Recipe adaptation, ingredient replacements

Recipe adaptation, ingredient replacements

Customizing and adapting recipes can sometimes be a simple process. In other cases, it is recommended to be done only by those who are more experienced.

There are recipes in which you can change the ingredients depending on what you have at hand: instead of a kind of vegetable oil you can put another, instead of water you can use floral water, instead of a fragrance oil you can use an essential oil and so on.

In general, it is not advisable to replace an ingredient of a certain category with one of another category or to replace a water-soluble ingredient with an oil-soluble one. Although such changes are practically possible, they often require reformulation.

We do not have the possibility to formulate recipes on request or personalized recipes, nor recipes for medical conditions. Suggestions for new recipes that you would like to find in our collection are always welcome. You can send them to us here

If you are not sure that the formula you have thought of is the right one and it can be done, so as not to waste the ingredients, you can prepare a small test amount.


EMULSIONS (cream recipes, lotions, milk)

In cold-prepared emulsions with Alfa emulsifier, it cannot be replaced with another emulsifier, only oils can be replaced with other oils, floral waters with others and some actives, according to the suggestions given below for compositions prepared by hot emulsification.
Emulsifiers: for compositions prepared by emulsification it is important to note that changing the emulsifier usually requires reformulation. The emulsifiers in the Elemental offer are not equivalent, they work differently, require a specific phase ratio, give the composition a different texture, have a different sensation and effect on the skin. If in a recipe you want to change the emulsifier with another one, then we recommend starting from one of the recipes formulated with that specific emulsifier.
In the fatty/oily phase (usually "A"): The total fatty phase can be composed of one or more oils and butters dosed in the desired proportions. The percentage indicated in the recipe for the fatty phase should be kept.
  • vegetable oils: can be replaced with others or can be combined. If the recipe provides a total of 40 ml of oil, you can proceed as follows: one kind of oil 40 ml, or 2 kinds of oil 20-20 ml and so on. The oils will be chosen according to the texture, viscosity, degree of absorption, properties, while also taking into account the current type and needs of the skin
  • vegetable butters may be combined or substituted with each other, provided that their viscosity (hardness) differs and influences the consistency of the final preparation
  • emulsifier: we do not recommend replacing the emulsifier indicated in the recipe with another emulsifier, especially not on the principle "what we have at hand". If you want to work with another emulsifier, look in its worksheet or in other recipes that contain it for inspirations. Choosing the right emulsifier is the key to the success of an emulsion, along with the optimal ratio of fat to aqueous phase
In the aqueous phase (usually "B"): The total percentage of the aqueous phase indicated in the recipe should be kept, but may vary slightly depending on the changes in the final phase.
  • instead of or next to plain water you can use floral waters or aloe vera gel, a little glycerin, sodium pca, hydroglycerin extracts (if the percentage used is higher than 5%)
  • if you want to remove any ingredient from the aqueous phase or to incorporate another water-soluble ingredient (heat insensitive!) into the aqueous phase, adjust the percentage of water (floral) accordingly
  • a number of active ingredients do not tolerate heating, this must be taken into account, therefore, they can be incorporated into compositions at a temperature of up to 40°C, so in the final phase and not the aqueous phase

Final phase  ("C" or sometimes "D")

1. water-soluble or hydrophilic ingredients and active ingredients: hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, vegetable powders, keratin, collagen, panthenol, extracts and other water-soluble or dispersible active ingredients

  • most active ingredients are recommended to be introduced into the final phase of an emulsion (which is marked with C or sometimes D)
  • if the final phase of the recipe contains ingredients you do not want, they can be substituted with others. In the final phase, both water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients can be added, respecting the dosage indicated in the product sheet
  • the percentage of the aqueous phase can be easily changed if the final phase exceeds or is below the percentage given by the original recipe. Example: fat phase 20%, emulsifier 5%, aqueous phase 71%, final phase 4% - can become: 20%, 5%, 72%, 3% or 20%, 5%, 68%, 7%
  • hyaluronic acid, bamboo powder, royal jelly powder, coconut powder, acerola powder, pineapple powder, aromatic extracts and others, will be incorporated at the end of the preparation of the compositions, respecting the indicated dosages
  • urea and caffeine can be heated, so they will be calculated in the aqueous phase and not in the final phase
  • collagen, keratin, lactic acid, AHA and BHA fruit acids will be calculated in the final phase
  • hydroglycerin extracts (cucumber, mallow, red vine, ivy) will be calculated in the aqueous phase if you opt for a dosage higher than 5% and in the final phase if you dose below 5%

2. fat-soluble or lipophilic ingredients and active ingredients: coenzyme Q10, vitamin A, vitamin E, bisabolol, fragrance oils, essential oils, other soluble or oil-dispersible active ingredients

  • proceed the same way as in the instructions given for the water-soluble ingredients
  • coenzyme Q10, bisabolol, fragrance oils - add at the end, without heating, respecting the indicated dosages. Acmella extract can be introduced either in the final phase or in the fat phase, because it is not heat sensitive
  • essential oils: the replacement in recipes of some essential oils with others will be done taking into account the indications and safety data provided in their product sheet. Note that some smell more intense (for example: ylang-ylang, geranium, cinnamon, absolutes), some smell weaker or are not suitable for perfume but are used for their therapeutic effects; others have a strong or pungent, even unpleasant odor. There are also some that are dermocaustic, photosensitizing or contraindicated in certain conditions (pregnancy, young children, epilepsy, various diseases). Essential oils can be removed from the recipe or replaced with natural fragrance oils.
  • the dosage indicated in the product sheet for each active ingredient must be respected

Final phase percentage: do not abuse the number or percentage of ingredients included in the final phase, they can destabilize the composition! In the recipe, there is generally a percentage indicated of the final phase of up to 5, maximum 7%, depending on the formula

pH level: certain ingredients influence the pH of the composition, it is good to measure the pH after the preservative is added and adjust as appropriate. These ingredients are: lactic acid, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), bamboo powder, AHA fruit acids, surfactants. Floral waters, fruit powders and aloe vera gel are slightly acidic.


  • emulsions require the mandatory use of a preservative. They are sensitive to microbial contamination, regardless of the storage medium or container used. Without preservation, the emulsions can only be used for a few days, even if stored in the refrigerator
  • cosgard can generally be replaced with MAYAM Grapefruit Seed Extract, using the same amount, in compositions that do NOT contain: xanthan gum, green tea extract, BHA salicylic acid, certain emulsifiers dosed below 4%
  • instead of grapefruit seed extract, cosgard can be used in most cases, using the same amount. The use of cosgard is not indicated in compositions for children under 3 years, except for compositions that will be rinsed off
  • cosgard can be substituted with fragard, taking into account that the pH level must be between 4-9

Oily creams, ointments, balms, body butters, body oils, massage oils - anhydrous compositions

  • in recipes that contain only oils and/or butters, substituting ingredients can be easy. Select those ingredients that have the desired properties (see product sheet) taking into account the condition of the skin/hair
  • vegetable oils can be replaced with each other. The texture of the oil is also to be taken into account. The dosage can be chosen freely, except in the case of those few special vegetable oils that have a dosage indicated in their file (example: sea buckthorn, blackcurrant, pomegranate…)
  • if oils sensitive to oxidation are used, an addition of vitamin E or rosemary extract is needed, if the recipe does not already contain them
  • essential oils can be replaced with others, chosen according to their properties and preferred smell; the safety data must be taken into account (see product data sheet)
  • in anhydrous compositions, those which do not contain water, only fat-soluble or lipophilic ingredients and active ingredients may be replaced or added with small exceptions, in accordance with the dosages indicated in the product sheet
  • anhydrous compositions do not require a preservative, but the addition of an antioxidant (vitamin E, rosemary extract) is welcome, especially for preparations containing oxidation-sensitive oils

