DIY Intermediate, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

DIY: The Busy Woman's Highly Moisturising Mask

Lately there has been some chatter about Sepimax ZEN and Aristoflex AVC and a residual tacky feeling going on with one or the other. And, with the cost of each, (AVC= 8.95/2oz and ZEN=9.95/1oz, then possible taxes, delivery fees, customs fees, exchange rates and and and and) you make a batch and if it doesn’t work, you try again. And then again. And then again. And then wonder if you’ve wasted your money. And wasted your time.

IMG_3847Last Spring, I did a nice little comparison between ZEN and AVC, and discussed how they were similar and how they were different.This post is not going to be about comparing them, this is a brand new recipe! Huzzah!

Once I knew for sure that I would be leaving China sooner rather than later, I began to find strange uses for some of the ingredients I had laying around that I knew I’d not be using for products and wouldn’t be bringing with me to Ireland. And with having less distractions and a little more free time, I’ve been able to work on some of my Diploma programs studies. Mix the two together, and what do you get???


That’s right! Masks! But, not just any masks.

IMG_3848.jpgClay masks when they dry, they crumble and crack dropping little bits of clay into your shower gel or lotion you are making. Thank goodness these products were practice products! But it made me realise, that if I wanted to use up some of these ingredients, wanted to have a spa mask at home, and be able to get accurate results, I needed to come up with ingenious ways to have one that didn’t involve clays or sheet masks. Oh the stories I could tell you about sheet masks and making lotions.

IMG_3852Just don’t do it. No matter what kind of clothes pins and elastic band thing you think will work. It won’t. And then that lotion is ruined.

So this mask is simple. You just splash everything together, add your ZEN then wait, blend and HUZZAH! You’ve a super duper hydrating mask!

I’ve been loving mixing liquid cucumber extract, oat peptides, aloe and some panthenol onto a sheet mask and plopping that stuff on my face. But, with the sheet mask, I learnt you have to actually be laying down so it won’t fall into what you are doing. And that presented a problem.

I’ve precious little time these days but I love my masks. What’s a girl to do?

IMG_3855Create something! So while putting my moving boxes together the thought came to me. GEL MASKS!

Gel masks are a fantastic way to slather your face up with oodles of skin happy ingredients, and still be able to do some puttering and work around the house without worry of leaving behind parts of your mask. Like a little trail of various coloured clays, you can Hansel and Gretel your way from one room to another! If you accidentally fall asleep with it on, it washes off quicker than doing up velcro shoelaces!

IMG_3857I decided on ZEN over AVC, for the ZEN we can put oodles of skin loving electrolytes and whammy it up with proteins. And then add vitamins and other skin loving goodies and we’ve got ourselves an awesome skin happy, anti this and that bowl of happy skin!

For my liquids, I decided on chamomile hydrosol, as the bulk of my liquid, then some cucumber extract, aloe, oat peptides. I’m barely sleeping these days trying to get coursework done, packing, getting the last of the products made so I have more time later. The consequence of barely sleeping is sallow and dull looking skin. Uneven skin tone, skin that is kind of dead looking.

IMG_3870I want my skin to look bright, even, toned, healthy! So all these ingredients are said to be anti-inflammatory ingredients. Ingredients to help combat dull and lifeless skin. I love cucumber extract! It’s currently one of my current favourite ingredients. It’s cooling, astringent, hugely hydrating, high in Vitamin C… pair that with the cushiony feel of oat peptides, wheat protein to help the skin retain its moisture and some hydrolyzed silk? You’ve got yourself a power packed gel.

Sepimax zen.jpg
A couple hours after putting the gel to rest for a while. 

I made the decision to add in some awesome pack a punch rosehip and borage. I mean, they are just kind of laying around and have to be used right??? Rosehip oil is said to be good for scarring and aging, and borage oil is said to be great for acne prone skin as it is high in gamma-linolenic acid or GLA. It helps to promote healthy and happy skin!

To round it up; vitamins. I found a Multivitamin Complex from Gracefruit that I’ve been including in many of my formulas to see how it works. I added in a little extra panthenol and niacinamide as this is a mask not a leave on product. I decided to try using my new rechargeable lotion mixer to incorporate my vitamins and allantoin. Usually I would dissolve them in hot water, but have found using Sepimax and letting it sit overnight does a fantastic job of dissolving them. As long as you blend beforehand.

