The Low-Down on Borax & GSE

My most popular posts on the blog are my soap and body care how-to's, especially this time of year. This is somewhat ironic seeing as I don't write about those topics a whole lot anymore. Today is an exception.

Last year I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go with entrepreneurial stuff - do I make and sell soap, write e-books, sell ads? - you know, how do I make some money from the work I love to do.

Honestly, I'm still trying to figure this out but as my coaching and teaching have taken off, the picture is slightly less fuzzy. I'm passionate about teaching and encouraging - those two things are part of my personal mission. I don't want to make and sell goods. I want to write, teach, coach and connect with people. And have fun while doing it.

While I was thinking about my different options, and before I had the wee bit of clarity I have now, I had a good idea - I should make a soap and body care teaching tutorial, complete with videos and recipes anyone can make (eg. recipes that don't require a scale and easy access ingredients). Good idea, yes? I love to teach, I enjoy making our own soap and lotion, and there's a market for this kind of information.

I started working on this project last winter. I made my outline, the recipes I would include in the course. I started to test recipes, write and do video. And then I hit a snag.

I like low-stress experimenting with recipes - looking at what's in my stocked soap cupboard, punching some numbers into the lye calculator and winging a new recipe. I don't like testing a recipe with a product in mind - a product that will sell. This stresses me out.

And then I ruined the lotion. A huge big batch of lotion.

You see, I wanted to come up with a lotion recipe that didn't have borax or GSE (you'll see why shortly). While I was at it, I wanted to design a recipe that didn't require a scale. I set out to totally re-work my tried and true recipe to come up with a kick-butt, completely chem-free recipe that used volume, not weight measurements.

These two issues kept coming up in the comments on my most popular posts - eliminating borax and GSE and, what if I don't have a scale?

I published my first homemade lotion post nearly five years ago. Since that time I have received more comments and e-mails about using borax and GSE in body care products than any other single topic, except of course homeschooling related stuff. I thought this was a sign - design a new lotion recipe. One that people everywhere (hey, I have big dreams) could make and feel good using.

Why do I use borax and GSE in my lotion?

Borax is an emulsifier. My lotion recipes mix water and oil and we all know how well those two mix together. By some magic (called chemistry) borax makes those two mix together.

Grapefruit Seed Extract is reportedly an antifungal and antibacterial agent. In previous lotion posts I called it a preservative for which I was emphatically corrected. The way I see it, by preventing the growth of microorganisms in your lotion (they can grow in the water), you are preserving the product and extending shelf life. I hate technical quibbles which is why I avoid them as much as possible. But the fact remains I add GSE to lotion to preserve it and prevent mold growth, etc.

So, what's the deal with borax and GSE?

Well, that depends what you read and who you talk to. But here's the lowdown from my limited research.

Borax

I present you the following:

It ain't particularly pretty. And I put this in my lotion?

But wait a minute, before we all get panicky let's stop to consider the amount of borax that is needed to be a skin irritant or respiratory risk. These reports don't say. Are minute amounts irritating? I don't know the answer to that. I'm not a chemist or environmental scientist.

What I find really interesting about all this, is that many people, myself included, make their own "green" cleaning products using borax. Are we all being green-washed?

If you enjoy in-depth discussions about these things and would like to read another (though less accessible in terms of ingredients) lotion recipe check out this Learning Herbs.com recipe. And then scroll through the comments for the borax discussion.

GSE - Grapefruit Seed Extract

I direct you to Dr. Andrew Weil's take on GSE. I don't take GSE internally but there is evidence that might not be the best practice. However, drops in a lotion don't seem all that harmful, from my very unscientific assessment.

Knowing all that, what's a health-conscious person to do?

Like I said, I tried to come up with a borax and GSE free recipe. I failed.

How did my recipe fail?

It separated.

Surprise, surprise. So I had to keep it in the fridge to hold it together (and preserve it which didn't work either). I don't like using lotion from the fridge. You have to scrape it with your nail and then warm it up in your hand and it's just a pain. Not to mention the fridge is not exactly in the bathroom where I wash my face.

