Emulsifying wax is a necessary ingredient when it comes to making lotions and creams. Everyone has heard the term “water and oil don’t mix”. The use of emulsifying wax will do just that – bind your oils and water together on a molecular level with the end result becoming lotion or cream.
This is the method by which lotions and creams are made, by binding together oils and water. Years ago before I began making lotion, a friend was attempting it by using beeswax. After seeing almost two dozen jugs of failed lotion batches on her workshop counters, I did a little research and found Ewax, also known as emulsifying wax. We made it together in her workshop and the very first batch turned into lotion without separating. You can use beeswax as an emulsifier as long as you include borax in the formula, but keep in mind that beeswax isn’t actually an emulsifier – it is a thickener. The problem is that is makes a greasy lotion and the results are unpredictable. Borax helps the beeswax do its job. The difference between beeswax and Ewax seems to be the strength of the emulsion. You cannot use as great a quantity of water with the beeswax. Beeswax usually handles about 50% oils and 50% water without separation. More water and the lotion will eventually separate.
Incorporating emulsifying wax into your recipe will keep the oil and water from separating by creating an emulsion between the oil and water. Emulsifying wax will also thicken your recipe. Using too little of the Emulsifying wax and the lotion recipe will not hold together. There were batches in the past that I obviously measure incorrectly because, at first, it looks like a successful gallon of lotion. However, after cooling for an hour, half of the jug contained water at the bottom and a runny lotion floating on top
The percentage of Emulsifying wax usually begins at 5% of the total formula but can be used at a higher rate to create an extra thick lotion. My personal recipe calls for 6 ounces of Ewax but I always use 6.4 ounces, just to be on the safe side.
The most common emulsifiers used are: Emulsifying Wax NF, Cetearyl Alcohol and Polysorbate 20. I have always used Emulsifying Wax NF.
Unlike some emulsifying waxes, Ewax does not deteriorate on heating, experiencing only a slight difference in color at temperatures up to 150-152°C for two hours. Under these harsh conditions, it may lose 2-3% in weight with minor hardening of the wax.
While Emulsifying wax NF is contains some natural ingredients like palm oil, it does go through a chemical process in order to manufacture it. With this in mind, I prefer to stay on the safe side and tell myself that it is completely un-natural. That way, I can safely say that my lotions and 94% natural when I have used 5% ewax and 1% preservative.
FROM NATURE WITH LOVE, a major bath and body supplier, describes their Emulsifying wax as such:
Our NF quality, vegetable based emulsifying wax is used to keep the oil and water from separating in your creams and lotions. It is supplied in white waxy pellets or flakes, and it has low odor. The emulsifying wax is made from vegetable source fatty alcohols however, this product is not considered “all natural.” It combines the emollient, emulsifying, thickening properties of cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. Emulsifying wax can form extremely stable w/o or o/w emulsions. Use at 5% – 10% in your “water in oil” or “oil in water” emulsions. Melt the wax with your other fats and waxes and then slowly add your water phase while continuously stirring. The key to forming a stable emulsion is to keep the formulation in motion until it cools completely.
To put this whole Emulsifying wax topic in perspective, here is a basic formula for creating lotion. The recipe below makes ½ gallon of lotion.
First, the percentages – beside it, the actual numbers for the recipe indicated after “OR”, based on 64 ounces. Note – preservative is calculated OUTSIDE the numbers of the formula and is based on 1% of the TOTAL recipe.
75% water OR 48 ounces water
5% shea butter OR 3.2 ounces shea butter
10% olive oil OR 6.4 ounces olive oil
5% jojoba OR 3.2 ounces jojoba
5% Ewax OR 3.2 ounces Emulsifying Wax (Ewax)
0.64 ounces preservative if using Germaben II, otherwise, reading directions for the type of preservative you are using.