is awesome. I am a $10/mo subscriber, and I feel like the monthly formula e-zine alone is worth the cost. She's a responsible crafter - she does her research and doesn't release a formula unless it's been sitting stable for several months to a year.
But, yes, it will distract you from soap-making. I spend about much time making surfactant products & creams as I do soap these days. ;) I often feel like I'm cheating on my soaps when I occasionally use a shower gel...but it's all time well spent.
 
Okay, I dug my info out. I mis-remembered about tocopherol -- it does have an antioxidant effect. It's tocopherol acetate that gives skin benefits; tocopherol does not.

Here are some excerpts from cosmetic chemists that may be helpful. Some of their comments relate to antioxidants use in pure oils and that information doesn't necessarily apply directly to emulsions, but I'm offering them here just to give some idea of the dosages that are effective -- they're much lower than what everyday people think is "reasonable."

I also want to mention that too much antioxidant can be worse than not enough. 2 grams of tocopherol may actually promote oxidation rather than retard it, so if you continue to use this as your antioxidant, you may want to dial down the dosage quite a bit.

Martin Smith, Making Skincare discussion --

...0.05-0.1% tocopherol in veg oil is about right [as an antioxidant]. Do not use Tocopherol as your Vitamin E content [for skin benefits]. Use Tocopheryl Acetate [for skin benefits], this is not an anti-oxidant so is stable in product and it converts to tocopherol on the skin...

What is worse adding 0.05 - 0.1% Tocopherol [as an antioxidant] may not work well - each system needs a different amount or even different anti-oxidants. The best way is to carry out stability trials and check for significant odour changes or pH shifts....

In theory using too much anti-oxidant can cause a pro-rancidity reaction - make the product rancid! This is because anti-oxidants work by oxidising 1st. But again it depends on the system and checking (or having historical data) is important....

Jane Barber, Making Skincare discussion --

A good takeaway from Martin's advice regarding all antioxidants - be it vitamin E, ROE etc is: "using too much anti-oxidant can cause a pro-rancidity reaction - make the product rancid! This is because anti-oxidants work by oxidising 1st." He recommends 0.05-0.1% - how much exactly will depend on the formula.

Tocopherol acetate acts as a skin care active- moisturizing - it isn't an antioxidant. For an antioxidant, use mixed tocopherols, even better is mixed blends with gallates...

Mark Fuller, Making Skincare discussion --

If you are using it as an anti-oxidant use Tocopherol or mixed Tocopherols. If you are trying to get a skin conditioning claim or performance use the Tocopherol acetate.

Here is a quick primer on Tocopherol. Firstly only the Tocopherol acetate has a supportable claim for skin benefits. Tocopherol itself is purely an anti-oxidant. If you are making a skin care claim on tocopherol (not the acetate) you are in the realm of snake oil.

Natural tocopherol is actually more effective than the synthetic versions as it contains the more of the active gamma and delta forms. Synthetic tocopherols tend to be heavier on the alpha forms. Natural Tocopherol is a brownish to reddish brown oil that is unstable in the presence of light (as a raw material). It should be protected.

Tocopherol absorbs the free radicals and interferes with the chain reaction. The by products are also more soluble. Generally it is used at a level of 1% or less. Too much will cause a "pro-oxidation" to occur. In this case they participate in the breakdown of the lipids and are detrimental. Tocopherol is water insoluble and oil soluble.

Coincidentally Tocopherol is significantly less effective than BHA and BHT, ingredients which are falling into disuse since they break down poorly and can lead to bioaccumulation.

Mirta Miku, Making Skincare discussion --

From "Optimal tocopherol concentrations to inhibit soybean oil oxidation" https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11746-002-0433-6 -- Their verdict is: 0,01% is the optimum concentration for alpha-tocopherol before it becomes pro-oxidative; 0,03-0,06% is the optimum dose for mixed tocopherols.

It is to be expected that the dosage should be different for bulk oils and emulsions, due to their physical differences. This article states that for alpha tocopherol, optimum is 0,01% for bulk oils (same as the study in the previous comment) and 0,025-0,05% for O/W [oil in water] emulsions. Higher than this, they claim, is pro-oxidant.

