If you’re into making your own skincare products, like me, I’m sure you’ve come across emulsifying wax in a recipe before. Also, if you’re anything like me, you may have avoided using this strange sounding ingredient in your formulas.
I’ve decided to face my ‘I don’t understand it, so I better not use it’ fears and finally do some proper research on this subject. And now I’m sharing my surprising findings with you.
What is Emulsifying wax?
Emulsifying wax or e-wax is often used instead of other types of waxes in lotions. Since lotions are made using a combination of wax, oil and water, the e-wax in the recipe makes sure the ingredients combine well and stay combined afterwards.
Water and oil don’t mix, so you need an emulsifier to make sure they blend into a smooth consistency.
E-wax is sometimes also referred to as Polawax, BTMS-50, Olivem 1000 or Emulsimulse (Don’t you just love that word?). These are brand names. Depending on the brand/supplier and type of emulsifying wax you buy, the ingredients will be different.
The main ingredient of e-wax consists of one or more fatty acids. Sometimes other emulsifiers are added as well.
There are e-waxes that still require you to add another emulsifier to your formula, along with your e-wax. Check if this is the case before you buy. It’s of course a lot easier to use a complete e-wax that does the job all on its own.
Is emulsifying wax natural?
Whether e-wax is natural depends on the ingredients that were used to create it. And it also depends on your personal definition of ‘natural’.
When you look at it from a paleo or ‘back to basics’ approach, emulsifying wax isn’t what you’d think of when you talk about natural ingredients.
The fatty acids that are used as a main ingredient can be derived from plant-based sources. So all good here. But the ingredients do require processing before they become the final product that you buy from your supplier.
For example, you can turn beeswax into an emulsifying wax by adding borax to the formula. Check beforehand how your e-wax was made and if you feel comfortable with that process.
The particular brand I bought has Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides and Cetearyl Alcohol on its ingredients list.
A quick google search tells me that this type of emulsifying wax is commonly known as Xyliance (Mine is from a different brand).
As the packaging states, the ingredients are 100 percent derived from natural origins (wheat straw for one). Since all of the ingredients are plant-based Xyliance is also considered vegan.
What is e-wax used for?
Emulsifying wax is typically used in body products like lotions and in hair conditioners.
Check the recommended uses for your specific e-wax on the packaging. For example, are they recommended for lip and eye products? What’s their recommended dosage or ratio for the type of product you’re making?
Is Emulsifying wax safe?
Every manufacturer uses their own ingredients to create an emulsifying wax. That’s why it’s important to read the ingredients list. The ingredients should be listed with their INCI names.
Based on the ingredients, you can tell if the e-wax is vegan, derived from natural sources and/or safe for cosmetic use.
I ran the main ingredient of my e-wax Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides through the EWG Skin Deep Database and, although they admit research is limited, this ingredient gets a top score.
And if you remember from my last post on How To Read Ingredients Lists the other ingredient, Cetearyl Alcohol, is a moisturizing fatty acid and is not to be confused with regular alcohol.
Also – not that this matters much, but it’s still good to know – only a small percentage of e-wax is used in lotions (and other natural cosmetic products), usually below 10 % of the finished product.
On a side note, keep in mind the e-wax is not a broad-spectrum preservative. If you’re making lotions or other products with a water phase, you’ll also have to add a preservative.
Can I use another wax instead of e-wax?
Even though Emulsifying wax looks (and sounds) like a wax, it behaves very differently in cosmetic formulas.
If you substitute e-wax for beeswax or a plant-based wax like carnauba or candellila wax, you’ll have a completely different finished product. For starters, e-wax doesn’t have the same ‘coating’ effect or wax feeling as most other types of waxes.
In some cases, like when you want to blend oils and water in a lotion, it will be pointless to substitute e-wax for another wax. At first it will look like it’s working, but after a while (a few hours or days) the oil and water will start to separate.
This concludes my research on this topic. I hope I answered all the questions you had!
If you want this information the next time you’re looking for it, then don’t forget to pin it!
I’m already busy making homemade beauty products with my Xyliance e-wax, so make sure to keep an eye out for those recipes!