DIY Encyclopedia


Oil based with no water or aqueous parts


Water based


The direct meaning is ‘therapy using aromas’. Aromatherapy is a holistic healing practice that makes use of aromatic compounds such as essential oils, carrier oils, plant extracts and other plant products to benefit the body, mind and spirit. Aromatherapy practice makes use of aromatic massage, inhaling essential oil vapors via burning, steaming or diffusing into the air, candles, baths, topical treatments, facials and other methods.

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Quick Guide To Essential Oils

Quick Guide To Carrier Oils & Butters


There are a variety of ready-made  bases available for cream, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and more. These bases can be used on their own or you can customise them with additional ingredients such as carrier oils, essential oils, etc. Do not exceed the amount of additional ingredients by more than 10% of the amount of base, or the formulation may destabilise. For example, if you have 100ml of base, don't add in more than 10ml of extra ingredients. If adding in aqueous ingredients such as a hydrosol or aloe vera gel, it is recommended to also add in additional preservative.

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Quick Guide To Working With Bases


Our  botanicals include a wide range of dried herbs, flowers, berries, seeds and resin which have an array of applications. All botanicals come with properties unique to each plant and can be drunk as a tea or infusion to maintain and boost health and general wellbeing. Some botanicals can also be smoked while others, known as gin botanicals are used in flavouring gin and spirits. Botanicals are also used to make potpourri, as well as used to impart properties in DIY and skincare. All of the botanicals are grown in an organic and regenerative fashion with as minimal use of insecticides, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides as possible, in certified organic fertilizer. They are certified food grade but not certified organic. Suitable for Kosher, Halaal and Hindi diets.


Natural  butters are extracted from various parts of plants and are rich sources of vitamins, essential fatty acids, minerals and moisturising properties. They are solids and have varying degrees of hardness. Butters typically need to be melted down or whipped up to work with. They have a thick consistency that is nourishing, protecting and locks in the skin’s moisture. Essential in natural skincare formulations.

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Quick Guide To Carrier Oils & Butters

Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are also known as base oils or vegetable oils, and are typically cold pressed or macerated from various plant parts such as fruit, seeds or leaves. They either have no scent or a very subtle scent. They are used on their own and also to dilute essential oils and ‘carry’ them into the skin. We stock a huge range of carrier oils and each has its own unique properties. Carrier oils are key to aromatherapy and massage practice, as well as in skincare and DIY.

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Quick Guide To Carrier Oils & Butters

Cool Down Phase

The cool down phase of a formulation is where heat sensitive ingredients are added. The cool down phase is usually under 35/40 degrees C. Heat sensitive oils, actives, botanicals and the preservative are typically added here. The cool down phase is the last phase or part of the formulation.


Emulsifiers are one of the quintessential components of any recipe containing oils and aqueous parts. A well known concept is that oil and water don’t mix, so in order to get them to play nicely, you will need to include an emulsifier in your formulation.  Emulsifiers will ‘emulsify’ or turn water and oil components into an  emulsion or substance of two phases that won’t separate easily. 

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Quick Guide To Emulsifiers


A two-phase system of oils and water (which don't naturally mix together) brought together by an emulsifier. Emulsions can be milks, lotions, creams, butters and more. Emulsions are made by finely dispersing one phase into another, usually by using high shear such as blending.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are compounds containing the essence of the plant, extracted usually by steam distillation of plant parts or cold pressing. Plants have unique aromatic compounds that are individual to the plant and can also vary according to season, rainfall, farming method and other factors. Essential oils affect the limbic system, which plays a role in emotions, sense of smell, memory and behaviour. The limbic system is involved in the brain’s memory forming process which is why certain smells are associated with certain memories and emotions. Essential oils are oils and will blend with other oils and carrier oils, but not with aqueous substances unless you use a solubiliser.  There are more than 90 essential oils, each with their own characteristics and benefits.

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Quick Guide To Essential Oils

Food Grade

The product page will specify if the item is food grade or not. If you are unsure, send us an email and we will confirm.

We do not recommend that you ingest essential oils, unless under your homeopath or doctor's supervision. If you do want to ingest the essential oils, please choose an organic oil or high quality oil such as Still Pure.

Gelling Agents

These can create a smooth, gel-like feel and consistency in a product as well as aid stabilisers and thickeners. Gelling agents are sometimes considered thickening agents in themselves.

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Fun With Plant Based Gels


HLB or the Hydrophilic-Lipophilic Balance is a system of calculating the most suitable emulsifier to use with a blend of oils. Each ingredient requires a specific HLB in order to be emulsified. If you know the HLB of your ingredients, you can calculate the right composition of different emulsifiers to achieve the required HLB to emulsify the blend. 

HLB ranges from 0 to 20, with 0 being very oil soluble/water insoluble, and 20 being completely water soluble/oil insoluble. On the scale, products have various properties: 

HLB 1 - 3: Antifoaming Properties

HLB 3 - 8: W/O-Emulsification

HLB 7 - 9: Wetting Properties

HLB 9 - 18: O/W-Emulsification

HLB 15 - 20: Solubilizing Properties

Your typical plant oils have a required HLB of 6-8, esters of fatty acids (eg monoglycerides) have a required HLB around 12 and fatty alcohols and fatty acids of natural origin (eg vegetable alcohols) have a required HLB of 14-15.

The HLB system was created to deal with PEG derivatives which are synthetic, and is also only applicable in non-ionic circumstances. Many ingredients are ionic meaning you won’t necessarily need to calculate the HLB.

