March Meet the Maker

Making an essential oil blend for a new lip balmI'm taking part in an Instagram Challenge called March Meet the Maker. Joanne Hawker started this challenge in 2016, but I only heard of it this year and jumped in late, just a couple days ago. Joanne set up each day with a different prompt, and makers share photos and stories related to that prompt. Today's prompt is "design process", and since this is my favorite part of my job, I wanted to share more than an Instagram post would allow.

Each type of product I make has a slightly different design process, depending on whether it's a lip balm and I'm creating new scents, or it's an aromatherapy blend where the ingredients are therapeutic, or it's a limited edition body product that is completely new. But they all start the same - an idea. Usually followed by the question, "how can I make this scent with just natural ingredients?"

I created the seasonal Cafe Collection because of my love for coffeehouses and cafe-style drinks. This year I am switching out Mazagran for a new scent. I had already picked out the scent I wanted to make, but as I started to write this, my mind wandered to the coffee drink I currently wish I had in front of me - a lavender honey latte. An indie coffeehouse in my town makes them, and when it's lavender honey latte season, it feels like officially spring (and since today is actually the Equinox, it's perfectly fitting). 

That's how I come up with most of my ideas. They pop in my head when I least expect them to. 

After the idea, comes the planning and testing. Since I blend all of my lip balm scents from essential oils and natural extracts, the next thing I do is grab all the oils that fit the scent profile of my idea. When it comes to blends like the one I created for London Fog, I have to get extra creative with the blend since I can't use a natural tea extract. For a lavender honey latte-style blend, it's a little easier.

When I first plan a blend, I uncap the oils I'll be using and smell the caps all together to get an idea of how the oils combine. Because of the different strengths and styles of oils (the lavender I'm using is a true essential oil, where the coffee is a CO2 extract), I have to mentally blend the oil before I physically start blending. Once I get a feel for how they will go together, I start blending drop by drop.

If I know a finished product will have 10mL (or grams) in it, I create a rough draft of the blend using 10 drops. Since essential oils are so precious, it's necessary to use drops at first so there is less waste. This won't be the exact same as when the blend is complete, especially if there's any ingredient I'll be using fractions of, but it gives me a good idea of the amounts to use of each oil. Even with a simple blend, I need to keep things in mind like evaporation rate and what the blend will be carried in. The lavender in the blend will be much stronger than in the finished product, because it will get a little lost in the beeswax. I decided not to use honey at all, and just add a touch of vanilla to augment the natural beeswax aroma of the lip balm base. 

Once the rough draft smells like I want it to, I leave it alone for a bit. Set it aside, and work on something completely different. I'll go back to it later to smell it again, out of the bottle and on scent strips, right away and after 15/30/60 minutes, so I can really smell what's going on. If it needs adjusting, I'll keep the cycle going until it's finished. If it doesn't need adjusting, I can go right to making the blend in usable amounts.

Sometimes when I convert drops to mL (or g), it turns out perfect. Sometimes it needs to be fine-tuned. This is where my experience really comes in handy - I'm usually able to predict exactly how adding small amounts of certain oils will change the finished blend. But I still, once again, put it away to smell later, just to be sure. 

Once the scent is complete, I design labels. Sometimes it's just a change in color like the lip balms in the Classic Collection, but for the limited seasonal lip balms it involves a small illustration. For this new Lavender Honey Latte lip balm, I'm taking a similar coffee illustration and adding a few lavender sprigs that I designed for something in the past. Just like with the blends, I'll make a rough draft of the label, and set it aside. What I created today, I want to make sure I still like tomorrow! If everything is good, I'll start working on the finished product. For brand new products, that means weeks or months of testing, but for lip balms, it just means that I make sure the scent comes through in the balm before making an entire tray. 

The Cafe Collection will be available in a few weeks, and you'll be able to try out the finished Lavender Honey Latte, along with the other three scents. 


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