Understanding the Science and Ingredients of Bath Bombs

Understanding the Science and Ingredients of Bath Bombs

Bath Bombs (also known as Bath Fizzies) are the craze in the bath and body world, and why wouldn’t they be? They are fun, colorful, and they embody all the moments of childhood bubble baths with an adult twist. If you’re new to the bath bomb world, we’ve created a short video on how it works in your tub, plus a little tutorial on how to create your own in this blog post.

What we especially love about bath bombs are three main points: The amazing aroma, the fabulous skin-loving properties, and the beautiful colors or embeds. But sometimes reading the ingredient list of a bath bomb can be a little intimidating; there are some clearly recognizable aspects, such as the baking soda, but some other ingredients…um, what is that? Have no fear! No bath bomb-loving maker will steer you wrong, and here we’ll break down the ingredients to our best-selling bomb, the Midnight in Paris Bath Fizzie.

Midnight in Paris Bath Bomb

Here’s the ingredient list: Baking Soda, Citric Acid, Organic Soybean Oil, Cream of Tartar, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSA), Lavender Flowers, Phthalate-Free Fragrance, Colorant (Glycerin, Isopropyl Alcohol, Yellow 5, Corn Starch, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Ultramarine Blue, D&C Red 7 Calcium Lake, Fluorphlogopite, Titanium Dioxide).

The Breakdown of Each Ingredient

  • Baking Soda: Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a weak base (when thinking in terms of acids and bases in chemistry). What it does is weakly ionize in water, meaning it makes the water slightly more alkaline, or lowering the pH value. But because the baking soda isn’t working alone here, it’s not necessarily true in the case of a bath bomb…it’s the reaction with citric acid.
  • Citric Acid: Citric acid is a weak organic acid found naturally occurring in most citric fruits. Believe it or not, citric acid is made from the fermentation of sugar that is created as citric fruits age. The combination of baking soda, as a weak base, with citric acid, a weak acid, inside of water, creates a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide; that’s what makes the fizzing action in a bath bomb! As the acid and base hits the water, the carbon dioxide escapes, creating bubbles. (Side note – you’ll often find citric acid as an ingredient in certain foods because it acts as a natural preservative and fizzing – read the ingredients of your favorite soft drink.)
  • Organic Soybean Oil: We use organic soybean oil because of the concern over GMOs (genetically modified organisms) for use on body and food; it’s organic, meaning it’s not derived from GMO soybeans, and grown without pesticides. Soybean oil has a high unsaturated fatty acid compound, including 30 IU per ounce of vitamin E. These types of oils have wonderful skin-softening properties that work to moisturize the epidermis (top layer of skin). That’s why we choose organic soybean oil; in short, it’s awesome for your skin.
  • Cream of Tartar: Also known as potassium bitartrate, cream of tartar is the crystallization effect naturally occurring in the fermentation of wine barrels. Essentially, the “wine crystals” are sifted out from the wine and crushed into powder. In bath bombs, cream of tartar acts as a binding agent, making the bomb harder and stronger. (You can also use cream of tartar in food, especially when whipping egg whites to create a fluffy egg mixture.)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate: So this ingredient gets a bad rap because it’s often mistaken for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, but they are NOT the same!  SLSA is completely safe for most skin types, including sensitive skin. It removes oils and bacteria without irritating the skin.This product is derived from coconut and palm oils, and conforms to Ecocert’s natural and organic cosmetic standard and is 100% of natural origin -the purpose in bath bombs: long-lasting bubbles!
  • Lavender Flowers: This one is pretty simple – we use real lavender flowers in this particular bomb because of their aroma and calming effect. They make the bath come to life, adds a natural essence, and just enhances the whole lavender aspect of the fizz.
  • Phthalate-Free Fragrance: To create this particular bath bomb, we combine fragrance oils that are made without phthalates to create the scent of lavender and chocolate. We always opt for phthalate-free for everything we create, including our candles, because phthalates are essentially plastics…and who wants to breathe or bathe in plastic?
  • The Colorant: Okay, so some parts of colorant we already  discussed, such as the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). We have to use specially-made colorants for bath bombs to ensure (the majority) of the color drains out of your tub.
    • Glycerin: Glycerin is the natural occurrence of oils mixed with lye to create soap. Essentially, glycerin is the leftover oils from this mixture, making it a natural humectant (skin-softening because it attracts water).
    • Isopropyl Alcohol: Isopropyl alcohol is used in a number of cosmetics because it is drying, evaporating off quickly. It’s used as a binding liquid, and why we use it in bath bombs, when you cannot use water; it helps avoid the early reaction of the citric acid and baking soda.
    • Yellow 5, Ultramarine Blue, D&C Red 7 Calcium Lake: These are the names given to specific colors by the FDA, derived from minerals in the Earth. There are only certain colors approved by the FDA for cosmetic purposes, and these are some.
    • Corn Starch: Cornstarch, also sometimes called cornflour, is produced by grinding, washing and drying the endosperm of the corn until it reaches that fine, powdery state. It’s used in bath bomb colorants for thickening purposes.
    • Calcium Carbonate: Calcium carbonate is actually found in around 4% of the earth’s crust, naturally derived from mineral earth. Calcium carbonate causes a unique reaction with acids.  Upon contact with an acid – no matter the strength – it produces carbon dioxide.
    • Fluorphlogopite: Synthetic fluorphlogophite is a fluorine-substituted mineral, produced at very high temperatures and is composed of magnesium aluminum silicate sheets, weakly bound together by potassium. This substance is found to exist as very large heavy particles due to its high molecular weight. It is this high molecular weight which makes it ideal for increasing the viscosity of a formulation and being used as a bulking agent.
    • Titanium Dioxide: Titanium dioxide is a white unreactive solid that occurs naturally as the mineral rutile and is used extensively as a white pigment. This is not really absorbed into the skin, which is why it’s also often found in sunscreens and soaps; it makes cosmetics white without being absorbed.

So there you have it; there’s quite a bit that goes into a bath bomb. It’s not quite as “natural” as other products, but everything is cosmetic-grade and approved by the FDA. Chemistry 101!

Bomb Shelter for Bath Bombs Infographic
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