Mostly, you want to know roughly if your emulsifier has an HLB of around 4 (W/O emulsifier) or around 11 (O/W emulsifier), or if it states it is an oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsifier. 


A hydrosol, also referred to as a floral water, is a herbal distillate and aqueous ingredient popular in skincare. Hydrosols are colloidal suspensions of essential oils and water-soluble components obtained by steam distillation of plants during the essential oil making process.

Hydrosols are extremely gentle and suitable for all skin types. They are moisturising and toning. You can use hydrosols directly on your face and skin as a toner, to soothe irritation or sunburn, or as a base spray before applying makeup. Hydrosols can also be included in formulations as part of the aqueous phase. 

Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is a well known member of the large family of alcohols. It is colourless, has a distinctive scent and is flammable. It can dissolve oils and resins and has a wide range of uses, but among the most common is as a disinfectant. Isopropyl alcohol comes in a range of purity grades.


pH stands for the 'potential of hyrogen' and measures how acidic or basic water is. Thus pH can only be measured for aqueous/water based ingredients. Oils don't have a pH.

pH runs on a scale of 0-14, with 0 being incredibly acidic, 7 in the middle being neutral, and 14 being incredibly basic. Our skin is pH 4.5-5.5 so ideally you would want to formulate products for the skin within this range.

pH Adjuster

pH adjusters can change the pH. Acids can make a basic solution neutral or more acidic, and bases can make an acidic solution neutral or more basic. You can use pH adjusters to change or set the pH level.

Common pH adjusters include acids like citric acid and vinegar, and bases like baking soda and caustic soda.


This class helps lengthen shelf life of the product, prevent active compounds from losing their properties, and prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi and mold. A  preservative is essential in any formulation containing water or aqueous substances (hydrosols, botanical infusions, aloe vera gel, etc). If your formula contains only oils and no aqueous ingredients (eg, a lip balm), then a preservative is not necessary. Usage: 0.5 - 2%.

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Quick Guide To Preservatives

Oil Phase

The part of a formulation consisting of all the oils, butters and other lipids. The emulsifier is often included in this phase too. The oil phase is then combined with the water or aqueous phase to produce an emulsion. The oil phase is sometimes heated to melt all the ingredients in it together.


The term ‘organic’ in today’s lingo typically refers to a natural ingredient that has been farmed and produced in an organic fashion without the use of synthetic or harmful chemical fertilisers, pesticides, etc.

In chemistry terms however, whether natural or synthetically produced (man made in a laboratory), ‘organic’ means that the product contains carbon compounds. Common examples include oils, surfactants, emulsifiers and most ingredients in any DIY product! On the other hand, inorganic refers to any ingredient that does not contain carbon, for example water, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (used in sunscreen), sodium and potassium hydroxide (used in soap making) and salt.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol or surgical spirits has different meanings in different parts of the world, which can lead to some confusion. Typically rubbing alcohol is around 70% of either isopropyl or ethyl alcohol (ethanol) mixed with water, denaturants and often perfume or even acetone, or 70% denatured alcohol. But it can also mean methylated spirits combined with other ingredients such as diethyl pthalate, methyl salicylate and castor oil (British Pharmacopoeia). Rubbing alcohol is used as an antiseptic in medical care. The main difference between isopropyl and rubbing alcohol is that rubbing alcohol contains denaturants and other poisons, which render the product undrinkable and toxic.


These help make an otherwise insoluble ingredient soluble in a medium. A good example of this is to solubilise or uniformly disperse essential oils in water or water based products (eg, in making a room spray). Confusion sometimes arises between  solubilisers and emulsifiers. To decide which to use, think about the purpose and ingredients of your product. Are you trying to get large proportions of oils/butters to mix with aqueous ingredients to form an emulsion/cream/lotion? Use an emulsifier. Or are you just trying to dissolve a small amount of oil or essential oil in an aqueous medium to make a face toner or room spray? Use a solubiliser.

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Quick Guide To Solubilisers

Specialty Extracts

Specialty extracts are plant extracts that are typically used for their aromatic or skin active properties. They are great additions to skin care products where you want to add a bit of ‘pizzazz’ or feature a certain product in the formula.


Sometimes a formula can destabilise, separate or lose its active properties or functions. In order to prevent this, you may want to include a  stabiliser. Stabilisers will also aid emulsifiers and improve shelf life.


Short for SURFace ACTing AgeNT. These function as cleaning, foaming and washable products. They are sometimes also referred to as foaming agents, detergents or soaps (though they are not true soaps).  Surfactants often have other abilities too, such as emulsifying, solubilising, lubricating, thickening and enhancing barrier penetration. 

Please read  A beginner’s Guide To Surfactants for more on these fun and fascinating products.


Thickeners add body and viscosity to formulations. While the function of thickeners is obvious, thickeners can also act as emulsifiers, gelling agents or moisturisers in a formulation. 

Water Phase

The water phase is where all the water based or aqueous ingredients are combined together in a formulation. Unless they go in the cool down phase, water soluble actives will also be included in the water phase. Often the water phase is heated to a similar temperature range as the oil phase, in order to combine the two effectively into an emulsion.


Waxes are natural secretions of plants, animals or insects (eg beeswax) and are used to thicken, stabilise, and increase the volume and viscosity of formulations. Waxes come with their own inherent properties such as emollient and protective properties, and are resilient against oxidation, moisture and microbial breakdown.

Waxes are used in the oil phase of formulas