Emulsion? Emulsified? Diluent? Dispersant? I get asked to explain terms such as these from a cosmetic standpoint quite regularly. I think it might be easier and more effective to start doing a few posts here and there explaining them. It may help us all be on the same page and understand better as well as be easier to reference in the future. This in turn will help you make informed choices about the products you use and/or attempt to make yourself.
So what is an emulsion and what does it mean when a product is emulsified?
The word “EMULSION” is derived from Latin origins, from emulgēre or e- + mulgēre which means “to milk” or “to milk out”. Milk is a naturally occurring oil-in-water emulsion combined with other substances such as proteins and thus where the word “emulsion” comes from.
An emulsion is a system consisting of a mixture of two or more liquids that are unmixable (or unblendable), such as oil and water. Emulsions consist of two phases, a dispersed phase and a continuous/external phase. They are part of a more general class of two-phase systems of matter called colloids. Although some may use the terms “colloid” and “emulsion” interchangeably, unlike other colloids, both phases of an emulsion are liquids and they should be referenced as emulsions to help distinguish this fact.
In an emulsion, one liquid (the dispersed phase) is dispersed in the other (the continuous/external phase), also referred to as the dispersion medium, in very small, microscopic droplets. Emulsions may be formed with or without emulsifiers, depending on the liquids used and the end results that are desired. An emulsifier is a substance that allows this action to take place and create a blended medium from unblendable substances to form an emulsion.
There are different types of emulsions. In the case of water and oil, an oil-in-water emulsion is created when the oil is the dispersed phase and water is the dispersion medium. A water-in-oil emulsion is formed when water is the dispersed phase and oil is the continuous dispersion medium phase. Multiple emulsions are also possible, including a “water-in-oil-in-water” emulsion and an “oil-in-water-in-oil” emulsion.
Examples of common everyday emulsions you are likely familiar with include mayonnaise, vinaigrettes and milk.
In cosmetics, some products that fall into the category of an emulsified product include lotions, creams, serums, some gel products and solubilized products such as body sprays, alcohol based perfumes or spray-on deodorants, etc. Normally, to create a stable emulsion in cosmetics that is less likely to “break”, a combination of emulsifiers and emulsion assisting or stabilizing ingredients are required that support one another in the emulsion process. These may include emulsifying wax, BTMS, stearic acid, cetyl alcohol or ceateryl alcohol or other emulsifiers. The need to stabilize emulsions with a systematic and calculated system of supportive ingredients is why you will see more than one of these ingredients in our emulsified products. While it’s not rocket science, it is a series of skilled formulation strategies to get a stable and effective emulsified product that works all the way around.
I think that is a good basic explanation of emulsions and emulsified products that you can sink your teeth into, don’t you? Does it help you understand what an emulsion is and what it means when a cosmetic or home care product is said to be emulsified just a little better? I hope so. Please feel free to help others learn more about emulsions by sharing this post. Let’s learn and grow together.
Until next time…..enjoy the Ahhh moments and grow where you’re planted! Go bloom in your world, belles.