Monday, August 29, 2016

Vitamin E in Skin Care

Oils, whether they be vegetable and plant oils in a jar, or oils that make up the cell membranes of an organism are prone to oxidation and degradation. This oxidation can be stopped by antioxidants, particularly vitamin E. 

Oils are mainly triglycerides which are composed of fatty acids. These fatty acids are carbon chains that consist of either double bonds or single bonds between the carbons.  Carbon chains containing single bonds are known as saturated fatty acids while those with one or more double bonds are referred to as unsaturated. It is the unsaturated fatty acids that are more prone to oxidation and the risk of oxidation increases with the number of double bonds.

This oxidation is initiated by light, heat, metals or oxygen, so keeping oils away from these helps to slow oxidation, but it is inevitable. A free radical contains an unpaired electron which makes it highly reactive and unstable. It is looking for an electron on another molecule to steal, thus setting up a chain reaction of forming free radicals. When these oxidative products are formed from oils the breakdown products are off flavor compounds such as ketones, aldehydes, alcohols and more. They tend to have a characteristic smell known as ‘rancid’.

Your body is constantly making free radicals, and at the same time making antioxidants to stop them from causing damage. Hopefully, a nice balance exists, but not always. The oil in a bottle on your shelf or your newly made skin care product has no way to make antioxidants like your body does so it is helpful to add an antioxidant to prevent oxidation.

Vitamin E is an important oil soluble antioxidant to protect polyunsaturated fatty acids and other cell membrane components from oxidation. Vitamin E reacts with a lipid radical faster than that lipid radical can react with other lipids and so suppresses the propagation of oxidation.  It does this by transferring a hydrogen atom to a lipid free radical. Of course now the vitamin E molecule becomes a free radical but it can react with another vitamin E free radical to form a non-radical product. This terminates the chain reaction of oxidation.

Vitamin E is a family of eight different molecules; 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. Vitamin E is high in wheat germ oil, canola oil, and almond oil, but commercially, vitamin E is typically extracted from soybean oil. Buy your vitamin E from a skin care ingredient supplier, do not use capsules from the store as this is not pure vitamin E.

Bottom line is that your skin care products should contain an antioxidant such as vitamin E to prevent the breakdown of oils in your product. Many crafters are being taught that this is similar to a preservative that will prevent the growth of bacteria or fungus in a product where it is not at all similar. If you have a product that contains any form of water, you need to have a preservative to prevent growth of microbes. Vitamin E will not prevent growth of microbes, but vitamin E should be in your products that contain oil to prevent the breakdown of these oils.

To learn more about preservatives (anti-microbials) see this post on What is the Best Preservative?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Startup Week in Longmont - A Celebration of Entrepreneurship

Startup Week is a week long celebration of entrepreneurship and community. Longmont will host its second Startup Week June 6-12.  The concept of Startup Week was born from Startup Weekend, an idea of Andrew Hyde's (then at Techstars) in Boulder in 2007.  The idea was to get entrepreneurs together to launch a startup in 54 hours and then pitch the idea to an audience. It is intended for early stage startups. Learn more here.  The idea grew as more companies contacted him to have their own Startup Weekend.

Marc Nager of UP Global launched Startup Week as a non-profit, intensive program of entrepreneurship and community. The phenomenon has spread to over 40 cities all across the globe now.

Startup Week is a great networking event bringing together entrepreneurs, community leaders, stakeholders and community members in an intensive week of educational talks. It is a tremendous  volunteer effort and the volunteers in Longmont do an amazing job! Last year I participated in a panel on women entrepreneurs and this year I'll be doing one on one mentoring to help others just starting.  Startup Week in Longmont is a unique experience that reflects the particular businesses in our city, as every Startup Week is. This way you could actually travel to all the Startup Weeks across the country and never get the same thing.

Do you have Startup Week in your city? To learn more about how you can bring one to your city see To see what is happening in Longmont visit

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Beer Brewing Herbs

If you like beer you may be interested in growing some of your own ingredients. Hops are the most common herb used in beer and are used for  bittering. They are relatively easy to grow and make a nice vine to grow up your deck or elsewhere.

I've been reading "The Homebrewer's Garden" by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher which details many of the other herbs that are and have been used in beer.  I was not only amazed at how many herbs have been used in beer but also realized that I grow many of these herbs.

Hops are my favorite as I am a fan of great IPA's. They not only bitter the beer it but to create a variety of unique flavor profiles that include floral, piney and citrus. There are some beers that taste very similar to grapefruit juice just becasue of the hops they use. If you are not a beer drinker you may not realize that there are actually many different varieties of hops all producing different aromas and flavors in a beer because of their alpha and beta acids.
We grow hops here on the farm and use them in dream pillows as they are a good for destress and to promote sleep. You may have experienced relaxation after you've had a few beers! Hops are also good for skin care and help decrease irritation and promote hydration. I've written about the benefits of hops before, here.


There are additional herbs that are used in beer for bittering, flavoring and giving the beer a nice aroma.