It grew mold.

For the first time ever, my lotion went bad. At first I noticed a funky smell. And then I noticed a funny coloration and then mold. Lovely. It didn't happen to all the jars (4 large jars!) at once. Just the ones I had been using. The ones I kept stored in the fridge were good but like I said fridge storage is a pain.

What not to do when testing a new lotion recipe:

  • Make a huge batch. What was I thinking? Making a large batch with an untested recipe? I had a good reason for making a larger batch. In order to "make" the oil and water mix I used a blender, a strategy I've read other places as well as in Rosemary Gladstar's book. My blender doesn't work well with small batches so I doubled (or did I triple the recipe?). There was a method to my madness. I just wish I hadn't made so much. What a waste of good oils.
  • Change too many variables at once. Like switching to volume vs. weight, removing GSE and borax at the same time. Any good scientist knows you don't mess around with a bunch of variables while testing a theory. (Ahem, I may have mentioned already I'm not a scientist).
  • Give extra jars to friends and family. Oh yes, because it was such a large batch I gave extras away! Then when my jars went bad I sent apologetic e-mails, "you know that lotion I gave you for your birthday, make sure you keep it in the fridge and throw it out if it smells funny and by the way, it shouldn't separate like that." Yada, yada. How embarrassing.

Where I stand now on GSE & Borax in lotion

  • They work. I haven't been able to successfully make lotion with other options. I doesn't mean other options don't work, it just means I haven't tried them, or I haven't been successful with the attempts I have made.
  • Making my own, with these ingredients, is still better than almost all store bought options (that are available in my price range). And really I don't want to buy lotion when I can make it so easily.
  • In the quantities I use them, I don't feel they are harmful (I could be totally wrong on this).
  • My life is not chemical-free and stressing over this small point may be stressing just a little bit too much.

Let me explain this last point. Remember when I shared that we don't eat all organic food? In other words we are regularly and knowingly exposing ourselves to harmful chemicals. When you say it this way it's a sobering thing but that's the reality folks. We accept this risk because of our overall health (we're not actively healing a disease) and the cost/benefit analysis.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. We also expose ourselves to car exhaust, driving around as we do on roads. We eat out occasionally and who knows what chemicals are in those food ingredients, etc.

I do not live my life in not a pure, organic bubble. None of us do. Some of us are willing to make compromises in certain areas. Right now, using borax in my lotion (until I find an alternative that works), is one of my compromises.

Have you noticed that a lot of small shop, natural and homemade skin care companies don't sell moisturizing cream? Hard lotion bars yes, but not liquid. I think my experience illustrates why.

In light of all those facts here's the options you might consider if you are hard-core and want a completely chem-free lotion for your skin.

  • Make smaller batches of preservative-free lotion. Real small batches. This means you would be making lotion on a frequent basis. Be willing to experiment and fail. By the way failure is not bad, it's how we learn. But I just don't have the patience for messing around with this right now in my life. I recently got a book you might like. You can truly eat most these recipes, which has to be good for your skin.
  • Experiment with other "preserving" oils and alcohols.
  • Try using baking soda or lecithin instead of borax as an emulsifier. I haven't tried either of these yet.
  • Make hard lotion bars. Google it. There's a ton of recipes out there. I tried this last winter. I'm not particularly fond of them.
  • Don't make lotion at all. Just use coconut oil on your face. Again, no experience with this, so please don't ask me how it works.

Or, if you don't want to be completely chem-free and want to ensure your lotion is bacteria and mold free, use a real preservative like optiphen. I have no experience with this whatsoever. I like to make lotion using what I can find at my grocery store and local health food store. And I'm not selling it, so my standards aren't the same.

And that closes the chapter for me, for now, on lotion making and product testing. I'm done.

