Monday, September 16, 2013

Ingredient: PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil

I've been meaning to find time to use my new container of PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, but I haven't had time. But holiday time means free time, so I had a chance to play with this product to see how it solubilizes fragrances!

I bought mine at Voyageur Soap & Candle, but you can find it at many retailers. And remember, I mention this as help to finding this ingredient, not because I've been paid to say nice things! And it should be a thicker, more gooey looking semi-solid, but it's hot in my workshop, so you're seeing a liquid here! 

What is PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil? It's a non-ionic surfactant that behaves as a foam booster and solubilizer of oils in water based products. (Unlike some other solubilizers, it won't suppress foam. Yay!) It can be used in the heated phase or the cool down phase of a product at up to 100%.

What does it mean to be a PEG? This a polyethylene glycol ester, which is an ester that has undergone a reaction with polyethylene glycol to create an ester that is water soluble and might behave as an emulsifier. This process is called ethoxylation and is an industrial process in which ethylene oxide is added to a fatty acid or fatty acid alcohol, and in the end non-ionic surfactants are produced. Surfactants have a hydrophilic (water loving) head and a lipophilic (oil loving) tail, which means they can help emulsify themselves or other oil based ingredients we might want to include in our water based products.

What does it mean to be hydrogenated? Hydrogenation is the process of breaking those double bonds in advance and inserting hydrogen into the open spaces. This makes an oil less likely to go rancid because you've pre-oxidized it, as it were. You've turned an unsaturated fat (one with at least 1 double bond) into a saturated fat (one with no double bonds). This is why it's a thick liquid to semi-solid ingredient. Saturated fats lie in a straight line (more about this below), so they pack together more easily. When triglyceride molecules are packed together well, they become a solid oil with a higher melting point.

Is this ingredient safe? Cosmetic Ingredient Review did Safety Assessment of PEGylated Oils as Used in Cosmetics, and came to the conclusion that PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil can be used at up to 100%, meaning you could use it neat on your skin.

This is a seriously interesting document and I encourge you to take a look at it if you're interested in how these conclusions are reached. They go into great detail - including transcipts of conversations - into how they plan these reivews and how they execute them. Quite interesting.

How do we use it? As a solubilizer, it's used like polysorbate 20 or 80, Cromollient SCE, Caprol Micro Expresscaprylyl/capryl glucoside, and other solubilizers to incorporate small amounts of oils into water based products like body washes, toners, and so on. It's supposed to help create clearer solutions in surfactants, clearer than polysorbate 20 or 80, which can produce clear solutions with the right fragrance oil. I've seen suggestions of 2% PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil to 0.4% fragrance oil as a starting point.

With polysorbate 20 or 80, I've seen it suggested that we mix the fragrance oil and polysorbate together, then add it to the product. I've seen PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil added this way, and I've seen it added into a product with the fragrance oil coming later. It can be added to the heated phase, and probably should because it's a bit viscous to be used cold. Having said this, the cool down phase isn't cold as it's around 45˚C, which means it will melt in that phase, too.

As a foam booster, it can be used at up to 10% in a surfacant based product.

As an emulsifier, it needs to be used with a low HLB emulsifier like glycol distearate (HLB value 1) or glyceryl stearate (3.8) to create an all in one system. It isn't an emulsifier on its own.

Summary of PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil:
It's an emulsifier, surfactant, solubilizer, and foam booster.
Miscible in water and oils.
Use in the heated oil or cool down phase at 1% to 10%, although it's safe to 100%.
Non-ionic, and compatible with non-ionic, anionic, and cationic ingredients and products.
Derived from castor oil.
HLB is 15
pH (3% in water) is 5.5 to 7 (acidic to neutral)

Related posts:
Making fragrance sprays with caprylyl/capryl glucoside (including other solubilizers)

Join me tomorrow for more fun with PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil as we try a few fragrance oils with it!


Aesthete said...

Hi Susan,

I like using peg-40 hydrogenated castor oil.
There are many of these "green" websites that state 1,4-dioxane is a by-product of a petrochemical process called ethyoxylation, which involves using ethylene oxide (a known skin carcinogen) to process other chemicals, which can result in 1,4-dioxane contamination. They go on to say ingredients that are ethoxylated (all PEG's are on that list) should be avoided.