Herbs used for bittering include yarrow, horehound, sage, dandelion, costmary, and clary sage. They are typically added at the beginning of the boil phase and need to be balanced with hops which are also bitter.

Flavoring herbs include rosemary, hyssop, borage, oregano, mint, bee balm/monarda, lemon balm, sweet woodruff, marjoram and thyme. Add these carefully as they can have rather strong flavors. They can be added at the beginning or near the end of the boil.

Other herbs can be added for aroma including rosemary, hyssop, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, bee balm, elder flowers. If adding them for aroma they are added toward the end of the boil. 

Yarrow apparently was commonly used to bitter beer before hops were used, a beer known now as Gruit Ale. I don't know if any commercial brewers use this but I did find a lot of interest in it on several beer brewing websites.

Other herbs that I grow that are used in beers are Horehound, Coriander, Summer savory, Nasturtium, Raspberry Fruit, Rhubarb, Rose Hips and Valerian leaf. Not mentioned in the book, but herbs I think would be great in beer include rose petals, red clover, violets, calendula, salad burnett, and feverfew.

I'd love to taste a good hoppy IPA that is flavored with lavender. I've seen several Saison styles with lavender but never an IPA. So, local breweries, make my dream come true please!

Besides using these herbs in beer, they can be used for skin care and bath herbs. Beer Spa is a concept that is gaining in popularity and many of these herbs can be used in conjunction with beer to provide skin benefits. We just put on a beer spa event and hope to do more in our area.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Benefits of Vitamin C for Skin Health

Vitamin C is not made by our bodies and so it must be ingested. Rich sources include citrus fruits, peppers, parsley and berries. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and so it is not found in oils. Although rose hips may be a good source of vitamin C, the oil extracted from rose hips is not a source of vitamin C as many claim. 

Signs of Vitamin C deficiency are follicular hyperkeratosis (rough, raised bumps), petechial hemorrhages (red marks), swollen or bleeding gums, and joint pain.

Vitamin C is also known as L-ascorbic acid and it likes to work with flavonoids for full activity. Its actions include:

  1. It is a cofactor for the enzyme lysyl and prolyl hydroxylase. These enzymes are necessary to form the three dimensional structure of the skin matrix protein, collagen. Improving collagen leads to firmer skin.

  1. Vitamin C inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase which results in decreased production of melanin. This helps reduce pigmented age spots on the skin.

  1. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and inhibits lipid peroxidation and DNA damage caused by UV light. In doing so it also helps protect against UV induced skin damage.
  1. Vitamin C inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-1α, IFN-γ, IL-8, IL-2, TNF-α, and eotaxin  as well as CRP. This may result in decreased reddening and irritation of the skin.

  1. Ascorbic acid participates in the synthesis of carnitine. (β-hydroxy butyric acid). Carnitine is an antioxidant, is thought to firm the skin and is involved in the production of energy from fats.

  1. Ascorbic acid is involved reactions necessary for activity of oxytocin; the love hormone that is stimulated by skin to skin contact.
For a face care product that has vitamin C try Springtide Gold by Colorado Aromatics.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cosmetic Science for Middle School

Part of the mission statement of our company is to educate. In today's world when there is so much fear of chemistry I love the opportunity to help educate youth about opportunities in chemistry. Yesterday I participated in a presentation for a GEMS group; Girls in Engineering, Math and Science. The day was sponsored by a local high school leadership group and invitations were sent to middle school girls. There were 4 presenters and the girls circulated through the 4 classrooms for presentations. It seemed like the main theme and interest was robotics so cosmetic chemistry was a little different - its nice to let girls know how chemistry applies to their everyday life.

We made bath fizzies and talked about the chemical reaction involved between the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and citric acid. In case you are interested, the equation is below:

NaHCO3 + C6H8O7 → CO2 + H2O + Na3C6H5O7

The reaction between an acid (citric acid) and a base (sodium bicarbonate) yields a salt and water; in this case trisodium citrate and water. In this particular reaction, one of the products is also carbon dioxide which is a gas released and is what produces the fizziness in the bath. 

Here is the bath fizzy formula we used:
1 cup baking soda
1/3 cup citric acid
1.5 ounce kokum butter  (melted)
0.5 ounce rice bran oil (infused with horehound)
6 ml fragrance oil

Melt butter, mix with other ingredients and mold into a muffin tin. Let set for awhile so the butter hardens. 

Another important thing we talked about was how to pronounce ingredients in an attempt to discredit the misnomer that 'if you can't pronounce it then its toxic'. I want girls to be smart enough to expand their vocabulary rather than be intimidated by new words and assume things are toxic just because they've never heard of them. We went over the ingredient list for their bath truffles to make sure they could pronounce everything. 
Sodium bicarbonate, Garcinia indica (Kokum) Butter, Citric Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice Bran) Oil, Marrubium Vulgare (Horehound) Extract, Fragrance.

I ended up having some time left over, so next year I'll talk more about what a cosmetic chemist does on a day to day basis. I hope I stimulated at least some interest in chemistry. Have you ever taught young students about what you do?


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