Monday, January 18, 2010

Why We Don't Make "Body Lotion"

We put the question out there on our Facebook page: Which products would you like to see us make in 2010? Many people responded that they wanted a "normal" body lotion. I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about why our manufacturing standards keep us from making a more typical "body lotion."

I have to start out by saying that we do actually have a body lotion--It's our body butter. It's lotion. It's for your body. So, really, it's body lotion. However, the market has come to equate the term "body lotion" with a more watery, less concentrated lotion.

What we know today as "body lotion" is an emulsion--or water and oil mixed together. Most body lotions are what they call an oil-in-water emulsion. Basically 80% water with a little bit of oil. So, why can't we do that?

1. Emulsifiers
In order to create an emulsion, you need an emulsifier--an agent that will combine water and oil. The most common way of doing this is with a chemical emulsifier like stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, PEGs, or vegetable emulsifying wax. These emulsifiers will give you that typical mayonaise-like texture that you would expect in a lotion. We refuse to use these chemicals in our products. While many other companies claim they're "natural" or "derived from coconut" that's not acceptable to us. They're still synthetic chemicals, we can't get them in a certified organic form, and many of them are commonly contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.

There are a few organic ways that we could combine water and oil. A blend of organic lecithin and GMO-free xanthan gum would be one way. But we've tried this before in testing, and used other lotions that use this emulsion system and it's just not that great. It gives a really slippery, slimy feel that ends up leaving a sticky feeling once it's dried. There's also the beeswax-borax method of emulsion. But borax doesn't score that great in the EWG skin deep database, and we don't want to use an ingredient if it has a question mark. The main issue with borax is when it's inhaled, so even though it wouldn't really put customers at risk in a liquid lotion, our employees would be exposed to it in high quantities. We don't want to take that risk. I don't advise against making your own beeswax/borax lotions at home--the quantities are small enough to not be a problem. But on a larger production scale, a large amount of borax could create quite a cloud of irritating dust.

2. Preservatives
Next, there's the problem of preservatives. Any time you have water in a formula you have the potential for pathogens to grow. Bacteria. Fungi. Mold. So, if we made a water-containing emulsion, we'd have to use a preservative. And that usually leads to chemicals---parabens, urea, methylisothiazolinone. And of course we avoid these.

There are some organic ways of preserving--blends of essential oils or with organic ethanol. Blends of preservative essential oils have a tendency to be quite strong-smelling, so they end up taking over the scent of the product. A raspberry lotion doesn't end up smelling very good blended with clove, thyme, lavender and eucalyptus. And with many of our customers preferring unscented options, it just isn't feasible. In addition, they're not a fail-safe method. I've tried organic products preserved with essential oils and have seen mold grow before my eyes.

Organic ethanol can be used, but you have to make sure to add plenty of humectants and emollients to counteract the potential for irritation/drying effect from the ethanol.

3. We don't think it's right
Yes, we could probably make a body lotion--preserve it with ethanol, emulsify it with xanthan gum and lecithin--but we don't think it's right. A product like that is 80% water. We don't feel it's right to charge people for a product that's mostly water, and then have it dry out their skin more.

However, we do understand that it is nice to feel that instant "hydrating" feeling that a water-based lotion brings. But you can achieve the same feeling with our body butter. Just turn on the tap, wet your hand, and pat on water to your skin. Then, apply a small amount of our body butter. You'll have that lotion-ey feel that you're used to, and it will make your body butter last even longer. (Just be sure to keep water out of the body butter jar.) Your skin will thank you.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stephanie thanks for being so honest and helping all of us understand what we are using and why we should be more aware. Corrie P.

Danielle said...

Thanks for the articulate and informative post!

Sarah said...

Apply Body Butta to wet skin immediately after shower/bath and, not only does it spread on easily, you'll seal in all that moisture from the shower plus use less product. Works fabulously!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all this great information. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the lotion stick, it's the only thing I've found that works for me. With other hand lotions I have had to apply it every time I washed my hands but with the lotion stick only once or twice a day and I'm good.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Stephanie, for the interesting and informative post. Any chance you will be offering a Body Butta in a "nut free" version for those of us with tree nut allergies? I would love to use the Body Butta but can't because I'm allergic to the almond and macadamia nut oils. Thanks for your consideration and keep up the great work! ~Stephanie B.

Anonymous said...

I'll second the request for a nut free body butter! I would love to avoid chemicals (especially on both of my eczema-prone babies) but it is nearly impossible to find an organic balm or butter without almond oil, shea butter, or other. :(

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Thanks everyone!

