Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence...

Wow! The number of people visiting my blog has gone up by 10% over the last few days. I think you're all here about the challenge Dr Dunn has put forth to soapmakers and the preceding discussion. I need to make something clear - I don't have anything against anyone. My goals are never to hurt or mock someone. My goal is always to learn more!

As you know, I strive to be all about the science around here, providing you with evidence and studies and all that other good stuff to back up why we're using the ingredients we're using. When I find something that makes a claim that I didn't expect or haven't seen before, I look for more evidence to back it up. Let's say shea butter claims to completely wipe out wrinkles. I would look for quite a few studies to back this up, not just one. I wouldn't use something anecdotal and I wouldn't use something that had only a few subjects. I would want something extraordinary because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Normal claims can use normal evidence - like the idea that shea butter moisturizes our skin or makes our skin feel greasier than not using it. But something extraordinary - that shea butter eliminates all wrinkles and crow's feet - would require pounds of paper to print all the studies I'd want to see before writing that on this blog.

If you are making a claim of any sort, you need to provide some evidence. Let's say you wanted to prove to me that you could do something, like make an oil-in-water lotion without using an emulsifier. I would ask you for a complete accounting of the recipe and the process with all the details as well as a video.  In fact, I would ask you for extraordinary evidence - such as showing me the lotion a month later, three months later, six months later, and so on because the problem here would be that the lotion would separate over time. Merely saying to me that you did this isn't considered evidence. (Okay, maybe to Lionel Hutz who says that "conjecture and hearsay are kinds of evidence".) I'm being skeptical about something that I have been taught is not going to work or not going to work well. My mind is open to learn more, but I need more evidence before I'm going to spend the time discussing it further. Asking you for that evidence isn't disrespectful or disparaging - it's a normal part of the process. If you choose not to provide what I've asked for, then you can't expect me to change my opinion that you can make a lotion without an emulsifier. You might be a lovely person, but one person's word does not change science!

I'm strive to be the first person to admit when I'm wrong. (If you find something on this blog you need to correct, check out this post on how to tell me that!) Learning is all about admitting you don't know something or that you're mistaken, and the first step is being okay with not knowing things all the time. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll see all kinds of corrections scattered around as I've learned more or read more or found more studies or been told by you, my wonderful readers, that I'm wrong. I know some use this against me, saying that "Swift is wrong all the time. She admits it on her blog." (Yes, I've actually seen this statement.) That's fine. I'd rather be wrong from time to time and keep learning than hold on to outdated or incorrect ideas. If you wish to see this as a failing in my character, I'm okay with that. (I think it says more about you than it does about me if you think that making mistakes is something to be ashamed of instead of something to embrace as part of the learning process...)

I'm excited to see what will come of Dr Dunn's challenge! Let me know if you enter into it so we can follow the process!

Related posts:
Where do I get my information?


p said...

Great post, Susan! I have an honest question for you: do you have scientific resources that state that it's *impossible* to make an oil-in-water lotion without an emulsifier of the sort carried by our suppliers? Of course we know our emulsifiers work well, and we know that they create oil-in-water emulsions, and we understand the chemistry of these formulations -- but that's not the same as saying that *every* oil-in-water formulation must be achieved in this way. Claiming impossibility is bold! It only takes one counterexample to prove such a claim wrong. And indeed a claim that it's impossible to create an oil-in-water emulsion without a purpose-made emulsifier seems like an extraordinary claim to me!

I'm not just arguing from a theoretical perspective here. I've made oil-in-water emulsions that last, using saponins (which, as you know, are emulsifiers) and gums. It's not easy and it's fiddly, but it's possible. I know I've mentioned them to you before, but Dr Bronner's is a well-known, widely available brand that makes a lotion that appears to be emulsified using only saponins (Quillaia saponaria) and xanthan gum. (It's not my favorite lotion, but it's a counterexample!) I think I've also posted a patent about using saponins and gums as emulsifiers. I know other companies formulate along these lines, but I can't think of examples off the top of my head (Dr Hauschka maybe?).

