The Magic of Emulsion


Water and oil don’t mix together on their own.  However, crafters make lots of creams and lotions using both oil-based and water-based ingredients in the same recipe all the time.  How do they do it?  The answer is .. Emulsion.

Emulsion occurs when water is allowed to encapsulate molecules through the use of emulsifiers.  Lecithin is a common emulsifier; it is the ingredient in eggs that allows cooks to create mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce.  In crafting, it is one ingredient that is used to maintain a stable emulsion that holds for an extended period.

Emulsifying wax is another great ingredient that is used to emulsify cosmetic ingredients.  It contains both wax and emulsifier to add thickness and hold ingredients together.  Emulsifying wax is very easy to use, even when you formulate your own recipes from scratch.

You can also use natural ingredients to emulsify.  Unlike emulsifying wax, though, there is no single ingredient that will emulsify by itself.  Instead, you will need a combination of ingredients.

One good basic emulsion formula is:

1 part emulsifier

3 parts oil/vegetable butter

6 parts water or hydrosol

For the emulsifier portion, any of the following would work:

-100% emulsifying wax

-80% beeswax, 10% borax, and 10% liquid lecithin

The wax used does not necessarily have to be beeswax; candelilla, carnauba, bayberry or even floral wax would even work.  Feel free to get creative and start experimenting with the unique textures and different degrees of hardness which ingredient substitutions will produce!

To create the emulsion, heat the waxes, oils, and butters together over low heat (preferably, in the top of a double boiler) along with the lecithin, if you are using it.  Heat the water components in a separate container over low heat, along with the borax, if you are using it.

When both phases are hot and the waxes are fully melted, slowly start pouring a thin stream of the oil and wax mixture into the water while constantly stirring.  When the ingredients are fully combined, continue to stir for at least another five minutes.  The  mixture should become thick and opaque.

Allow the mixture to sit in an open container and cool to room temperature before slowly stirring in any fragrance and color you are using.  It would be a good idea to let it then sit out for at least an additional hour or so to make sure that the emulsion is stable and doesn’t separate before putting it into containers, capping and labelling it.  Enjoy!