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All About Organic & Natural Emulsifiers

Organic and natural emulsifiers are known to be quite tricky to deal with when formulating natural or organic skincare products. In general, formulating an emulsion using an emulsifier already has quite a complex set of actions in order to make it happen. Using natural emulsifiers is no different and sometimes even trickier. First, let’s get to know the list of the available emulsifiers for natural and organic formulas because having multiple choice is always better. Second, we will get deeper into the details of these emulsifiers and understand in which cases they are the best choice and in which cases there are other better options.

Emulsifying with organic and natural emulsifiers

A quick recap – Emulsification is the process of merging and combining oil and water molecules. When making a lotion or a cream that’s comprised of both water-based ingredients and oil-based ingredients, we will use an emulsifier. The emulsifier is the one that’s going to bind oil and water molecules to form a stable mixture.

The water-to-oil ratio is also a parameter in the emulsification process. Oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions are when oil droplets are dispersed through an aqueous base. Water-in-oil (W/O) emulsions disperse fine droplets of water-based ingredients through the oil-based ingredients.

Structure of organic and natural emulsifiers

It’s interesting to know that the fact that water and oil don’t blend is due to one chemical trait – polarity. The rule says that ingredients with different polarity won’t combine and will eventually separate if you mix them together. That’s the case with oil and water. Simply put, polarity is the trait of the electrical charge of the underlying molecule. Water is polar, meaning that one side of the molecule is negative and the other side is positive. Oil, on the other hand, is non-polar since it has no charge at all.

This is where the emulsifier comes to help. Its molecules have one side that attracts water and one side that attracts oil. When putting the right amount of an emulsifier into an oil/water mix, each emulsifier molecule will attach water and oil molecules in each of its sides, to form a stable mixture.

natural emulsifier in action
Emulsifiers make it possible to blend oil molecules in water (left) and vice versa (right)

List of available organic and natural emulsifiers

The market for organic and natural skincare is rapidly growing and expanding. Innovation and technology bring us new and better performing natural ingredients – Organic and natural emulsifiers included. This is to say that the list presented here is not an exhaustive one. If we happen to encounter additional naturally sourced emulsifiers that prove to be stable, we will add them here.

Xyliance (Cetearyl wheat straw glycosides and Cetearyl alcohol)

  • This natural emulsifier is entirely made out of plant origins. It’s comprised out of wheat straw, rapeseed and palm. It’s relatively easy to use emulsifier which is suitable for beginners. It’s designed to work best in emulsions that have about 25% oil phase. At the right ratio, it can give a rich, non-greasy, creamy texture.
  • Usage ratios – 5% for a serum or lotion. 8%-10% for a rich cream.

Montanov 68 (Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Glucoside)

  • This is a natural emulsifier that comes in a few different trade names. Also known as SugarMulse, Glucomulse. This is a plant-derived natural emulsifier that comes from palm, coconut or corn. The emulsion it produces gives a gentle silky feel on the skin. It’s effortless to incorporate into the oil phase with no special instructions or holding requirements.
  • Usage ratios – 3% for a serum. 5% for a light cream, 8% for a thick cream

Olivem 1000 (Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate.)

  • Olivem 1000 is the poster child of the natural and organic emulsifiers. A very popular emulsifier that’s been certified by various organic certification bodies.
  • As it’s names suggests, it’s chemically derived from olive and olive oil. Its broad pH range compatibility of between 3 to 12 makes it a very convenient solution for various emulsion types.
  • Usage ratios – 4% for a serum, 5% for a lotion, 8% for a cream

ECOMulse (Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate.)

  • This both organic and natural emulsifier has a few other trade names. It can also go by NatraMulse, Ritamulse SCG, and VE Emulsifier. They all work the same and contain the same formula.
  • Naturally derived from coconut, palm and palm kernel, it’s accepted by Ecocert – One of the most prominent organic certification bodies. Depending on the dosage, this emulsifier can be used to create a wide range of textures – thin milk to heavy cream.
  • This emulsifier works best at a pH range of 5 to 7.5 – A product that drifts outside of this range will eventually fail and separate.
  • Usage ratios – 3% for a thin, milk-like emulsion. 4%-5% for a serum or lotion. 8%-9% for a rich cream.

Do you know any organic and natural emulsifier that’s not listed here? Leave us a comment with your experience with it!

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