How to use emulsifiers
Body cream,  Facial cream,  Tips and tricks,  Tutorials and recipes

What are emulsifiers and how do you use them?

Introduction

Emulsifiers are very important ingredients in DIY care products. But it’s not always easy to understand what you use them for, how they work, and what result they’ll yield. That’s why we decided to devote a full article to them to let you in on all their secrets! 

What is an emulsifier? 

An emulsifier is a molecule in the surfactant family. Surfactants include a large number of molecules with detergent, foaming, or emulsifying properties—that last one is what we’re interested in here—and are important ingredients in cleansing products and creams.

Surfactants are made up of two parts:

  • A hydrophilic head (which is attracted to water). 
  • A lipophilic tail (which is attracted to oil). 

They are generally represented as follows:What is an emulsifier?

What are emulsifiers used for? 

Emulsifiers create homogeneous mixtures from substances that normally do not mix together, such as water and oil. These mixtures are called emulsions

There are two types of emulsions:How emulsifiers works?

An O/W emulsifier inserts itself at the interface between oil and water, allowing droplets of oil to remain stable and separate, without clustering together. A W/O emulsifier works in the same way, but with droplets of water. We often use an image to explain this in our workshop on Lotions and Emulsions: an emulsifier is a bit like a friend of two people (water and oil) who don’t get along, and it holds each of them by the hand so that they can no longer separate! 

At Coop Coco, we offer four emulsifying agents: ECOmulse, Emulsifying Wax NF, glyceryl stearate SE, and Olivem 1000. All four are O/W emulsifiers. We’ll now introduce you to each of them and describe their concentrations (known as usage rates), applications, and properties.Making homemade cream

How do I use emulsifiers? And how much should I use?

To test out our emulsifiers, we decided to make a very simple emulsion with just an emulsifier, demineralized water, jojoba oil, a preservative, and an antioxidant. 

We chose jojoba oil because it’s suitable for all skin types. It’s also a light and fluid oil, so it will have little impact on the final texture of the emulsion, allowing you to easily see the effect of different concentrations of emulsifiers. Vitamin E helps prevent the vegetable oil from going rancid, and the elderberry extract is antibacterial and antifungal.

In this classic emulsion, we tested each emulsifier at the concentrations recommended by its manufacturer. using emulsifier DIY recipe

Recipe template

* The percentage of emulsifier varies for each test, depending on the recommended usage rate. The proportion of water is adjusted according to that of the emulsifier in order for the full recipe to always total 100%. For example, if we use the emulsifier at 5%, the proportion of water will be 70%, with the remaining 25% made up of the other ingredients.

To learn how to make an easy cream or lotion, we recommend our beginner article and recipe, where we describe every step!

In the paragraphs below, INCI stands for “International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients,” meaning the terms that follow are the official names of the chemical ingredients in each product.

ECOmulseHow to use Ecomulse?

  • INCI: Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
  • Usage rate: 2–10%
  • Melting point: 50°C
  • Stability: pH 5–7.5
  • Complete emulsifier, vegetable source

24%  

  • Final product: fluid, slightly creamy lotion. Emulsion is likely to separate at this usage rate, so add 1% cetyl alcohol to stabilize it and reduce the oil by 1%. 
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle or a cosmo bottle with a disc top or a pump.
  • Absorption: medium absorption; emulsion leaves a light protective film. 
  • Ideal recipes: summer lotions.
  • Skin type: oily to normal skin.

6%  

  • Final product: light, supple cream. 
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle, a cosmo bottle with a pump, or a jar
  • Absorption: medium absorption, leaves a slightly greasy protective film. 
  • Ideal recipes: creams for moderate weather, such as spring or fall.
  • Skin type: normal to dry.

810%

  • Final product: thick, nourishing cream. 
  • Suitable container: a jar.
  • Absorption: relatively good, may leave a slightly greasy protective film. 
  • Ideal recipes: winter creams or creams for very dry skin. 
  • Skin type: normal to dry.

Conclusion

ECOmulse can yield a wonderful range of textures. At any usage rate, the emulsion leaves a protective film on your skin, which may be a little greasy. This emulsifier is perfect for normal to dry skin. You can use it to create cream and lotion recipes for any season by playing with its concentration!

Glyceryl stearate SEHow to use Glyceryl Stearate SE?

  • INCI: Glyceryl Stearate SE
  • Usage rate: 1–10%
  • Melting point: 55°C
  • Stability: pH 5–7.5
  • Complete emulsifier, vegetable source

1%2%

  • Final product: very fluid, milk-like lotion. Emulsion is likely to separate at this usage rate, so add 2% cetyl alcohol to stabilize it and reduce the oil by 2%. 
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle or a cosmo bottle with a disc top or pump.
  • Absorption: absorbs quickly, leaving your skin soft and hydrated.
  • Ideal recipes: summer lotions.
  • Skin type: oily to normal skin.

5%

  • Final product: very fluid, light cream.
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle or a cosmo bottle with a disc top or pump.
  • Absorption: absorbs quickly and does not leave a greasy film. 
  • Ideal recipes: summer creams.
  • Skin types: all skin types.