I still make our own lotion and soap but because it's not at the edge of my learning curve I don't get the same joy from writing about it, which is why there haven't been many soap related posts this past year on the blog, even though these posts are very popular. (Blogging "wisdom" says you should write about what's popular, right? So much for blogging wisdom.)

I'd much rather help you homeschool. Connect with you. Document our beautiful and adventurous life. Someone else can teach the lotion making.

Care to join the conversation? What kind of lotion do you use? What do you think about the toxicity of borax, do you still use it in your home? Where are you willing to compromise?

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

« Q & A Tuesday ~ The Answers
I am at a loss »
  • Amanda

    Amanda on Dec. 13, 2012, 3:19 p.m.

    I still use the same lotion (homemade) that I began making a couple years ago. It does contain a tiny amount of borax. I guess it's worth trying baking soda as an emulsifier but honestly, I am not terribly worried about the borax. It still makes a lot more sense than buying commercially made lotion, and honestly I don't use a ton of lotion. I went back and read some of the comments on that other post - no wonder you're not up for the product testing and development! Good grief.

    I don't use GSE, but I have not had any issues with lotion going bad (despite not using it all the time and I certainly do not keep it in the fridge!!).

    I do also make lotion bars, but they're for a different purpose - I put in some eo's like thyme and lavender that are good anti-bacterial/anti-septic/anti-viral/whatever so that when we're out and have to touch suspicious things, we can at least run a lotion bar over the hands as a precautionary measure. Lotion bars have also been great for really stubborn dry/cracked heels. Easier to rub on.

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  • Melissa

    Melissa on Dec. 13, 2012, 4:07 p.m.

    Making lip balm was the way I found your blog...it came up in a search for recipes. FWIW, I did find your video demonstrating how to make simple soap helpful...it gave me the nudge to try making soap on my own since it looked far less scary than reading instructions (I'm primarily a visual learner).

    I started with lotion bars, which work nicely (I use a 3d massage mold which is a nice way to cast them). Last winter I alternated between using a body butter (no water in that), and a blend of oils (one mix of heavier oils for body, another with light oils for facial use), and they all worked well with no issues regarding preservatives.

    This past summer I tried a water-oil lotion, using soy lecithin as the emulsifier and a bit of GSE and Vitamin E (MT-50 Full Spectrum). The emulsifier worked. I used it in a bottle with a pump dispenser to minimize contamination. The lotion had a delicious texture. It was wonderful. And in a month it was off. But I had only made a small bottle's worth and it was almost empty, so not much was wasted. I might try it again in the spring when I want something lighter, but I have no expectation it will last long. My next batch of winter moisturizer is going to be a loose mix of oil and shea butter...something I can pour or glop out of a glass bottle.

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    • Melissa

      Melissa on Dec. 13, 2012, 4:20 p.m.

      Regarding compromise... I'm not interested in selling or sharing water-oil lotion, so I'm willing to make small batches as needed for home, without the type of preservatives that will keep something shelf stable for months...for me it's like food...I don't want to consume food that needs/uses a bunch of preservatives for a long shelf-life, so I'm not about to make body care products like that either.

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  • Kika

    Kika on Dec. 13, 2012, 5:18 p.m.

    I make homemade lotion in amounts that last several months - I guess you might call it a body butter rather than lotion since it contains no water which is the biggest problem in having it go bad. I use essential oils and vitamin e oil which help extend "shelf life" but tend to store my extra little tubs (not the one I'm currently using) in the fridge anyways b/c they contain a fair amount of coconut butter which melts when it is warm - although doesn't wreck it at all.

    During the coldest parts of our winters my legs can start feeling a little dry and I know a lotion with water content could help with this but I am happier making my own and knowing exactly what goes into it - plus it is fun.

    I don't use borax in my home. I'm sure the small amount in your lotion is fine but I've seen no reason to use it since I have an alternative that I'm happy with. In life I compromise regularly, though. Whenever I've gone to 'extremes' I end up miserable and feeling like a huge failure.

    Glad you shared that you, too, have flops on occasion:)

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    • renee

      renee on Dec. 13, 2012, 5:42 p.m.

