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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ's Answered

General Questions

What is an "active"?

We define an active as a substance that scientific research has shown helps skin in one way or another. This is a very broad definition but one that has been useful to us in our daily work. Among our actives you will find natural plant extracts, synthetic oligopeptides, chemicals purified from algae, and lots more. The only thing all of these have in common is that they have been shown to benefit the skin, and that the data has been published in scientific journals that are in the public domain, most of them in peer-reviewed journals. What we do not include are ingredients whose only support data have been obtained by other commercial companies.

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Why do you use parabens in your products?

Parabens have a long record of safety. They are non-allergenic, effective at very low concentrations, and they don’t contribute a smell to the finished product. Smell is one of the problems of natural preservatives containing a mixture of extracts from oregano, rosemary, and more. The smell can be a overpowering (at least to my nose), and several of the extracts are allergenic. In the words of Dennis Sasseville, "the history of preservatives goes back to the 1930s, and ironically, the parabens, which the industry has sought to replace with 'safer' alternatives, are still the most frequently used biocides in cosmetics and appear to be far less sensitizing than most of the newer agents."

Parabens do have some estrogenic activity, but so do thousands of chemicals which we consume daily in our food. What matters is how strong the estrogenic activity is that a chemical has. In this case, strength is measured by the concentration of the putative analog required to displace the natural ligand, in this case estrogen. If you need very high concentrations of the estrogen-like chemical to dislodge the estrogen from the receptor, then the activity is very low and unlikely to be of significance in real life. This is what happens with parabens: they have very low affinity for the estrogen receptor.

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Why aren't your Certificate of Analysis (COAs) online?

Every shipment of every ingredient we receive comes with a Certificate of Analysis (COA) and we create a COA for every batch of product made. To remain accurate we would have to repost each one as we change out each lot of each ingredient we stock and create. Because we make small batches of product to keep them at their absolute freshest, that is a huge undertaking. We do maintain all COAs in our files, and specific requests for COAs can be sent to

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How do I know which products are best for me and my skin care needs?

Take our skin quiz! The skin quiz uses questioning and logic to help you find products that are just right for your skin type and skin conditions.

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Product Questions

What is the general shelf life of the products?

It is best to keep all serums and creams that contain proteins refrigerated, like our Collagen Serum and Restoration Cream. Proteins are more stable when refrigerated, NOT frozen. For serums and creams containing proteins, keeping them at room temperature will give you a shorter shelf life in regards to both quality and activity-level of the products. You can estimate about 1 year for most products, but this can very based on storage conditions. Powder actives are fine in a cool, dark place with the tubes closed. Some actives (like L-Carnitine) will absorb moisture more readily, so it is important that they are kept well closed. Most powder actives will last for years. There is a shelf life icon an each product and active page to indicate the estimated shelf life if stored in optimal conditions.

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How do you layer products?

Exfoliators (acidic ones like Alpha Beta Exfoliator, protease-based like Pumpkin Enzyme Peel, or physical like our Enzymatic Exfoliation Powder) will increase skin permeability, so take advantage of this and apply our Collagen Serum immediately after an exfoliation. Additionally, after a shower or bath, the skin will be more permeable to water-soluble actives. Take advantage of this by using serums first. Then you can layer oil-based serums or creams on top.

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Can I mix Ready to Use products together?

Our Ready to Use products are designed to work in concert with one another, but we do not recommend that you mix them together in one container to try and achieve a mega-cream or serum. Some products cannot be mixed due to their solubility differences, like water-based (Antioxidant Serum) and oil-based (Every Lipid Serum (ELS)). Also, the Ready to Use serums and creams have been specifically formulated to achieve the best possible outcome and make sure there are no unwanted chemical reactions. If you are interested in using a combination of products, it is definitely best to layer them on the skin, not mix them together.

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DIY Ingredient Questions

What is the DIY process like?

Here is a description from one of our clients on the forum, Panda:

"My best answer is sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn't.