Is there any truth to this?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Aesthete. Thanks for the comment. I'm putting it into Saturday's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer is that 1,4-dioxane is a by-product of the ethoxylation process but it's not considered a hazard by any of the health authorities as it can be vacuum stripped out and products are showing lower and lower levels of it every year.

Tyler said...

Hi Susan,

Having little luck finding this online, I'm hoping you can tell me of another source where this can be purchased? Also, you mention it would need a lower HLB co-surfactant to become a complete system. What do you mean by this? Thank you.

Putri Annisaa' said...

hello susan..
im putri

i'm using a peg-40 in the formulation of a fragrance product and I found some problems. Can I share and ask more questions to you about the peg-40?
If you are willing, can I get your email?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Putri. You can write up your question here as it will probably help other people! If you are sharing a recipe, please post the complete recipe with percentages with your exact process.

Estive Visoso said...

is this considered a vegan product? I am mostly concerned about the process in which it is made. Are there any alternatives to this? I want to use this in pomade to give it a thicker consistency as well as the ease of using/washing it off with water

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Estive. This is a vegan product as far as I know because it's made from castor oil. As for the process, you'll have to do some research to see if you like it or not. You could consider an ECOcert solubilizer, like caprylyl/capryl glucoside, although you might find this really sticky.

Melanie Klar said...

I want to make a pomade similar to Bona Fide and it seems to contain all emulsifiers and no oils. So do I need to worry about HLB? Here is the ingredient list for the Bona Fide: Water (Aqua), Ceteareth-25, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glycerin, Polysorbate-20, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Fragrance (Parfum), Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, DMDM Hydantoin, Orange 4

Melanie said...

Tyler-I got PEG-40 castor oil at But be forwarned. I was shocked that they charged me international shipping because it says the distributor is in NY. When I asked why they said because it ships from the main company in Toronto to NY then to me. Since when does the customer have to pay the distributor's shipping costs?!

Casey Balatbat said...

Hi! I'm Casey. I have a question regarding Oil and PEG-40 ratio if I wanted to make a rinse-off oil cleanser, is it also 10% like if I was using polysorbate 80? Thank you very much for your help!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Casey. I'm not sure as I haven't tried it myself, but you could try it and see if you like it. Keep good notes and make sure you document how your skin reacts.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Melanie. Are you in Canada? If so, check out Voyageur Soap & Candle in Surrey, B.C. They are awesome!

Melanie said...

Hi, no I'm in California. I tried the bona fide copy and just used the hlb system and counted the peg 40 castor oil and the ceteareth 20 as the oils and then used the polysorbate and glyceryl cocoate as the emulsifiers ans it seemed to work but it's too thick and sticky so I need to tweak some more. Do you think more water?

Clark Danger said...

Hey Susan - what is the difference between "Hydrogenated Castor Oil" and "PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil"? I can't find an explanation anywhere. Are they the same? Thanks a ton! -Clark

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Clark. They could be the same, they might be different. Castor wax is called hydrogenated castor oil, and there might be a butter out there created by hydrogenation. It could be a typo, or it could be one of these ingredients.

Chandra Shekhar said...

i want to know how to make semi solid DPG or DEP.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Chandra. I don't understand your question. What do you wish to do?

Marcela Sandoval said...

Hi Susan,
You can use the PEG 40 for a moisturizer for the face? what proportion it could be in the formula. I tried with 1.6% of peg 40 to the formula but do not get to that point of "crema". I have read on other sites that recommend it as an emollient.

For a formula containing shea butter you should use more of PEG 40?

Thank you! Greetings from Guatemala-.

Adi S Latief said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adi S Latief said...

Hi Susan,

I understand that PEG 40 hydrogenated castor oil can be used for oil in water emulsion (high HLB), while it is suggested to be mixed with a low HLB surfactant (usually to create water in oil emulsion). I do see some hair products with both ingredients. So what kind of emulsion will the end product be? Correct me if I'm wrong.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Adi. Without more information, this isn't an easy question to answer. I'd need to see the formula to be able to offer any comment.

vladex said...