      Do you use your body butter on your face? I was wondering if that would be too rich? I use just one lotion for everything. What about you?

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      • Melissa

        Melissa on Dec. 13, 2012, 6:02 p.m.

        Everyone is different. A body butter could work, or could work for specific facial areas. For example, there's an 'eye cream' I use...that was originally made as a hand salve...avocado oil, shea butter, and vitamin e. It is rich and just what the skin around my eyes needs since it is very dry year 'round.

        But, when I tried using something with shea, and even coconut oil on the rest of my face I ended up with dozens of plugged pores. It was clearly not for me. I switched to a very dry oil...grapeseed, infused with horsetail, and added some essential oils that suited my skin and it was perfect. Long story short, try your lotion. If it doesn't work then you'll know and can figure something else out if needed.

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      • Kika

        Kika on Dec. 13, 2012, 6:17 p.m.

        A little too rich for everyday use for me but a few times/wk I use bkg soda with coconut oil as a facial scrub in the shower. That leaves my skin feeling nice and soft - not too oily.

        When I turned 39 or so I noticed my skin began really changing (I felt like my natural lotions were no longer cutting it for my face) and I "compromised!" and bought a store bought lotion made for aging skin:)

        I have also begun dabbing some of my vitamin e oil directly around my eyes and neck once in a while.

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        • renee

          renee on Dec. 14, 2012, 3:05 p.m.

          Kika, I tried this in the shower last night - b soda and coc oil. I think I used too much coco oil. It was was too greasy for me. I had to wash it off with my soap, which is super moisturizing anyway.  what proportion do you use of coc oil to b soda. Aging skin - oh my, are we that age already?!

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          • Kika

            Kika on Dec. 14, 2012, 4:24 p.m.

            I don't measure for recipes (not my body lotion, lip balm, nothin') - the first time it was too gritty for me (I want it as an exfoliant but don't want to be overly rough on my skin)so I added some more coc oil. I will let you know that the first time I tried it I was worried it would leave my skin too oily b/c after you rinse the bkg soda off you can still feel almost a film of the oil on your face, right? But you WANT to leave this on. By the time I was out of the shower and dried off my skin simply felt soft - not oily at all. So maybe try it a couple more times to see what happens when you are out of the shower?!

            And yes, the aging process can bring such change - most my life I was concerned about keeping my face/body oil free and then hit around 39 as I mentioned and noticed how much drier my skin and scalp had 'suddenly' become.

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            • Melissa

              Melissa on Dec. 14, 2012, 6:04 p.m.

              Sometimes I use baking soda for a quick exfoliant too, but I use it in conjunction with my soap...after lathering soap on my face, I sprinkle the soda on my hands (maybe a tsp at most) and then gently rub the baking soda on using the soap lather to help distribute it without scratching. I find it doesn't take long to work (less than a minute), and rinses off well. I do this at the sink vs. in the shower.

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    • Aja

      Aja on April 10, 2016, 5 p.m.

      Do you have a recipe for the butter that you would be willing to share?

      reply

  • Mindy

    Mindy on Dec. 13, 2012, 6:02 p.m.

    I have not ventured into soap-making yet. I've tried a few body butter type of recipes. They're so heavy...which is good for dry skin but I don't like that greasy feeling. Currently I use coconut oil as an all-in-one -- I remove my make-up with it in conjuction with a warm cloth. I then add a dab more after the 'cleaning' is done. It's helping my complexion so much. I use it as a body moisturizer also...two reasons - I adore the smell and it's simple (no mixing). It seems to soak in much quicker than any body butter recipe I've tried also. I do use it on my face prior to make-up application. I don't wear a lot of make-up anymore and haven't had any trouble with it causing my make-up to melt away. I also brush my toddler's teeth with it. I don't like the ingredients in the readily-available children's toothpaste/gels. I do use one by Weleda occassionally but it's so pricey...using quality coconut oil helps off-set that cost and she absolutely loves it.

