This is the place to find tips for the beauty professional that may be beyond what your average consumer needs to know.  A great resource for those that do need it.

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Emulsions by Sharon Kinnier of Botanical Skin Works

     In keeping with the all natural path I have chosen I am constantly questioned on how I can make creamy lotions and rich creams that are light and easily absorbed.

     Ingredients are important but the emulsifier is actually the key. An emulsion is a mixture of water and oil. Itís the glue that holds it all together.

     There are 2 basic types of emulsions:

Water in Oil W/O - in this emulsion the oil surrounds the water and the oil touches the skin first. The level of greasiness depends on the formula - all of which will be absorbed into the skin. The emulsion is usually made with your choice of oil, beeswax, borax and water. If done correctly you will have little to no greasiness.

Oil in Water O/W - this emulsion has the oil being surrounded by water. This method creates cream and lotions that feel moist, less greasy. When absorbed into the skin there is very little to no oily residue. You must use an EMULISFYING WAX for this emulsion.

     There is only one truly undisputed natural emulsifier. It is a beeswax/borax combination and it takes some lab time to figure out the percentages. Too much borax and you get grit in your lotion and/or cream. Too much beeswax and you get this glob that is only good for your notes on what not to do.

     Some of the emulsifiers used by handcrafters range from vegan all natural to 100% synthetic. It takes some investigative work to determine the source and extraction methods. If you ask what is this made of; you will almost always find that it is at least partially plant based. As the handcrafter you must then ask how was this extracted?

     For instance Stearic Acid is derived from plants; however, the method used to extract the substance leaves little left that offers any benefit to the skin. If you are making products to benefit the skin why would you use something that doesnít offer a benefit?

     Listed below are some of the common emulsifiers that are in use today. There are many more that are reaching the market everyday such as Ultramaize, and others. If you have questions on emulsifiers try Angie is a sweetheart full of information and will answer all of your questions. She will also let you know what is a synthetic as well as what is natural.

     Borax or sodium borate is a naturally occurring alkaline mineral first discovered over 4000 years ago. It is found in large quantities in the Western United States as well as in the Tibet area of China. Borax alone will not emulsify. It must be used in conjunction with Beeswax. Together the electricity from the friction of the two causes the reaction and yields an emulsion.

Beeswax - The honey bee, Apis Mellifera, secretes beeswax to build the walls of the honeycomb and when secreted the wax is a transparent colorless liquid, which turns into a semi-solid substance on contact with the atmosphere.

Beeswax (also known as Cera alba and Cera flava) is used in cosmetic and skincare products as a thickening agent, emulsifier, and humectant and has emollient, soothing and softening properties and helps the skin retain moisture.

Only when used incorrectly in cosmetic formulations can beeswax cause a problem with clogging of pores, but used the way that our scientists have included it in the products used, it only brings the positive properties of healing, antiseptic, emollient and softening to the formulations.

Beeswax is purified from its raw state by freeing it of solid impurities by melting and centrifugation. Typically contains 10-15 percent paraffin carbohydrates, 35-37 percent esters of C16 to C36 fatty acids and about 15 percent cerotic acid, melissic acid and their homologues.

Even after technological processing it still remains a biologically active product retaining some anti-bacterial properties and also contains some vitamin A which is necessary for normal cell development.

Primitive people knew and used it as an antiseptic and for wound healing. Hippocrates even recommended that a layer of beeswax be placed on the neck for quinsy.

Typically, beeswax has a melting point of 62 - 65 degrees Celsius and has an acid value of 17 - 24 and a saponification value of 89 - 103 and an ester value of 72 - 79.

There is no doubt that the Beeswax/Borax combination is somewhat difficult to master. However, it offers benefits to the skin because the beeswax still has active ingredients.

Carbomer - The function of a carbomer is to act as an emulsion stabilizer and to adjust viscosity and can therefore also be classed as a thickening agent.

Although it can be used in any type of cosmetic product, it is very often found in gel-like formulas.

Carbomer is a synthetic compound comprised of a cross-linked polymer of acrylic acid with a high molecular weight.

Emulsifying Wax NF (Ingredients: Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, PEG-150 Stearate & Steareth-20). It is used to bind oil and water together in creams, lotions etc. It is a white waxy solid with a low fatty alcohol odor. It has the characteristics of cetyl alcohol combined with the viscosity building effect of stearyl alcohol as an effective thickener and helps form extremely stable emulsions in either w/o or o/w preparations.

Cetaryl Alcohol is a blend of high quality cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol meeting NF specifications.

PEG-20 Stearate - This synthetic compound is a family of the PEG group - which stands for polyethylene glycol and it is made from ethylene oxide and when the polymers are mixed with various other molecules produce a wide variety of products - each with unique qualities. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a water-soluble lubricant from petroleum and/or mineral sources

Cetyl Alcohol is not really an "alcohol" such as ethyl or rubbing alcohol, which would dry the skin, but is an emulsifying wax made by combining fatty alcohols derived from vegetable sources. Cetyl alcohol may be naturally derived from coconut fatty alcohol or made artificially. It is used in many cosmetics as an emollient, thickening agent, moisturizer, emulsifier, stabilizer, opacifier as well as a carrying agent for other ingredients. Cetyl alcohol is used as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener, and carrying agent for other ingredients. It can be derived naturally as in coconut fatty alcohol or synthetically. This is one of those ingredients where you will have to ask the supplier or go to the source to find out how itsí extracted and what agent is used for extraction.

Propylene Glycol - This much talked about product, together with all other glycols and glycerol, is a humectant or humidifying agent, solvent and delivery ingredient used in cosmetics.

Since it can penetrate the outermost layer of the skin and carry the active ingredients into deeper layers of the epidermis it is an extremely common ingredient in cosmetics and is found in a variety of products.

In the cosmetic industry propylene glycol is used in very small amounts to keep products from melting or freezing in extreme temperatures and assists the active ingredients in a product to penetrate the skin. It can also be used as anti-freeze and anti-rust inhibitors for cars.

Propylene glycol further enhances the performance of Sodium PCA in absorbing and retaining moisture in the skin.

It is a synthetic compound and some individuals may find that it irritates the skin if used in high concentrations

Stearyl Alcohol NF is a high purity stearyl alcohol meeting NF specifications and is useful in cosmetic formulations for thickening, opacity and emollience

Polysorbate 80 - a nonionic surfactant and emulsifier derived from sorbitol which comes from fruit and berries. Polysorbate 80 is a highly viscose water-soluble yellowish liquid used as a dispersing agent -mixes oil and water, stabilizer and lubricates.

Lecithin is a mixture containing phospholipid as the major component and widely found in animals and plants. It has long been used as a natural emulsifier.
Lecithin is classified into

Plant lecithin derived from soybeans, corn, rapeseed, etc.

fractionated lecithin isolated from special components of the raw materials

yolk lecithin made by excluding the phospholipid, which occupies about 30% of an egg yolk

     Lecithin as an emulsifier makes a creamy lotion or very dense cream. It takes some practice to get it to perform to meet your specifications but it holds emulsions together well. It also works well in beeswax/borax combinations. It should be kept to no more than 3% of the formula for ease of use.

     It is so important that we be accurate in our labeling and packaging. We should be able to tell our customers wholesale or retail enough information to put their mind at ease without either overstating or understating the product ingredients.


You may visit Sharon Kinnier and find her products at her web site:

  Botanical Skin Works


All views expressed in the articles on the "All Natural Tech Tips" page are those of the various authors, they are presented here for your enjoyment and enlightenment.  These views do not necessarily represent the views of SharAmbrosia or the "all natural beauty" website. 


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