Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is Vegetable Emulsifying Wax Natural?

Vegetable Emulsifying Wax is an emulsifier used in many cosmetic and skincare company products, to keep oil and water from separating. In the cosmetic industry, this is one of the most difficult challenges for companies who strive to use only natural ingredients in formulating creams and lotions. During production, the initial dispersion of water and oil will emulsify and life is great, but then the inevitable occurs. The emulsion breaks and you are left standing over a pot of separated water and oil that looks like drowned yogurt. What is one to do? Well, there are a few options.

ONE--live with it. If this is your choice, don't expect much in the way of sales, but sleep comfortably knowing you aren't adding chemicals to your skin.

TWO--Use a vegetable emulsifying wax and call it natural. After all, the original ingredient, prior to the chemical derivative, was natural.

THREE--find an alternative such as beeswax, candelilla wax, soy lecithin, xanthan gum, or a variety of other natural emulsifiers.

As mentioned earlier, vegetable emulsifying wax is a commonly used and controversial ingredient due to the inconsistency of the "naturalness" of the ingredient. Although it is loved by many in the skincare industry for its inexpensiveness and ability to emulsify without much effort, it is not considered to be a natural ingredient (even by those who sell it). It is derived from natural vegetable fatty alcohols; however to create the emulsifying effect, thickening properties are added, such as cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, both of which may be produced from sperm whale oil or petroleum. Although vegetable emulsifying wax has been deemed "safe" by the cosmetic industry standards, these standards are not regulated by the government and should be researched by each individual who is concerned about using absorbable chemical ingredients on their skin.

Be aware of misguided labeling when making decisions about which products are truly natural and which are not. Anything that goes onto the skin has a strong likelihood of penetrating into the skin. Would anyone you know drink or eat petroleum products? Probably not.


  1. I like the sound of option 3 but how do you use them? Do you just do a straight swap, e.g. if a recipe calls for 3g plant derived emulsifying wax do you just use 3g of say, candelilla wax?

    Also what other natural emulsifiers are there that you could use when making face cream or body lotion? I've spent the entire day Googling the topic and seem to be getting nowhere.

    Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Whilst on the topic of whether a commonly used 'natural' ingredient is actually natural, I seem to have found lots of articles that suggest that citricidal (grapefruit seed extract) isn't as natural as it claims to be either, with the anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties actually coming from chemicals used in the extraction process. I wondered if you knew of any properly natural alternatives to that ingredient too?

  2. Unfortunately, I only ever find old posts. I'll comment anyway. I tried using beeswax as an Emulsifying Wax.

    From just about everything I"ve read the only way to use beeswax is to add borax to it. I refuse to do this. I keep reading that there are NO good natural ones to use. So you are pretty much stuck using chemical ones. As I said, I used beeswax and mine did seperate a little bit. I'm probably just going to start making butters instead. (Lotion - (minus) the water)


  3. Try using a solid-wax (beeswax) with a solid oil (shea butter) and a liquid oil (grapeseed, avocado, oilve oil, etc). You will get a REALLY GREAT Lotion bar... I add Vitamin E drops.

  4. Check out Miod Skincare www.miod.com.au
    Light creams using beeswax as an emulsifier..and no borax :)

  5. You have to decide wherever you want a natural product or not. Option three works better for me. I have started small now with handmade products and I have decided to cut off all chemicals and deliver natural products. Hope this will work. www.precious-cosmetics.co.uk