Checking in…

You’ve probably heard that Napa, CA had a rather large (6.0) earthquake last night, waking people up at 3:20 in the morning with shaking, damage, and power outages. It woke us up in Sonoma too, with quite a bit of shaking and rolling. My cottage is on stilts on a hillside, so the swaying can be scary. All is fine here though — we didn’t even have any bottles or items tossed to the floor (with all the bottles in my workroom, that could be a nightmare). My heart goes out to those in Napa who sustained damage.

I also wanted to mention that I am back to work on the all-natural amber incense scent. So far the notes are bergamot, elemi, Sichuan pepper, frankincense, cedar, New Caledonia sandalwood, jasmine sambac, rose absolute, beeswax, clove, cinnamon, ginger, oakmoss, patchouli, benzoin, heliotrope, and vanilla. I have a small sample that I like, so I’m scaling up to the next level. I’d like to finish this, if possible, before putting the cart back up. The Sichuan pepper is new to me but is yummy; it has opening notes that are fresh with a zingy citric (almost lemony) feeling, and then the far drydown becomes woodsy.

The first signs of fall are starting to emerge. We still have tomatoes and zucchini, but the plants are looking tired and the maples are already showing some red leaves. The mornings have been foggy and cool while the afternoons are still hot, which is typical late summer weather here.

Posted in Sonoma Scent Studio Updates | 11 Comments

Evening of Perfumery in Sacramento, CA

I received notice about an event in California that I thought I would mention in case anyone is interested. The American Society of Perfumers and The International Fragrance Association, North America are sponsoring an “Evening of Perfumery” event on August 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at Sutter Club, 1220 9th Street, Sacramento, CA. The announcement said, “Drawing inspiration from nature, vistas, and crops native to California, perfumers Chris Diienno (drom international, Inc. USA) and Monica Aneiros-Burke (Arylessence, Inc.) will present perfumes created for this event. These unique scents will illustrate how important California is to the craft of perfumery in the United States and worldwide.” The perfumers will discuss their fragrant interpretations of California. For more information or to RSVP (before August 14) email

I think this event is part of an effort to educate the public and lawmakers about fragrance (a similar event was held in Washington D.C. last November, but with different perfumers and a different fragrant theme).

Posted in Perfume General | Leave a comment

Container Zucchini


We’re trying a new zucchini seed this year developed especially for container growing, and the plants are great — giant decorative foliage with abundant zucchini tucked into the center of the bush. The variety is called Astia and is sold by Renee’s Garden seeds.

IMG_0492_sm_webIf you need to grow your veggies in pots, this is a nice way to do zucchini.

I’m also getting lots of tomatoes and am trying an experiment this year to freeze the excess crop. I’m blanching them and freezing in glass jars to use next winter.

We’re having a heat wave right now with temps well over 100 degrees (it peaked at 108 today), and the plants are looking droopy. People are looking droopy too, lol.


Posted in Gardening, Sonoma Scent Studio Updates | 10 Comments

Checking In…

BRcabinet_smI wanted to check in and give a few updates and links. The picture at left is an armoire that my parents no longer needed, and it fits perfectly in my bedroom. I’ve been organizing the cottage this summer, so the armoire is a welcome addition. (The walls are actually a muted gray-green, but the photo makes the color look brighter.)

Hope everyone had a nice 4th of July. It’s been hot here and we’re harvesting lots of tomatoes — Sweet 100, Sun Gold, and Early Girl. We’ve also had lots of strawberries and lettuce, and the zucchini is just starting. Unfortunately, my flower garden does not look good this year and the drip system needs work. Minerals in our well water clog the droppers, even with filters in place, and then plants get too dry.

I wanted to say thank you to Victoria at EauMG for including me in her 4th of July list of 15 favorite indie perfumers. I very much appreciate being included!

I thought this was an interesting site with lots of chemistry information presented in an approachable way. For example, here’s a page that explains the smell of old books, and here’s a page that explains the odor of rain.

Posted in Sonoma Scent Studio Updates | 2 Comments

Apologies for the random email of old posts

Tonight for some reason an email was just sent out with old posts. Usually an email is only sent when I make a new post. I’ve never had a random email sent out before in all these years. I apologize — I did not request that email of old posts to be sent. It must have been a glitch in the system.

