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Friday, August 21, 2015

beeswax as an emulsifier: does it work?

I've been long hearing that beeswax is not an emulsifier and no matter what you do or how you do it, a two-phase cream or lotion made with only beeswax as emulsifier will not hold and sooner or later it will separate.
On the other hand, the Internet is full of recipes and success stories of lotions emulsified with only beeswax. So I definitely wanted to give it a try. Knowing that almost all emulsifiers are esters, and that beeswax has an interesting profile of mostly esters... it is only logic that a lotion made with some beeswax should be able to hold some water.
At first I tried the regular method of emulsification by combining the two phases at 70 degrees C and mixing thoroughly for some minutes. It was an epic fail.
After some more research I found out why. Indeed, beeswax is not a true emulsifier, not in the sense that it contains molecules that have an lipophilic head and a hydrophilic tail (or is it vice-versa?) But due to the consistency it gives, one should be capable of incorporating water slowly in oils and beeswax mixtures, like making a mayonnaise. It is in fact a mechanical emulsion, and not a chemical one.
Now, in time, all emulsions will separate. The problem is how much time. Due to the fact that a beeswax emulsion is mechanical, it is more likely to separate sooner rather than later. But I need to see for myself.

Here is a first recipe I managed to complete with beeswax as emulsifier:

Oil phase:
- 2.5 grams beeswax
- 12.5 grams shea butter (raw)
- 10 grams marigold oil
Water phase: 
- 5 grams aloe vera gel
- 10 grams distilled water
Final phase:
- 5 drops antimicrobial agent, your choice. I used Cosgard

The secret of success with mechanical emulsions is the preparation method. Weight together the oil phase in a Berzelius glass. Place over heat, in a water container (bain-marie). When the final beeswax pieces are melted, take away from heat and let it cool down until it becomes a semi-liquid jelly.

At this point, start mixing. With a pipette start adding the water phase, slowly. Continue mixing at all time. When the mixer doesn't work due to viscosity, mix manually, with a spatula. At the end, ad the preservative.

That's it :)

How does it feel on skin? It's a bit sticky at first, and a bit oily, but is well absorbed soon enough. In what concerns me, I wouldn't trade my regular creams for this one unless on very, very dry skin areas or for dermatological problems that render very sensitive skin. But this journey is only at the beginning. I still have to see how long this emulsion will hold together. Will let you know! :)

Update: Unfortunatelly, small drops of water separated only 3 days later after preparing this cream. The search continues. :)

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