    Great post as always and I just love your photography! Christmas blessings to you and your family.

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    • renee

      renee on Dec. 14, 2012, 3:03 p.m.

      Thanks Mindy for sharing your experience with coconut oil and how you use it. Coconut oil is so versatile isn't it?

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  • Jenn

    Jenn on Dec. 13, 2012, 6:26 p.m.

    I have oily skin and deal with adult acne. Ugh! I mix baking soda and vinegar and wash my face daily with this. Sometimes twice. It's gentle and strong. I can use it as a mask or wash it right off. When I read "borax" in lotion I was intrigued but I don't think I'll be mixing Borax and vinegar, though I'm so tempted! The rest of my body is dry so I use olive oil there. When it gets really bad, I soak in oatmeal, baking soda and epsom salt.

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  • Mama

    Mama on Dec. 14, 2012, 1:43 a.m.

    My mom is an LMT, and she always used coconut oil for massage, unless of course someone had an allergy. It is great for your skin, is odorless, and feels great. I know this personally because we use it ourselves, not as a daily face lotion, but for dry areas or massage.

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    • renee

      renee on Dec. 14, 2012, 2:57 p.m.

      I have used coconut oil on my body but yes, like you say I don't know I'd want it straight on my face. Too oily I'm guessing.  My skin has done really well with my lotion. I apply it right after my shower, before bed and lately I haven't been washing my face in the morning (don't gasp). I just don't feel the need, except for maybe a light rinse to walk me up or wash my eyes. Mostly I'm just lazy I think!

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  • Kyce

    Kyce on Dec. 14, 2012, 2:36 a.m.

    Thanks for revisiting this question here, Renee. I am a big fan of Rosemary's face cream, and feel comfortable improvising off the recipe. If I make too much, it will go bad even in the fridge (after six months...), but it always lasts on the shelf till a small jar is empty. Though perhaps our climate contributes to that? I've never used borax so I'm not really sure what I'm missing out on, but appreciate your points about not living in a pure world, and not sweating the small stuff. I'm also a big fan of just simple herbal oils, and will put that on my face too.

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    • renee

      renee on Dec. 14, 2012, 2:54 p.m.

      I've always used borax for cleaning and thought it was green. I think many of us thought it was. And now maybe not so much? Rosemary's recipe does come highly recommended.

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  • Michelle Carchrae

    Michelle Carchrae on Dec. 14, 2012, 6:08 a.m.

    The one and only time I have made lotion I followed Rosemary Gladstar's "Perfect Cream" recipe and it turned out fine, didn't separate and hasn't gone bad, even stored on the shelf in my bathroom. Maybe it was just beginner's luck, or maybe there's some kind of natural preservative/emulsifier in her recipe. maybe aloe vera? and/or the lavender oil I used? I know I didn't use borax or GSE. hmm.

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    • renee

      renee on Dec. 14, 2012, 2:53 p.m.

      Michelle, Celine made that recipe once and sold some actually to family members. I separated a bit but not too much. I did like that recipe. Maybe I should try it again... I just didn't like how the water "beaded" out of it. 

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      • Isabelle

        Isabelle on Dec. 14, 2012, 11:33 p.m.

        That's the recipe I use now, too. In the past I experimented with other lotion recipes with emulsifiers and preservatives (I was worried about it going bad), but eventually stopped because I didn't like using any chemicals. After I became a mother, using non-toxic stuff became even more important.

        I got Rosemary's book last Christmas (I think I saw it recommended on your blog, Renee). I've made the cream three times since, and it always comes out beautifully, and it keeps very well. I vary the oils I use and experiment with wax proportions (made it thinner this time and notice the water beeds for the first time). I make two jars and store one in the fridge while I use up the first one. I also love her cleansing grains and shampoo recipe (my husband used to have dry itchy scalp and this has helped enormously).

        When I'm not taking a shower, I cleanse my face with jojoba oil (rinse with a hot washcloth), and then tone with rosewater and moisturise with a couple drops of jojoba. I love the simplicity and my skin seems to like this regimen.