Lab Rat, The Dish discussion --

If you have pure Vitamin E (alpha Tocopherol) you need about 0.05% to .2%. If you are using Covi-ox T-50, the manufacturer recommends 0.5% to 1.5%. I use Covi-ox T-50 to retard rancidity. I add it to my oil phase which gets heated to 70C to 80C.
 
Thanks for the information DeeAnna. It’s very helpful. I managed to find the original Making Skincare Facebook group where the discussion about about Viatamin E ensued (and joined the group).

This comment made by moderator(?) Jane Barber further down in the thread got my attention: “Just to clarify Tammy's comments (also see Mirta and Martin's comments and links above), that's it best to use vitamin E at a max of 0.2% of the total oil phase amount, not of the whole formula.”

That would bring the concentration of Vitamin E way down in many recipes, where the oil phase is a low percentage of the total.

In the 2019 addendum to a 2015 post on vitamin E by Amanda, the cosmetic chemist at Realize Beauty, she suggests using mixed tocopherols at 0.1 to 0.5%, but also states that level could “be too much in some cases.” which I take as she does not totally disagree with the others.

Here’s exactly what she wrote:

“UPDATE 3rd May 2019

OK so I found out where the 0.1% Vitamin E pro-oxidant drama came from and now I can’t work out why I didn’t spot this way back when…

Here is a reference to a good paper on this subject:

Proox idant Activity of Oxidised a-Tocopherol in Vegetable Oils. (Link here)

Chapman, Timothy M.; Kim, Hyun Jung; Min, David B.

Journal of Food Science, Volume 74 (7) – Jan 1, 2009.

This paper looks at vegetable oils and their ability to withstand oxidation. The paper does indeed show that vitamin E can act as a pro-oxidant in some cases and that 0.1% is a very rough approximation of how much vitamin E nature often (but not always) pops into her oils. However, this is an over-simplification of what’s going on and so it still isn’t necessarily true to conclude that too much vitamin E WILL give you problematic pro-oxidisation.

Here is a brief summary:
  • Vitamin E exists in many isomers and oils that have an excess of alpha tocopherol are at higher risk of pro-oxidation than those that don’t but again, it is slightly more complex than that.
  • Other isomers of Vitamin E don’t seem to promote pro-oxidation even when they are present in relatively high levels.
  • Vitamin E isn’t the only antioxidant in vegetable oils.
So, the bottom line is that using mixed tocopherols is the best idea, keeping below 2% is a given for all applications but for antioxidant I typically tell people 0.1-0.5%. This may be too much in some cases but stability testing can help you work that out.”

I also found some references that point to effects of antioxidants being oil specific. For example, this article shows that a mixture of green tea extract, rosemary extract and mixed tocopherols improved the stability of chicken fat and fish oil (first and third graphs near the bottom) but had relatively less effect on the stability of canola oil (second graph near the bottom), which has a high level of mixed tocopherols naturally.

So, where does all of this leave me in terms of a strategy for improving my recipe? After reading everything, and in consideration of the potential for promoting unwanted oxidation, for antioxidant protection I’m going to use mixed tocopherols and add them at 0.1% or less of my oils. I’m also planning to try some green tea extract in the water phase to help protect the emulsion’s “interfaces” between the oil and the water and will test some of the more stable oils like meadowfoam and olive squalane. I can always put the Argan on my face directly, which may be the easiest in the long run. And last but not least, switching my packaging to tubes instead of jars still seems like a good idea. And then there’s the light issue.

And one last note... Covi Ox T 50 is mixed tocopherols derived from GMO sources. The Herbarie now offer Vitapherole Ox T 50 (non GMO) instead. Lotion Crafter has mixed to tocopherols based on GMO sources, but states that there is no GMO DNA in the product.
 
"...That would bring the concentration of Vitamin E way down in many recipes..."

Yes, my point exactly. I agree that generic searches are often not too helpful, so I'm glad I could get you going in a useful direction. Making Skincare and Chemist's Corner are two very good resources for cosmetic formulating. Sometimes even more so than Susan at SwiftCraftyMonkey, although she's at the top of my list too. But her blog mainly features only her voice and the other two resources are more of a community discussion.
 
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