Anyway, I'm curious to know what you think! Knowing one way that and how something difficult can be done, doesn't mean that's the only way the thing can be done -- that's my main point.

Diva Soap said...

Hi Susan,
It's funny that you're mentioning emulsifiers now, as if you had read my comment on a local page as a response to a maker who really doesn't use neither emulsifier, nor preservatives. I think I put her on her place, as she never replied back.
I'm completely and totally with you on this and can't say words encouraging enough to keep doing what you do and how you do,no matter how many 'philosophic' (the comment above I'd call rather philosophic than theoretical) comments you will be sent.
I'm also open to learning and, why not,to revise my knowledge, so I'm looking forward to witnessing this science challenging!

Chris M. said...

It's funny that you insist others to provide evidence when you refuse to do the same in regards to this topic. This has been going on for several weeks, with your sights set on a specific soap maker. You're behavior is less than professional, and to be honest, out right immature. You can disagree with an individual and move on. But if you wish to publicly do so, and attempt to embarrass the individual, you should at least provide resources that support your stance, rather than putting in motion this challenge that Dr. Dunn has set up. You've been proven wrong many times, and despite you saying you're willing to admit it, you don't. You either ignore comments, or delete them. Or in the case of this one soap maker, attempt to run them through the wringer to prove your point. You are very quickly losing credibility amongst many soapers over this.

mallong joan said...

@ Chris M you are still on that for heavens sake move on and speak for yourself when you talk about Susan loosing credibility among soap makers, let's the others speak for themselves.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Chris: I will not engage in any discussions with you on this topic any longer. Please encourage your friend Marcia to speak for herself if she feels she needs to defend her position.

Kelli Spears said...

Great topic Susan! I love learning new things and even after formulating for 6 years now I still learn new things almost every day. I have learned so many wonderful things from your blog. Yes, even things that corrected my incorrect opinions or previously learned information. I love science and chemistry and we(ALL people) would not know or have a great many of the things we have today, including honest information, without the scientists and chemists that do what they do every single day. Even though there is a lot of false information spread all over the internet there is also truth.....somewhere.
In response to the comment by Diva Soap, I also had not one, but two different online companies tell me that an emulsifier wasn't necessary, nor the use of preservatives. One company even told me they don't use a specific emulsifying ingredient because they have a special emulsification machine that automatically emulsifies their product. Hahahahahahaha!! Of course, when I emailed back and told them that I was a formulator, they didn't reply back again. Hmmmmm?
I think that anyone who makes products and says they can do something that defies chemistry, as we know it, should be prepared to back up their claim. The FDA would insist on that and I, as a consumer and experienced formulator would expect nothing less than detailed proof.
I don't make cold process soap or melt and pour or anything of that nature but I would really be interested in seeing Dr. Dunns results. I do buy these products sometimes because there are some I really like, but I don't use them exclusively because of the pH.
Anyone can be proven wrong about something and that is not necessarily a bad thing. I hate to even say "proven wrong" because someone could make a statement that may have been true at the time and with science always moving in a forward, constantly improving direction that just means we are still learning new ways of achieving the present improbable. We have all heard the saying, "We learn from the mistakes we make". I like to think that they aren't mistakes, they are just experiences that we learn and grow from.
Thank you Susan, for all the great information you provide. I wouldn't be the formulator I am today if I had not found your blog years ago.

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

oh dear, haters are already on this thread!

our dear, beloved, wonderful Susan,
indeed there is nothing wrong of being wrong. It takes a lot of ego to admit that and yes, you are not perfect and yes, you have learned as well from the past mistakes and publicly acknowledged that on your blog. What you have and others clearly don't is a sense of responsibility towards your "wonderful readers" (I just love this !!). You are not putting your ego above proof. This is awesome. This is difficult to do for so many of us because we may lose face. In front of what we know it is the current science / procedure / process.