Good to know about the nut-free requests. Your comments are dually noted! Maybe we can try to do a whipped cocoa butter with sunflower and jojoba oils. I'll keep you posted!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, the analysis as to why body lotion is bad is about the silliest thing I've ever heard.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

^ Cosmetic industry people tend to get their knickers in a twist about things like this. ^

Lisa, F is for Fischer said...

I'm new to your site, but wondered if you were considering making sunscreen?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Hi Lisa. Welcome!

Our plans for coming out with sunscreen have been put on hold. Here's why: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs010/1101828272155/archive/1102959731489.html (Scroll down to the middle of the page)

Eye Cream Reviews said...

Most companies used Emulsifiers as one of the active ingredients in creating a body lotion. While doing some research, I found out that the risk of skin barrier disorders is increasing and it is quite a challenge for the manufacturers to find an alternative solution.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to make a homemade whipped body butter with food grade organic almond extract(made with alcohol not glycerine) as an additive (for its edible as well as aromatic qualities). Because the almond extract has water in it, does that mean that if I don't add a preservative or emulsifier to it then it will cause mold/fungi/etc. to grow? Condisering the almond extract would be added in such a small quanity I didn't think it would, but I just wanted to check. Thanks

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Regarding the almond extract...it depends on your formula. If there's no water in your formula, there's no way for the alcohol-based extract to mix in to the formula. You can whip it in but it's likely to separate. Additionally, natural almond extracts usually contain benzaldehyde, which can be irritating to skin. We don't use almond extracts in our products for this reason and don't recommend using them. However, regarding if it's going to grow mold or fungi, it's likely not to if it's alcohol-based, as there should be enough alcohol to keep it preserved. However it's possible that the alcohol could evaporate out and just leave the water if you left it not stored tightly...so...I would really view this with caution.

Anonymous said...

In my lab I have created a 95-100% certified USDA organic lotion that is comparable to the commercial brands.
If you know the correct % of particular ingredients to put in the lotion then it will not dry out your skin bc of the alcohol. It is not slimy or sticky once it dries.

Emma said...

Stephanie,

I've been looking forward to make a mist because I have the feel my skin is really in need of water. I'm using a balm made by myself with pretty good ingredients (I'm very careful of the ingredients I use, and you can be sure any of them are causing me this problem) and using the same balm to cleanse my face, I don't use any toner or mist, but my skin still has that dry look, like cracked, and when I smile I can see very tiny dryness lines, so I believe what I'm doing is just not enough. I drink plenty of water, but maybe I need some water from outside. That's why I wanted to make a mist that provides water to my skin from the outside and I was thinking on mixing flower hydrosols with aloe vera gel and glycerin, but I know that bacteria growth could be a problem. Also, I'm not really sure if glycerin is water-soluble, and if is not, I have another problem.
What are your suggestions to preserve and mix my mist?

Thanks.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

I would suggest researching the current options for preservative blends and figuring out a blend of your own that works for your particular product. If you are planning on selling the product, ALWAYS send it out for challenge testing before sending. Glycerin is water-soluble and can add some humectant properties to your toner mist.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie! I completely understand why you don't make "normal lotion". I am curious, however, what you think about using "organic clarified lemon juice" as a preservative? Natural? Effective? Any different from using just citric acid? Less drying than alcohol? Any downsides? I have seen one organic company use this as a preservative. Similarly, there is something called a "USDA certified organic citrus preservative" made by "Biosecur" (http://biosecur.com/), which I suspect will find its way into a lot of USDA-certified organic body care products. It sounds a little suspicious to me. Thoughts?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Clarified lemon juice isn't an effective preservative. Itself, at full-strength, will go bad if it's not frozen or refrigerated after just a matter of 1-2 days. Citric acid isn't an effective preservative unless at very high concentrations--which, at that point, would be irritating to skin.

This is the first time I've seen the Biosecur, and will have to research it further. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Anonymous said...

Another organic body care companies is releasing a new "USDA Certified Organic" lotion this fall, with more or less the following ingredients:
*Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Extract, *Olea Europaea (Extra Virgin Olive) Oil, *Sucrose Polysoyate (from Soybean), Aqua (Purified Water), *Ethyl Palmate (from Palm), *Sucrose Cocoate (from Coconut), *Glycerin (from Palm), Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Extract, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan) Extract, Xanthan Gum, and *Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (from Soybean).

