Discussion: What did you learn from a spectacular fail?

I always say I gain confidence from my successes but learn more from my failures, but this doesn’t mean I love to see a lotion fall apart or a conditioner start weeping oil a week or two later. I admit to getting more than a little peeved when I only have a few hours in the workshop in a week and things don’t work, but even in my “crush, kill, destroy” moments, I know how important it is for me to embrace the fail and learn something from it.

This is a serious Ritamulse SCG fail. My bestie and I were making products for Christmas, and I thought it would be neat to modify our foot lotion to include this emulsifier instead of Polawax, and this is what we made. Cottage cheese looking cream!

What did I learn? I learned that Ritamulse SCG really means it when it says it can’t handle more than 25% oils.

I had another lotion fail with Ritamulse SCG from which I learned that when the data bulletin says to add the preservative at lower than 45˚C, you better add the preservative at lower than 45˚C.

So my question to you today is this: What did you learn from a spectacular fail? 

Related posts:
When lotions go wrong!
Why did this lotion fail? Part one
Why did this lotion fail? Part two
A slightly more in depth look at emulsification
It’s time to make lotion!
A few questions about lotion fails
Question: Why did this lotion fail?
Troubleshooting a lotion fail…
Can I save a failed lotion?
Why did my lotion fail? Loads of links here!
Why did my lotion fail? Emulsifiers
Why did my lotion fail? Emulsifiers continued…
Why did my lotion fail? Heating and holding
Why did my lotion fail? Optiphen
Why did my lotion fail? Water in oil emulsions
How to make a successful lotion

  • Allison H.

    Recently I learned it’s not a good idea to stick a pH meter in a viscous product–ruined my probe. This actually ended up being beneficial though. I bought my first decent meter and now test pH using a 10% dilution every time. Admittedly I balked at measuring via dilution out of sheer laziness, but I’ve developed a pretty quick system of doing so and I think my products are better now because of this fail. Yay for failures!

    I also discovered that unless I want brown soap I need a vanilla color stabilizer! I had read this before, but somehow the information just didn’t stick, and my soap that I thought would be a nice yellow color (to go along with the lemon cake scent!) turned dark brown. I can barely see the poppyseeds! Live and learn. At least color doesn’t affect function 🙂

    I’m about to use the Ritamulse SCG for the first time later today–a little worried but I will definitely take your advice on using it. Thank you Susan!

    • Connie W

      I want to know your quick system 🙂 I just got a pH meter and I was thinking that I am going to wreck it through lazyness

      • Allison H.

        It’s quick for me but may not be for everyone! I do a 10% dilution for testing and always use 25 grams of distilled water and 2.5 grams of product in a 50 ml beaker (I learned this was the perfect amount of fluid/size of beaker to immerse my meter in without drowning it). Once I add my product I use my mini mixer very briefly to make sure everything is mixed. This takes seconds as compared to hand mixing. Because I know that I am never so fortunate as to love my pH after one test, I line up a few beakers pre-measured with 25 grams of distilled water, that way, I only need to add my adjusted product, mix and test. It’s my own neurotic version of an assembly line! One caveat though–not sure if I have subpar quality glass beakers, but my mini mixer actually went right through the glass while mixing the other day! So I’m using polypropylene beakers for this now 🙂

        • Connie W

          Whew, thanks for sharing 🙂 It would have taken me quite a while to come up with that on my own 🙂

  • Kirsten Thomas

    after using an emulsifer that didn’t like acids, salts, quats etc. I ended up with cottage cheese too. What I realized was that even though I took time to research, do the right amount of oils, not use obvious things like quats, I hadn’t figured on the other ingredients/preservatives and minimal amounts of acids and salts in some of the more expensive (argh) ingredients that I was using. Now I know that I have to really look at which extracts I am using, if my anti-aging ingredients have something in them that will break my emulsion, and remembering that HA is an acid. sometimes we just overlook things. The more ingredients I add to the formulas, the more I need to really look at how they all play together. It’s definitely a good lesson learned.

  • Ben

    This was a while ago, but I was learning to work with polymeric emulsifiers that had real issues with any kind of salts. But I thought I knew better because I had made a stable formula that handled a lot of different things so I decided to add .5% aloe extract and boom the network broke down and I ended up with a weird liquid and all the oil came out and floated on the top overnight thankfully it was only 2L of what was becoming a gel style lotion.

    Another was a spray based moisturiser that used a polymeric emulsifier (I love polymeric emulsifiers) and I thought I had managed to make a perfect emulsion and sprayed wonderfully and two weeks later separated and I couldn’t figure it out until about 3 months later what was happening when I hadn’t worked out that with that particular emulsifier required back acidification to become really functional… too functional ended up making a great lotion but not a spray

    I was attempting to make a super thick fluffy cream cleanser, but I was just working off the top of my head and I grabbed polawax without even thinking, well in an hour I had this weird raft of surfactants, waxy polawax floating on my weird water layer and that was that, idea died. I still kinda walk in and start making things with only an idea but I write it down before adding it and double check to make sure everything is compatible

  • CharKirtland

    Made a body wash which all separated. Really trying to figure out what went wrong! Grrrr…. but when I find out–the lesson will stick! Also, still cannot figure out why cold emulsions (Aristoflex,EMT-10 and others) have a tacky feel! What the heck am I doing wrong? Have wasted more ingredients on products which just do not feel right. What am I learning? NOT to add the really expensive ingredients until I like the skin feel!

    • Connie W

      I am right there with you! They all feel sticky/tacky 🙁 I have wasted a lot of pricey additives finding that I don’t like the feel. THat said…..maybe I should revisit the naked lotion and see if its the base or the additives to the base that make it that way….

    • Are you comfortable sharing your formula so we can work through it? We’d need the complete formula in percentages along with your exact process.

      As for the cold emulsions, have you looked at your humectants or preservative? Just a thought… 🙂

      • CharKirtland

        I’m out of town until Friday, but will be glad to share upon return–as I really want to learn what I’ve been doing wrong with shower and facial cleansers! I’ve been in search of making a creamy very emollient shower cleanser–aside from separating (which is bad enough!) I think what is happening is that they are too alkaline and that might also contribute to a dry skin feel.

      • CharKirtland

        OK, Susan, this is the formula I used for the Body Wash which I wanted to be creamy and emmolient:
        Heated Water Ph A:
        20% Distilled Water
        15% Polyglucose/Lactylate Blend
        8% C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate
        2% Panthenol
        6% Stearic Acid
        4% Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate
        4% Hydrolyzed Oat Protein
        3% Glycerin
        3% Glyceryl Stearate
        2% Macadamia Nut Oil

        Heated SCI Phase:
        12% SCI
        10% Coco Betaine
        10% SMC Taurate

        Cool Down:
        .5% Germall Plus
        .5% Fragrance

  • Kim Catania

    I was making an eye cream formulation which I had made successfully at least twice. I noticed this time around it was not as thick as in the past. eye cream and was surprised to see a few our later that it separated. I tried again and thought I had won the battle only to have the cream separate the next day. I was pulling my hair out since I had made this recipe two before without any issues and had not changed a single ingredient. What I did change was the pot I was heating up my ingredients in. who would have thought that would make any difference. Boy was I wrong. I was using an old pot that I used to make chili in and moved to a brand new shiny deep steel saute pan. The end result was that the oil was getting too hot to quickly – disaster. I have gone back to using my old chili pot and that solved the problem. Plus I got a pot for the times that I want to make chili. 🙂

    • Wow! I would’ve never thought of that! I will keep that in mind from now on thank you for sharing!

%d bloggers like this: