Lecithin

Good morning,

Firstly let me say thank you for all of your selfless assistance. I've been lurking for a while as someone who is interested in learning formulation and, this is by far one of the best free resources available. Thank for that.

I want to talk about lecithin as an emulsifier. The information available is fairly limited, with few formulations I can access. Confusingly it's a widely used ingredient.

Ul prospector has a whole one formulation available that I can find.

When testing cold & hot formulation I've found the following;

4g lecithin, 77g oil, 19g water - seperate
4g lecithin, 19g oil, 77g water - seperate 
10g lecithin, 50g oil, 40g water - seems stable pending results
45/45/10 has been both stable and separated in seperate batches 

I understand it's recommended to use as a co-emulsifier and I'm likely going to test this theory vegetable wax next.

Why am I not using olivum or emulsifying wax? Well, I do, I'm just curious about lecithin as a whole.

Again thank you for your advice.

Comments

  • KirklandKirkland Member
    Sorry it's worth noting I've used both granules and liquid and I've been unable to get a stable liquid formulation. As neither appear soluble the mixture is always achieved with high sheer.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    edited June 15
    Interesting info.  Do you have a question? 

    Also, the specific type of oil you use can make a difference.
  • KirklandKirkland Member
    edited June 15
    Sorry, does anyone have specific experience with using lecithin as an emulsifier?

    Whilst hlb isn't designed for non peg emulsifiers, it's 4-7 alluding to the fact it should be a w/o emulsion however I can't get a stable emulsion with this logic.

    In your experience, what ratios have you used when using lecithin oil/w/lecithin

    For now I'm simply using almond oil as a base, however once a stable emulsion has been discovered I'll likely attempt a mix of hemp, safflower and jojoba.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    There are several issues to working with Lecithin:

    (1)  It isn' t a good emulsifier ... yields highly unstable, heat-sensitive products

    (2)  It's a mess to work with

    (3)  Lecithin-emulisified products are virtually impossible to preserve, particularly against mold

    I cannot think of one benefit of using Lecithin in any formulation.  Yes, I do have experience working with Lecithin and my advice would be for you to find something that actually works to your benefit if you are trying to develop a commercial product.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    Provides Formulation Development and Lab-Scale Contract Manufacturing Services.  See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com

  • KirklandKirkland Member
    There are several issues to working with Lecithin:

    (1)  It isn' t a good emulsifier ... yields highly unstable, heat-sensitive products

    (2)  It's a mess to work with

    (3)  Lecithin-emulisified products are virtually impossible to preserve, particularly against mold

    I cannot think of one benefit of using Lecithin in any formulation.  Yes, I do have experience working with Lecithin and my advice would be for you to find something that actually works to your benefit if you are trying to develop a commercial product.
    Thank you very much for your response!
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    I worked with lecithin or rather the purified research grades from Cayman and Avantilipids. I loved to work with these very expensive compounds, they are great and you can do fancy stuff with it like making liposomed and mixed micelles with ascorbyl palmitate (I've even written a publication using phosphatidylcholine derivatives as enzyme substrate CLICK).
    Well... now that I have to content myself with standard lecithin, de-oiled lecithin and homemade PC enriched lecithin, I'm getting disappointed. Can't do the cool stuff anymore ;( . Especially liquid lecithin sucks (it's just 50% and the rest is soy oil) and doesn't do what it's supposed to do (meaning what I want it to). Ordered some hydrogenated one recently and will get some granulated lecithin and lysolecithin sometime soon. In my experience so far, it requires co-emulsifiers and works better for microemulsions (-> ultrasonic emulsification) and liposomes (which, again, require ultrasound or organic solvents and a lab equipment).
  • DoreenDoreen Member
    @MarkBroussard
    The impossibility to preserve lecithin emulsified products against molds, is that (amongst other reasons) due to the interaction with parabens?
    I don't use lecithin as emulsifier, but I have a few products that contain medium/high levels of lecithin:

    - Rovisome CE Plus (Evonik, INCI: Water (>50%), Pentylene Glycol (10-25%), Lecithin (10-25%), Alcohol (1-5%), Ascorbyl Palmitate (1-5%), Tocopherol (0.1-1%), Potassium Phosphate (0.1-1%);
    - Phytrox LTR15-IP MB (Jan Dekker (IMCD), INCI: Lecithin (sunflower lecithin: EU approved food additive E322), Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopherol (d-mixed tocopherols: d-β, d-γ, d-δ), Rosmarinus Officinalis Extract, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil)

    Rovisome CE Plus I use between 1-3% and Phytrox LTR15-IP MB at 0.1 - 0.5%.
    Do you think these low levels of lecithin in the product (emulsions) can be used together with parabens at the maximum of the recommended levels?

    I totally understand if you say that I should do tests to find out, but I thought maybe it has been researched from what level of lecithin there is significantly deactivation of parabens, like with some non-ionics.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    That's only an issue if you are using parabens as your preservative.  

    The broader issue is that Lecithin, as an emulsifier, simply yields inferior product sensorial attributes, unstable emulsions, is difficult to work with and is difficult to preserve as it is an excellent source of nutrients for the growth of mold.  There are many, many much better options for emulsifiers.

    If you have an ingredient that you like that contains lecithin as one component well, by all means, use it.  I use Siligel in some formulations, for instance.  But, i always notice the formula containing Siligel will contaminate versus the same exact formula using Xanthan Gum and I have to take extra precautions on the preservation.

    I never use parabens, so I really can't provide any insight into that question.  I much prefer to use phenethyl alcohol or honeysuckle extracts, both of which are natural, but have chemical structures similar to parabens and I have found to be effective preservatives.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    Provides Formulation Development and Lab-Scale Contract Manufacturing Services.  See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com

  • DoreenDoreen Member
    @MarkBroussard
    Thank you very much for your answer!

    If I use the Rovisome CE Plus or the Phytrox LTR15-IP MB in a formula, I use other preservatives than (combination products with) parabens, I just don't want to take the chance that they might become ineffective because of the lecithin in it (and the only tests that I can perform right now on my formulas are plate counts).

    Regarding interactions with parabens. I've read in a research about the paraben - non-ionics interaction that the addition of bronopol seems to keep the parabens working for (at least) some non ionics. Very interesting.

    Table F.2.9. Preservative compatibility with nonionic surfactants

    P = Parabens alone.
    P+PE = Combinatinon product with parabens and phenoxyethanol.
    P+PE+B = Combination product with parabens, phenoxyethanol and bronopol.

    Non ionic   | Complete Inactivation | Significant Inactivation | No Inactivation

    PEG-5                  
    stearyl ether                                                                             P, P+PE, P+PE+B

    PEG-15
    stearyl ether             P                                   P+PE                           P+PE+B

    Ceteareth-20                                                P, P+PE                       P+PE+B

    Polysorbate 60         P                                   P+PE                           P+PE+B


    @Kirkland after this I won't hijack your thread any longer. ;)
  • @kirkland ; What are you formulating.
  • KirklandKirkland Member
    Testing. I simply wanted to know if lecithin was effective as an w/o emulsifier :)
    @kirkland ; What are you formulating.
  • chemicalmattchemicalmatt Member, Professional Chemist
    I'll chime in here too. Hydrogenated lecithin can be an effective emulsifier that carries a significant oil load, as you have discovered, plus it is naturally derived. Being mostly phosphatidylchloline/serine it will form o/w emulsions with triglycerides easily - but as Mark says it is prone to microbial growth, though I've found adding parabens negates this attribute. (If you are paraben-free, then you are SOL) These lecithin emulsions are not usually stable unless a co-emulsifier (anionic or nonionic) is used. They also tend to have a gloopy appearance, not too elegant, depending on your oil load. Where I have used them best is in microemulsions, where they are outstanding; also  lecithin and its phosphoester kin are the ONLY means of forming liposomes as stated in the thread. Hope this helps and keep on experimenting. An aside: LOVED using Bronopol all those years.  Can't anymore, what a shame. 
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    ...also  lecithin and its phosphoester kin are the ONLY means of forming liposomes as stated in the thread...
    Not quite: ever heard of niosomes?
  • chemicalmattchemicalmatt Member, Professional Chemist
    Pharma: no I have not. Curious.
  • DoreenDoreen Member
    edited June 25
    @chemicalmatt
    You have never noticed parabens becoming less effective due to the lecithin?

    Re: Bronopol. What I found so interesting about the graph I shared is that it seems to 'protect' the parabens from becoming inactive due to the nonionics.
    Are there restrictions that it can't be used anymore?
    I've never used it so I don't know anything about it.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    edited June 30
    @Doreen Your inactivation graph isn't helpful: I read the book chapter and that graph stands all alone for itself, no explanation, no concentrations, no control (bronopol alone), no references... Probably, bronopol is doing the whole job and parabens were used at a too low concentration?
    @chemicalmatt WIKI: not sure if they mention the cream Niosôme by Lancôme. Allegedly, l'Oreal invented niosomes and the first cream containing them was named accordingly.

    Made some massage oleogel this week (for personal/immediate use, not caring about long-term preservation) using hydrogenated lecithin as co-gellant. Added a bit too much and it turned into a free standing gel (reminds me of shea butter) within 2 days. Still nice to apply and easy to spread once on the skin, no tackiness, oil lasts just long enough and leaves a nice protective film (a bit waxy but that's likely due to the wax). True, it requires some adjustments but I'm happy with that first trial.

    Regarding difficulties preserving lecithin: Apart from iron, phosphorous is the limiting nutrient/mineral for microbial growth. Phosphate is a semi-macro nutrient for microbes and usually not present at sufficient amounts. Adding lecithin, a readily available source of phosphate and nitrogen which also contains fair amounts of trace elements, creates the perfect breeding ground for microbes. This might be the reason why it's so hard to preserve lecithin containing formulations.

  • DoreenDoreen Member
    @Pharma
    You're right, it is indeed a shame that no concentrations were mentioned and no control group with Bronopol alone was used.
    Does Bronopol have (strong) antifungal activity then? I thought that it was mainly antibacterial?

    About the lecithin that I use in some of my emulsions: do you think I could use parabens without worrying about these being inactived by the lecithin?
    I use 1-3% Rovisome CE Plus (contains 10-25% lecithin) and 0.1-0.5% Phytrox LTR15-IP MB (lecithin is mentioned first in the LOI).
    I would then use the maximum of the recommended concentration of the paraben containing preservative, like 1% Germaben II or 1% Phenonip for example.
  • antmagnantmagn Member
    I use liquid lecithin and I really like it.  It's tricky to get nice texture but it's not impossible. I found that lecithin powder is even harder to work with. I use  liquid lecithin in my oil phase. I also add cetyl alcohol to make a thicker cream and a little polysorbate 20 in the water phase to make it stable. 
    I've used Glyceryl stearate in the past and was not very happy with the results. I laso tried polawax and did not like the texture as much as lecithin's texture.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Doreen said:
    @Pharma
    ...
    Does Bronopol have (strong) antifungal activity then? I thought that it was mainly antibacterial?

    About the lecithin that I use in some of my emulsions: do you think I could use parabens without worrying about these being inactived by the lecithin?
    I use 1-3% Rovisome CE Plus (contains 10-25% lecithin) and 0.1-0.5% Phytrox LTR15-IP MB (lecithin is mentioned first in the LOI).
    ...
    Good question regarding bronopol... I would have to look that up.

    About your lecithin: I'd guess it shouldn't pose too much of an issue as it's present in only minor quantities. But honestly, that's just a wild guess!
    BTW why use both Rovisome and Phytrox? They're so similar you could either include rosemary extract in the former or pentylene glycol in the latter to get about the same result.
  • GabyDGabyD Member
    Interesting thread! I use Soya Lecithin for stability. The problems are that it is messy and makes my beautiful white emulsion a dull, cream colour.

    Can anybody please suggest some palm oil-free alternatives?  Thanks.

    PS: Sorry to hijack your thread Kirkland.
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