Start with a base that you like. That is the important part. Then mix small batches from there. As you prepare to add each active, do a search on the forum and see what issues others have faced when trying to incorporate this active - like does it need to be mixed with water or heated. Add your actives one at a time and try the mix out for a few days before you add more. Some find that Alpha Lipoic Acid stings, and some don't. If it stings too much you may need to reduce the concentration by adding more base mix. Some actives require a day or two to fully dissolve (Licorice Extract). Some actives can make the base cream thin (DMAE Bitartrate), some can make it gritty (Betulinic Acid), some can make it too thick (Hylauronic Acid), and some can give it a color that will stain your skin (Grape Seed Proanthocyanidins).”

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What are the health and safety concerns when mixing my own products?

If you have any medical problems, show your MD the ingredient list of the product you are planning to use. Just remember to be honest with yourself and your MD about your products, your skin care needs, and be patient when working towards your goals.

The main concern should be to avoid contamination and use the preservatives needed. Remember that Essential Oils (aka volatile oils) and some fragrances can be very strong, creating irritation if applied directly to the skin (as opposed to being diluted in a cream or serum). Use good judgment and remember that you are creating a small lab in your home and developing new and exciting skin care products. Treat your formulations with the same respect a regular lab would: clean your instruments and utensils, wear protective items when mixing (be it goggles, gloves, an apron, etc.), and use preservatives to make sure your creations are safe for immediate and future use.

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How do I know which actives to use in a formulation?

Search ingredients for creams, water-based serums, and oil-based serums to find out what will work best for your creation on our Actives Glossary.

Sign up for our newsletters for information, DIY recipes, and more.

And, if you still need help write to us at

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How do I know how much of an active to use in a formulation?

Please read the usage information on our website for each active you are planning to buy. This same usage information will also be on the packing slip with your order.

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Are there any actives that shouldn't be used together?

There are only a few hard rules here and the rest depends on the mixture. Be nice to proteins (like Epidermal Growth Factor, Keratinocyte Growth Factor, or Superoxide Dismutase) by keeping them cold (NOT frozen) and not mixing them with acidic solutions. There is a theoretical point about vitamin C derivatives and metals like copper and iron, so don’t add Copper Peptide to Vitamin C Serum. There is a wealth of information on our individual product pages, as well as our Forum.

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What is solubility and how does it work?

Solubility has to do with the ability of an ingredient to dissolve into a solution. Solubility can be affected by the chemical makeup of the ingredient, the solution, the quantities of both, the temperature of the mixture, and the implements being used to mix.

The Science:
We have no control over the solubility of our actives, because solubility depends on the chemical structure of the chemical/chemicals in that powder or liquid.

For Formulation:
Solubility is intrinsic to the chemistry of the chemical, so you have to work with the active rather than trying to push chemicals beyond what they are supposed to do. Most of our actives will dissolve in our Canvas Base Cream or European Base Cream because a cream contains several ingredients, giving the chemicals in an active the "option" of finding the right molecules to interact with.

Often, an active will dissolve in your solvent of choice, for example distilled water, but your mixture might still end up grainy. Even if the chemical is water-soluble, this does not mean "infinite solubility". You can add a bit of an easily soluble active, like Ascorbic Acid, and it dissolves…but if you keep adding more and more Ascorbic Acid to your water, eventually the crystals will remain in that form and just sink to the bottom of your solution. Even if you heat up the mix in the microwave, the solubility depends on temperature, so after cooling it down, crystals will re-appear.

Just remember to add a little at a time and do your research, and you will have great formulations.

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What kind of utensils should I use to mix my formulations?

Essentially, you will need a notebook, a scale, spatulas, scoops, and pipettes (2 pipettes, a spatula, and a scoop will be provided with your order of any active). Remember to always work clean, cleaning things with isopropyl alcohol to avoid contamination. Also, do your best not to cross-contaminate (i.e. dipping a scoop in one powder, then another without cleaning it in between). Take notes so you can duplicate formulas you love and know what not to do next time if something didn’t turn out quite how you wanted. Work slowly, patiently, and safely, and you will end up with great formulations.

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What if my cream orserum doesn't look or smell like it did when I mixed it? Is it still ok?

Maybe yes, maybe no. If you have added the right preservative in the right amount, then the changes in color and smell may have been caused by reactions between the many chemicals present in the complex mix. If you have NOT added preservative, the mix may be hazardous to your health. Many of the ingredients used in making skin care products are also great food for bacteria and mold, and some of these microbes can produce toxins that will hurt, not just your skin, but your whole body. When in doubt, throw the mix away.

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