Emulsifying Wax

Emulsifying wax is a cosmetic emulsifying ingredient. The ingredient name is often followed by the initials NF, indicating that it conforms to the specifications of the National Formulary. Emulsifying wax is created when a wax material (either a vegetable wax of some kind or a petroleum-based wax) is treated with a detergent (typically sodium dodecyl sulfate or polysorbates) to cause it to make oil and water bind together into a smooth emulsion. It is a white waxy solid with a low fatty alcohol odor. The ingredients for Emulsifying Wax NF are: Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, PEG-150 Stearate, and Steareth-20. It has the characteristics of cetyl alcohol combined with the viscosity building effect of stearyl alcohol as an effective thickener and helps form stable emulsions.

“Emulsifying wax” does not refer to a single ingredient. This name is applied to several ingredients (some of them are not even emulsifiers). If you intend to create “natural” formulations (or even if you don’t care whether your formulation is “green”, “organic” or “natural”) it is important to know your ingredient before you purchase it. If the information provided by the supplier is insufficient or confusing, ask for detailed and clear information. At least the full INCI name of the ingredient should be provided by the supplier. Avoid fanciful descriptions and names and focus on the facts.

  • Emulsifying Wax NF: Use this waxy material to emulsify your water and oils together. Usage varies based on the combination of thickeners, but normal usage rates are between 3 and 6% of the total weight of your recipe. This is one of the easiest emulsifiers to use and is used by most home crafters of lotions and creams.
  • Cetearyl Alcohol/Ceteareth 20 – Used as an emulsifying wax in lotions, this is a waxy pastille that is used in concentrations of 2 and 6% of the lotion recipe and can be used in combination with emulsifying wax. This product creates a thicker, waxier end product, and is excellent for foot and elbow creams which traditionally require a thicker, waxier cream.
  • Cetearyl Alcohol – Fatty alcohol derived from natural oils and fats (cetyl and stearyl alcohol) that can be used to thicken and stabilize formulations. Cetearyl Alcohol imparts an emollient feel to the skin. Recommended usage level: 1-25%.
  • Glyceryl Stearate – Emulsifier and emulsion stabilizer. Typically used with another emulsifier, such as Polysorbate 20 or Ceteareth 20. Typical Usage Rate: .1-3%
  • Polysorbate 20 – Excellent oil in water emulsifier/solubilizer. For use in body mist, room spray, skin cleansers. Recommended use is 1/1 or 1/2 ratio of fragrance oil or essential oil to polysorbate 20.
  • Ceteareth 20 – Used in oil-in-water emulsions. Provides exceptionally stable emulsions when used in combination with another emulsifier such as glyceryl stearate.

These are not naturally occurring chemicals.

About CETEARYL ALCOHOL: Cetearyl Alcohol is a mixture of cetyl and stearyl alcohols that can come from vegetable or synthetic sources. Function(s): Emulsion Stabilizer; Opacifying Agent; Surfactant – Foam Booster; Viscosity Increasing Agent – Aqueous; Viscosity Increasing Agent – Nonaqueous; EMOLLIENT; EMULSIFYING; EMULSION STABILISING; FOAM BOOSTING; VISCOSITY CONTROLLING

Polysorbate 60 can cause reproductive disorders and tumor formation. It scores a 1 risk score on EWG, and it’s not a huge conern at small doses. However, it’s not a truly natural or organic ingredient either.

PEG-150 Stearate also poses the same carcinogenic contamination concerns (as it’s a polyethylene glycol) and finally EWG recognizes it. PEG-150 Stearate scores a 4-7 risk score in EWG, citing cancer risk, contamination concerns (ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane), endocrine disruption, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and skin irritation.

What does the Emulsifying Wax do?

Emulsifying wax is one of the essential ingredients in making lotions and creams. Think of it as the “glue” that will hold your recipe together. We’ve all seen how oily salad dressings separate after sitting for a while. You then shake the bottle until it appears to be mixed, but if you look at it closely, you will see little balls of the oil suspended in the liquid. Left to sit, the dressing will again separate into its different properties. Lotions and creams are created from a mixture of water and oils. Without the addition of emulsifying wax, they too would separate back into water and oils.

Adding emulsifying wax to your recipe will keep the oil and water from separating by creating an emulsion between the oil and water. An emulsion is a system consisting of a liquid dispersed in an immiscible liquid. Immiscible means not compatible: not able to mix together to make a solution. Oil and water are a great example of two immiscible liquids. Emulsifying wax will also thicken your creation. If it were not included in your recipe, you would end up with a mixture that is similar to the consistency of salad dressing! Everyone knows that oil and water don’t mix, so how does the wax accomplish this seemingly impossible task?