        In the end though, I guess everyone is different and needs to find what works for their skin :)

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Dec. 15, 2012, 1 a.m.

    I've always wondered about borax, so much so that I never have used it, and therefore, have made very little personal care products since they call for it.

    The only products that I have found to be somewhat okay and/or totally okay are Nature Clean's hand lotion, coconut oil, and lanolin (that breastfeeding cream) I use on the splits I get down the sides of my fingers. Its the only thing that works. Not totally sure its all okay or all the best, but its better than most and that's all I can do for my time, energy, and money.

    Interesting take on GSE...I cured my kids of oral thrush as babies that way when NOTHING else worked. I took the info from Dr. Jay Gordon. I think I would have had to suffer during breastfeeding (horrible pain, shooting pains, etc) without it. I took it internally and also dipped it in some water and painted the thrush in the baby's mouth. Maybe for the short time we used it it was fine, but I know of no other treatment that was any safer/worked.

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  • Laura

    Laura on Dec. 29, 2012, 1:12 a.m.

    Renee, I was inspired by your earlier lotion posts to make my own and had great success with this body butter: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/02/make-your-own-moisturizing-body-butter.html. It is really rich but not greasy and kept on my shelf without preservatives. I added lemon essential oil and it's pretty zippy and fun for winter (I'm not really into the heavier scents of lavender or vanilla). I am still going to try your rich lotion, but wanted to start with this as it was so basic. I love your lotion and soap posts, I know that it's not "on the edge of your learning curve" but I'd certainly read with great interest the odd soap or lotion making post to let us know about any recipes you try. I was tantalized by your tweet about possibly making a Lemon Lift soap and would hear how that turned out.

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  • Kim

    Kim on April 17, 2013, 10:20 p.m.

    Greetings!    Have been curious about recipes that call for an extract as a preservative.  GSE by itself is fascinating to me.  Wondering though - do you think it's possible that it's the alcohol in the extract that's actually doing the preserving? Have a friend with very dry and sensitive skin and have been trying to make a lotion she likes. Worried about the alcohol in the extract. What do you think?

     

    sorry for commenting on such an old thread!

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  • Jiwon

    Jiwon on Feb. 25, 2016, 6:57 a.m.

    I saw my husband making toothpaste with coconut oil and baking soda. The texture looked good as lotion. I recently made a cream. I did not like the texture; I used bees wax only. I do not want to use borax or GSE since I read a few negative articles. I satarted thinking using baking soda along with bees wax as emulcifying agents. I needed some supporting articles on baking soda as an emulsifying agent. Thank you! I have courage now. After I use up my lotion, i will try baking soda. ^_^

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  • Nancy

    Nancy on April 4, 2016, 11:24 a.m.

    I make my own creams and absolutely love it. I don't use commercial products at all. I was giving them away with my coconut oil soaps and bath salts as gifts.  People then were requesting orders and that is how I started selling Thank you for the info on borax.  I make my cream from Coconut oil, rose water, witch hazel, a few essenatial oils and emulsifying wax.  This is the best cream I have ever made and it does not go off.  Not that I know of yet.  I am now selling it privately on special order and it seems to be doing very well.  I am going to try a small batch with borax instead of the wax and see what happens.  I just need to get the quantities right for the borax.

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    • renee

      renee on April 4, 2016, 11:57 a.m.

      Nancy, I tried making a lotion with emulsifying wax for the first time this winter and my lotion mixed really well but it grew mold, ugh. I am trying to create a recipe with emulsifying wax because I know not everyone is comfortable with the smidge of borax in the recipe, but every time I stray from that recipe I encounter problems. Congrats on creating a product people love and are buying from you!

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      • Nancy

        Nancy on April 5, 2016, 6 a.m.

        Hi Renee,

         

        I am also in the learning process, although I have been doing this for a while, with alot of trial and error, as the recipes on the internet aren't all to my liking.  This recipe I use now, was by chance and I was writing it down as I was going along and voila.  It has been the perfect recipe for me. 