Perfumes and deodorants

  • our perfume recipes are just suggestions and should not be followed exactly. The fragrant ingredients can be combined freely (only some have dosage restrictions, see the product sheet) and can be chosen according to preferences
  • in perfume recipes, whether oil-based, solid, powdered or alcohol-based, essential oils, absolutes or fragrance oils may be replaced by others according to taste preferences
  • the intensity of the essences used must be taken into account: absolutes and some essential oils smell stronger (geranium, ylang-ylang, cinnamon, cardamom, lemongrass...) while other essential oils have a less intense smell (citrus essences, sandalwood amyris...)
  • the dosage indicated in the recipe for essential, fragrance and absolute oils can be changed by increasing or decreasing by a few percent, adjusting the percentage of the base accordingly
  • in case of solid perfumes, the total percentage of perfume essences is taken into account, which if it is too high then the preparation can be fluidized. Soy wax, which is the softest, can be supplemented with another wax when the percentage of essences exceeds on average 15%. We cannot tell you an exact percentage, given that fragrant essences liquefy the base differently
  • how to identify the combinations you like, percentages and indications for preparation can be found in this article on perfumes
  • perfumes do not require preservation, but oily and solid ones can be supplemented with an antioxidant (vitamin E, rosemary extract)
  • solid deodorants - stick type: vegetable oils can be replaced with others, oxidation resistant ones are recommended. It is not recommended to replace the wax because it has a major influence on the texture and hardness of the deodorant, and these stick deodorants must have the optimal consistency, otherwise they will be too liquid, too greasy or on the contrary will not be able to be applied being too hard. Essential oils can be replaced with others, as well as fragrances, but if the recipe does not contain a deodorant active (such as farnesol or alum) it is recommended to contain specific essential oils, otherwise the deodorant will be less effective
  • liquid deodorants: - spray type ones fall into the “Toners...” category below, where you will find indications. In case of the gel type deodorants, essential oils and fragrance oils can be replaced with others, the use of antibacterial essential oils is also recommended. The dosage may vary slightly more or less than the one indicated in the recipe. We do not recommend replacing the gelling agent in the recipe with anything, other than for those who know these ingredients and have prepared gels before

Shampoos, shower gels, cleansers

  • we do not recommend the replacement of surfactants in general, it is better to look for another recipe that contains the surfactants you want to use, because the pH levels, the indicated dosage, the influence on viscosity and foaming differs, and it may call for changes regarding the dosage of other ingredients
  • essential oils and fragrance oils can be replaced with others, but the dosage indicated in the recipe should generally be respected. The fragrance oils liquefy the preparation, so they will be dosed according to the indications in the product sheet. It should be noted that some essential oils smell stronger, others weaker. Safety data is to be also taken into account (see product sheet); for fragrance, aromatic extracts can also be used, they only liquefy slightly the compositions based on surfactants
  • water-soluble active ingredients (keratin, collagen, panthenol) can be added or removed by adjusting the quantity of water accordingly. These are added at the end, before the preservative.
  • water can be replaced with floral water or aqueous plant macerations. Some of the water can be replaced with aloe vera gel. Hygiene products in which you have introduced an herbal infusion or an aqueous macerate are more sensitive and the shelf life is usually shorter
  • we do not recommend the incorporation of fat-soluble ingredients or vegetable oils other than those provided in the recipe. Bisabolol can be put in 0.5%. If the recipe contains a vegetable oil, it can be replaced with another one, according to your preferences
  • pH adjustment with lactic acid may be needed if the ingredients of the recipe are changed, especially if the surfactants are changed
  • can be colored with plant extracts (acerola, annatto, hibiscus, chlorophyll). Only compositions which are more viscous can be colored with mineral pigments, otherwise the pigments will not stay in suspension but will tend to deposit at the base of the container
  • the change of the preservative is to be made taking into account the specifications and incompatibilities presented in its product file
  • all these compositions require preservation, with the exception of solid shampoos