So, if someone can indeed make a pH 7 soap and can prove it, I'd gladly make it at home too. I am a lotioncrafter and soapmaker, but decided to leave soap out of my list because the high pH and the scum it leaves on my hair combined with the hard water we have here. So hell yes, I would really want to see the proof of that. This is not religion, to believe because someone told you they say virgin Mary yesterday. It's about reproducible experiments. This is what science is about: to be able to reproduce an experiment over and over in the same conditions. if you don't or can't, how on earth would you expect to be given any credit?

Anyway, about the emulsifiers. There is a fine line here. There are gums and polymers which can suspend / emulsify a restricted amount if oils and which can be destabilized by low pH or salts. I believe they too enter the wide category called emulsifiers. Susan is referring to the oil+wax+water solubles some people claim being "creams", natural ones, no preservatives and no emulsifiers. We're not talking details, but categories. oil and water don't mix whatever you do, until you add some sort of emulsifier to form micelli (is this the EN word?!) or lamelar structures or can suspend oils (like sclerotium gum for example)

thumbs up for this post. and for its wonderful author!

Faith said...

It is really quite simple - you make a claim, especially one that goes against proven science, it is your responsibility to prove your claim (and "because I said it works" is not proof). It is not up to the person whom you are challenging to disprove your claim as they already have the science behind them. So asking Susan to try an experiment based on another's claim, is backwards. She is free to do so if she so chooses (lots of people try things because they hear or read something works just out of curiosity) - but the onus is always on the person making the claim to provide the evidence.

And chemistry is chemistry - one not need to understand the process of soapmaking to understand the chemistry behind it.

La Prairie Lady said...

Hello Everyone

I learn a lot with Susan, as I am not a soap seller, cream ect. I remain in the basic formulas and I am very satisfied. I made a cream there one year and it is always white and firm without bacteria

I make soap for 1 year. I tried all fabrication techniques, Liquid soap, cream, transparent, melt and pour (homemade), rebatch, HotP, CP solid bar ect.

I don't have a PH meter but use Litmus strip paper. I keep a Dove bar and test each new strip package with Dove, I get always PH 7 so a lot of my recipes I get PH 8

I cannot get PH 7 with handmade soap, you can broke your soap if you try to get a PH 7.
If I grate and remelt, add citric acid or Triethanolamine or Sodium Borate (borax), maybe I can get PH 7, is that the soap will break lose his property, I'll test with a bar.

About cream stories

I found this interesting website with stories of cosmetic and recipes of vintage cream

1920s Varnishing Cream Pearly sheen cream

Stearic acid 22.5%
Triethanolamine 1.5%
Potassium Hydroxide 1%
Glycerin 6%
Water 69%



Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

@La Prairie Lady

I think that Stearic acid + triethanolamine would result in TEA stearate and stearic acid + potassium hydroxyde would be potassium stearate

so there you have - emulsifiers! :-)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'm sorry I wasn't more clear in the post. I don't mean all-in-one emulsifiers like Polawax or BTMS are the only way to make a lotion. There are loads of things that are emulsifiers that we don't necessarily think about as emulsifiers. Loads of surfactants are emulsifiers, so we can add a little oil into something like a shampoo and it will work.

To take p's example, you can use soap as an emulsifier, so something like saponins are used to emulsify lotions successfully, as are glyceryl stearate and TEA combination mentioned by La Prairie Lady. I would never say that it was impossible to produce a lotion without an emulsifier - I don't like the word "impossible" because that notion changes every day! - but I would say that making one without one would be extraordinary, and I'd want to see more information than one person's word about it. I've seen evidence on using saponins as emulsifiers, so I know that's possible!

There's a company out there claiming it has a machine to emulsify its lotions. Wouldn't that be interesting?

p said...

Ah, that makes more sense Susan! Thanks for writing back. I'd been under the wrong impression -- I had thought that you would look at an ingredients list like Bronner's -- water, oils, ethanol, quillaia saponaria extract, xanthan gum, and vitamin e -- and think, nope, that's not going to work. Glad I was off base on that!

