Have you ever wondered how we make Doc’s Natural Chamois Cream for cyclists?
Would you like to know the secret behind its winning formula?
It all starts with me and my sensitive derriere in 2004. I grew up racing bikes as a USA Cycling (USCF back then) junior in Texas and enjoyed the sport all the way through college racing for various teams including the Fightin’ Texas Aggies. We were pretty good back then and even pulled of a nice finish in the Team Time Trial at Collegiate National Championships on less than ideal equipment that matched our redneck personas. Despite my delusions of grandeur, I wasn’t the next Greg LeMond so I headed off to medical school to pursue my other dream after college. I rarely rode a bike of any kind during 4 years of medical school and only started riding at the tail end of 7 years of surgical residency because my sleek 158 pound endurance athlete body had slowly swelled into a 200+lb embarrassment.
My return to cycling was not all that easy. The worst part was that my once bulletproof hind-end was sensitive beyond reason. Even though I grew up in the era of chamois pads made with REAL chamois leather, I had never used chamois cream prior to version 2.0 of my cycling experience. At a friend’s suggestion, I tried a popular brand of chamois cream for cyclists. It worked great…for about 5 minutes. Thinking there was SOME brand out there that actually worked, I tried every brand of chamois cream for cyclists in existence from this country and abroad. I experienced the same problem over and over: either they didn’t work at all (other than giving me a “loaded diaper” feeling) or they worked for about 5 minutes before my body either absorbed or sweated the stuff off.
Born out of frustration
Frustrated with the lack of performance of chamois cream on the market, I began looking into what was in the ingredient list of most brands. I noticed two important things:
- Most chamois creams are simply relabeled cold cream (and WAY overpriced cold cream at that)
- EVERY chamois cream on the market back then was loaded with stuff I really didn’t want on my most sensitive areas (more on this later)
Being completely disillusioned with the chamois cream for cyclists available, still very much uncomfortable on the bike, and a little cheap, I decided I could make chamois cream myself in 2006. I went to various supply houses, pharmacies, and organic markets looking for stuff like shea butter, lanolin, tea tree oil, and zinc oxide. I talked to various compounding pharmacists and formulation chemists. I made a few interesting batches of chamois cream in my kitchen. Some were better then others and no two batches were the same. One thing was clear, however, I could make a chamois cream for cyclists that kicked the pants off of what was available for retail.
By around 2008, I began wondering if I could actually sell this stuff. It turns out that the FDA has pretty strong opinions on selling stuff that people put on or in their bodies (please don’t put chamois cream IN your body). Worse yet, manufacturing a skincare product in mass quantities requires a “formula”, significant capital, and a commitment to very large quantities. It took a couple of years but I navigated the FDA regulations and got an on-the-job education in cosmetic formulation. Cosmetic formulation requires the skills of a formulation chemist to assure that large mass-produced quantities of products are made properly. A simple recipe describing “a cup of this and a tablespoon of that” won’t work.
Chamois cream wish list
Before we could manufacture the stuff we wanted to sell, no less than a half-dozen versions of our chamois cream were tested. Our formulation chemist took our initial wish list and made 3 initial prototypes. The biggest items on our wish list were:
- A HEAVY dose of Tee Tree Oil and Witch Hazel in order to naturally fight bacteria and yeast/fungus
- ABSOLUTELY no mineral oil (did you know that stuff is made from petroleum!?)
- Water could NOT be the first ingredient (in case you didn’t know, the ingredient listed first on an ingredient list is the most prevalent ingredient; most chamois creams list water first…what’s the point in that!?)
- It had to be as natural as possible while still being safe and stable on store shelves
- It has to last for hours (see #3)
We tested some really interesting chamois cream prototypes including a version we called “Doc’s Extra Chunky”. It was chock full of shea butter which tended to be clumpy. One test rider referred to the chunks as “ball bearings” for your chamois. It actually worked great but we determined that typical consumers would be put off by chunks in their chamois cream.
Armed with what we thought was the final formula, 4 of us headed to the 2010 Tour de France for some cut throat chamois cream testing. Along with being super fan boys, we completed the Nuts of Ventoux, Col du Galibier (this should be a MUST DO on any cyclist’s list), and a local race up Alpe d’Huez (turns out that local French guys are fast but I somehow eeked out a top 10) along with about 6 other trips up the 21 switchbacks. After 10 days of solid riding and many tens of thousands of feet of climbing, there wasn’t a single sore bum or spot of skin break down in the bunch. We knew we had a winner.
Since we started selling Doc’s Natural Chamois Cream in late 2009, we reformulated the secret recipe once. This was in response to the feedback of our valued customers who informed us that our chamois cream for cyclists was a little heat intolerant. We believe we now have the PERFECT chamois cream.