Thursday, March 5, 2020

Everything You Need to Know about Hand Sanitizers and How to Make Your Own



As a cosmetic chemist, a big part of my job is making sure we make safe products.

In order to make safe products I've developed a particular set of skills. Skills acquired over a long career. I find harmful microbes, and I kill them. Endlessly, you might even say gleefully, and with the utmost attention to detail, and the relevant science.


COVID-19 corona virus is spreading, and will likely reach pandemic levels soon. Health officials are urging people to practice good "hand hygene" by washing your hands frequently with soap and water, or using a hand sanitizer to help limit the spread of the disease. There seems to be a shortage of hand sanitizers, cleaning products, and disinfectants in a lot of places so people are starting to improvise.

Last night on Facebook I saw an article from a usually reputable source that gave a recipe for an all-natural DIY hand sanitizer using vodka. The CDC recommends that any hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60% alcohol to be effective. Regular vodka is only 40% alcohol. It will not fully sanitize anything. I spoke up immediately, as did a lot of other people. The post has been pulled, but unfortunately the article was shared thousands of times. I’ve seen ineffective recipes in countless places, and it’s dangerous.

60% is the minimum amount of alcohol required in hand sanitizers, and you’d think the more the merrier, and be tempted to use the 91% rubbing alcohol, but it’s not as effective. Sanitizers rely on contact time in order to be effective, and they need a little bit of water to help denature the proteins, penetrate the membranes of whatever you’re trying to kill, and it increases the contact time because it dries slower. The sanitizing “sweet spot” is a product containing 60-70% alcohol.

There are a few different kinds of alcohol, but in the DIY hand sanitizer realm there are really two that count: ethanol- the kind that you can drink, and isopropyl alcohol- a.k.a. Rubbing alcohol (the kind you can only drink once). They’re interchangeable in DIY hand sanitizer recipes, but I think ethanol is a little nicer to your skin, and safer if you have small kids that could potentially ingest it. It is, however, much more costly, and high proof vodka may not be available where you live. Regular old isopropyl rubbing alcohol from the drug or discount store will work just fine.

With all that in mind I came up with a few recipes based on what I could find here in my very tiny town with limited shopping options. Each one is formulated to give you a final alcohol concentration of at least 60%. If you’re using water to dilute the alcohol make sure it’s very clean so you don’t contaminate your sanitizer. Distilled water is pretty easy to find in the US, and is about $1 a gallon.



Recipe 1:
½ cup (120 ml) 70% isopropyl alcohol or 151 proof vodka
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) aloe vera gel OR distilled water

Recipe 2:
6 Tablespoons(98 ml) 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol or 180 proof vodka
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) aloe vera gel or distilled water

You can add a few drops of essential oil to make it smell nice, but it’s really mainly just for scent. I can’t find a single good scholarly article about using essential oils to kill the corona virus. I know there are a lot that have great anti-microbial properties, but without good research I can’t in good conscience recommend them to fight the corona virus.

Thanks for reading this! Please share this as widely as you can to keep everyone safe, and from wasting their time on ineffective recipes. Stay healthy!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Valentine's 2020!!!

Way back in the early 2000's I took a little trip to NYC, and bought a $50 lipstick because I was curious to see what a $50 lipstick would have in it- how would it look, how would it feel, how would this little tube transform my life.

When I got the tube back to the hotel the ingredients list was...lacking.  It was a slightly gussied-up version of the usual lipstick ingredients- petroleum products, silicones, waxes, and pigments.  The packaging was nice, and the color was ok, but really- IMHO it wasn't $48 better than a drugstore lipstick.

I came back to the lab all fired-up to make something that was actually luxurious.  I got out my super duper precious oils.  Ones that bigger manufacturers can't even buy because they'd need more than is produced in a year- cranberry, passionfruit, shea butter, and camellia.  It became our Black Label luxury gloss. 

The packaging wasn't as fancy- it really couldn't be, but inside was the most prescious, most luxurious ingredients that could be found anywhere.  Oils that special can't be packaged in a regular lipstick bullet.  The shelf life would be ruined.  So it went into our regular black tubes because they do a great job at keeping extra air out of the packaging so the delicate ingredients stay fresher longer.

A dozen or so years later NO ONE has topped us!  I checked- lipstick prices have gone up, and the ingredients have changed to keep up with technology, but there still isn't any lipstick on the market that contains anything that's more luxurious than the Black Label, and Smooth and Full.  Along the way we started adding some dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline- it provides even deeper moisture, and a little bit of plumping.  It also helps prevent wrinkles, and called it Smooth and Full. 

To celebrate Valentine's we're releasing 4 new colors of the Smooth and Full which has become a real staple for sooo many people.  It was the most requested product of this release!


We also have some new shadows!  For Valentine's Day I want to look great, but I also don't want to spend a lot of time getting ready.  So, I created some shades that are really easy to wear, and incredibly flattering.  I love complex shadows.  I think they're more interesting, and more fun, and a little easier to apply because they don't tend to need a lot of complicated techniques to make a great look.

Two shades are demi-mattes- so the sparkle isn't over the top, but there's a nice flash of duochrome color.  They're a nice all-purpose finish.  We also have a new matte formula.  They're a little softer, and built to blend beautifully.  We also have a customer-requested light purple color that's super fun and flashy!

Last but not least we have a new cream blush- Lovely that's a gorgeous plummy pink shade.  If you like Rosie, and others in that family this is a great addition.  There's also a fun new lip balm- Cinnamon Hearts!

Thank you all so much for all of your great ideas for this collection!  It was super fun to create them all, and I hope that you love them as much as I do!  I'd also like to thank you all for all of your support.  SN has ALWAYS thrived because of you- all of your kind words, support, liking, and sharing our social posts- it's all important, and we are sooo grateful!!!

Happy Valentine's Day!