Saturday, July 13, 2013

Weekend Wonderings: Molecular changes in lotion, beeswax as an emulsifier, and why I don't make CP soap

Someone asked what I was studying in school - chemistry! I'm an addict, I admit it. (Hey, I love chemistry so much, I married a man named Nichols!) My exam went well. I can't believe there are only three more weeks! What will I do to fill my time? Maybe I'll actually relax for a bit come August. Nah, I don't think that's possible!

In this post, A slightly more in depth look at emulsification, Rachel asks: My question is regarding the molecular change from oil to lotion after emulsification. Do oils exhibit the same beneficial properties post emulsification?

Yes, the oils will still have all those lovely qualities we want, such as the type of fatty acid, the phystosterols, the polyphenols, and more because there isn't a molecular change when water and oil come together in a lotion. (Interesting question!) All those things remain the same!

In this post, Beeswax is not an emulsifier, Anita writes: I just made a cream using beeswax with oils and coconut milk no water. I ran out of my emulsify wax. I did not add borax. I'll see how it holds so far 24 hrs it's nice and creamy. If it holds, the key will be using less liquid has possible to keep a firm cream.

Beeswax isn't an emulsifier. To be an emulsifier, something has to have a hydrophilic (water loving) head and a lipophilic (fat loving) tail, which we call a surfactant. Surfactants are polar molecules, meaning they have a more positive charge at one end and a more negative charge at the other. Beeswax is not a polar molecule and it isn't a surfactant: Therefore, it's not an emulsifier

There are polar molecules that aren't surfactants - too many to mention, but water and alcohol are two - so being polar doesn't make an ingredient an emulsifier! But a molecule has to be polar to be a surfactant. 

The true test of an emulsifier is that it it should stand up over a long period of time. Emulsifications are unstable, and they will all break eventually, but that breaking point can be measured in years and decades, not days. I can get anything to emulsify if I apply enough heat and mixing to it, but the test is how it stands up six months, a year, two years later. Even the most poorly written lotion recipe can emulsify when you add enough heat and mixing. The true test comes when it's at room temperature for a period of time.


Those of you using beeswax as an emulsifier, please try this. Find a nice stable place at room temperature. Put your lotion there and leave it there for six months. Is it still emulsified? (And you can't use lecithin, lanolin, or borax in your recipe.)


Your lotion should look creamy and white or yellow-y white or brown-y white. (The oils you use can make it tinged slightly. This is just fine.) To your left you'll see a good example of this. This is a well made, stable lotion. I could have this for the next ten years and know that despite the hideous stench from rancidity, it will be emulsified. I had a good chemical emulsifier - Ritamulse SCG - that I used at proper levels. I heated and held, and I mixed well. Those three factors will lead to a great lotion!

A poorly emulsified lotion will look like it has little grits in it or might look lumpy. (Click here for a picture...) It might look watery with some whitish oils in it, or it might break into oil and water on your skin. You should never have to shake a lotion before using and there should never be a layer of water at the bottom. Any of these conditions are epic lotion fails. (When lotions go wrong!)


Related posts:
When lotions go wrong! 
When lotions go wrong - an example! 


I think this will be the last time I address this issue. I've written enough on this topic. Beeswax is no more an emulsifier than rice bran oil, aloe vera, or a pulverized version of my favourite CD. If you like it, use it.

Related posts:
Where's the emulsifier? Play along! 
A slightly more in depth look at emulsification

In this post, Jodi asked: I have just started learning about making soap and noticed in an older blog you say that you do not make soap. Why?

I just haven't had time. I am fascinated by the chemistry of saponification, but when I get into the workshop, I have seven million things I want to make and another 7 million I have to make, and in the end, I get very little done! Making CP soap is on my list, but my list gets bigger every time I see a new ingredient in the shops! Instead, I support local soapers in the Fraser Valley!

Isn't this soap gorgeous? Thanks, Corry!

Join me tomorrow for more!

3 comments:

melian1 said...

way back when i first wanted to make a face cream and i looked on the web for recipes, i found the beeswax ones. so i made it using beeswax. and tho it emulsified initially, it wouldn't stand the test of time. it never stayed stable more than 3 months, and mostly a great deal sooner than that. needless to say, that was simply unacceptable, so i kept looking and found the dish. the rest is history.

the very first lotion i made from a dish formula (the ooh lotion) was in 2007, using proper ingredients in their proper amounts is still emulsified. i still have some of it sitting in my cupboard, along with one of each of the batches since then. i like to see what happens over time. and if i don't stop that habit, i'm going to need to add an addition to the house soon, lol.

they are all emulsified still.

melian1 said...

hm. i need to correct something. i have the first batch of each *version* of my lotion, not one of every batch i've ever made. sry, i didn't say it correctly.

Mychelle said...

Susan, soap is such a fun, artistic, chalkenging, gratifying endeavor - but it's an endeavor! It's a whole other hobby with its own set of ingredients and a solid learning curve. I am loving it, but only when I'm not too busy. Save the soap for when you graduate. It'll be a nice treat then. :)