Natural Solubilizers

natural solubilizers for cosmetic formulations


Solubilizers are commonly used in cosmetic formulations. It’s challenging to incorporate oily substances into water-based formulations. Solubilizers help hydrophobic (water insoluble) ingredients to disperse into water-based formulations and prevent separation. A solubilizer helps to dissolve water insoluble liquids (e.g., oil, essential oil, fragrance) into water-based formulations. For example, it solubilizes essential oils in aqueous solutions; toner, tonic, hydrating mist, hair refresher, or a gel. A mist with essential oils, the solubilizer helps to keep the essential oils and water together, instead of shaking it every time.

In most cosmetics, polysorbates and PEGS are commonly used as solubilizers. Polysorbate 20 is used in abundance in cosmetic products. Polysorbates and PEGS are ethoxylated and not allowed in natural products. There are plant-based, green, natural solubilizers that can be used as alternatives to polysorbates and PEGS. The best solubilizer is natural, liquid, and cold processable.

A solubilizer is highly water-soluble and generally a nonionic surfactant. The surfactant forms a micelle with the oil keeping the oil dispersed in the water phase. This process is solubilization. A small input of oil, essential oil, or fragrance can be dispersed in the water phase.

A solubilizer may also be an emulsifier and a higher input of oil can be used. A solubilizing emulsifier turns the formulation a milky white color.

How to Use a Natural Solubilizer

Use a solubilizer in water-based formulations with a low input of lipophilic substances (e.g. essential oil, fragrance, oil). A solubilizer with high HLB is more water loving. Polysorbate 20 HLB is 16-17. Polysorbate 80 HLB is 15. A solubilizer is generally used to solubilize 0.5%-2% essential oils or other oils.

General Usage Rate:
Plant Oil: 10 parts solubilizer to 1 part oil
Essential Oil or Fragrance: 5 parts solubilizer to 1 part essential oil or fragrance.

Natural Solubilizers (PEG-free, non-ethoxylated)

There are more green natural solubilizers offered from cosmetic suppliers. Some natural solubilizers are only available in high order quantity. The modern cosmetic formulator needs a solubilizer available in minimum order quantity, a smaller amount not a drum size. Here are some green natural solublizers available to the modern cosmetic formulator.

Trade Names: Tego Solve 61 
INCI: Polyglyceryl-6 Caprylate, Polyglyceryl-4 Caprate, Polyglyceryl-4 Cocoate, Polyglyceryl-6 Ricinoleate
100% naturally derived. It is an effective solubilizer for essential oils, fragrance, and plant oils. Use in emulsions (cream, conditioner, moisturizer, lotion), body wash, shampoo, gel. A good alternative to the solubilizer PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil.
HLB 11

Trade Names: Olive Solubilizer
INCI: Sodium Olivate
A 100% natural plant solubilizing emulsifier made from olive fatty acids and glycerin. It is an oil and essential oils/fragrance solubilizer and used for oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions. Creates clear formulations. No tacky or sticky afterfeel. Use in mists, cleansers, and sprayable water formulations. Good for sensitive skin. Cold processable.
HLB 12

Trade Names: Sunflower Solubilizer or ECOSOLV® Sunflower
INCI: Sodium Sunflowerseedate
A 100% natural plant solubilizing emulsifier made from sunflower fatty acids and glycerin. It is an oil and essential oils/fragrance solubilizer and used for oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions.  It is gentle on the skin. No tacky or sticky afterfeel. Use in mists, cleansers, and sprayable water formulations.
HLB 12

Trade Names: Poly SugaMulse D9
INCI: Sorbitan Oleate Decylglucoside Crosspolymer
A solubilizer made from sustainable 100% biobased raw materials. Used for oil-in-water (O/W) emulsification, dispersion or solubilization of oils and fragrances. Hydrophilic and freely water-soluble. Use in shampoo, conditioners.
HLB 12-14

Trade Names: CCG or PlantaCare 810 UP or Caprylyl Capryl Glucoside or PlantaSol CCG 
INCI: Caprylyl Capryl Glucoside
Caprylyl capryl glucoside is derived from renewable sugars. It is gentle and helps to solubilize essential oils in surfactant products, even liquid soap and especially those in the alkyl polyglucoside family. It is water soluble. Use in body wash, shampoo, mists, lotions, moisturizers, creams, conditioners.
HLB 15

Trade Names: Symbio Solve Clear plus or FSS SuperSolv
INCI: Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Aqua, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Citric Acid, Polyglyceryl-6 Oleate, Sodium Surfactin
A solubilizer and co-surfactant and 100% naturally derived. Use for transparent aqueous solutions and surfactant-based formulations. It has excellent solubilizing performance for essential oils and fragrance. It is non-tacky with a pleasant skin feel. A good alternative for PEG 40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil and Polysorbate 20.
HLB 16


Learn More

Learn more in-depth about natural solubilizers and using natural ingredients in cosmetic formulations by taking a Formulation Course here.

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