photo of emulsifiers: complete emulsifiers and single emulsifiers
What is an Emulsifier?
An emulsifier is a type of surfactant. It is a compound* that stabilizes emulsions and keeps water ingredients and oil ingredients mixed together.
Oil and water do not mix. For example, an oil and vinegar (water) salad dressing separates and needs to be shaken before use unless the dressing contains an emulsifier. This same concept holds true for lotions, creams and hair conditioners.
Lotions, creams and hair conditioners contain an emulsifier or an emulsification system, to create a stable emulsion; to hold the water and oil together in a homogenous mixture, a mixture that stays together.
Emulsifiers generally have a water loving head and oil loving tail. This creates a stable emulsion by a reaction with the water-based and oil-based ingredients to stay together.
A complete emulsifier can be used in formulations or numerous single emulsifiers can be customized for a specific formulation. A complete emulsifier is much easier to use. Before complete emulsifiers came onto the market, the HLB (hydrophile/lipophile balance) system was used to determine the best emulsifiers and amounts to use in the formulation.
If you are a beginner, even intermediate level, complete emulsifiers work very well for lotions, creams and hair conditioners. Talk to your supplier to figure out what complete emulsifier will work best for your formulation.
*A compound forms when two or more chemical elements create chemical bonds together. Water is a compound. Water is made up of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen.
View the next post on complete emulsifiers here.
Joan Morais is a natural cosmetic formulator, instructor, author and the owner of Joan Morais Naturals. Joan assists product makers on how to make high quality, stable and effective natural body, hair and skin care products for personal use and a product making business.