As long as I am checking in, I’ll say that things are going well. I’m starting some gentle PT and I finished all the filing that had stacked up. It feels good to start to catch up!

Posted in Sonoma Scent Studio Updates | 1 Comment

EU Regulations Update — Good News

Reports are coming out that the EU has decided, at least for now, to continue to allow the low atranol version of oakmoss and tree moss while only banning moss that has not had the allergens atranol and chloroatranol reduced. Most perfumers (myself included) already switched to the low atranol version of oakmoss years ago when that standard was first set by IFRA, so there will be no change for us. IFRA not only requires the use of the low atranol type but also places a limit on the percentage of use of the low atranol type. Even at the IFRA level it is useful though, and I have the low atranol natural moss in many of my perfumes. I am glad to hear they are not banning it. Suppliers are actually getting better at removing atranol and chloroatranol to the point where it is difficult to detect any at all in the treated moss; I’m hoping as detection methods improve perhaps the low atranol moss will someday be deemed zero atranol moss and remain usable for the future.

The EU also decided not to implement the drastic restrictions on a number of ingredients, like citral and eugenol, that would have made it virtually impossible to use naturals anymore. They are going to conduct more research so this saga will continue, but at least the pace has slowed and better studies will be done.

Lyral (a synthetic lily of the valley ingredient sometimes referred to as HICC, short for hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde) will be banned. It was already heavily restricted and this move was expected, so I doubt anyone will be surprised. I do not use Lyral in any of my scents and never have used it, so this issue does not affect my formulations.

It sounds like the EU still wants to require labeling for over 80 allergens rather than the current 26, but they may allow the allergen listings to be made online rather than on the product boxes. There will still be a lot of work to comply with the EU rules, but this is overall very good news, at least for now. I think the great outpouring of concern over the proposed regulations helped persuade lawmakers to do further research before taking those drastic steps.

I’m not selling in the EU so these rules don’t technically apply to me at the moment, but I believe that the EU is setting precedents that may well migrate to the USA eventually. Also, the IFRA and EU ingredient regulations affect what is considered “currently accepted practices” for product liability insurance purposes, so the standards do have an effect on all perfumers whether directly or indirectly.

I will update if the news changes.

Posted in Perfume General, Perfume Making & Ingredients | 10 Comments

DIY Vitamin C Serum Formula

Orange_cross_sectionI’ve been using a DIY vitamin C serum for a couple of years and thought my blog readers might be interested in this topic because these serums are effective yet very easy and inexpensive to make. This post is not about fragrance, but body products are still in the scope of discussion since I have offered body products (lotions and body creams) on my site in the past. I’ll provide my vitamin C formula and ingredient source as well as suggestions for more complicated formulas.

My skin is happiest when I keep things simple, using very few products. My facial skin is not dry, but it is sensitive to fragrance ingredients so I don’t use anything scented on my face (including natural essential oils). I love natural skincare, but only products that do not contain irritating fragrant oils like citrus and mint.

We’ve all read that antioxidants are great for the skin and that vitamin C and vitamin A derivatives (retinols) are some of the most effective anti-aging ingredients. Many other antioxidants are wonderful too, as are moisturizing plant oils like raspberry seed oil, argan oil, and camellia oil. I like to use a simple vitamin C product in the morning and a plain retinol product at night.

Vitamin C comes in a number of forms with varying stability. Ascorbic acid is not stable and is best kept refrigerated in an air-proof dispensing container and used quickly. The stability of ascorbic acid can be improved by adding ferulic acid to the serum formula, but it is still not as light-stable and oxygen-stable as some other forms of vitamin C.

I’ve been using magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) in my DIY blend because it is a more stable form of vitamin C and is gentler to skin than the very acidic ascorbic acid. MAP is a powder that is water soluble, which is preferable for me because oil and silicone in serums can make my skin break out. I use purified water as the base for MAP, and I also add niacinamide, which is a powder form of vitamin B3 that is great for skin and is also water soluble. I shake the container before each use since it is a simple water mixture and some settling can occur. Although it does not feel elegant to apply, I like this formula because it works well for my skin with no irritation, oiliness, or breakouts.

