Monday, April 21, 2014

How do we make substitutions with our emulsifiers? Polawax

I like Polawax (INCI: Emulsifying wax NF). It's a fairly fool proof non-ionic (neutrally charged) emulsifier that works well with even large amounts of oils in things like body butters or creams. (For a technical data sheet on Polawax, please click here.)

In my humble opinion, Polawax is the easiest of the emulsifiers for lotion making. We add it to the heated oil phase and let it melt with our oils, butters, and other oil soluble ingredients. When we're done heating and holding, we can add the heated oil phase to the heated water phase or vice versa - either way works. Mix with a stick blender or hand mixer or other mechanized method. And

We generally use Polawax at 25% of the oil phase of our lotions. So if you have 20% oils, you would use it at 5% (20 x 0.25 = 5). If you have 30% oils, you would use it at 7.5% (30 x 0.25 = 7.5). And so on.

Polawax can handle up to 50% oils in the oil phase, and it can be used as low as 2% and as high as 10%, although I've found 4% or higher is more stable.

I use Polawax as my default emulsifier when I'm creating recipes, which means I figure out my oil phase, then add 25% of that in Polawax. Let's take a look at a sample recipe today and figure out how we can adjust it for the other emulsifiers we might use. I'm using an oil phase of 24%, and I'm basing it on my basic 70% water recipe, which is the base recipe I tend to use when I'm formulating something from scratch.

HEATED WATER PHASE (68.5% of the lotion)
68.5% water

HEATED OIL PHASE (29% of the lotion)
16% oil
5% butter
3% thickener
6% Polawax

COOL DOWN PHASE (1.5% of the lotion)
1% fragrance or essential oil
0.5% preservative (I use liquid Germall Plus)

Use the basic lotion making instructions for this product.

As you can see, if we are using Polawax, we figure out how much oil is in the oil phase - this would include everything oil soluble in the heated oil phase and the cool down phase - and figure out how much 25% of that might be. (This would include things like silicones in the cool down phase.)

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at emulsifying wax NF and how to use it!


brittanie said...

Wondering what you think of lotion recipes where the emulsifying wax is heated with the water, then the oils/butter are added to that heated water without being heated first?

Do you think a lotion like this will emulsify properly?

For example, this recipe is from

NOTE: If you are making these products for sale, good manufacturing practices recommend you wear a hairnet, gloves and a mask. We also recommend a clean apron.
In large glass mixing bowl, add 48 ounces of water.
Add to water, stearic acid and emulsifying wax.
Place bowl in microwave and heat until stearic and wax is completely melted. This could take between 3-5 minutes.
To water mixture, add in hemp butter and hemp oil. Gently stir to allow butter to soften.
Using a stick blender, begin to blend. Continue blending until mixture starts to thicken. This may take at least 5 minutes.
Once mixture begins to thicken, turn blender off.
Add vitamin E and fragrance. Continue blending.
Check temperature to be sure it is under 176 degrees. Add preservative and blend for additional 30 seconds.
Pour lotion into bottles. Let completely cool before capping so that condensation does not form on inside of bottle.

susana so said...

Hi Susan,
Your Blog is awesome! Thanks for your reply to my last question which save me lot of money to buy cleansing oil!!!
Can you suggest anythings i can add to my gels eyeliner to prevent them from dry up? Since all these gels eyeliner which I bought from shop can last only a few months . I once added water to keep them moist but failed.
Thanks a lot

Anonymous said...

Use a drop of almond oil, works great

MrSirLove said...

Greetings dear, how about a waterless %100 natural body and hand cream? Does this work well still???

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi MrSirLove! Sure, I have dozens, if not hundreds, of recipes on this blog for anhydrous or waterless products. I've also written an e-book on the topic called Back to Basics!