Selecting Emulsifiers for Cosmetics

It takes a lot to develop complex cosmetic formulations that come up to our expectations. Today we are lucky to have a wide range of different ‘drop-in-and-go’ technologies to help us balance creativity with emulsifiers under tight deadlines. This selection guide will acquaint you with emulsions, types of emulsifiers used to create emulsions for cosmetics, factors to be considered in their selection and evaluating them before using in your personal care formulations.


emulsifiers oil in waterThese days, one could be forgiven for thinking that creating an emulsion is child’s play. We have available at our fingertips tens, if not hundreds of self-emulsifying pre-blends that require no tricky HLB calculations or secondary stabilizers.

Well, that’s the theory anyway. You see, when you start making skincare formulations the chances are you will mostly be working on relatively simple oil-in-water concepts with stable, predictable actives and a simple vegetable-oil derived dispersed phases.

Indeed, it is even possible to make some pretty exciting anti-aging, brightening or cleansing formulations without hitting any hurdles all of which add to the general feeling of accomplishment for the freshly graduated chemist. But it doesn’t take long for that initial bravado and ‘beginners luck’ to fade and when it does it pays to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

Let's forget for a moment that we have these self-emulsifying blends and concentrate on working from first principles, not so we can do lots of math and get lost on somewhat superfluous detail. But, by doing so we can design our creams from the ground up, to make anything that has at least a fighting chance of working out for us!

So let’s start by getting familiar with the different chemistries of emulsifiers.

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