In my Advanced Diploma of Cosmetic Science we are learning about reverse formulation. That’s when you look at the ingredients of a product, and try and figure out the formulation of it. It’s a great way of making your favourite skin care product yourself, or even improving on it! The one I’m working on at the moment for my final project is Trilogy’s Hydrating Moisturiser, but in the meantime I’m just looking at the ingredients of every product that falls into my hands. Seriously, reverse formulating is so much fun!
So a couple of weeks ago, someone came up to me and asked me about the Cheeky Clean Spray and if I knew how to make it. A quick glance at their website told me that they’re a wet wipe alternative to keep a certain part of your body clean. Just spray on a bit of toilet paper and wipe! What a neat way to cut down on those wet wipes that we shouldn’t be flushing down the toilet anyway! And if you don’t know about fatbergs and why wipes don’t belong in the toilet, read this article. Eww!
Cheeky Clean Spray – if you don’t want to make it yourself, do buy it. It’s a great product and not at all expensive, because it will last a lot longer than a packet of wipes.
What are the ingredients?
These are the ingredients of the Cheeky Clean Spray as listed on their website:
Ingredients: Water; Glycerin; Pentylene Glycol; Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside; Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract; Benzyl Alcohol; Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract; Leptospermum Petersonii Oil; Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil; Xanthan Gum; Dehydroacetic Acid
Water – this forms the base of the product, and will be the highest amount
Glycerine – a humectant, hydrating, keeps your skin feeling moist
Pentylene glycol – is a humectant and solvent, in this case used as a solvent to help dissolve the essential oils and preservative into the water. The only ingredient that is not natural.
Caprylyl/capryl glucoside – a mild surfactant, which helps to wash and cleanse. It also acts as a natural solubiliser.
Chamomile extract – chamomile contains alpha-bisabolol, which is a well-known anti-inflammatory compound
Benzyl alcohol – this is one of the two preservatives used in the spray
Aloe vera extract – refreshing, cooling, soothing and calming
Leptospermum Petersonii esssential oil – lemon scented tea tree essential oil. Tea tree disinfects, and the lemon scented one just smells a lot nicer
Lavender essential oil – also calms and soothes, but also to make the spray smell pleasant
Xantham gum – used as a thickener and binder, helps keep all the ingredients nicely together and makes the spray slightly thicker than water
Dehydroacetic acid – the other preservative used in the spray
So how do I reverse formulate? Well, one of the handy things about labelling legal requirements in most countries of the world is that ingredients need to be listed in order of highest amount to lowest amount. Then you consider the maximum usage rates of some of the ingredients as well as standard industry usage rates of some ingredients. With that in mind, you can usually figure out an approximation of the formula. It’s unlikely that I will get it spot on, but probably close enough. So let’s start with some of the easier ingredients.
- Preservative is usually used at a rate of 0.5-1%
- Essential oils are restricted by their dermal limits, and seeing we are using this product on a very delicate area on our body, it will be very low.
- I can also predict that the glucoside will be in a low amount, because this is not a rinse off product. We spray and wipe, but don’t actually rinse it off.
- And then we have the two glycerine products: glycerine and pentylene glycol. The safe usage rate of pentylene glycol is 5% and glycerine is usually not used more than 5% in a product either.
- The dermal limit of lavender essential oil as set by the IFRA standards (the International Fragrance Association) is 0.1% for leave on products (I know this, because the IFRA has just recently changed their recommendations)
So here we already have a mountain of information to start with. Knowing that pentylene glycol is no more than 5%, we know that everything that comes after pentylene glycol will have to be less than 5%. I also know that benzyl alcohol is one half of the preservative used in the spray, and that both together won’t be more than 1%, so everything after the benzyl alcohol will be less than 1%. The gum will be a very low amount, because we don’t want to end up with a gel.
So that actually leaves me with only three ingredients that I need to guess: the pentylene glycol and glycerine cannot be more than 5%, though I am assuming they will both be less than that, and the chamomile extract will be somewhere between 1% and the amount pentylene glycol.
Water will be the last ingredient to calculate and will just make up the remainder to 100%.
Copy Cat Formulation of the Cheeky Clean Spray
So here’s my guess of what their formulation may look like.
90.2 % water
2 % glycerine
2 % pentylene glycol
2 % caprylyl/capryl glucoside
2 % chamomile extract
0.5 % aloe vera extract
0.05 % lemon scented tea tree essential oil
0.05 % lavender essential oil
0.2 % xanthan gum
1 % dehydroacetic acid & benzyl alcohol combined
I chose 2% glycerine, because more than that would thicken my end product. That is the same reason I only used 0.2% of xanthan gum, which I think may even be a bit less. From experience, I know that commercial products always add the expensive ingredients in a very low amount (wait til you see what I found out about my Trilogy Hydrating Cream 😭), so even 2% chamomile extract is very generous. It’s probably more like the amount of aloe vera extract, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. The aloe vera extract has to be less than 1% because of the maximum amount of the preservative, which is 1%. And I chose 2% for pentylene glycol because it’s considered to be a weak irritant and allergen, though very weak. Am I close to the original formula? We’ll never know. But continue reading for what I think an improved, and yes, more expensive, but also completely 100% natural formula, and one that you can make with ingredients available here in New Zealand.
One of the things I was worried about was the glucoside in the product and the lack of a pH adjuster to lower the pH, because often products containing glucoside have a high pH somewhere around 9-10, and because we are using this spray on the sensitive parts of our body, it really has to be close to the pH of our skin, around 5.5. So imagine my surprise when I tested it and it was exactly 5.5. I made it twice and tested it each time, once with a pH strip and then with the pH meter. And that’s why you don’t find a pH lowering acid, such as lactic acid, in the ingredients.
My improved Bum Spray
Yes, I really, really wanted to use the word ‘bum’ at least once! 🤣
Ok, so first I wanted to remove the pentylene glycol. As mentioned earlier it’s an allergen and irritant, albeit weak, but it’s also a synthetic petroleum-based ingredient. The natural alternative is propanediol, which is derived from corn sugar, and considered a safe, non-irritant and non-allergenic alternative. I assume the reason the cosmetic industry (the big companies) don’t use it is because it’s more expensive, and as stated before, pentylene glycol is considered a very weak irritant and allergen, meaning most people don’t react at all to it.
Next, I really think the teeny tiny amounts of aloe vera and chamomile are sad. I want to improve on that. I also think we can substitute the plain water (also cost related) to add more goodness into the spray itself. So we’ll be using chamomile hydrosol, which is a by product of the essential oil distillation, and is full of the good stuff, and a good amount of real aloe vera juice.
I have to replace the caprylyl/capryl glucoside with coco-glucoside. There’s really not much difference between them, except for viscosity. Caprylyl/capryl glucoside is a little bit more fluid than coco-glucoside.
I haven’t been able to source lemon scented tea tree here in New Zealand, but there is a better and even better smelling alternative, which is lemon myrtle. I wrote all about the wonderful lemon myrtle in my gorgeous Lemon Myrtle Soap tutorial. Lemon myrtle smells more lemon-y than lemon itself, and has the same properties as tea tree and manuka: anti-viral, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic properties, but it is also anti-inflammatory, soothing and calming, reduces redness and itchiness, and has an uplifting and refreshing effect on the mind. I just love lemon myrtle, and I think it’s well worth the price, especially if you don’t like the tea tree smell.
So here’s my formulation.
Makes 200 ml
You will also need a 200 ml spray bottle
- 139.6 g chamomile hydrosol (69.8%)
- 40 g aloe vera juice (20%)
- 8 g glycerine (4%)
- 0.2 g xanthan gum (0.1%)
- 8 g propanediol (4%)
- 2 g coco-glucoside (1%)
- 0.1 g lavender essential oil (0.05%)
- 0.1 g lemon myrtle essential oil (0.05%)
- 2 g Microcare DB preservative (1%)
- Combine the phase B ingredients together to make a slurry
- Slowly add the ingredients of phase A, while continuously stirring
- Add the ingredients of phase C, being careful not to stir too vigorously when adding the coco-glucoside to avoid foaming
- Add the preservative and give everyone one good stir, before adding to the a spray bottle. Leave it for 24 hours to reach final consistency, and then spray away!
Use within 12 months
PS I tested the pH and yes, it’s also 5.5!
How to use:
Spray lightly on a piece of toilet paper and wipe. Dispose of piece of toilet paper in the toilet and flush.
And here’s the ingredients list using the INCI standard:
Ingredients: Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile German) Water, Glycerine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Propanediol, Coco-Glucoside, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Oil, Backhousia Citriodora (Lemon Myrtle) Leaf Oil, Xanthan Gum; Benzyl Alcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate
Note that the aloe vera juice contains preservative, which is citric acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate.
If you have a great product that you want me to reverse formulate, flick me an email or leave a comment on this post. And who knows, maybe it will one day appear here as a copy-cat formulation!