I decanted it into a squeeze tube for easy access, because really. Who has time to fiddle?

You might be asking how to use a gel mask? Well, wash your face as usual. Apply some toner, and then squirt a generous portion of gel mask into your hands. Gently, massage onto your face, and leave for about twenty minutes. Go wash the dishes, write up a report, make some lotion/bread… you know. Who actually has time to sit down and relax for twenty or thirty minutes? But do all your chores without a worry! This baby ain’t leaving crumbs! Rinse clean and feel the difference!

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 9.58.12 AM

  1. Into a wide mouth small stainless steel bowl, weigh out your liquids; chamomile hydrosol, cucumber extract, aloe vera juice, oat peptides, wheat proteins, and hydrolyzed silk.
  2. Into the liquids add in your Multivitamin Complex, Panthenol, Allantoin and Niacinamide.
  3. Use a small milk frother or MiniPro Mixer and agitate the vitamins incorporating them.
  4. Add in your Rosehip Oil and Borage Oil. DO NOT BLEND.
  5. Add in your essential oils of choice, if you choose to use them.
  6. Weigh out your Sepimax into a small container, and lightly sprinkle over top of the contents of your stainless steel bowl.
  7. Cover with a sheet of paper to prevent dusts, yeasts, and other nasties from accidently falling in, and place on a high shelf.
  8. Leave it alone for about 8 hours.
  9. Don’t peek! Don’t disturb it!
  10. Add in your preservative.
  11. After eight hours, take your electric whisk or your MiniPro, and beat it till it is smooth. This usually takes me about two minutes of mixing.
  12. Decant into into a squeeze tube or a 100g pot.
  13. Store in the fridge (a cold mask feels delightful on a hot day!), or in the bathroom cupboard.


MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Sepimax ZEN vs Aristoflex AVC: Part III

Welcome back to the comparison post!

In this corner we have Sepimax ZEN! An emulsifying stabilizer! Gel like! Electrolyte happy! Skin happy! Pre-neutralized polymer! And it also goes by the name, “Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6”!

And in this corner we have Aristoflex ACV! An oil-in-water emulsifier! Maker of emulsifier-free cream gels! Maker of body milks! A pre-neutralized synthetic polymer! And it also goes by the name of, “Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer”!

In the Scrub Me Down Kitchen, we’ve been playing with AVC for quite a while now and ZEN for maybe four? five? months now. During our ingredient testing phase, we’ve developed some recipes we are very happy with and cannot wait to share them with you all if they continue to dazzle us with their performances. They both have a few more rounds of various testing to go through, one pair of them is currently sitting on my window sill drinking tea and watching the construction. And will continue to sit there for the rest of summer watching the buildings go up across the street. Another pair of them spent their time in various pots and pump bottles. Yup, I sat there watching Doctor Who one day just pump, pump, pump the AVC and the ZEN bottle. It was weird.

We are almost at an end to our ZEN and AVC comparison, there is at least one more post that won’t be published for a few more months until we’ve finalised everything. So, what have we learnt?

Container size does matter when making the ZEN: 

Test 1: I bought some awesome little silver bowls to test out new recipes in. They are six inches in diameter. I made four tests the first try months ago. Two aloe gels (one at 2% and one at 3%) and two with my face serum base oils+10% aloe juice+ recipe again at 2% and 3% ZEN. They all turned out beautifully! Very smooth textured, no lumps or anything. The aloe gels turned out to be clear (I’ll be making more aloe gels with a higher percentage of aloe in the future with some cucumber extract and peppermint hydrosol for an after sun care BOOYAH! edit: two months later? This Summer Sun Gel is the bomb!!!!). All were a success. No lumps, clumps, very smooth and creamy texture in the oil based, and very store bought quality in just the aloe gel.

Test 2: my maid seems to enjoy playing hide and seek with me and hid my new test bowls on me. So I used my 250mL beakers to make this batch as Susan used beakers on her blog so figured they should work. Made up two batches to test out green tea extract and coffee essential oil. This experiment was an epic failure. Gross and lumpy. No amount of blending got rid of those globs. It looked unappealing, and if I wouldn’t use it… well you get my drift. The rubbish bin got some hydration action.

Test 3: finally found my bowls (she put them on the storage shelf for some reason. I mean they are stainless steel. Wouldn’t you think they would belong with the countless other stainless steel bowls under the stove?) Tried the same ingredients as in Test 2 but into the stainless steel six inch diameter bowls. Put it to bed, and just beat it up with the electric whisk. Perfection! Well, perfection in the sense that there are no lumps, smooth textured and looks pretty good in the bowl. Perfect texture!

