Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Women and Science

I love science. There is so much out there in science, and I really regret not pursuing it in college. I was rather good at chemistry, did well in biology, and had so much fun in bacteriology. I never did physics, mostly because I wasn't going to be able to get into "honors" class since I didn't take the "honors" Algebra II class. I'm not much of a math person, though I did well in the classes that I did take. My chemistry class in college was simpler than the chemistry class I took in high school, and while it was interesting, it was practically a joke.

I see stuff in the news about getting little girls interested in STEM subjects, with Goldie Blox and what not, but I think there needs to be more focus on keeping teenage girls interested in science, and let them know what studying science can lead to career-wise. I'm more interested in science (in particular the parts that relate to beauty products and scent), but technology, engineering, and math probably have interesting career paths that should be considered and promoted.

Science feels like it's come up a lot for me personally in the last few years. Being married to a software engineer (who reads physics textbooks for fun) certainly helps with that, but in other ways as well. At my most recent show, I was asked by a few people whether I had a science background. While most of the beauty products I make don't involve complex scientific knowledge, there is still science to them. I study the properties of different oils and butters- the types of fats in them can change how they work, so the oil you need depends on the type of product you're making.

Soap making is fun, because it involves a chemical reaction right before your eyes- lye (either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide in water) combines with oil to make soap! At least real soap, not the detergents you'll see sold at most stores. You need to use some math (not scary math, and there are calculators available online just for this purpose) to calculate how much lye you need to saponify your oils. Different oils have different requirements for lye, and typically you're using more than one type of oil to make your soap. This goes back to the above, where the composition of the oils bring different properties to your soap. Since you don't want any lye left over in your soap, you superfat your recipe, which means you need to calculate your lye so that not all of the oils are saponified. Superfatting  means you're left with some left over oils in your soap, which makes it good for you skin.

Lotions present a different set of science issues- like soap, you're combining oil and water, but you want different results.An emulsifier is needed to keep the water and oil from separating. You have water phases and oil phases, you keep track of their temperatures, and combine them into a magical creamy lotion. Then you need a preservative- this is where biology and bacteriology come in. Lotions are good breeding grounds for all sorts mold, bacteria, fungus, etc., so a preservative slows that growth down.

I've been getting my science fix that way for awhile, but now I'm spending more time studying chemistry in regards to perfumery. There's the components of the essential oils, plus I'm reading up on some of the aromachemicals out there.

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