If I were to sell a water-based serum like this I would need to use a preservative because bacteria can grow in water-based products, but since this is just for my personal use I skip the preservative. I always handle it with freshly washed hands, use an airless dispenser pump, and use it up promptly. I have not had any trouble, but take note that you need to be cleanly if you don’t use preservative and you should keep the product out of sun/heat and use it up within a month.

A vitamin C serum is a great DIY project because you can tailor the formula to your needs and you can make something basic and pure that can’t be found in stores. Some of you might want to add a little glycerin for glide and moisturization, but be careful not to add too much or it will become sticky. There are many other serum ingredients you can play with and an endless number of formulas you can try (googling DIY vitamin C brings up lots of resources). Be careful if you try ascorbic acid formulas instead of MAP because ascorbic acid can burn in too high concentration, so don’t go crazy and think that more is better.

You can buy these cosmetic ingredients from several sources online. My favorite source is LotionCrafter because the owner, Jenny, is very knowledgeable and nice to work with. She also sells some inexpensive airless pump dispensers that you can use to package your product.

The combination of vitamin C and niacinamide can help reduce fine lines and fade discolorations, and it may help prevent pre-cancerous skin changes. My skin is very fair and several of my family members have had skin cancers on their faces from sun exposure, so I am especially interested in this protective aspect of vitamin C. You should, of course, see a dermatologist if you find something suspicious, but I’m hoping that vitamin C might help prevent pre-cancerous changes from taking place to begin with. And keeping fine lines at bay is always nice too. :)

LotionCrafter has a formulation page where they give several vitamin C formulas as well as many other body product formulas. One of their C serum formulas is modeled after the one by SkinCeuticals, which has a lot of research behind it. The formulas there take a bit more time than the very simple one I have been making, but if you have the time it could be fun and rewarding to try some.

The suggested rate for vitamin C in MAP form is up to 10%, and I’ve been using 10% with no irritation. The Lotioncrafter site says, “Unlike Ascorbyl Palmitate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP) appears to have the same potential to boost skin collagen synthesis as does Ascorbic Acid, but at lower concentrations. For those with sensitive skin or those wanting to avoid the exfoliating effects of highly acidic Ascorbic Acid, MAP may be the preferred choice.”

The suggested usage rate for niacinamide is 1-4%. Lotioncrafter says it can increase collagen synthesis, reduce fine lines, reduce discolorations, and reduce oiliness.

Posted below is the very simple formula I have been using. The downside is that it does not perfectly dissolve, so you need to shake it up each time and you may lose a little bit to the sides of the container. I do see good results with it though, and if you find you like formulating you could always try a more sophisticated formula later.

Simple Water-Based C and B3 serum:
1 gram niacinamide (vitamin B3)
2.5 grams MAP (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate)
21.5 grams purified water (distilled or reverse osmosis)
total: 25 grams

This amount fits into one of the 30 ml white airless treatment pumps sold at Lotioncrafter. You’ll need a decent gram scale to weigh it out. Lotioncrafter sells some scales, but you may have a postal scale or kitchen scale that would work if it is accurate enough. After weighing it out, sterilize a stirring utensil with some alcohol and stir the serum well until the powders dissolve. You can warm the container in your hand or in a bowl of hot water if needed. After capping, I always shake it even though I just stirred it.

This formula is not appropriate to sell (you’d want something more elegant with a smoother feel and either water-free or with a preservative), but it’s fine for home use. If you’ve already tried some DIY formulas, maybe you can share your experiences with us here. And if the idea of topical vitamin C sounds good to you but you don’t want to mess with the DIY aspect, there are many ready-made products to choose from (Paula’s Choice added a moderately-priced C serum to her line last year, and many higher-priced brands like SkinCeuticals have offered them for years). I thought the information in this post might be helpful regardless of the route you choose.

You can research the medical literature on Pubmed/Medline to find studies supporting the protective effect of topical vitamin C against UV-induced skin damage and cancer. Also the SkinCeuticals site has a page with references to medical research, as does the Paula’s Choice site.

Posted in Cosmetics and Body Products | 2 Comments