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Three Powder Experiment

The Three Powder Experiment

The Three Powder Experiment, Why Do It?

It's not unusual for me to run tests and experiments. I do it all the time when developing new products or new blends. I just don't always let people in behind the scenes. But when it came time to experiment with how I wanted to design the Très Spa body powders, it seemed like a fun project to share with everyone.

There are three types of powders used in making any body powder; Talc, Clay, or plant based starches. But which one is the best one to use? I decided to do a little three powder experiment to see what happens to each of the main ingredient types used in manufacturing powder under water and oil conditions. Here is what I found

Designing The Conditions

I wanted to see what happens with powders applied to the skin. Considering many people use powder on their pits and private parts, and those glands secrete both water and oil I decided to use those catalysts as my test condition. My goal was to demonstrate and observe  the behaviors of each of the three main powder ingredient classes (talc, clay, plant starch).

Now before you call me out on design of experiments and scientific research, I know what you are going to say. This is not a scientific journal and this is not a peer reviewed article. This is “kitchen counter” observation designed for fun and to make us think. Pretty easy to do and very easy for anyone to do at home.Believe me I had to harness my engineering training in order to not get complicated.

Set Up The Three Types

I divided my experiment into three types of powders that are used by most manufacturers of body powder.  1) Clay. A blend of micro fine minerals. I used Kaolin which is the most popular in cosmetics.  2) Talc. A mineral mined from the earth. I had some old talc powder in the back of my bathroom cupboard that must have been over 20 years old by now. You know the one, the big name brand that they encourage you to use even for a baby, that one. 3) Plant Starch. Leafy green plants grown every year. For this one I used a pure botanical blend that had no clay or talc, the Très Spa Organic Silky Skin Dusting Powder served for this category.

My experiment was a very simple design since there really is no need to get too fancy here! I observed and photographed each step. I confess that I was not too surprised by the results but I thought the visuals would help demonstrate each one. Turns out, it also makes a great narrative for you to understand how I make the millions of decisions that go into each one of the Très Spa products.

First up, The Water test

Step 1) Measure a quarter of a teaspoon of each and placed it in a clear glass dish.

Observation; Texture,  when dry: Each one felt silky to the touch but the talcum felt like it had more “slip” to it. It also seemed to send puffy clouds of dust at the slightest of movements. Clay and plant starches felt about the same, soft with glide.


Step 2) Add warm tap water. Not too hot, just warm to the touch.

Observation; Just add water? Out of the gate, it was clearly obvious why Talcum was such a hit with powder manufacturers. It is very hydrophobic. When I poured the water in, it went around the talc but not through it. When I poured the water into the Clay and the Starch dish, they seemed to dance with the water as if they would dissolve and blend. Since the clay is hydrous, it's easy to see why it would play along for the most part. After all, water played a huge role in the mineral being formed in the first place!

Step 3) Stir each one with a spoon.

Observation: No matter what I did to it, that talc was having nothing to do with the water. It just laid on the surface and when I tried to stir it up, it clung to the spoon and clumped together but would not have anything to do at all with the water. The clay and the starch seemed to partner with the water as long as I stirred. Once I stopped stirring you could see it begin to separate.

Step 4) Let rest a couple of hours 

Observation: The talc did nothing. Nothing at all. After a couple of hours you could see the separation was more significant in the clay than in the plant starch. The plant starch water seemed to be a bit more cloudy. This could be due to a small fraction of the material being water soluble. It could also be that the clay molecules were heavier so settled faster. You would have to test that variable.

Step 4b) Let rest over night 

Observation: Again the talc did nothing. At the side view you could tell the water was a bit clearer with the clay than the starch. Now I am no scientist but I believe starch is a polysaccharide made of gloucose monomers with two types of molecules amylose and amylopectin. The structure is a hollow helix which makes it excellent for storage and for energy but it's going to take more than water to break it down. Amylose, unlike amylopectin, is not cold water soluble.

Step 5) Apply heat 

Observation; Nothing noteworthy here. In fact they all seemed to remain the same, just a little hotter.  I had gotten used to the talc not budging and I figured the clay wouldn't care about the heat, but I thought the starch might do something. But alas, I was wrong. Plain tap water wasn't going to do a thing. Nothing.


Time for Phase 2 testing, The Oil Test

This was an interesting test for me and I'm not sure why I got the results I did get, but I found it very interesting. If you want to try this at home, I used Organic Jojoba oil since it matches the skins natural sebum. In case you were wondering what sebum is, it's that waxy oily substance we mammals secrete to lubricate and waterproof our skin. Sebaceous glands piggy back with hair follicles.

Step 1) Measure out about a 1/4 of a teaspoon of each into a glass dish. 

Observation: I have no colored dishes at all so I had to use these leaves my Grandmother painted over 50 years ago. I think she would be thrilled to be a part of one of my experiments. Someday I'll have to tell you about the time she let me experiment with hors d'oeuvre for a tea party she was having. I think I was 8 at the time.


