What is an emulsifier? It is type of surfactant. Emulsifiers are a compound* that stabilizes emulsions and keeps water ingredients and oil ingredients mixed together.
Oil and water do not mix. For example, an oil and vinegar (water) salad dressing separates and needs to be shaken before use unless the dressing contains an emulsifier. This same concept holds true for lotions, creams and hair conditioners.
Emulsifiers generally have a water loving head and oil loving tail. This creates a stable emulsion by a reaction with the water-based and oil-based ingredients to stay together.
Emulsions are very common products. These can be lotions, creams, make-up and hair conditioners. These contain an emulsifier or an emulsification system, to create a stable emulsion; to hold the water and oil together in a homogenous mixture, a mixture that stays together.
A complete emulsifier can be used in formulations or numerous single emulsifiers can be customized for a specific formulation. A complete emulsifier is much easier to use. Before complete emulsifiers came onto the market, the HLB (hydrophile/lipophile balance) system was used to determine the best emulsifiers and amounts to use in the formulation.
If you are a beginner, even intermediate level, complete emulsifiers work very well for lotions, creams and hair conditioners. Talk to your supplier to figure out which one will work best for your formulation.
*A compound forms when two or more chemical elements create chemical bonds together. Water is a compound. Water is made up of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen.
It is important to choose the best natural emulsifier when making natural, green, or organic products. Learn more in our post, Choose the Best Natural Emulsifier.