Monday, January 9, 2017

Weekday Wonderings: Inaccurate shelf life information from a supplier? Choosing a supplier?

In this post, Why did I buy this again? Cera bellina, CJ asks: Can you tell me the shelf life of Cera bellina? I think it would be several years, but would like to be sure before wasting any ingredients! Also, if it's not too much to ask, can you also tell me the approximate life of liquid crothix, polysorbate 80 and glycerin? I think I'm being told a much too short span by the seller and would like a second opinion! Thanks so much!

There are a lot of factors that go into the shelf life of a product, so it's hard to give a definite answer. In general, we can say that this ingredient should last "x", but that can change based on the environment in which you keep it - cool, dark place versus a bright, sunny window - when your supplier opened their container, and so on. (For the ingredients you list, the latter three are at least two years.)

On top of this, these ingredients could have different shelf lives based on manufacturer. For instance, polysorbate 80 from manufacturer ABC could have a one year shelf life, while manufacturer DEF claims a two year shelf life. Again, ask your supplier for more information.

If you don't believe what the supplier has written on their site, ask them for a copy of the data sheet they receive from the manufacturer, do a search on Google using the INCI name of the ingredient, or read up about the ingredient at a manufacturers' site.

An INCI name is the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients name that every ingredient we use should have. For instance, cera bellina has an INCI of Polyglycerol-3 Beeswax. If you'd like to learn more - and I really encourage everyone to do so - please click here to read the post I wrote recently on this topic

Having said this, please don't ask your supplier for every single data sheet for every single ingredient you order as this is an incredible amount of work for them. If it's something unique to that supplier, that's one thing, but if it's something you can learn about in a Google search, please try that first. (I have never met a supplier who wasn't so rushed off her feet that she wasn't all business all the time!)

If you can't trust your supplier, find another one. If it seems your seller doesn't know anything about the ingredients they sell, find another one. If you think they're out to part you from your money dishonestly, find another one. They might be the only place that carries all the things you want in one place, but if you can't trust them to accurately give you a shelf life, how can you trust them with any other information they provide or trust the quality of the ingredients they sell? The things you are seeking can be found at all manner of suppliers - just about everyone carries polysorbate 80 and glycerin - so find someone whom you can trust. (I have lists of suppliers from around the world, which you can find on the frequently asked questions page.)

If I had a dollar for every time I heard Canadian customers complain about a certain supplier who is renowned for terrible service and rude, vulgar, and downright offensive interactions with people, I'd have enough to buy myself that lab homogenizer I so desperately want, although I'm not completely sure what I'd do with it. The excuses I hear? "Well, they've never been rude to me," or "They've always sent me things on time," or "They're the cheapest". Why would anyone want to work with people like this? I know it's important to save money, but you could be the person who never got supply X or ingredient Y, and do you really want that when you've designed your products around things only they carry or are on a deadline? But I digress...

When you get an ingredient, write down on the bottle when you received it. I have a cheap pricing gun my husband bought me to make this easier, and it's been a life saver! (Although, as you can see, the labels don't stick to every kind of bottle well...)

If you think you might not get to an ingredient for a while, consider freezing it. Almost everything you buy can be frozen - oils, butters, emulsifiers, water based ingredients - just make sure you leave some space for expansion for anything that might contain water. (You can't freeze finished products, like lotions and such. And I wouldn't freeze surfactants because it's a pain in the bum to heat them to integrate all the bits back in.)

So the short answer to your question is...find a supplier whom you can trust and ask them for that information.


Susan said...

Hi Susan,
Good info on shelf life. True, we never know how old the items are when we get them from the supplier. I asked once and they told me that they go through their products so quickly that there is nothing to worry about. When does a shelf life start?: When it is manufactured? When the container is opened at the supplier? When we, the end user, receives it? or when we open it? I am not asking you these questions, just questions that come to mind ... we could drive ourselves crazy with shelf life. I currently put the date with a sharpie on the label when I receive the item. That has helped immensely. Although, It can be sometimes difficult to figure out shelf life of some dry products.

You mentioned keeping things in the freezer. I keep all my oils and hydrosols in the refrigerator, but was curious about the freezer. All my dry ingredients are in a cabinet in that shares an outside wall in the utility room in the basement, so its cool, dark, and dry. What types of things can be put in the freezer? or maybe the better question, are there things that should not be frozen? I would probably not put hydrosols in the freezer, but wondering about dry goods - powders and waxes, etc.

Thanks for the info! Your blog is always thought provoking! Take Care, Susan in Calgary

Nuan Wen said...

Thanks for sharing all the information and recipes! I was recently inspired by a fellow blogger and decided to try to make my own version of toners and creams. Glad that I found your blog which helps me immensely.

I wonder which suppliers you would recommend. I just purchased some ingredients from New Directions Aromatics, which is the only one I know. The order is not arrived yet. Hope for the best.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Nuan! Have you looked at the FAQ for the posts on suppliers?

Nuan Wen said...

Thanks, Susan! I will check the FAQs. Still on the process of exploring your blog...

Danuta Kilar said...

I keep all my oils frozen, did put all my extra emulsifiers into freezer too. :) thank you for the idea