Test 4: With some tweak to Test 3, I tried again. 2% ZEN in a bowl and in a beaker just to make sure about bowl size mattering. The ZEN in the bowl mixed up in less than a minute with no problems or worry. The ZEN in the beaker, I moved to another silver bowl and took my electric whisk to it. After about three minutes of beating, it finally was less lumpy, so I let it sit. Over time, it reduced its lumps some more, so I beat it. I beat it good. The lumps were still there, but not as pronounced as before.

Conclusion: make sure that your bowl/jar has a wide mouth. I noticed while taking pictures of Test 2 that the gel only really was on top and not all the way through like it was in Test 1. Try again, but use a wide mouth container to put it to bed. I also used an electric whisk to beat mine up (god I love this phrase!!!). I made two test batches yesterday and decided to try covering one and not covering the other while the ZEN slept. I didn’t notice a difference.

Many months in, which do we prefer:

AVC. Hands down. Just the way the AVC makes the face feel, plush, cushiony, velvety and fresh. There is no feeling of heaviness or tightness on the cheekbones or forehead. There is no shiny residue on the skin, and this can be worn under your cream/lotion but above the toner. It is a great way to boost the hydration of the skin without an oily residue or heavy feeling. The ZEN is great, but it just cannot compare to the AVC in terms of the way the skin feels.

ZEN. Well my lovely little minx, you put up a good fight, and you can take my silks and aloe and extracts like a champ. You make my skin feel somewhat toned, and you provide a ton of hydration too. You might loose the battle over a face hydration booster, but by golly, you win the eye trophy! And you look like brains! How neat is that!

Over the next while, we will continue to play with the AVC and ZEN working and tweaking the recipes to get the best recipe we can. I’ve been using a new AVC recipe on my face and a new ZEN recipe around my eyes for about a week and I’m not itching to tweak them for any reason. And that is usually my clue that it is pretty gosh darn good!

If you are looking for advice, which should you buy?

Golly, this is a hard one. If you don’t mind the way aloe vera gel from the chemist makes your skin feel, I think I would suggest Sepimax as it is more versatile. We made a cucumber-minty-aloe after sun gel loaded with vitamins and proteins and that with the AVC it would be impossible to do. But, if you want that plush feeling, I would say the AVC. I know! This was no help! Ultimately, I would suggest getting two little baggies of white powder and playing with them. They are both unique, provide a cushiony feel, hydrate lots and lots… for me personally, I would go with the AVC simply because it makes me skin feel plush. But the ZEN feels like it tightens. So just get two little baggies and go play. Then tell me about it!

Have you played with ZEN or AVC before? Which do you prefer?


MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen, Trying Something New

Sepimax Zen vs Aristoflex AVC Part II

So here is where we get to get a little more technical. We’ve already had a run down of AVC and ZEN in a previous post.

On first glance, they are pretty unassuming. Both are white powders, kind of slippery when rubbed between your fingers. Both are on the very pricy side, while AVC you can buy in China (but be VERY careful of your seller, I had a serious issue with fake product), Zen has to be bought abroad and brought into the country.

Let gets this showdown on! Here are the recipes I used, I attempted to keep them similar so my face using them on each half would get the same results. A big difference between AVC and ZEN is the amount of oil you can use in your mixture.

AVC: suggested usage 0.5% to 1.2% to emulsify up to 5% oils

ZEN: suggested usage 0.5% to 5% as an emulsifier, stabilizer and/or thickener into a larger amount of oils. Generally using 2-3%.

Remember, in AVC no silks, pearl powder, or aloe

2.5% moringa oil
2.5% sea buckthorn seed oil
2% panthenol
2% hydrolyzed oat peptide
2% vitamin b3
1% allantoin
1% vegetable glycerine

1% Aristoflex

1% preservative (consult your own preservative usage rates please!)

 remainder water

10% aloe juice
5% moringa oil
5% sea buckthorn seed oil
2% hydrolyzed oat peptide
2% panthenol
2% vitamin b3
1% allantoin
1% vegetable glycerine

2% Sepimax ZEN

1% preservative (consult your own preservative usage rates please!)

remainder water

I made both according to their directions. I heated up the water and added the allantoin, b3 and glycerine with the liquids giving them time to dissolve. I then allowed them to cool to add in the remaining ingredients and oils. Then, I sprinkled the ZEN on and set it to bed. And then whipped up the AVC.