By the way, it's awesome that you're willing to correct yourself in public. How can you (general you, not "Susan" you!) learn new things without refining the things you thought you knew? You're a role model in your thirst for knowledge!

La Prairie Lady said...

Hello All

Believe it or not, I found a cream recipe (with picture) without wax or emulsifier water/oil. It is a dupe of Lush Dream Cream.

If you give me permission, I'll put the link here.


Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

LUsh Dream Cream:
Oat Milk Rose Water Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Butter Glycerine Stearic Acid Triethanolamine Tincture of Benzoin Rose Absolute Chamomile Blue Oil Tea Tree Oil Lavender Oil Cetearyl Alcohol*Benzyl Benzoate*Citronellol*Geraniol*Limonene*LinaloolPerfumeMethylparabenPropylparaben

the list is an easy one. TEA + stearic acid =TEA stearate and cetearyl OH which will hold on the emulsion.

What's the dupe's Ingredients list?

La Prairie Lady said...

It's a dupe without emulsifier.

1 part extra virgin olive oil
2 parts oat milk
1 part rose water (or distilled water)
1 part cocoa butter
1/2 part glycerine (or aloe vera gel)
Optional: your essential oils: rose, blue chamomile, tea tree and lavender oil
Vitamin E oil (for a longer shelf life)

She give instruction: Here’s my fool proof way of mixing oils with water

You can use any butter, She don't use preservatif anyway it's her choice, I will try and I will use preservative. I don't make a litte jar every week.

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

1 part extra virgin olive oil
2 parts oat milk
1 part rose water (or distilled water)
1 part cocoa butter
1/2 part glycerine (or aloe vera gel)
Optional: your essential oils: rose, blue chamomile, tea tree and lavender oil
Vitamin E oil (for a longer shelf life)

She give instruction: Here’s my fool proof way of mixing oils with water

this is not an emulsion. HOw does she mix it and still hold it together ? this will never pass stability tests.

also this is just pure bug food due to the rose water and the oat milk. I would NOT do this without a preservtive, not to mention that I would not do this at all

also this type of recipes , given in "parts", "spoons" or volumes is not to be followed. I can't see what is her "proof way of mixing oils with water" ? !

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

ok, I found the DIY site claiming that they make an emulsion with no emulsifier. they add the warm oat infusion in the product and use a blender.

sorry, again this is NOT a safe recipe. this is NOT en emulsion, it's dispersing the liquid in the oils. unstable bug food product. heat it a bit and the water and oil will start to separate.

if you asked me, a better one is Galen's cerate. Beeswax + borax acting as emulsifying system.


Please do NOT do that cream at home! it is unsafe. VERY unsafe!

La Prairie Lady said...

I know you want to know. I await the response of Susan, before putting a link.

Or click on my avatar and contact me via my blog

La Prairie Lady said...

I know borax and beewax and add a litte lecithin too.

I'm just curious to try recipes for myself.

Ilargely prefer use the E-wax - Btms- Cetyl alchool ect

Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

google is my friend: just searched for "dream cream dupe" and it pops in the first search results :)

she's mixing it like mayo, only that mayo HAS an emulsifier. egg yolk contains lecithin.

The Lady Marah said...

