Lip Balm has bitter taste

Hello all,

I am trying to replicate L’Occitane shea butter lip balm


I skipped some esters and substituted OCTYLDODECANOL to shea butter and jojoba oil.
















Despite all substitutions, the texture is very similar. The problem: bitter taste. The only bitter ingredient in this list is PEG-40 HCO. I know that there should be around 20% of waxes to keep it solid. HCO is 4th ingredient, which makes me think that they definitely used more than 5%. Their products isn’t bitter though. Any ideas what I did wrong? Maybe there is some special type of HCO that can be used in lip balms?

Also, I does anyone see preservatives in their formula? I thought they are required for a lip balm.


Thank you in advance!





  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    The preservative is benzyl benzoate. 
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • Thank you @Belassi. I am familiar with this one, and Ulpospector search showed it as a flavoring agent. 
  • Can i ask why the preservative? I mean it is water free formula. 
    And why wouldn't you replace the peg 40HCO? IF I MAY ASK... 
  • Preservative is required as the product is exposed to saliva. Regarding PEG-40 HCO, I it contributes to the texture. Without it it’s just a balm with beeswax and candelilla wax and feels like a DIY product. But.. it’s bitter. Which means I either added too much (which I doubt) or they have some special kind of HCO. 
  • DavidDavid Member
    edited December 2018
    It is more likely that benzyl benzoate is an allergene from the perfume, and not added extra as preservative.
    HYDROGENATED CASTOR OIL is not the same thing as PEG-40 HYDROGENATED CASTOR OIL, I haven't tasted them though. :smile:

  • ngarayeva001ngarayeva001 Member
    edited December 2018
    Thank you @David. Well, now I had :) PEG-40 HCO tastes like a shampoo, which is not surprising since it's a surfactant. I guess google let me down. Every time I googled hydrogenated castor oil the only result I got was an ethoxylated form PEG-40 (or 60)HCO. I have just found something called castor wax. I guess this is what is used in the benchmark product.
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    That is a lot of Shea Butter and it could be contributing to the taste. Also, you will have a hard time tempering that much Shea without issues in a manufacturing setting of any real size whatsoever. Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • ngarayeva001ngarayeva001 Member
    edited December 2018
    Thank you @Microformulation. I will keep that in mind for future (if I ever get enough courage to start my skincare business). I currently operate with tiny amounts (200-500 gr for skincare and max 100 for lip balms), because I am still learning and try not to waste materials (shipment costs from the US +UK customs is nonsense). But I already noticed that everything changes when I try to scale up. I have a nice working formula for micellar water (peg-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, PEG-50 shea butter, Butylene glycol -nothing crazy). Usually, I make 150-200ml for myself and it comes out pretty well. I decided to scale up to 1.5 lt (Christmas gifts). I have no idea what happened but I messed up the entire batch. The final product was cloudy and I wasted hard to find materials. So, I will write down your point about tempering shea butter.
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    We always avoided high levels of Shea and Cocoa Butters or added ingredients to prevent the crystallization. Tempering these raw materials in large-scale manufacturing is very difficult.

    A great mini-knock-out would be to smell (or taste a small amount if so willing) and see how the raw Shea contributes to this negative taste. Many lines would look at adding a sweetener such as saccharin, aspartame, monk-fruit, etc.

    You have learned a valuable lesson regarding scale-up. It requires some experience to scale-up and there are even Process Chemists who do this much of their time. Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • I never use more than 20% shea in my lipbalms and never had problems with bitter taste so far. Do you use refined shea? Raw shea can't be heated and the smell is disgusting and overwhelming.
  • @Doreen, I think @David got it right. I assumed that Hydrogenated Castor Oil and PEG-40 HCO is the same ingredient, and it's not. But in most places I found it, it's actually called "castor wax". I guess that is what is used in the benchmark product. It is a pity though, PEG-40 HCO gave it a nice glide.

    I agree with you on unrefined oils. I am not using any unrefined oils/butters except for cocoa butter. And the only reason why I use it is the smell. It is very hard to find good fragrances for a home crafter. Most home crafters are using (and overusing) EOs. I am avoiding EOs on my face the same way as folks from Pinterest avoid parabens :)

    So, when I make products for friends I use unrefined cocoa butter instead of fragrance. Don't judge me @Microformulation, the first thing "consumeris vulgaris" does with skincare... yes they smell it :smile:

  • DoreenDoreen Member
    edited December 2018
    True, they're different. There's also PEG-40 Castor Oil by the way.

    I don't have problems finding good fragrances as a homecrafter! There are several suppliers here that sell loads of synthetic fragrances, also knock off fragrances, e.g. 'Blue Man' (Blue Sugar by Aqualino) 'Cold Water' (Cool Water by Davidoff) that I bought a while ago for the aftershave creams that I make for my husband. (My husband likes the scent of his creams to go with his after shaves/eau de toilettes). His favourite EDT's now are Bang by Marc Jacobs and 1 Million by Paco Rabanne, but still haven't found knock offs for these... 
    I don't mind if my moisturizers are unscented.

    Do you know many clients choose unscented moisturizers as 'most effective' if compared with a scented version with same actives? They also think the unscented are more expensive brands! I think this is because cheap brands actually always use fragrance in creams etc. 

    For you it may be an idea to go to Brambleberry (USA) or Gracefruit (UK). MakingCosmetics and Lotioncrafter don't sell fragrances as far as I can remember.
  • Thank you @Doreen. It is a very interesting statistics. All my friends are saying that my product "would be amazing if not the smell". I had a slightly different impression, as Dior and Chanel are heavily fragranced (Dior moisturisers smell like "Dior").
    Makingcosmetics do sell some limited number of fragrances. I tried gracefruit but was not very happy with the quality. I will try Brambleberry.
  • SibechSibech Member, Professional Chemist
    edited December 2018
    @ngarayeva001 Other places to buy fragrances in EU would be Sensory Perfection, The Soap Kitchen or GlamourCosmetics (Italian)

    Edit: Formatting issues
    Dabbling Formulator — Qualified Cosmetic Safety Assessor — experienced in claim substantiation & EU regulatory affairs.
  • Thank you @Sibech. I know last two. I will have a look.
  • I had this problem before and I just had it again.  I got so frustrated I went ahead and tasted every ingredient in my  lipstick. It is, without a doubt, the PEG 6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides.  That is the culprit!
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