Do you ever get a wonderful idea for a lotion or a soap or some other homemade goodie that looks so perfect in your head, but when you actually make it, it turns out nothing like you wanted it to? I think we can all relate to that feeling of frustration!
Several months ago, I sent out a reader survey and I saw quite a few mentions from those who wanted to see my failures and how I fixed them. I thought it was such a good idea, I started taking the time to photograph some of my fail ideas. (Trust me, I have a lot of them!) So, today, I’m sharing a behind the scenes look at a recipe idea that developed all wrong, then talk about how I fixed my errors and made it work out after all.
The focus of this bloopers edition is Basil Anti-Aging Face Cream. You can find the final, perfected recipe HERE. It sure didn’t start off looking like this though!
The Idea Phase
The inspiration for my recipes mainly starts from a couple of places. First, I look around my garden or herb stash, see what I have a lot of and then think: hmmm, how can I use this in some fun and unique way? If nothing immediately comes to mind or if I can’t remember all the benefits the plant offers, I hop over to PubMed (which is a most excellent database of scientific studies on everything imaginable) and do a search on my chosen herb or flower. This sometimes leads to several hours of rabbit trailing when I should be doing the dishes or something else a lot more pressing, but sometimes I hit on a study that sparks an idea.
Skimming through PubMed a few months ago I found the most fascinating study about basil and its use in an anti-aging cream. (You can read the abstract HERE or the full article HERE.) I immediately decided I had to make my own basil anti-aging cream and test it out.
The Brainstorm Phase
I knew I wanted to make a cream and wanted it to be anti-aging, so started thinking about other wrinkle fighting ingredients to put in it. The first one that popped in mind was rosehip seed oil. Rosehip seed oil has been studied and shown to heal damaged skin, reduce scars and wrinkles and many other wonderful things. From that idea, I jumped to: AHA! How about a “Basil Rose Face Cream”?
I decided it would look really cool to have a jar of cream that was half rose and half green. I scribbled out a concept sketch and a rough idea of a recipe. This photo shows the first notes I took. The top was what I was going to do, then the bottom shows what I actually did.
I carried the idea further and decided I would make a matching Basil Rose Toner and Basil Rose Soap! Those recipes will make their way to the blog soon-ish.
The Testing Phase
Here’s where the mistakes started happening.
When I measured out the ingredients, some extra oil spilled out twice, making me have 8 grams (or almost doubled) more oil than I planned in the recipe. In spite of absolutely knowing better, I decided that extra bit wouldn’t matter, but when you’re dealing with grams, they do. (And when we get to the color fail part of this saga, you’ll see why too.)
I also threw an unknown factor in. I’ve been running a test of some nature-derived preservatives and decided to add one of those in there too. I know now from further testing that it doesn’t mess up an emulsion (so far anyway), but some preservatives do and I didn’t know at the time if this one was good or not.
The Color Disaster Phase
Here’s where things went terribly wrong.
I made up my cream and I liked it! Now, I just needed to color it.
My limited experience of coloring creams and lotions in the past was when I’d used a tiny bit of alkanet root (blended with a portion of oil from the recipe) to give a pale pink tinge. I thought that could work for the rose half and maybe I could use chlorella for the green part. Since both herbs do good as oil infusions, I keep a small amount infused in oil for spur of the moment coloring.
I divided my cream in half and stirred in some alkanet infused oil. (BIG mistake to stir in MORE oil after it was already oil-heavy!) It didn’t show up well, so I stirred in more. It turned pink, but wow, did I have to use a lot of oil.
It got worse for the green. I kept adding a bit more and a bit more and finally I could tell it wasn’t going to work. My cream was getting oily and separating. I desperately tried to stir in some French green clay. It did work to add a green color (one that my kid later thought was mold though), but both colors of cream were showing splotches of colored oil beading out.
I briskly stirred both really really well in hopes that they would re-emulsify. I stuck an index card down in a jar and poured each cream into their respective halves of the jar.
And this, is what I ended up with:
The result was not exactly what I had in mind!
The Back to the Drawing Board Phase
I sat down and scratched up a list, similar to what I typed out above, of all of the things I could think of that led to this recipe’s failure.
I decided to scrap the two-color idea. I could probably make up two batches of lotion and include the color in the oil allowance for each one, but I was kind of tired of fooling with that idea for the time being. This turned out to be a good call, since the basil-infused witch hazel in the second attempt ended up giving the final cream a light greenish tint and wouldn’t have mixed well with the pink.
I also decided to change my base ingredients. I went back and read the study again and caught the part where they used an alcohol extract. I had made a water extract of rose petals and basil leaves the first go ’round, but what if the special anti-aging feature in basil was alcohol soluble only? I didn’t want to put straight alcohol in my cream though, so I settled for witch hazel, since it has a small amount in it.
Instead of having odd amounts of ingredients that required some calculating to make sure I had percentages right (I’m not a math whiz and often goof up here) – I based my recipe off of 100 grams. How does that help? Knowing I wanted, for example, 75% liquid in my recipe, meant I only had to turn that to 75 grams and it would be just the right amount I needed.
Since witch hazel can be slightly drying to some skin types (and I have dryish skin), I used extra nourishing avocado butter and hemp seed oil in the new version.
Now, I was ready to try the new recipe, and would be sure to be more careful when measuring the oil. I mixed and measured and heated and stirred and held my breath and….
It worked! Hooray!
Sometimes though, I go through 3 or 4 or 5 failures like that before a project idea turns out. Sometimes, it never does and I have to give up the idea completely. I guess what I hope to convey with this post is that even though the internet is full of perfect Pinterest pretty projects – in real life, it’s very normal to have lots of messes and mistakes!
So, that’s the story of how Basil Anti-Aging Face Cream came to be. I hope it was helpful for some of you!
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