Obviously, the Aloe, Olive Oil, Lemon, Glycerin (and even the Xanthan Gum and Carrageenan) seem fine. I have concerns about the Sucrose Polysoyate, Ethyl Palmate, Sucrose Cocoate and Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, however. Aren't these processed chemicals? How can they be USDA certified organic? Are these chemicals that I should be concerned about or are they generally fine? Please let me know what you think, as I trust your opinion. Thanks!

Stephanie Greenwood said...

I would ask the company in question to provide more detailed information about how these ingredients are made. It is possible to have these ingredients that are certified organic now, as there have been advances in organic processing technologies that are able to create some of these compounds via certified organic means.

Anonymous said...

I read this post because I noticed that you only made body butters not lotions. I'd like to know if your body butters are okay to use on my face, and if not will you be making one specifically for the face?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

@Anonymous--check out our face creams! http://www.bubbleandbee.com/servlet/the-Organic-Facial-Care/Categories

Anonymous said...

Hi! I was hoping to make homemade mango body butter from mango butter & apricot kernel oil. My daughter has fierce eczema & a severe nut allergy, so I need to avoid Shea, Kokum, and almond. Anyway, I know you can use essential oils in the butters, but I was wondering if using a vanilla absolute oil (what mountain road herbs sells) is ok? I'm a tad bit worried about the finished product spoiling. Any advice?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Sure! You can add some vitamin E in to prolong the shelf life of the butters and oils, and just make sure you don't get water in the product and it should be pretty stable.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything wrong with using lotions with emulsifying wax NF and stearic acid? I have found a lotion that contains these ingredients and I really like the using the product.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Thanks for your question! You can read more about emulsifying wax NF here: http://bubbleandbee.blogspot.com/2009/05/ive-talked-about-how-although-its-great.html

Roxana said...

Wow, I'm not going to use body lotion again from now on. I'm very much into organic, natural products, but didn't realise the body lotions advertised as natural are not actually doing much good to the skin. Very useful information.

Dkoyle said...

Certified organic is a farce. It's nothing but a registration process plus a few hoops to jump through designed to reduce the competition. All naturally grown substances are organic but if that excuse justifies your decision to do or not do something then go for it.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Actually there's a HUGE difference between organic and natural and it's way more than just some paperwork to fill out. Please inform yourself and read my article on the topic here: http://bubbleandbee.blogspot.com/2012/04/importance-of-usda-organic.html

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie! I noticed that all of your body butta's don't have any stabilizers in them to prevent them from melting in the heat. I live in Miami where it's hot all the time. I would love to try your product, but how would you suggest I prevent the body butta from melting? Also, I noticed that some of your butters have extracts in them. What keeps your product from going bad since extracts contain water and your product has no preservatives?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Thanks for your question! If you order using our Summer shipping option we'll package the items with ice packs to help prevent the product from melting during transit. (Of course ordering during cooler months is your best bet, as ice packs can only take you so far.) But once in your home, as long as you keep it at room temp (70-80) maybe even up to 85, they shouldn't melt.

The extracts that we use in the body butter are actually oil-based and thus don't require a preservative.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Anonymous said...

Can't you just wear masks around the borax?

Unknown said...

Spending 6 years studying pharmacy, then another 12 years producing, selling and promoting proffesionally made skincare products in USA and Europe it hurts to read how the evolution off this products taking a step back.

sara said...

While I agree that many companies use inexpensive and potentially irritating/unhealthy ingredients in their lotions, making a blanket statement about lotions in general is unwise. If you simply prefer not to work with lotions that is one thing, but cosmetic chemists who carefully formulate natural/eco-cert/organic products, including lotions, would tell you that your post is very ill-informed. I work in a lab manufacturing natural and organic skin care products, and I can assure you that there are plenty of food-grade emulsifiers and preservatives derived from plant sources which aren't only effective but beneficial (remember that nature has developed highly effective chemical agents over the past millennia)! Just because something has a long technical name assigned it to doesn't mean it's unsafe or scary. A few folk might be put off by the fact that most of our lotions contain a high percentage of hydroxilic acid (aka dihydrogen monoxide), but then again, they might also be surprised to find that without it, we'd all die. Perspective and education, my friend.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Thanks for sharing your input, Sara. There are indeed new ingredients available to the organic formulator since this post from five years ago.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Six years, I mean. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie do you think aloe vera gel and oils mix together need preservative?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Yep, aloe vera gel and oils mixed together would need a preservative (and emulsifier.)