  1. Time to make: to set up, prepare, weigh and measure, both are identical. They take the same amount of time.
  2. Time from make to first use: this is where the AVC wins. As soon as you mix the AVC mixture and it thickens up to its lovely smooth gel, you’re good to go. ZEN on the other hand, takes about 8 hours to properly set up before you mix it. I’ve also found that in our hotter and much more humid weather, it takes even less time to set up. Once you beat the ZEN senseless with your whisk or electric whisk for about a minute, you’re good to go.
  3. Decanting into containers: meh. They are relatively the same. Maybe the AVC is a smidge easier?
  4. Type of container: Pots, pumps, squeeze tube, flip top lotion bottle? Both the ZEN and AVC are great in all the above containers. I like pots for my testers and sample sizes as they are cheaper!
  5. Amount of mess: Both made about the same amount of mess to clean up. What I really appreciated, was scrubbing the containers clean was very easy.

How did I compare the two?
I put the AVC on the right side of my face and the ZEN on the left side of my face daily for about five days before I knew what was what. I knew what was what after day one, but needed to be sure. More on this in the next part!

Initial Impressions
Getting a good AVC recipe has been a pain in the arse. But has been soooooo worth it. I’ve oily skin, but generally happy skin. I find in the summers that I cannot put too much on my skin as I sweat a lot and that sweat and oils/creams/lotions mixed makes me feel gross. So I have always strived to create a recipe to wear that keeps my skin happy, but also now that I’m walking down the other side of the hill agewise, I also need to make sure my skin has something on it to help keep those age issue stuff at bay. My usual summer facial routine was wash, Bee Happy Toner and go on my way. But with my age getting up there, I knew I needed more. Now my morning and evening routines are a little more intensive.

Upon applying the AVC (once I worked out the kinks), my skin feels soft, plush and hydrated (which isn’t all that hard as I’ve oily+happy skin). My skin stayed fresh and happy all day long and I noticed the little bit of strange acne I’d get kind of stopped appearing. I loved the AVC so much that I formulated a face recipe and sent it to some ladies for testing as I had to know if it was just me. It got some rave reviews!

So the Sepimax had a lot to live up to if it wanted to compete with the AVC.

My initial impression is that I much prefer the AVC over Sepimax. I am finding the Sepimax to be like most gels upon application somewhat tacky, but quick to sink in. I also found that when the ZEN sank in, my skin felt… the only word I can think of is “tight” but not that squeaky clean tight, more like, water drying on your skin when you are in the sun.

And that is when the light above my head went off and the choirs began to sing.

New eye serum.


Stay tuned for Part III!

MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen, Trying Something New

Sepimax ZEN vs Aristoflex AVC Part 1

What an epic black hole Marie’s blog is. If you are truly a DIY junkie (as in you actually have a dedicated room in your house and it spills over to take over the kitchen table, the TV shelving unit and more or want a dedicated apartment for DIY projects), I would strongly suggest checking out her blog. I was playing around on The Hive when Marie posted something about a funky new emulsifier.

And fast forward many months later….. and Aristoflex AVC has become a staple in our face care routine. I will go without a toner. I will go without hair elastics and socks. Just please. Don’t take away my AVC!

So AVC and I haven’t always had the best of relationships. It took some time to figure out what works with it and what doesn’t. It also took some time for me to figure out what else my skin likes since the list of ingredients I couldn’t use in AVC was a mighty big one. And once I figured it out what to pair it with, I can’t gush enough about this ingredient!

The adding of the sea buckthorn seed oil into the eye serum dropper bottle.

My original plan was to use the AVC for the Eye Serum recipe to use it as the emulsifying agent and as a result, have it thicker to get rid of the dropper bottles as I find those generally ridiculously messy and just an all around pain. I prefer pump bottles and pots. But as you quickly learnt in this post: FAILURE! Aristoflex AVC, there was no real way the AVC could handle that task. It couldn’t handle all the skin yummies I needed it to to do all the stuff an eye serum needs to do.

After a discussion with some other DIY Junkies, I found Sepimax ZEN which plays nicely with all the skin yummies: silks, aloe, pearl, the range of vitamins, salts, all the extracts I like to include in our products, and all the ones I want to include- all that fun stuff. But as I mentioned previously, it was not easy getting my hands on a bag of it. So the ZEN got put through the various tests to see what’s what and how it works and all the fun stuff that makes skin care making absolutely the best part of my day.

I began talking to people about the things I noticed between the two of them and an idea popped into my head. Why not do a series of blog posts comparing AVC and ZEN? Both are wonderful ingredients, so how do they stack up to each other? And which do we want and why? How do they differ in a product? Which do we like better? And through these posts, we will also be involving some of our amazing skin testers comments and opinions and suggestions.

So stay tuned to this space for the Aristoflex AVC and Sepimax ZEN Showdown!



MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen, Trying Something New

Making gels with Sepimax ZEN

One of the worst things you quickly learn when making and selling your own skincare/ cosmetics is that your standards are usually higher than your customers.

Our current eye and face serum recipes are wicked. They are an emulsified product which means they are oil and water based serums that are loaded with goodies and extracts and we offer it in an amber dropper bottle. The dropper bottle offers great control for the number of drops you apply to the eye and face area. We’ve received no complaints, no suggestions to make it better… the only thing we have heard from our clients is that its amazing and really does work!

Preparing the ingredients
I love my new bowls for test days!

And as I said, my standards are very high. I love the dropper bottles, they are quaint and simple and easy to work with. But, they pose one major and I mean major issue for my liking. Dropper bottles suck large crazy things when you put a viscous liquid in them. When you open the bottle they work like they should. But when you go to put the cap back in, way too much product spills down the sides. And that is a waste. And that to me is unacceptable. I mean a pump bottle lotion, I’m ok if you cannot get the last little bit out of there. That is what scissors are for after all! But dribbles down the side of a container? No. It’s contaminated and that product cannot be used.

So, we’ve been working hard formulating the recipe to make it thicker to put into a pump style container. And the number of failures from that? Countless. Here’s one of my more, interesting failures:

Using xanthan gum as a thickener, ummm it reminded me of snot.

And, I think there might be a possibility that I’ve figured it out! And if we haven’t figured it out, we made gels! How swanky is that?

Getting our hands on Sepimax ZEN was tricky. It took a friend in America pre-ordering it, shipping it to my co-worker in another State who was visiting, him bringing it to China for me. So far, the initial testing phase has been productive. And inspiring. Originally, we were thinking of making the eye and face serum with Aristoflex AVC but you cannot use any electrolytes with it. And that’s how we found Sepimax ZEN! Electrolytes! YAY!!!

INCI:  Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 (Sepimax ZEN)

So what is Sepimax ZEN and why does it seem like we are way too excited by it? It is used as a thickening agent, a stabilizer in surfactant and emulsion systems. It is a pre-neutralised polymer that can create transparent gels on its own.

How freaking cool is that???? Pre-neutralised!

Do you know what that means? No ph checking! And electrolytes! Aloe is back baby! As is proteins and more! My skin is tingling with anticipation. And a gel. A gel! A gel I tell you!

We took some vitamins, silk, aloe juice and some other skin yummies with some of our eye serum and added some ZEN. Then walked away.

Adding the ZEN

That was the hardest part. Walking away.

Two hours later…. BRAINS!

But that didn’t stop me from taking pictures while it was setting up!


Once my timer went off that eight hours was up, I took out my whisk and almost forgot about taking pictures. Pre-blending, I was kind of grossed out how everything looked. It looked like curdled kefir in sauce. Very gross. The aloe vera gel I made looked very cool. Like gelled ice!


Finished product!

It looks amazing! So crazy slime looking! I really think after using this that this gel wouldn’t make the face happy as it is really like a gel. But now that some time has passed, I do feel that this would be better suited as the ingredient in the eye serum. And I’ve already got my notes prepared for how I want to improve on the eye serum using Sepimax. I want to add in some hydrolised oat protein and some burdock root extract too. And more! And silk. And glycerine. And other oils. And more aloe. And and and! Just not the kitchen sink.

Now comes the crazy part of trying to figure out which container to put the ZEN into! And that’s what I’ve been testing out this morning. Fun! In the coming weeks, we’ll be testing out various Zen recipes to add to our line or keep the Aristoflex. Getting new ingredients are awesome, but formulating the perfect recipe is a pain in the arse. Makes me wish we lived in a big city where there are plenty of foreigners where I can borrow thier skin.