        You are welcome to try it.  I buy some of my products from The Soap Barn in Johannesburg, South Africa.

        If you are interested, I can send you my recipe and you can see if it works for you.

        Have a great day and thank you for the response.

        Nancy

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  • Kim Campagna

    Kim Campagna on June 14, 2016, 3:19 p.m.

    Borax is safer than table salt and half as toxic as table salt. It can cure a disease that would take down our health industry so the government labels it poisonous to keep that from happening. Eventually they will make it unavailable in the U.S. like many other countries have done already.

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  • Natalie Farrell

    Natalie Farrell on Nov. 21, 2016, 10:26 p.m.

    Yes I agree with the above comment. I personally know several people who take small doses of watered down bora(diluted a spoonful a day). And have had amazing relief from chronic arthritis. I would have no problem at all with the small amount in a lotion when a small amount internally seems to do very well. The history of this treatment is something to read. I assume that most of us reading these kind of websites about making your own lotions are not massive fans of multinational drug companies. So it doesn't take much of a stretch to believe that possibly borax has been given a bad rep for the sake of profits. And with the damage caused by sodium chloride (salt) that we ingest constantly, surely this other naturally occurring salt can't be all that bad... 

    http://www.health-science-spirit.com/borax.htm

    Scroll down and read the 

    The Arthritis Cure of Rex Newnham 

     

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  • Nada

    Nada on Feb. 6, 2017, 4:48 p.m.

    What did you replace the borax with? I am under the assumption you didnt replace it. Which would be why your recipe failed. I am also going to attempt not using borax but was thinking since borax is a salt used to be an emulsifier then table salt or sea salt (which are also counted as preservatives and can be used as an emulsifier) would just replace one for the other. again this is a theory. im afraid to even make a small batch and have it ruined. but i will and let you know what happens.

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  • Helene

    Helene on May 18, 2017, 12:52 p.m.

    My Mother tried to make a Shea Butter facial cream for me, but I think she was hasty and didn't allow the Borax and water mix to dissolve completely (the previous batch was fine). Now I have a gritty cream that I'm not enjoying applying. Is there any way of fixing the 2 large tubs of cream that she sent me? Can I re-melt it and try to dissolve the Borax in it?

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  • Robert

    Robert on Sept. 13, 2017, 2:01 a.m.

    Ok, here is the deal with GSE: natural grapefruit seed extract does not have antimicrobial or preservative properties, but many commercial preparations do because of adulteration with synthetic preservatives. GSE does have antioxidant properties that may help prevent your oils from going rancid, etc, but it does not protect against microbial contaminants.

    I see two plausible explanations for the observation that this recipe does not grow mold, etc, and appears well preserved. One is that the GSE product you use is adulterated with synthetic preservatives, but the other is that borax is actually a preservative as well. I am uncertain whether the borax in such a recipe is sufficient as a preservative, but it may be that borax is the real preservative here.

    Borax alone is not really an emulsifier, it works in conjunction with the beeswax. They react to form a natural emulsifying agent. Borax, however, is not nearly so dangerous as some have suggested. Its toxicity is low, similar to table salt. Consumption of large quantities over an extended time cause reproductive harm in lab animals. But you don’t eat your skin creams. Dermal absorption is very low, you could soak your entire body in a concentrated solution and never absorb a toxic dose.

    Borax is actually a natural source of the nutrient boron. Much of the boron in our diets is in the form of borates, including in fresh fruits and vegetables. Borax is actually even used as a boron supplement in some studies. Safe range of consumption of boron is pretty wide. And many studies have found positive effects from supplementing boron, which suggests that we may be more likely getting too little boron, rather than too much.

    Borax can be a skin irritant if used inappropriately, but should be quite safe in small amounts used in borax/beeswax creams. Borax is even found in contact solution that you put in your eyes. So I wouldn’t worry so much about the borax if that formula is working for you.

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