Sunday, May 20, 2012

Question: Where's the emulsifier?

In an e-mail, Leanne asks: I don’t recall seeing this in any of your posts and I am a daily reader!  I was on 100% looking at their ingredient list.  Their lotions and creams do not list any emulsifiers.  They are not anhydrous products!  How do they do that?  I also don’t see any preservatives, but am guessing they are buried in their hydrosols and extracts.

From their front page, they claim "no synthetic chemicals, no artificial fragrances, no petro chemicals, no chemical preservatives or other toxins". From the listing of the cream below - "Truly 100% Pure - never any harsh detergents, synthetic chemicals, chemical preservatives, artificial fragrances or any other toxins." Ponder this for a moment to get a sense of the philosophy of this brand. Okay, let's move on...

Let's take a look at a representative ingredient list from Pure for their Red Wine Resveratrol Nourishing Cream. (Which is 100% natural, 100% vegan, and gluten free). Note that this is an emulsified product...

Ingredients: Organic Rosa Centifolia Flower Water (Rose Hydrosol), Organic Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe juice) Leaf, Vitis Vinifera (Grapeseed) Seed Oil, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Resveratrol, Wine (Red Wine) Extract, Organic Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Vitis Vinifera (Muscadine Grape) Skin Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Butter, Lonicera Caprifolium (Japanese Honeysuckle) Extract, Hyaluronic Acid

Let's take a look at the Virgin Coconut Hand Buttercream. This also an emulsified product.

Ingredients: Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Organic Rosa Centifolia Flower Water (Rose Hydrosol), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Butter, Cocos Nucifera (Virgin Coconut) Oil, Extracts of: Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed, Euphorbia Cerifera Cera (Candelilla Wax), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Almond) Seed, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf, Origanum Vulgare (Oregano) Leaf, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf, Organic Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf, Hydrastis Canadensis (Goldenseal) and Lonicera Caprifolium (Japanese Honeysuckle), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil

As we know oil-in-water products must contain water, oil, emulsifier, and a preservative. We know that the moment we add water or something like water (for instance, hydrosols), we must add a preservative as we can get contamination in as little as a few days. (Click here for all the good reasons to use a preservative!) So we know these four things are essential to create a lotion.

In these ingredient lists I see ingredients that work as the water phase - aloe vera, rose hydrosol - and I see ingredients that work as the oil phase - cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado butter, coconut oil, Vitamin E, pomegranate seed oil, and candelilla wax - but I don't see an easily identifiable emulsifier or preservative. (Vitamin E is not a preservative, it is an anti-oxidant. There are a ton of anti-oxidants in these products, and while they will retard the rancidity of our oils and butters, but they do not prevent contamination!)

As for the emulsifier, I'm stumped here. If this product really looks like a typical lotion - creamy and white without an oil slick floating at the top - they have to use an emulsifier. But I don't see any ingredients that would work as an emulsifier on their own or in combination. I think they've either left something off their list, they've discovered a new emulsifier that we haven't heard about, or they've figured out how to violate the laws of chemistry and physics.

As for not having preservatives, some companies hide their preservatives under different names. Some use "fragrance" or "parfum" to hide the preservatives (not mentioning any company names...), but they aren't using those terms. I think 100% Pure is using Japanese honeysuckle as their preservative. This is an ingredient that contains natural parabens and is being tested for its preserving properties.

So to offer a short answer - I can't find a valid emulsifier in these ingredient lists, and it looks like they are using Japanese honeysuckle as a natural paraben based preservative.

Related posts:
Defining your products by what's NOT in it! 
Question: What does natural mean?
Question: Why am I perceived as hating "all natural" things?
If you want to make products without preservatives, then make them...
Review of Marketplace: Lousy labels
An aside...Beeswax is NOT an emulsifier! 
Question: EWG vs. Cosmetics Info
Preservatives: NatraPres (Ecocert)
Question: How does Lush use fresh fruit in their products?
A few thoughts on making claims...


catherine said...

Maybe the candelilla wax? Here's a link re using wax as an emulsifier:

catherine said...

I meant to say 'using candelilla wax as an emulsifier...' in my prev post

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thanks for the link, Catherine. Neither beeswax nor candelilla wax is an emulsifier on its own. There are three requirements to create an emulsion - heat, mixing, and chemistry, and any emulsion using something like these waxes might stay emulsified for a short period of time through sheer force and heating, but they won't last long as they are missing the chemistry component. I've seen people write that we can use waxes as emulsifiers, but it simply doesn't work. I've seen anecdotal evidence, but I have yet to see any scientific evidence that we can create a stable emulsion with wax on its own.

I don't know why people want to believe that these waxes can be emulsifiers - I don't see arguments that cocoa butter or grapeseed oil, for instance, can work as emulsifiers, but they would work just as well as one of these waxes, which is to say that they aren't emulsifiers.

Thanks for sharing the link!

Kirk Haines said...

I have looked through the ingredient lists on a number of their products, and it's pretty evident that they are depending on candelilla wax as their emulsifier, for better or for worse.

Regarding the preservative, they are using Japanese honeysuckle, as you mentioned, but they are also depending on the extracts of thyme, rosemary, oregano, and goldenseal, as preservatives in many of their products. In addition, some of the products contain ethanol.

Essentially, a significant chunk of their extract lists are items included for preservative effects.

p said...

Hi Susan,

I remember back when you were discussing the chemistry of nail products, you described that a balm with lanolin can emulsify its weight (i.e. the weight of the lanolin) in water - is this not a type of emulsion, without an "emulsifier" per se?

I say this as a counterpoint to the idea that any formulation that looks like an emulsion must contain a purpose-made emulsifier. In my experience, if you create a gel-like water phase and whip it into a warm salve-like base (here's where the beeswax or candelilla is relevant) - and if you don't use too much water phase - you can create a cream that is stable for the shelf life of the oils. Is it chemically emulsified? Probably not, but a mechanical emulsion may be good enough to last the year or two that the product will be around. Companies can and do sell products made like this, and when you see a cream without an emulsifier on the ingredients list, it doesn't necessarily mean that the company is leaving something off the list. It doesn't conform to the standard, reliable, straightforward way of formulating emulsions, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

As for 100% Pure, I've puzzled over their ingredients list, and I don't get it either. I'm guessing their lotions are too thin to be formulated like I just described (but maybe not?). I don't see any ingredients (lecithin, xanthan gum, saponins, etc.) that might help. I'm left scratching my head!


p said...

(I forgot to write, I know my experience is only anecdotal! But if I have been able to do this consistently, I bet others have as well.)

Puzzled said...

I don't believe that they are listing everything.
I have looked at their ingredients several times and something seems amiss.

catherine said...

puzzled is correct! here's an article on beautypedia re: not following fda regulations with regard to labeling:

why aren't they shut down because of this?

Mya Symons said...

Apparently some companies are using deionized water in their products. The deionized water mixes with the oil without an emulsifier. However, they usually have the water listed as deionized. And, sometimes harsh chemicals are used to deionize the water which are often not listed. I am not sure if that is what this company is doing. Could be, however.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Mya. I use deionized water at hone and it isn't an emulsifier. How do these companies explain their process?

Anonymous said...

This company is not very honest about their products. That's what I have heard.