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Everything You Need to Know About Emulsions

If you are tired of toxic ingredients in beauty products, and have learned the basics of DIY skin care, you can take it a step further! Emulsions are little bit more complicated to make, but they worth the effort!

Why do you need emulsifiers?

Most of the creams, lotions and other moisturizing skin care products available in stores are emulsions. What does that mean? An emulsion is a stable mixture of a water phase and an oil phase. Water and oil won’t mix on their own, they also need an emulsifier to bind the two phases. For example mayonnaise is an emulsion, and the emulsifier in it is lecithin that can be found in egg yolk. When water and oil are mixed together and vigorously shaken, a dispersion of oil droplets in water - and vice versa - is formed. When shaking stops, the phases start to separate. However, when an emulsifier is added to the system, the droplets remain dispersed, and a stable emulsion is obtained. An emulsifier consists of a water-loving hydrophilic head and an oil-loving hydrophobic tail. The hydrophilic head is directed to the water phase and the hydrophobic tail to the oil phase. The emulsifier positions itself at the oil/water or air/water interface and by reducing the surface tension, has a stabilising effect on the emulsion. This makes them great in creams and lotions, but not all emulsifiers are created equal! As you can read in our article about toxic beauty ingredients some commercial emulsifiers like PEG aren’t good for you! This is why we are offering natural, plant based emulsifiers at Ecoizm.

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Types of emulsions

Emulsions have two basic types: Oil and water can form an oil-in-water (o/w) emulsion, wherein the oil is dispersed in the water phase. Or they can form a water-in-oil (w/o) emulsion, wherein water is the dispersed phase and oil is the external phase.

Oil-in-water emulsions are easy to wash off, quick to absorb, and usually have more water than oil in them. They are used in moisturizers, and when we want certain substances to be absorbed in the skin. Water-in-oil emulsions usually contain less water, and are used in products which purpose is to provide a protective barrier on the skin like diaper ointments, sunscreens and wound balms.

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Natural Emulsifiers

What to do if you like to use emulsion skin care products, but want to avoid PEG and other harmful emulsifiers? Make your own products with Ecocert certified, plant based, completely natural emulsifiers! We offer three kinds of all-natural emulsifiers: Olivem 1000, Plantemuls and Xyliance. We used to offer Emulsan too, but after it lost its Ecocert certification, we replaced it with Plantemuls that you use the same way.

Olivem 1000 is made of two components: sorbitan olivate, and cetearyl olivate. Sorbitan olivate is an ester of sorbitol (a sugar) and olive oil fatty acids. Cetearyl olivate is an ester of olive oil and cetearyl alcohol. This O/W emulsifier is ideal for people with dry, sensitive skin, and for baby and anti-aging creams alike. It is suitable for injured, irritated or inflammation prone skin. People suffering from neurodermatitis, eczema or rosacea can also use it. Best in cosmetic products that have a low or medium oil phase, and in low viscosity lotions or medium consistency creams: after sun, facial skin care, hair conditioners, hand and body care.

Plantemuls is a natural and cost efficient emulsifier suitable for all types of cosmetic O/W creams and lotions. It has good compatibility with active ingredients and electrolytes. It is designed for stable emulsions from pH 4.5 - 8.0.  It can be used just like Emulsan, only it will give a bit thicker consistency to creams. It is best in 15-25% fat content lotions and  20-40% lotions.

Xyliance is an emulsifier made of coconut oil and wheat straw. It forms exceptionally smooth, bright white, oil-in-water emulsions. It is primarily for oily, mixed and normal skin. Xyliance makes the skin soft but won’t form an oily film on the skin, and it also has a matting effect. It is best in low, medium and high oil phase products for example in face and body lotions, face cleansers, makeup, after-shave balms, hair conditioners. Use it to make low viscosity lotions, and light, medium and thicker consistency creams.

 

What to put in each phase?

The most basic emulsion consists of an oil phase with an oil and an emulsifier in it, and a water phase with distilled water. This results in a milk-like emulsion, so for more consistency, you have to add a thickening agent like shea buttercocoa butter or cetyl alcohol to the oil phase. If you want your cream to be thicker, but without any more butters or oils in it, add a gelling agent like xanthan to the water phase. This is great if you have oily skin, and you want to minimize oils in the cream. Also if you don’t want to use up your cream in 5 days, and keep it in the fridge, you need to add a preservative agent. It is necessary because once a cream has a water phase in it, the microbes have an ideal environment. You can put a natural preservative like Rokonsal in the water phase. To make your cream rich in skin nourishing and calming agents, you can substitute some of the distilled water with flower waters, aloe gel, or herbal extracts, and add essential oils to the cool down phase.

The process

First sterilize all your utensils and containers, as this cream won’t have harsh disinfectant ingredients in it like triclosan! Then heat up all the ingredients of the water and oil phase that are not heat sensitive. Measure the ingredients, and put all the oil phase in one pot, and the water phase in another. Place the containers in warm water until all the emulsifiers have melted. Vegetable butters and some oils should not be heated, but added after everything melted, because they can lose some of their properties from heat. After you added these too, the emulsifying process begins.

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Pour the water phase in the oil phase, and start mixing it on the highest speed of your hand mixer. Mix it until it forms an emulsion which usually takes approximately 4 minutes. If it is homogeneous and it cooled to body temperature (cc. 40°C), you can mix in the heat sensitive vitamins, essential oils, herbal extracts and preservatives. Pour it in a clean container, and label it with the date and its name.

Are you ready to make your own creams at home? Stay tuned for our next article, in which we will teach you the best DIY emulsion cream recipes!

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