Types Of Emulsifiers

There are so many types of emulsifiers that are available to use in cosmetic products that it can be completely bewildering. Perhaps it might be a good idea to start with understanding why we want to use them.

What is an emulsion definition?

There is a very formal definition here but to make it easier to understand, an emulsion at its simplest, is mayonnaise. You are binding oil and vinegar (that don’t like to mix) together using egg yolk as the emulsifier. In the mayonnaise, there is a certain ratio of fat ingredients (the olive oil) with water ingredients (the vinegar) to the emulsifier (egg yolk).

In just the same way, different emulsifiers work with different ratios and some will hold more of the vegetable oils (fat) to make heavy creams and others hold less fat but more water ingredients to make lotions and serums.

What emulsifier is the best?

It’s impossible to say because there are so many emulsifier examples and they often have different attributes. Knowing how much emulsifier to use is crucial. Some of them make an emulsion that is quite fluid after you have made it which makes it easier to fill containers. The emulsion firms up overnight to quite a thick cream once it is in the jar – very handy!

Some take ages to work with especially if you are working in larger volumes but the end results make it worthwhile. Some give a very glossy, bright cream and some give a very matte finish cream. There really is something for every circumstance so there is no “best” one. I do, however, find that I use certain ones over and again because they are simple and very effective. This is not an exhaustive list but are the ones I use in my books.

Montanov 68™

This emulsifier has been around for some years now which means it is very well tried and tested. It’s completely plant based being made from cassava and coconut. Plant based emulsifiers are often referred generically as vegetal emulsifiers. This is important for people, like myself, who choose to work with plant cosmetics.

The INCI is Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Cetearyl Glucoside. INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) is a 

is an internationally agreed list of the ingredients in a product. It was designed so that you could tell if there was a specific ingredient that you were allergic to in the product you were about to use. You would know this by reading the label on the product. 

Montanov™ 68 is really easy to use with a domestic immersion blender / stick blender. It needs that high shear to bring it all together. Stirring slowly as it cools down, a lamellar crystal structure is formed within the cream which essentially means that micro droplets of oil are layered between water molecules over and over again. 

The resulting cream sinks into your skin very quickly with no greasiness and that lamellar crystal structure starts to penetrate into the dermis over a matter of hours. This has the benefit that any active ingredients that you have added (including cannabis), get a slow and continuous release into your body. Perfect for microdosing.

It makes very stable, white creams that can hold a lot of oil (including cannabis infused oil), and still feel light and elegant when applied to your skin. When use in a lower ratio, it is a great emulsifier for lotions as well.

Any products made with this emulsifier will keep your skin well hydrated for many hours after you have applied them.

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This emulsifier is often referred to generically as Emulsifying Wax which makes things very confusing as there are loads of emulsifiers all called the same thing – and they are not the same thing. You cannot easily swap them around in formulations. The INCI for this one is Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol. You will find others with similar names like BTMS 50, but it is not the same and it behaves differently.

BTMS 25 is a very easy to use emulsifier that is great for beginners but is still loved by experienced professionals. I like it because it is not animal based and the creams it makes are very stable and not prone to separation.

It has a good capacity to hold a lot of oils and still feel nice on the skin. It is also cationic which means it also makes an amazing hair conditioner as well.

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Sucragel AOF

This is an incredible emulsifier that is also available in an organic form. Might not sound too impressive but for us cosmetology nerds, that is just WOW!

It was developed several years ago using sugar esters. Sugar esters are difficult for manufacturers to work with as they need to be heated to a very specific temperature to get them working. If, during the manufacturing process they go a couple of degrees too high, they suddenly have a huge vat of toffee!

The INCI for this one is Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil & Glycerin & Aqua & Sucrose Laurate.

Because this emulsifier already contains a lot of glycerin (plant sourced, of course), it is already highly moisturizing for your skin. It comes as a pale yellow, translucent liquid that starts to soak up oil added to it like a sponge. I use it to make the Sore Joints Jelly in my book and it soaks up so much cannabis infused oil that it ends up having a thick texture like Vaseline.

You can apply it to your skin in that form but you can also add a little bit of water and it will spontaneously transform into a lotion. Even damp hands are enough to do this. It’s amazing to see happen and the only emulsifier I know that can do this.

Annoyingly, the manufacturers have started changing its name in different countries and even demanding resellers use different names. I give links for where to get it here but don’t be surprised if the name has changed.

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Cetearyl Alcohol

This is not strictly an emulsifier but is often called a secondary or co-emulsifier, a stabilizer and a thickening agent for fats. The INCI is Cetearyl Alcohol but you will find some manufacturers give it their own brand name.

The one recommended in the links has a very specific ratio of components that make it work excellently as a stabiliser for the emulsifier while making the skin feel incredible. It brings a very soft and silky touch to your creams and the Cool Conditioner Bar in my book.

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Emulsifying Wax Olive Derived

This is also called Olivem 1000

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I will add more information to this blog at a later date.

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