Toners, aqueous serums, aqueous cleansers, skin/body/hair sprays

  • for water-based compositions, which contain only water-soluble ingredients, floral waters can be replaced with others depending on the skin type, flat mineral water can be totally or partially replaced with floral water
  • we recommend the incorporation only of water-soluble or water-dispersible active ingredients, respecting the dosage indicated in the product data sheet. Also pay attention to the pH of the preparation, some ingredients have an influence: vitamin C (ascorbic acid), lactic acid, fruit acids, floral waters, aloe vera gel, fruit powders are more acidic.
  • in compositions which by solubilization also contain oily ingredients, the oils may be substituted with others which must be chosen according to their properties. Essential oils and fragrance oils are chosen according to the desired smell and properties. The dosage indicated in the recipe is generally maintained.
  • for biphasic compositions the replacement of aqueous ingredients is done with others just as aqueous, the oils can be substituted with other oils. Active ingredients, essential oils and fragrance oils will be introduced or modified in the recipe according to the dosage indicated in their product sheet. In these biphasic compositions (especially in make-up removers) the ratio between the oily part and the aqueous part can be changed.
  • all these compositions require preservation, otherwise they must be kept in the refrigerator and used in a few days. Solutions prepared only by combining floral waters can be used without preservation, but should be stored in the refrigerator and used as soon as possible, preferably in one month


  • the dosage of ingredients in most makeup compositions requires precision. In non-compacted powders we have a greater freedom in terms of the ingredients used and their percentage.
  • in general, for makeup compositions, we do not recommend making changes to ingredients, other than pigments and possibly fragrant ingredients
  • pigments can be replaced with others to obtain different shades and colors depending on your preferences. It should be taken into account that matte pigments color more intensely and therefore are to be dosed in lower percentages
  • in certain compositions, mineral pigments may be substituted with the vegetable pigments
  • vegetable oils in recipes can be replaced with others, taking into account the oil texture and oxidation resistance
  • wax is recommended to be replaced in makeup preparations only by those who have some experience and know its properties. Each wax differs in melting point, filmogenicity, hardness, so it has a major influence on the final consistency.
  • for those compositions that are not in powder form, instead of titanium dioxide it is better to work with titanium paste, which is much finer and optimized for makeup preparations. Titanium dioxide will not be replaced 1/1 with paste, but we cannot share an ideal ratio for makeup recipes without performing tests.
  • for mascaras, being a composition prepared by emulsification, the indications from above for emulsions will be taken into account. The pigment and oil can be replaced with other options.
  • makeup compositions can be easily perfumed with non-dermocaustic essential oils or natural fragrance oils. At the same time, if the recipe provides for essential or fragrant oils, they can be removed from the recipe without the need for further changes.
  • makeup preparations that contain water require preservation; those that do not contain water should be supplemented with antioxidants (vitamin E, rosemary extract)

This formula was developed by Elemental's qualified staff. The recipes are intended to exemplify the use of products marketed by Elemental and are believed to be accurate, however, Elemental assumes no liability or risk associated with the use of its products for the preparation and evaluation of the recipe as the conditions of preparation and use are beyond its control. The Elemental customer must ensure that the reproduction of the formulation does not infringe any intellectual property rights and that it complies with the specific rules and regulations in force. The person who prepares the recipe must refer to the safety data sheets to ensure the safe handling of all raw materials and bears full responsibility for ensuring the safe and correct use and storage of all materials procured and used. Assessments of the safety, stability, regulatory compliance and suitability of this recipe, methods and the finished product are the sole responsibility of the user and/or the legal entity placing the product on the market. Elemental is not liable for any damages resulting from the use of this information, and assumes no responsibility for misuse of selected materials, formula or method, in whole or in part.

Posted on 07/20/2015 Beginner's guide