Step 2) Add a splash of oil. 

Observation: Do my eyes deceive me or does it seem the oil and starch are already getting familiar?


Step 3) Stir

Observation: The starch seemed to melt in with the oil like long lost halves of a whole. The talc astounded me with similar action. But when it came to the clay, that was another story. I stirred and stirred and stirred and it did not want to blend. I think you can still see bits of clumps.


Step 4) Let it rest 

Observation: They all appeared the same after blending, well at least close enough. Nothing  of interest for me there but, given a little time, the strangest thing started happening. The starch dish had a clearly powdery deposit around the edge. When I touched it, it was soft and silky and felt dry to the touch.  As time went on, so did the talc. The clay was sticky and goopy. I confess that I kept returning to the dishes and playing with the powder.

Step 5) Overnight 

Observation: Eventually the entire dish for the talc and for the plant starch turned to look like a powder again. The viscous character of the oil was gone as if it had never existed. They had been transformed into powder cakes you could brush on and the texture was soft and silky. The clay was still sticky and goopy to touch. Not at all pleasant.

Perhaps you can tell me why this transformation happened?

As far as a conclusion, I'll let you make your own. I made my choice a long time ago for Très Spa, Plant Based all the way! The only way to keep it pure, sustainable, and organic.

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The Journey of a Natural Powder & How It’s Made

Tres Spa Natural Body PowderWhat it takes to make a purely natural powder

We designed our natural body powders by carefully selecting food grade plant based powders that we blend to perfection, creating a unique and effective body powder and a safe alternative to talcum. But before the powder becomes a part of our organic dusting powder, it starts as a lush green plant. This is the journey those lush green plants go through to becoming a silky natural powder.

It's all about the starch

Starch is what makes the natural powder after all. The leafy green part of the plant manufactures glucose during photosynthesis. Excess is sent to a “holding place” for the plant to use when it needs it. Billions of chloroplasts filled with life sustaining “go juice” in the form of starch just waiting for the time the plant may need it. For tuberous plants like potatoes, arrowroot, tapioca (cassava) and the like, it is in the tuber underground.  For other plants like corn, rice, and wheat it is stored in the seeds. Sago stores it in the pith of the palm leaf stem.

The key to supporting life

A plant will create an enzymatic reaction to break down the cell walls in order to release the starch and support the plants life. We can do this with our internal enzymes when we consume the seeds and the tubers. Our bodies convert the starch to sugar which we then use for energy or store the excess as fat reserves for later use. For our purpose, here at Très Spa, we aren't interested in eating as much as we are interested in feeding your skin in harmony with nature.. So we want the natural powder form of these botanical manufacturers starch reserves.

Then you harvest the store

The plants are harvested once they reach a maturity that yields a significant starch storage. For tubers, it's the size of the root and for corn, wheat , and coconut it's the endosperm that provides the starch. For corn, think about the ear loaded with kernels.  When it comes to coconut, it's the “meat” and the water inside the hard shell.

Once the plant is harvested the process is to go through a series of rinse + sift, rinse + grind and rinse + dry the starchy pulp until you get the fine natural white powder starch in the end. That may sound simple but it is laborious.

What does the process look like?

Currently, we use Organic Cornstarch, Organic Arrowroot, and Organic Tapioca. So what does the process look like for these plant starches to be processed into one of our choice natural powders? I think a picture speaks a thousand words so here is the process broken down for you

First things first, you need to grow the plant

Arrowroot plants

Then, when it is developed enough, you harvest the mature roots

Arrowroot freshly harvested
Cleaning the fresh harvested arrowroots

Then you need to clean and prep the roots 

softening the arrowroots

Then you start the process of a series of soaking stages in order to soften the cell walls 

Pounding the pulp of the arrowroot

Grind the roots to a pulp over and over will eventually seperate the fiber from the starch

rinse and pound, rinse and pound the arrowroot

Rinse and repeat as many times as you need with each step yielding a finer material 

drying the pulp

Dry the fine pulp and grind 

grinding the pulp to the finest powder

Finally grind it to the most delicate light fluffy powder. Now it's ready! 

In the end, we here at Très Spa feel the extra work (and cost) is worth it. Not just for the fact we really think plants are better for you, but because done responsibly and organically, this process can be repeated over and over and over making plant starches very eco-friendly sustainable planet friendly ingredient to use for our Organic Dusting Powders!

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Cruelty Free Skin Care, Is It?

Cruelty Free Skincare

Très Spa logo and tag lineYes! Of course Très Spa is cruelty free skincare. I would think our logo and our tag line would be a ‘give-away' but we know it is important to make the statement clear and loud. So there is no doubt about it, we only use plant based ingredients. There is no need to test our products on anyone or anything to know its potential side effects. Our ingredients have been used for centuries so the record is very long! In some cases hundreds of years long.

