When you set out to make lotion, you must have an ingredient that allows you to make a stable blend of the water and oils in your formula. That ingredient is an emulsifier. Most personal care products are emulsions. That includes lotions, creams, moisturizers, shampoos, and conditioners!
Today I’m going to spotlight Emulsifying Wax. Its INCI name is Cetearyl Alcohol & Ceteareth 20.
Cetearyl alcohol is a mixture of fatty alcohols that stabilizes emulsions. It also has a thickening effect.
Ceteareth 20 is a non-ionic surfactant that attracts water and oil at the same time, thereby combining the two in a stable mixture. It also helps the finished product have an emollient feel on the skin.
A few weeks ago I asked our Technical Support Team a question about why my lotions so often were thicker than I’d intended them to be. That’s when I learned that Emulsifying Wax contains a thickening agent, and I needed to use less of it if I wanted a more fluid lotion.
You can read that blog post here.
Here’s how emulsifiers work. Their molecules have a hydrophilic (water loving) head and lipophilic (oil loving) tail. These molecules bind the oils and water together, forming the emulsion. It’s pretty cool!
If you’ve ever made an oil and vinegar salad dressing, you know how quickly the oil phase (oil) and water phase (vinegar) will separate. Vigorous shaking creates only a temporary emulsion. It’s enough to dress your salad, but it won’t work for personal care products.
When using Emulsifying Wax, we recommend starting at about 3% and going as high as 6%. The latter will make a pretty stiff cream, while the former will be a more fluid lotion. Of course, the additional ingredients, such as stearic acid or butters, will also impact the viscosity of the finished lotion.
I hope this blog has shed some light on Emulsifying Wax and emulsions in general. Let me know what you think or if you have questions I didn’t address about Emulsifying Wax.