Hydroxyethylcellulose is one of those ingredients that you may think sounds like some sort of synthetic, harsh chemical. But just because this ingredient has a name that looks suspicious and difficult to pronounce, doesn’t mean it’s harmful or unnatural. In fact, many common ingredients have suspicious-sounding names. Two examples are: sodium chloride, better known by its common name; salt, or sodium bicarbonate; better known by its common name; baking soda. Both of these are common ingredients found in both food and body care products and most of us consider these ingredients to be pretty harmless as far as toxicity is concerned. So what about hydroxyethylcellulose?
What is Hydroxyethylcellulose?
Hydroxyethylcellulose is a natural gum derived from pine and spruce tree trunks (debarked logs) grown and harvested from plantations in the United States, France, Norway, and Canada. Hydroxyethylcellulose is an excellent thickening agent and a non-ionic rheology modifier . When using this natural gum, the viscosity of your product will be modified to a thicker texture depending on the amount used. Of all the natural gums, hydroxyethylcellulose creates crystal clear serums and makes an excellent delivery mechanism for other actives in your formulations. Hydroxyethylcellulose will also help enhance the foaming action of surfactants. This allows you to use less surfactant, making your shampoos and cleansers more gentle and more effective.
How do I use Hydroxyethylcellulose?
Hydroxyethylcellulose is also one of the easiest gums to use but it must be fully hydrated to avoid clumping and “fish eyes”. Fish eyes are those balls of goo that develop when you add certain ingredients to your water phase without properly hydrating first. In order to properly hydrate this gum, turn your high shear mixer (or handheld stick blender) on and gently sprinkle the powder into your water phase. You will notice that as you add the powder, your water phase will quickly start to thicken so you may need to increase the speed of your mixer or stick blender. Generally you may add this gum to your formulation at anywhere between 0.5% to 2% for best results.
Essential’s suppliers of this staple ingredient have both land and forest management programs in place to ensure the protection of waterways near land being managed and preservation of natural wildlife. Additionally, they support the local Sustainable Forestry Initiatives (e.g. Forest Stewardship Council, American Forest & Paper Association Sustainable Forestry Initiative).
Do you formulate with hydroxyethylcellulose? Feel free to share your tips and questions in the comments below. As always, Essential is here to answer any questions you have about this ingredient.