Grainy-balm

 

 

 

How to avoid graininess in balms

Jan 22, 2022 | The basics

For a long time graininess in a balm did not occur to me mostly because I mainly made shampoos, bath bombs and lotions. And graininess only happens in products that are made solely of oils, butters, waxes and are known as anhydrous formulations.

So, basically anhydrous formulations do not have any water in them and common products are lip balms, salves, body butters, body bars. 

What is a gritty / grainy lip balm / body butter and how to avoid it?

1. what is a grainy / gritty lip balm / body butter?

A grainy lip balm or a body butter is a product which feels not so great when applied on the skin. If the grains are very small and usually not visible to the eye, they feel like sand when applied. However, if the grains are very big, you can definitely see them and they contribute to very unpleasant feeling on the skin. The bigger the grains, the more unpleasant the feel as they don’t melt right away on the contact. 

Grainy-balm

Also, you will probably see that something is not right with your formulation as the product will have some inconsistencies such as white specs / dots. The main thing is that it won’t be uniform anymore.

2. what causes grainy lip balm / body butter?

As mentioned before all anhydrous products are made of oils, butters and waxes and all of them have a different chemical compositions. They are all made of fatty acids – unsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids. 

Oils have a higher unsaturated fatty acid content and this is why they are in a liquid form. A much higher content of saturated acids are in butters and waxes which give them a solid form. When we want to include any wax or butter in our formulation, we have to melt these ingredients so our final product would be uniform.

You can tell that a liquid oil has some of saturated fatty acids when the oil is not uniform (see the picture below). It has some clumps that sit on the bottom or float in the surface. This usually happens when the room temperature is too low for that particular oil to be in liquid form. You can try this for yourself – put the olive oil in the fridge and leave it at least for a day. You will see some clumps forming – these are saturated fatty acids.

Saturated-fatty-acids

However, when the heated fatty acids cool down, they do it at different temperatures and sometimes they form little clusters which feel like little grains in lip balms / body butters. This grittiness can be seen after a day or even show only weeks after the product was made. This is why the ends products should be tested in longer periods of time.

For example: stearic acid (has 18 carbon atoms) and palmitic acid (has 16 carbon atoms) are saturated fatty acids. Stearic acid melts at 69 °C while palmitic acid melts at 62°C. Unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid is liquid in room temperature and when the oils cool down, palmitic and stearic acids tend to group together and form these whites beads in the product.

Sal-butter

The made products can stay uniform if:

  • the heated oils were cooled down properly;
  • there are no temperature fluctuations where the products are kept (this is why most of the lip balms go grainy as they usually go to different places from the warm pocket to the cold counter);
  • the product formula is well balanced in the first place.

3. Which butters will mostly cause graininess?

Any soft butter but mostly shea and mango butters. However, it can also happen to hard butters such as cocoa butter. 

cosmetic-butters

4. how to avoid graininess / grittiness?

There are several ways how to actually do it. 

4.1. Temper raw materials

The first one – tempering the butters. You have to make sure that the butters you are using are not grainy in the first place. Take a look at your butters, try to rub them between your fingers or spread little bit on your hand. If you feel the grains on your skin, then the butter is definitely grainy and you should temper it. This is especially important if you are making a product woth no heating phase. 

How to temper a butter? Take all your butter and heat it slowly until everything has melted. You can hold a few more minutes just to make sure that even the tiniest bits are melted. Then, pour the butter in the container and place it in the fridge / freezer to cool it quickly. And that should be it.

Grainy-shea-butter

If you still see grains in the butter, then re-melt it again and cool down it the other way (if previously you have cooled it in the fridge, then cool it in the freezer).

4.2. Proper cooling

The second way involves proper cooling of the heated oils. So, don’t pour your heated oils directly to the container. Before that, get the beaker with oils out of water bath and stir it vigorously. After some time you will see that the oils get cloudy – you have reached a trace. There are several stages of trace, but here you will have to experiment. Sometimes it is enough to get to the first cloudiness, sometimes you need a thicker trace to avoid graininess. Also, it is important that you can still pour the traced oils into containers, so keep this in mind. 

stirred-to-trace-oils-2

If your heated phase contains only butters and oils, you will have to to cool them in a cold water bath to get the trace quicker as it takes a lot of time to cool them without any cooling.

After pouring oils put the containers in the fridge or freezer. This will ensure that the fatty acids cool down quickly and do not make any clusters.

I have found a very nice article which you should check out – it is really eye opening 🙂

https://skinchakra.eu/blog/archives/317-So-you-want-to-avoid-graininess-in-your-butters-and-balms.html

4.3. Changing the formula

If you still get graininess in your formulations, you should try to change the formula a bit. If you are using a lot of soft butters, you  should use less or even don’t use them at all. Some of it could be substituted by wax that melt at around 50-65°C. You will have to try several times to get the right consistency, melting point and feel of the end product. 

Another thing you can try is using a bit of more wax to ensure that the end product has a higher melting point and will not be bothered by temperature fluctuations.

5. how to fix a grainy body butter?

You can only fix a grainy body body that has no heat sensitive ingredients such as vitamin E, essential oils or other heat sensitive active ingredients. 

Firstly, you should place the body butter in the container which is convenient for heating and cooling. Then, slowly and gently heat it. Prepare a cold water bath – just plain water or water with some ice cubes in it. If you need a really cold bath, try adding salt in the water + ice cubes. 

When everything has melted put the container in the cold water bath and stir it to trace. You can get the container in and out of the water bath so the oils cool down evenly and you won’t get any hard disposals on the sides of the container. Everything should be smooth. If you see some hard specs on the sides – don’t mix them with the rest of the oils. 

When you have reached a trace (the mixture got cloudy) pour everything into a designated container and place it a fridge or a freezer to cool it faster. Don’t place a lid on the container when placed in the fridge or freezer. 

If you have any other tips how to avoid graininess – share them below in the comment section. I would love to know other ways how to deal with this problem. 🙂

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