Being Cruelty Free is something you may tend take for granted, we kind of did, but turns out it's a pretty big deal after all.  With the advances we have in software and other technology, it's hard to believe that animal testing still exists. But, sadly it does. It's still practiced in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry (as well as others) and sometimes that bleeds over into skincare (since it is a cosmetic) where they share some similar ingredients.

What Does Cruelty Free Mean

So what does it mean when a company says their products are cruelty free? It means that no animal was tested using the product. It is not a controlled claim in that there is no governing body but it is generally accepted and a common practice. However, the cruelty free standard only goes so far. It does not expand beyond the manufacturer of the finished goods. Historically it did not reach into the entire supply chain for each and every one of the ingredients that goes into that end product. So the claim falls a bit short of the mark in our opinion (but we do have some pretty high standards).

Synthesized Compounds Must Be Tested

Think about it. Every time the scientists take to the lab and cook up that new enzyme or synthetic compound to make you look younger or sexier, they have to test it. It has to be tested for effectiveness and safety.  How do you think they do this? Unfortunately, they turn to subjects that cannot speak out for themselves. However, there is new ground being made in farming human skin to test cosmetics on.

New compounds designed in a lab don't have the same advantage as natural ingredients do, century's worth of human “hands on experience”. Nature, in its unaltered state or un-isolated,  the totality is well known and records have been well established. Now, there are some that would argue that testing has been done in the past and they may be correct. But that testing would have been decades ago.

Beyond the testing requirements for the new science, we wonder about the collateral damage these new concoctions may have. They need to be manufactured so what kind of waist is created? And what happens when the synthesized compounds reach the eco-system? Did you know that there are places in the world that have banned some skin care products due to their deleterious effects on the environment?! Sun screens and Bug repellents are notorious. *If you want an environment friendly bug repellent, you should check out our Hiker's Heaven line. 

We Are 100% Cruelty Free Vegan Company

At Tres Spa, we're glad we chose to go 100% natural. No additional testing required by the supply chain to know the safety and effectiveness of our ingredients. Since all of our natural compounds are well known, the only testing we ever do is on willing customers interested in trying new blends.

Taking control of the Cruelty Free claim

With the advent of a couple of self policing verifying agencies, consumers can have a little more confidence when choosing brands to support. Groups like CCF, Leaping Bunny, and PETA do look beyond the finished product. They verify the ingredients that go into the finished product be cruelty free. They have managed to stretch the reach of cruelty free so when you see the logos on products or marketing material for a company, you can have more confidence about their stance on Cruelty Free.

We verified and double checked all of our vendors and ingredients from the very beginning. Eventually we reached out for certification. That is how we became recognized by PETA as a Vegan and Cruelty Free Company. You can read more about that here.

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Hypoallergenic Skincare. Is it?

Hypoallergenic Is It Even Real

We have all seen the labels and the marketing material stating that a product is hypoallergenic. What makes it so, what does that mean, and why say it? It's a marvelous word signifying the product is less apt to cause an allergic reaction.  It sounds so clinical, official and sterile. Like nothing bad could happen to you if you used this product.  The word hypoallergenic makes you think that this is skincare you can trust.

Invented By Marketing

In fact, there are no definitive tests or standards to test for such a thing. It is not a medical or scientific term, it was a term coined by a cosmetic company in the 1950's. They wanted to convince consumers that the product was less likely to cause an irritation than the other product. It sounded good from a marketing angle and lots of folks grabbed a hold of it from there and ran with it. Many people think that it means that the products will not cause allergic reactions but with the complexities of allergies it is impossible for any manufacturer to make a claim of “no allergic reaction” or “allergy free” .  To claim a product is hypoallergenic means that the manufacturer is claiming the ingredients are less apt to cause an allergic reaction than others.

Word Play

So let us run a hypothetical situation. Let's pretend that you are a manufacturer of cosmetics. You make a line of foundation make up. You have a long list of ingredient compounds that go into this foundation product. Say you start getting feedback that there is a part of the population that is having an allergic reaction (usually slight redness, heat, or itchiness). You want happy customers! So you go back to your lab and you isolate the compound that may be the perpetrator and you either change your formula a bit and re release as “Re Formulated” or you run a new line with a new set of compounds and call it “Hypoallergenic”.

I have often been perplexed by cosmetic companies who have a “hypoallergenic” line. As opposed to what? a High Allergy line. But then, I am a boutique and I carry one line, an all natural line. I can see though, why large manufacturers would want to use the term and I like to try not to be cynical and believe they are trying to create a more gentle line rather than using hype to deceive the consumer.

Keep It Simple, Keep It Natural

With Très Spa, we feel natural plant based is the best for you and for the planet. So we create products in Harmony with Nature and we disclose all of the ingredients on our website as well as our labels. Très Spa products serve a broad spectrum of customers and some that suffer from allergies to various ingredients as well as those with particularly challenging skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. So even though Très Spa products could be considered hypoallergenic, we choose not to actively market that. We feel it is far better to use natural and botanical ingredients in our formulations and disclose what each ingredient is then let you, the consumer, choose what works best for you.  After all, you know what you are allergic to.