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Practical Tips

Creams & Lotions  
  • My cream/lotion separates after a few days
    Cause: A too small amount or wrong type of emulsifier has been added.
    Solution: Warm your cream/lotion, and use a higher amount of emulsifiers. Also consider using a different emulsifier such as a water-in-oil emulsifier (w/o) for more fatty products and an oil-in-water emulsifier (o/w) for more moisturizing products as lotions.
  • My cream/lotion contains grainy solid particles
    Cause: Ingredients such as cetyl alcohol, sorbitan stearate, carnauba wax or others were incompletely melted.
    Solution: Warm your cream/lotion to about 160oF (70oC) for several minutes and stir thoroughly.
  • My cream/lotion contains mold after a few days
    Cause: Improper or insufficient disinfection of the containers and/or preservation of the cream/lotion.
    Solution: Discard the product and disinfect your containers thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol before makingyour next cream. Note: an effective concentration of paraben-DU and grapefruit seed extract is 0.5 - 1% and 0.5 - 3%, respectively. To obtain a final concentration of 1% in 8 ounces of cream, for example, add 60 drops (= approx. 3/4 tsp. or 2.4 ml) of paraben-DU or grapefruit seed extract.
    Cause: Too little thickener has been added.
    Solution: To make cream/lotion thicker, add different viscosity and consistency enhancers such as cetyl alcohol, xanthan gum or polymers. As an additional advantage, these ingredients will further stabilize your cream/lotion.
Cleansing Products  
  • My shampoo is too thin and lacks viscosity
    Cause: Either too little thickener has been added or there is too high alkalinity/acidity for the thickener to become active.
    Solution: To make a cleansing product thicker a viscosity enhancer (e.g. polymer, cetyl alcohol, xanthan gum or guar gum) must be added. Most thickeners need a certain pH value for an optimal thickening effect (usually pH 5 - 7). Copolymers, for example, function only at a pH of > 5.5. You can adjust the pH value using lemon juice and soda for too high or too low pH, respectively. Adding some table salt (0.5 - 1.0 %) will also increase viscosity.
    When using xanthan gum or guar gum as thickener you have to make sure that the thickener is added as last ingredient after all other liquids have been added. Otherwise, the thickener will not thicken the entire mixture (gums entrap water molecules and make gels), but only a that part of the liquid that has been added before the thickener has been added).
  • My hair conditioner contains strange flakes
    Cause: Xanthan gum has been used together with quaternary ammonium compounds.
    Solution: Do not mix xanthum gum with certain types of conditioning surfactants such as quaternary ammonium compounds (e.g. behentrimonium). To enhance the viscosity of a conditioner other thickeners should be used like cetyl alcohol.
  • My shampoo / shower gel does not foam
    Cause: A too small amount of surfactants have been added as compared to the total amount of water or only co-surfactants and no primary surfactants have been used.
    Solution: Add more surfactants or primary surfactants. By using a foamer bottle, however, you can make highly foaming products even with quite a low amount of surfactants.
Liquid Soaps  
  • My soap is cloudy
    Cause: The most frequent causes are excess oils, free fatty acids or minerals.
    Solution: Excess oils: do not use a too high amount of oils or unsuitable oils (particularly oils with a high content of palmitic or stearic acids). This causes milkiness due to insufficient saponification. Insufficient stirring also leads to an excess of oil. Excess free fatty acids: Make sure that you properly cook your soaps as undercooked soaps contain high amounts of fatty acids causing clouding. Usually, pastes and alcohol soap broths should be cooked for at least 2 - 3 hours. Also, do not overneutralize soaps with excess borax. Lowering the pH value of liquid soaps below 9 by adding citric or boric acid breaks the soap into hydroxides and fatty acids. Excess minerals: always use distilled water that does not contain minerals (primarily calcium) which react with hydroxides causing clouding.
  • My soap does not thicken
    Cause: Understirring, too low cooking temperatures and incorrect oil-lye ratios are the most frequent causes for poor formation of an emulsion.
    Solution: Make sure that your cooking temperature reaches 160 - 170oF (70 - 76oC) and that you stir the broth continuously. Always check your measurements to be sure that the correct amounts were used, and look for calculating errors in your oil-lye ratio.
  • My soap separates
    Cause: Understirring or the lack of a stabilizing emulsifier are the most frequent causes why liquid soap broths separate in the double boiler.
    Solution: Keep stirring your emulsion until it thickens to a viscid consistency. To make your emulsion permanently stable, add some alcohol or, even better, a true emulsifier like sorbitan stearate, polysorbate 60 or polysorbate 80.
  • My soap does not foam
    Cause: Most handmade soaps foam and lather only minimally because the types of surface active substances formed during the soapmaking process provide low surface tension when in contact with water.
    Solution: Add some surfactants to your liquid soap which have good foam-boosting properties including anionic or amphoteric primary or secondary surfactants (e.g. alkyl sulfonate, coco betaine). Surfactants should always be added after the soapmaking process (meaning when the oils and lye have been converted to soap and have also become surfactants) to avoid destruction during boiling. Best time to add synthetic surfactants is when the soapmaking process has terminated but the soap is still liquid. Usual amounts are 5 - 30%.
Makeup Products  
  • My lipstick is too soft and lacks consistency
    Cause: The content of waxes is too low.
    Solution: Re-melt the lipstick and add more carnauba wax or beeswax to increase viscosity and solidness.
  • My lipstick is fragile and brittle
    Cause: The content of emollients is too low or the content of pigments is too high.
    Solution: Re-melt the lipstick and add more castor oil, vaseline, glyceryl cocoate or caprylic/capric triglyceride or add less pigments.
  • My lipstick mold leaks
    Cause: The two mold parts are not pressed together firmly enough.
    Solution: When pouring the hot liquid lipstick into the mold, press the two parts of the mold firmly together until the lipstick starts hardening (about two minutes).
  • My lipstick gets a hole-like indentation on the top
    Cause: The lipstick is too hot when poured into the mold.
    Solution: Pour the liquid lipstick into the mold only when it has cooled down a bit. To repair an indentation, fill up the hole with some extra drops of the remaining liquid.
  • The lipstick gets stuck in the lipstick mold
    Cause: The mold has not been greased enough beforehand.
    Solution: Try to push out the lipstick bottom with your fingers. Do not use a knife or other tools as you may damage the lipstick. For your next lipstick, grease the inside of the mold with a paper towel tinctured with oil.
  • My eye shadow powder / face powder is not dry enough
    Cause: The powder contains too much of the fatty ingredients.
    Solution: Reduce the amount of fatty ingredients (e.g. jojoba, plant oils, triglyceride) when blending pigments for your powders.
  • My color cosmetics contain grainy pigment particles
    Cause: The pigments have not been ground finely enough.
    Solution: For most purposes, both organic and inorganic pigments do not need to be finely ground. However, if you want to make special cosmetics that are extra fine, homogenous and even colored, you may grind your pigments in some oil using a mortar and pistil, or you can purchase micronized pigments that have already been reduced to microparticles.