10% 

  • Final product: very thick cream. 
  • Suitable container: a jar.
  • Absorption: a rich emulsion, it will absorb a little more slowly and has a slight protective effect.
  • Ideal recipes: winter creams or night creams. 
  • Skin type: dry skin.

Conclusion

Glyceryl stearate yields lotions and creams that are easily absorbed by your skin and won’t leave a greasy feel. This emulsifier can be used to create cream recipes for any skin type. 

Emulsifying Wax NF How to use Emulsifying Wax NF?

  • INCI:  Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Polysorbate 60
  • Usage rate: 2–25%
  • Melting point: 55°C
  • Stability: pH 3–13
  • Complete emulsifier

2% 

  • Final product: very liquid, serum-like lotion. Emulsion is likely to separate at this usage rate, so add 1% cetyl alcohol to stabilize it and reduce the oil by 1%. 
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle or a cosmo bottle with a disc top or pump.
  • Absorption: absorbs quickly, leaving your skin soft and nourished, without leaving a greasy film. 
  • Ideal recipes: summer lotions.
  • Skin type: oily to normal skin.

5%

  • Final product: light, fluid easy-to-apply lotion. 
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle, a cosmo bottle with a pump, or a jar
  • Absorption: absorbs quickly, leaving your skin soft and nourished, without leaving a greasy film. 
  • Ideal recipes: summer lotions.
  • Skin types: all skin types.

1015%

  • Final product: rich, thick cream. 
  • Suitable container: a jar.
  • Absorption: absorbs slowly, leaving a protective film and your skin well nourished.
  • Ideal recipes: winter creams, night creams, or any cream for dry skin.
  • Skin type: dry skin.

2025%

  • Final product: very thick cream with a texture similar to whipped butter. 
  • Suitable container: a jar.
  • Absorption: absorbs slowly, leaving your skin very soft and well-nourished but not greasy.
  • Ideal recipes: winter body or hand creams. 
  • Skin type: dry skin.

Conclusion

This emulsifier can yield a wide variety of textures. Emulsions made with Emulsifying Wax NF hydrate, nourish, and protect your skin, without leaving a greasy film. Depending on what percentage you use, the resulting creams and lotions can be suitable for any skin type.

Olivem 1000Comment utiliser l'Olivem 1000?

  • INCI: Cetearyl Olivate (and) Sorbitan Olivate
  • Usage rate: 1.5–8%
  • Melting point: 70–75°C
  • Stability: pH 3–12 
  • Complete emulsifier, vegetable source

2% 

  • Final product: light lotion. 
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle or a cosmo bottle with a disc top or pump.
  • Absorption: absorbs slowly but well. Leaves a slightly greasy nourishing film that disappears after a few minutes and softens your skin.
  • Ideal recipes: summer lotions.
  • Skin type: oily to normal.

4% 

  • Final product: light cream that glides on nicely.
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle or a cosmo bottle with a disc top or pump.
  • Absorption: absorbs slowly, leaving a slightly greasy protective film, though the greasy feeling does not last long. Leaves your skin very soft.
  • Ideal recipes: light summer creams or creams for spring and fall.
  • Skin types: all skin types.

6% 

  • Final product: light, easy-to-apply cream.
  • Suitable containers: an “airless” pump bottle, a cosmo bottle with a pump, or a jar
  • Absorption: absorbs slowly, leaving a slightly greasy protective film that will eventually be fully absorbed. Leaves your skin very soft.
  • Ideal recipes: nourishing early winter cream.
  • Skin types: all skin types.

8% 

  • Final product: thick, rich cream.
  • Suitable container: a jar.
  • Absorption: absorbs slowly, leaving a slightly greasy protective film.
  • Ideal recipes: winter creams.
  • Skin types: all skin types.

Conclusion

Emulsions made with Olivem 1000 hydrate, nourish, and protect your skin, leaving a pleasant, relatively light film that will eventually be absorbed by your skin. Depending on what percentage you use, the resulting creams and lotions can be suitable for any skin type and for any season. 

 

We hope this article has helped you understand our emulsifiers, as well as how to use them to get the result you want. Keep in mind that the results described here were obtained with a simple emulsion containing just one vegetable oil which is rather neutral. The inclusion of butters or richer oils will impact the texture of your emulsion, as will some actives. 

As we’re sure you’re aware, the emulsifier is not the only factor that needs taking into account when you’re developing your own cream or lotion recipe, though it gives you a good indication. You’ll probably have to experiment a little bit until you get the result you’re after. After all, that’s the pleasure of DIY: you experience lots of trials, errors, and successes, and you learn something every time!

4 Comments

  • Laura

    Great post! Appreciate seeing the level of technical detail and the visuals of the varying proportions

  • Diane

    Would like to interchange emulsifiers in my recipe. Could I use Olivem instead of Ecomulse and use the same quantity required by the recipe ?

    • Coop Coco

      Hello Diane,
      It will depend on the proportions of the recipe and the texture you are looking for. We invite you to consult our article, it tells you the result obtained according to the emulsifier used.
      Have a nice day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *