It is common knowledge that oil and water don’t mix under normal circumstances.
In cosmetic chemistry the solution to blending two immiscible (unblendable) liquids are emulsions.
Simply put, an emulsion is the suspension of one liquid in another liquid. There are more technical definitions, but for now, let’s stick with this simple definition.
If you were to take a bottle and fill it 1/2 full of water and then fill the rest with oil, you would quickly notice the two don’t mix. However, if you shake the bottle like crazy, suddenly you see a cloudy mixture form for just a couple of seconds before the oil and water quickly sort themselves out and separate again. In order to keep the oil suspended in the water, you need an emulsifier. Oil simply can’t form a strong bond with water on its own.
Lotions and creams wouldn’t exist if we weren’t able to blend water and oil together and keep them from separating with emulsifiers.
In an emulsion, micelles form a large lipophilic end (attracted to oil) and a hydrophilic end (attracted to water). These lipophilic and hydrophilic ends create a game of tug-of-war between the oil and water which keeps the oil suspended in water. There are several emulsifiers available for use in cosmetics, but the most common is Emulsifying Wax.
What is Emulsifying Wax?
Emulsifying wax is not a single ingredient, but a blend of Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol & Polysorbate 60. Usage varies based on the combination of thickeners but normal usage rates are between 3% and 6% of the total weight of your recipe.
This is one of the easiest emulsifiers to use and is used by most home crafters of lotions and cremes. This staple ingredient is perfect for emulsions, but it’s also great for thickening lotions and cremes as well!
Using Emulsifying Wax to Thicken Lotions and Creams
Sometimes as we add ingredients such as essential oils or tinctures to a lotion or crème, it can become too thin or watery. To correct the viscosity and bring back the richness to your lotion or crème follow the directions below!
Equipment You’ll Need
Hot plate or stove top
Stick Blender or high shear mixer
- Weigh out the amount of lotion or crème you are correcting and multiply by 1%
- This will give you the amount of emulsifying wax you need to add. For example: if you have 5.28LBS of lotion the math would be 5.28 X 0.01 = .0528. So you would need .0528 LBS of emulsifying wax.
- Gently heat your lotion or crème to 120F. Heat your emulsifying wax to melting – (122F – 130F).
- Use your stick blender to begin blending your heated lotion. While blending, slowly pour the emulsifying wax into your lotion.
- Wait for the lotion to cool back to room temperature. If your lotion or crème is still too thin, repeat the process until it reaches the correct viscosity.