Monday, February 4, 2013

Question about VE and MF emulsifiers...

In this post, Dizzi (aka Diana) asks: I wonder if you can help with an opinion? I learned to make creams and lotions by following recipes from the UK company Aromantic, which I gather you are familiar with. Recipes for most of their basic creams advocate using an emulsification system which involves two so-called 'VE' and 'MF' emulsifiers (see below), specifically by adding VE to the fat phase, and MF to water phase, after which it proceeds conventionally by heating up both phases separately (I also hold for 20min, as learned from you), mix, add vitamins & essential oils in cool phase etc. The recipes always include additional Cetearyl alcohol in the fat phase. 

It turns out that the VE and MF are actually glyceryl stearate and sodium stearoyl lactylate which, together with cetearyl alcohol, appear to be the three ingredients in Ritamulse aka Ecomulse emulsifier you seem to like. 

So i am intrigued about the business of adding one emulsifier in fat phase and the other in water phase, which does not seem to feature in your recipes, why split them up?

Click on the post above to see the entire question and recipe she created!

Hi Diana! I do like Ritamulse SCG (INCI: Glyceryl stearate (and) cetearyl alcohol (and) sodium stearoyl lactylate) but it's turning out to be a bit picky at times. (See the epic lotion fail in this post.) The thing about it is that it's an anionic or negatively charged emulsification system, so a lot of what we know about non-ionic or cationic emulsifiers isn't the same. (Non-ionic would be Polawax, cationic would be Incroquat BTMS-50 or Ritamulse BTMS-225). Cetearyl alcohol isn't an emulsifier - it's a thickener. It counts as an oil, not as an emulsifier.

Having said all of this, although this contains the same ingredients as Ritamulse SCG doesn't mean we have Ritamulse SCG. We don't know what the proportions might be in that product vs. making our own.

Please click on this PDF document on the HLB system and scroll down to where we find the oil values to have this post make more sense. 

I'm going to treat these ingredients as if they were part of the HLB system instead of thinking of them as components of Ritamulse SCG. We can see that glyceryl stearate has an HLB value of 5.8 and sodium stearoyl lactylate has an HLB value of 8.3*.If we combine them in the right amount, we can create an emulsification system for a lotion. The problem is that every lotion has a different required HLB. For instance, if I made a lotion with 20% oils - 10% soy bean oil (HLB 7) and 10% shea butter (HLB 8) - I would have an oil phase with a required HLB value of 7.5. I could work out the figures to eventually come up with enough glyceryl stearate and sodium stearoyl lactylate to emulsify that.

Note: Wikipedia has the HLB for SSL at 10 to 12, but it can vary depending upon manufacturer. I'm going with LabRat's estimates in that PDF. As I'm using the HLB thingie as an example, it's okay that we might be off. If I were to use this ingredient in my product, I would ask for the HLB value from the supplier.

Click here for a really detailed post about using the HLB system. I don't think you want me to repeat that all again! 

Please look at this post to see how I got my numbers. If I'm using 4% emulsifier with a required HLB of 7.5 (soy bean and shea butter), I want to use 1.28% glyceryl stearate and 2.72% sodium stearoyl lactylate. The recipe you sent me is 2.5% and 4.5% for a total 7%. I'm not saying that you should use my numbers, but if you wanted to use 8% emulsifier - which is what is suggested for Ritamulse SCG - you might use 2.6% glyceryl stearate and 5.40% if you were using 10% soy bean oil and 10% shea butter. You will have to figure out your required HLB values for your oil phase, including all oils, butters, esters, fatty alcohols, fatty acids, and so on, then figure out how much you wish to use.

To answer your questions...
1. Am I correct to assume this emulsification system is good, reasonable "natural", and therefore a good choice for most creams and lotions? 

I don't think this is necessarily a good emulsification system. It might have the same ingredients as Ritamulse SCG, but that isn't to say that the ingredients are used in the same proportion, which makes Ritamulse SCG the product is it. I wouldn't use them at the amounts suggested by the supplier - I would treat them as an HLB emulsification system that I have to calculate every time. I think so far your results would indicate that this isn't a "fail safe" system, as advertised (source for quote).

As for it being a good choice for most creams and lotions? Not necessarily. I don't think we can say that about any emulsifier as each has its benefits and downsides. It can't be used with cationic ingredients. It can't be used with higher oil levels (if it's like Ritamulse SCG). It can't handle large amounts of oils. And it definitely isn't an all in one, easy to use emulsifier. If you wanted to make a product that used less than 25% oils that didn't include any seriously acidic or cationic ingredients, this might be a good choice. If you wanted to make a body butter with 40% oils and butters with loads of AHAs in it, it wouldn't be.

It's all about application. As much as I like using Polawax, if I want something that feels dry and powdery on my skin, I'd go with Incroquat BTMS-50. I'd also use this conditioner if I wanted to emulsify a lot of silicones. So it's hard to say that one emulsifier is the best choice for every single thing we might make.

As for being reasonably natural? I can't answer that question as I wouldn't consider anything processed in a lab as being natural, but that's kind of a contentious issue here, so I won't go into further detail. That's for each person to decide. This combination is Ecocert when used as Ritamulse SCG.