Emulsifiers actually work on a molecular level, by attracting both water and oil to different sites at the same time. Water is a polar material. Things that like water are also called polar materials. Polar materials are also called hydrophilic. Hydrophilic materials are water-loving materials. Non-polar materials like olive oil are hydrophobic. Hydrophobic means water fearing. An emulsifier has a hydrophilic portion and a hydrophobic portion. This essentially means that it can effective bind both water and oils. It means that some structures of the emulsifier attract oil, while others soak up water like a sponge. Each part traps the liquid keeping it from breaking free to separate. As an added bonus, because the oil remains mixed with the water, the wax actually helps the oil penetrate the skin, thereby replacing lost moisture.

Basic Emulsion Formula

The best combination to start with is Beeswax, Liquid Lecithin, and Borax.  Together, these ingredients can help to create a stable emulsion of fats and waters. To create a basic emulsion formula, try working with this simple formula:

  • 1 part Emulsifier
  • 3 parts Oil / Vegetable Butter
  • 6 parts Water or Hydrosol

The emulsifier part can be 100% Emulsifying Wax, or a combination of 80% Beeswax, 10% Borax, and 10% Liquid Lecithin.  Try experimenting with the amount of water, oil, or emulsifier you have to create unique textures.  You can also try switching Beeswax for other waxes, such as Candelilla, Carnauba, Bayberry, or Floral Wax.

What does Mother Gaia use?

Mother Gaia works hard to avoid all man-made chemicals and petroleum based alcohols. This is why she makes her own emulsifying wax from beeswax and borax, both are completely naturally occurring. Use of Borax in Mother Gaia’s products represents 0.00297% of the formula.  Certainly, there are potential health risks involved in using nearly any ingredient, natural or not.

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.

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. Borax powder is naturally sourced and cosmetic grade Sodium Borate that does not contain surfactants and detergents, which are commonly found in commercial borax products. Borax acts as an emulsifier, natural preservative and buffering agent for moisturizers, scrubs, and bath salts. Borax is a natural mineral which is widely used in the cosmetic industry. Since it is also utilized as a detergent, many people are surprised to learn that it is also a main ingredient in their favorite bath salt. Borax naturally occurs from the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. Borax is found in creams, lotions, shampoos, gels, bath salts, and bath bombs. It is an emulsifier, preservative, cleansing agent, and a buffering agent. Commonly used in bath salts, Borax has the ability to soften the water, and suspend soap particles in the bathwater. The result is soft, clean, and healthy skin, which is not clogged by the residue of soap particles. When used in combination with citric acid in bath bomb or bath salt recipes, the product will produce a fizzing action. It also forms bath or body gel when mixed with water and guar gum. Stores well under any condition, but extreme moisture is to be avoided. Avoid contact with the eyes and mouth, and do not expose directly to the skin. Can be used directly for cleaning purposes, and is suitable for both cosmetic and cleaning formulations. Manufactured according to USP standards.

The Great Borax (Sodium Borate) Debate in Organic Skincare (and a Few Words on the Skin Deep Database)

A natural and unique mineral found in dried up lakebeds with large deposits found in the US Southwest, sodium borate serves many purposes and industries.  In cleaning, Borax mixed with water creates a minor reaction and releases very small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which makes it a mild  antiseptic and helps to inhibit microbial growth. This is also a reason it is desirable in natural cosmetics.  In our products, borax softens the water phase of an emulsion (lotion or creme) which assists in binding the disparate aspects of oil and water together, without the need for chemical emulsifying waxes (which are often referred to on cosmetic products as “vegetable emulsifying wax” but are actually an isolated fatty acid fused to a detergent or surfactant which are typically petroleum derived or completely synthetic). In other words, the Borax helps to reduce the surface tension of the water-based portion of our formulas, and enables the water to stay mixed together with the beeswax and oils, and contributes to the inherent natural preservation of the formula without the need for chemical based preservatives, many of which have been linked to cancer and which have been proven to reside in the lymph and fatty tissues of the human body.

Borax (Sodium borate) is a natural mineral which is widely used in the cosmetic industry. Since it is also utilized as a detergent, many people are shocked to learn that it is also a main ingredient in their favorite brand of bath salt! Borax naturally occurs from the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. The largest deposits of this mineral may be found in California, the American southwest, Chile, and Tibet. Borax is a very popular ingredient, simply because of its many varied applications, and its ease of use.

Cosmetic Use: Borax is found in creams, lotions, shampoos, gels, bath salts, and bath bombs. It is an emulsifier, preservative, cleansing agent, and a buffering agent. Commonly used in bath salts, borax has the ability to soften the water, and suspend soap particles in the bathwater. The result is soft, clean, and healthy skin, which is not clogged by the residue of soap particles. When used in collaboration with citric acid in bath bomb or bath salt recipes, the product will produce a fizzing action. It also forms bath or body gel, when mixed with water and guar gum. In summary, Borax has the following uses for body care products:

* Preservative

* Emulsifier

* Water softener

* Cleanser

* Particle suspension

* Buffering agent

* Fizzing action (when used with citric acid)

To use: Simply mix borax into the water portion of your recipe, and heat to a temperature of above 75 °C. Stir until fully dissolved, and then incorporate into your recipe.

 References:

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