Hello, first time post. Does anyone know how to use PEG 40 for making floral waters from essential oils?

Adi S. Latief said...

Hi Susan,

PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil is creating bubbles in my end product (pomade), either because of constant heating or blending. Do you know how to minimise the bubbles? As they don't look really nice ;)


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Adi! We would need your complete recipe and process to be able to help further. I'm afraid I wouldn't know off the top of my head.

Adi said...

Hi Susan, it's Adi
Really a big fan of your articles :)
Just wondering, how much concentration of PEG 40 hydrogenated castor oil is considered safe? I read in EEG that safety depends on the amount and concentration used.
I read somewhere that the commons use is 1-10%.


Sam said...

Hey Adi,

I'm not Susan but I can answer your question :)

If you re-read the post, you'll see that Susan said you can actually use PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil at 100%!

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review did a safety assessment and came to that conclusion (the link to the assessment document is halfway through the post). So you don't have to worry about what percentage is safe.


Adi said...

Thanks Sam!
It's just confusing that some sources said that it may contain impurities such as 1,4 dioxane (a known carcinogen) and should not be used on burned or wounded skin.

Do you or anyone know what is the industry standard of using PEG 40 hydrogenated castor oil? in terms of % of total product weight?


Soughtout said...

Hi Susan,

Is PEG -40 hydrogenated castor oil the same as hydrogenated castor flakes?

Laurena Pollock said...

Hello! I have a lip balm recipe I created and LOVE using Castorlatum. Hoeever, I can no longer source this product in Canada. Can you please advise how this PEG40 compares to Castorlatum, with respect to benefits and mixing with other substances? Thank you!

Laurena Pollock said...

Hi Susan,

Thank you so much for your thorough review of this. However, I'm hoping you can tell me how this product compares to Castorlatum? I have a lip balm that I make with a loyal customer base, and Castorlatum is a significant contributor to it's properties. I am no longer able to source Castorlatum regionally. I'm hoping this PEG-40 may be similar enough to explore. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Laurena! You only need to post once on the same topic. This isn't even remotely close to castoralum. That's a thick, viscous product meant to mimic Vaseline, while this is a very thick liquid that solubilizes oils into water. If your goal is to solublize oils into water, then this is the best choice you can make. It's an awesome solubilizer.

Why not make your own castoralum with beeswax and castor oil? It's pretty simple, and I think Voyageur Soap & Candle has a recipe for it on their site.

fadzal halim said...

Hi...can i know what is the amount of peg40 needed to emulsified 40% water 60% oil

fadzal halim said...

Hi...can i know what is the amount of peg40 needed to emulsified 40% water 60% oil

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

It can't emulsify that much oil. You need a proper emulsifier like Polawax or Incroquat BTMS-50.

Ingii said...

Dear Susan, I have found a product using peg-4 castor oil. I can't seem to locate this anywhere? It wouldn't be straight castor oil by any chance would it?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I think it's PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil as there isn't a PEG-4 that I can see. Without knowing the product and the ingredient list, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to tell you if it's just straight castor oil. It could be, it might not be. It depends on the rest of the ingredients.

Hiren said...

Hi Susan
Can i know what is the final foam of PEG 40?
Can i get the powder foam?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Hiren. I'm afraid I don't understand your question. PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil doesn't foam.

Mello Willis said...

Hi Susan,

I am making a hair hydration spray to re-moisturize my hair during the week as I have dry afro hair. I wanted to used 5 % oil and 1% essential oil as my fragrance.

Can I use PEg40- castor oil to solubilize the oils.

Muhammad Irfan Ardiansyah said...

Hi Susan,

I've been surfing in this wonderful site for more than 3 hours ! kinda addicted :)

I'm just confused how I mix PEG-40 H. Castor oil with exctract ?

I'm trying to make some kind like hair spray with 90% water with essential oil and exctract also glycerin too.

what do you reccomend about the preservative ? I'm trying to use DMDM Hydantoin .

the problem is I couldnt get the clear information step by step to do it so I cannot make the draft of formulation .

Different about cream/lotion information you give in this site, it is totally clear information.

I hope you can gave us clear information about this.

thanks in advance , have a nice day !