In the end, I can't make any assessment of this system, but it wouldn't be something I'd advise for anyone except an experienced formulator who wants to figure out the HLB system every time.
I find it funny that sodium stearoyl lactylate is growing in the natural community and is regarding as natural, but in the food community people are running away from it and companies are advertising they aren't using it! 

2) Why do you think they recommend splitting the VE and MF into two phases? Why not add the whole lot into the fat phase? 

I don't know why it would be in the heated water phase. From Wikipedia: "SSL is slightly hygroscopic, soluble in ethanol and in hot oil or fat, and dispersible in warm water." I have no idea why you would put something that is soluble in hot oil or fat and only dispersible in warm water into the water phase of a product, and I wouldn't bother doing it, if I were to use these as emulsifiers. I would put all of into the heated oil phase in the future.

Here are my a few sample references for sodium stearoyl lactylate being oil soluble. I have a load more, but it's just pointless to list them because everything I looked at agrees that SSL is oil soluble and dispersible in water.
Food emulsifiers blog
Ingredients to Die For listing

I'm not saying not to use these emulsifiers from this supplier, but be aware of what you are buying and how to use it. I've written a previous post on emulsifiers vs. emulsification systems, and I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about some of these ingredients click on it so you know what you're buying!

If you have any information on sodium stearoyl lactylate that I should know, please write to me and share your reliable sources! Read this post first! (What do I do if I think you - Swift - are wrong?) I'm always open to new information, but let's present it in a nice and non-confrontative way with the idea that I'm all about the learning and being wrong is part of that process. 

Related posts:
Anionic, non-ionic, and cationic?
Emulsifiers - check what you've got!
What's an INCI name?
Reading INCI names (part 1)
Reading INCI names (part 2)

A kinda long aside...I have to be honest - I find I see information on the Aromantic website that I only find there, goes against what I've been taught, or seems to be inaccurate. (Like sodium stearoyl lactylate being water soluble.) This supplier doesn't suggest good manufacturing processes - heating and holding for 20 minutes - and they use volume and weighted measurements mixed together. (They suggest some ingredients, like preservatives, be used in drops or millilitres, which is really not a good idea.) They suggest using spring water, the kind with minerals, instead of distilled water. I find the writing style quite inflammatory and based upon dubious science. (And I really have to stop reading this site because I'm getting frustrated!) 

"As an irony for vegetarians, most Emulsifiers which are not vegetable based are produced from pig fats. So even if you avoid eating pig fat, you will absorb it from cosmetics. The only way to avoid this is to make the Creams yourself." (Source) I'm confused by the idea that an emulsifier from a commercial product would be absorbed by our skin, but one that we make at home wouldn't be. We use the same emulsifiers as commercial products, so if something like glyceryl stearate is absorbed from a commercial product, it would be absorbed from a homemade product. (And where is the proof that emulsifiers are absorbed, anyway?) If something isn't vegetable based, what else could it be? Mineral based? So it could be made from animal products, but is it? Ask your suppliers, and you'll find out that very little is animal based these days. It's just cheaper to make things from vegetable oils. But the way this is written, it makes it sound like there are loads and loads of animal based products in other suppliers' shops. Finally, this isn't ironic, it just sucks. Irony is when "there is an incongruity between the literal and the implied meaning." If you became a vegetarian to avoid pig fat and you bought a product containing pig fat this isn't ironic, it's annoying. It would be ironic if you became a vegetarian because you didn't want to kill animals, but the only way you could get the food you need to live is to kill animals who were in your way to the shop or the farm. Or if the fact that you stopped eating bacon meant that the price of bacon went down and thousands of pigs were slaughtered because the farmers were losing money on bacon, meaning your decision not to eat bacon to save pigs resulted in wholesale slaughter of them. But I really digress here....

If you are purchasing emulsifiers from this shop, please check that what you are buying is an all in one emulsifier by reading the INCI names, not the names they have given their ingredients. Please note that their emulsifying wax is not the same as emulsifying wax NF. (I suggest this for all suppliers who substitute their own names for ingredients instead of using INCI names or brand names. Plus, it's just a good idea to get to know those INCI names! 

I want to note I have never purchased products from this company, and my opinions are my own based on my own experiences with readers who have had lotions fail with the emulsifiers this company sells. I'm sure they have many lovely ingredients and loyal customers. I am not slagging either the company on their customers - I'm sharing my opinion about my experiences. 

This company is not the only supplier I have found to have these flaws, but I haven't had occasion to write about them. I will do so when the time arises. 


Anonymous said...

I wonder if the site owner confused Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate for Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, which is water soluble...I mean some of the info on that site is a little flaky! So maybe she/he just got little confused. %^D

I have used both SSL and SLL, but I can't say I've made a successful lotion with them. Just bizarre chemistry experiments I tried out on my legs. What's the fun of playing with beakers, goggles and a facemask if I can't make something weird from time to time? Each time the emulsion separated but I knew that was a distinct possibility since the supplier clearly stated that SSL and SLL do not really conform to the HLB system. Didn't troubleshoot those at the time, but maybe I will soon because whatever it was I made gave me really soft legs!

My understanding of the HLB system is that it was developed for anionic surfactants, and SSL and SLL are non-ionic. I'm thinking there is probably an analog for non-ionics but none that I've been able to find with lazy internet searching. I like using the HLB system. It makes formulating more fun and makes me think more about the ingredients I'm using. I'd like to know if there are any other sources on HLB or similar emulsification systems besides the ones you list and the ones on some of the suppliers' websites.


dizzi said...

Hey Susan, thanks for taking trouble to answer my post. I appreciate what you say and agree with most of your points. I have a bit of remaining loyalty to Aromantic as they were the ones who got me into lotion making in first place, but now that i am 'growing up' i can see beyond their horizons :)

I am a scientist in my regular life (but not chemist) and i like to get my facts straight. Will continue to experiment with different emulsifiers and learn from good sources.

(if only i could locate BTMS-50 supplier in the UK... arrgh)

Keep up the great work


Anonymous said...

*sigh* This is what I get for being sassy...the HLB system was developed for ethoxylated products, which - as far as I can tell from internet searching - means non-ionic surfactants, and HLBv's for anionic surfactants are only comparative (observational) values. I got a little confused! Hehe.

But in general I find the information available on the lactylates to be lacking or some what contradictory. One supplier's site states SSL is slightly anionic. Another states that it's a strong non-ionic. One pdf states SSL's HBLv is 8.3, wikipedia states 10-12, but a suppliers website states that it's 6.5 but behaves more like a HLBv of 14.

Considering SSL was approved as a food grade emulsifier in the '60's, I'm thinking there has to be some serious science on how this and the other lactylates work...

But this brings me to another pet peeve of mine - a lack of functional information from suppliers on the ingredients they sell to us. I don't consider a supplied recipe functional because each supplier seems to feature their exclusive products in these recipes. I think most people know "information" on how "things" are made is out "there," but finding this "information" can be rather daunting and frustrating, and who really wants to continually earn multiple degrees just to do some home hobbies? So when there is a site with a strong opinion that suggests how lovely their products work for them, I think they seem authoritative to people. How often have I witnessed the brute force of a strong opinion win a person respect, authority and a sense of "leadership" in the eyes of those who didn't know enough to dispute the claims.

So I appreciate your site because you do give information that is difficult to find, but at the same time I also know my curiosity level requires me to investigate the chemistry more. Now that I think about it maybe you should just become a supplier yourself because you have done all of them a HUGE favor in terms of customer retention - so you might as well profit from it. I wonder how many people would have given up and never bought lotion/shampoo/conditioner making supplies again if they had not found your blog (which is much easier to navigate than forums) to help them fix their failed experiments?


Ged said...

Hi Susan

When I started making cosmetics about 10 years ago, Aromantics were about the only suppliers in the UK where home-based makers could buy in small quantities. They also produced a series of booklets giving formulas for different products, again, the only source for this. When I look at these booklets now, it's obvious that they are quite old-fashioned and have not been updated, but I still feel a debt of gratitude to Kolbjorn Borseth and his company for being there when nobody else was!

There are now more suppliers in the UK and the rest of Europe, but I still sometimes purchase from Aromantic (for instance, I believe they are the only stockists of niacinamide in the UK.)

As for Emulsifiers, they now stock several more, and my own view is that they should fade out the sale of VE and MF. With regard to Emulsifying Wax NF, this means National Formulary and it refers to American standard formula. It is not recognised in Britain or Europe, where Emulsifying Wax BP (cetearyl alcohol and SLS)is the standard term (BP standing for British Pharmacopoeia).

jbarberlondon said...

Hi Susan, I have a mixed opinion of Aromantic. They do have some quite hard to find ingredients but are quite costly. In the middle of last year, I contacted Aromantic as I saw that 2 of their emulsifiers had the inci glyceryl stearate. I informed them that from the descriptions one of them must be "self emulsifying". After weeks of them looking into this and repeated chasing from me they came back and admitted that they had mislabelled one of the emulsifiers which was indeed glyceryl stearate self emulsifying and the other just plain glyceryl stearate. It's good to know this esp. as I use the HLB system and they have different HLB values. They then failed then to update their website to reflect this.

Lalla said...

Actually Ritacorp has a lot of detailed instructions (and patents) on how to use lactylates. Their website even includes a software which has benn of tremendous help to me.
Following their guidelines, one can obtain a wide range of textures from the sodium stearoyl lactylate. I even managed to make a stable emulsion with 0.5% SSL.
I am beginning to feel like an infomercial so I'll stop there.

Aljonor said...

Hi Susan: I hope you are able to help. I have seen emulsifying wax in conditioners with no cationics.I tried contacting companies and researching the web to understand why it would be in conditioners without BTMS, CETAB, etc, but came up with no results. So, my question is this: What benefit would the hair strand get without a cationic ingredient. Also, if you only use emulsifying wax (no cationics
) in a conditioner, does the wax rinses out? I could not find any information and I have been researching for months. I am stucked. Can you help