Susan, I don't know who Chris M. is in your comments. In fact, the only Chris M. I know of, is my own husband. And he barely knows how to use his Google account to it's full potential, let alone use Blogger for any reason. That said, since you've extended the invitation, I'm very capable of defending myself. However, it's hard to do when you delete comments. So I've just sat back and watched the random assortment of people pop on your blog to defend me. However, I've also personally defended myself to you on my own blog, right for Dr. Dunn himself to see. It's amusing to find out straight from him that this is your doing. Feels like you're trying to force me to defend something that is easily researched on your own accord. Or done in your own time, which I indicated in my response to you on my blog. YOU are the one who refused to supply sufficient evidence to support your rebuttal. And YOU are the one who was not satisfied with the evidence I presented. It would also seem that it is you that are completely misconstruing everything I've said to you, to the point that you have made a false claim on my behalf to Dr. Dunn, as well as attached that claim to my blog by providing him the link to it. The latter of which I don't mind. It opened a line of direct communication with him that was needed to clear up some things. As you've seen on my blog, I've spoken to him directly, and I've spoken to him on his Facebook page. And even he said it, he is unsure of your intentions by doing all of this. So it would seem you have drummed up quite a stir over an issue that I figured was done and over with many months ago in our last communication with each other. In that entire time, you could have taken the effort to prove me wrong, or confirm my 'claims". Instead, it would seem you'd harbored some form of negativity as a result of that conversation, and decided now would be a lovely time to unleash it. I have nothing to prove to you. I feel I've cleared things up fairly well with Dr. Dunn, after the mess you've created. And if not, I know where I can reach him. That's on the level of a soap maker I read about who zap tested her soap batter. Good thing the poor silly woman DIDN'T get zapped.


The Lady Marah said...


In any case, I invite you to review acid disassociation constant and pKa, maybe start with Wikipedia to make it easier, or do I need to provide information for this on your behalf as well?

Thank you though. I'm finding that I have more support for my hard work than I originally thought. And it's garnered more viewer boosts to my blog, as well as my YouTube channel, with many people seeking me out on Facebook requesting my assistance. As I said on my own blog, you could have used all of this as a teaching moment, since you are in a way more knowledgeable in some aspects than I am. Key words: some. You don't know soap. You don't make it and only understand the basic chemistry of it. Leave the soap, and it's chemistry, to the soap makers please. With that said, to Faith, I quote you in saying " And chemistry is chemistry - one not need to understand the process of soapmaking to understand the chemistry behind it". That is the most ignorant thing I have ever read in regards to soap making in my 3 years in the craft.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There was nothing extraordinary to my claims. You are just making them out to be, which as I said, I'd confirmed with Dr. Dunn. Take care Susan. I appreciate the offer to defend myself, if it truly was an offer as you stated in your comments. If not, then I'm sure this comment will be deleted before any one else can see it. Oh, and by the way, as I told Dr. Dunn, if I wanted my real name used in a blogging forum, I'd have done so to begin with. That said, you're spelling it wrong. Pay attention madam. You seem really good at misconstruing things to begin with. At least get my name right if you're going to use it here. Good night.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi La Prairie Lady & p! Feel free to link to things on the blog - if they are inappropriate, I can take action. (Although the only inappropriate links I've seen so far are when we get spam!)

I've made up a version of the Lush Dream Cream that you can find in this post. I haven't used the TEA emulsifier - I used Polawax because it's easier. You could try using something like Lotionpro 165 for a lighter feeling product.

To other readers: Please don't try the recipe posted here! As has been pointed out, there is no emulsifier and no preservative, which is doubleplusungood!

p said...

I agree, that recipe is really not going to work (except perhaps temporarily), and I fear for homemade oat milk kept at room temperature for months!

When I first read this post, I had no idea of the context. Just spent the last hour (!) reading through (some of) the contentious threads, and oof. Internet conflict. Sorry about all the strife, and as I know you know, sometimes you just have to cut bait and focus on the good. And likewise to The Lady Marah, whose blog I would totally read if I were a soaper. I hope this nuttiness passes and that the blog stays fun for you! Thanks as always for what you do.

The Lady Marah said...

@P - Thank you for your sincere consdieration. I was sure hoping the nuttiness has passed months ago, but it seems I was mistaken. I enjoy writing my blog when I develop new info to compile. Bar soap making has so many resources from books, to many online articles and videos written. Liquid soaping, not so much. It'll take more than Internet strife to deter me from my work.

Well, anyways, it seems I've done my part here. Thank you again, P, and any others who have come out of the shadows for me. Cheers!