November 28, 2022


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Emulsions are people too, my friend

3 min read
emulsiontop01 curlytea

Well, maybe not. 🙂  An emulsion is the mixture between oil and water with the help of an ingredient (emulsifier) which forces the two to stay together for a period of time.  Oil soluble substances (like squalane) and water soluble substances (like allantoin) are also included in this equation.

Even the best recipes in the world will fail unless you get the temperatures the same for the oil and water/tea.

For example, lets say you have this super basic conditioner recipe:
Phase A is the “water phase”
80% distilled water

Phase B is the “oil phase”
10.5% oils
5% BTMS (emulsifier)
3% cetyl (thickener)

Phase C is the “cool down” phase
1.5% preservative

When making an emulsion, the “proper” way is to warm the two phases in separate bowls in a “double boiler” set up.

You can use an actual double boiler or you can make one yourself by placing a bowl (glass, aluminum, whatever) on top of a small pot of water.  You can also place  those thick Pyrex cups into separate pots of water.

If you’re using an emulsifier like BTMS(Behentrimonium Methosulfate) or ECOMulse,  the emulsion will be creamy and opaque.  I hesitate to say it will be “white” because the color will depend on the other ingredients you could use.

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If you use something like hibiscus tea instead of plain water, the emulsion will probably be an opaque pink color.  If you’re using Rooibos tea instead of plain water, the final emulsion will be an opaque orange color.  If you’re  using nettle infused oil or virgin avocado oil, its possible for your emulsion to be a soft, light green color.

Using strongly colored teas are a good way to naturally color your emulsions.

Failed Emulsions

Well, not everyone is perfect 100% of the time.  I think emulsions fail mostly because of mix-matched temperatures between the two Phases. Many people who make their own lotions or conditioners recommend getting both Phases of ingredients to a temp of 175F.

When this doesn’t happen, you’ll get a big mess. Exhibit A:

The above picture is an example of what you could get when the temp of the water and the temp of the oils+emulsifier are not the same, or when they are not hot enough.

TIP: I’d say start by trying to make a 4oz emulsion. 8oz is good too. But don’t try to make 16oz or 32oz emulsions right off the bat until you’ve got your formulas and your process down.

In the pic, there’s a clumpy mess floating on the top of the water.  That’s your emulsifier and thickener.  There is no way I’ve come across to fix this.  Drop me a line if you know how.  (I fantasize that Structure XL or sodium carbomer could help a little :P)

Just remember not to be discouraged and to always start out small until you’re comfortable.

EXTRA TIPS: 2tsp cetyl alcohol = 0.20 oz in weight (approx)
2tsp BTMS = 0.20 oz in weight (approx)
1TBSP Jojoba oil = 0.30 oz in weight (approx)
1TBSP Fractionated Coconut oil = 0.45oz in weight (approx)
(tsp = teaspoons; TBSP = tablespoons)


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