Unorthodox waterbased pomade!

Hi guys! 

I am am currently working on my formulation for a unorthodox waterbased pomade.  I can’t seem to get the formula right! I would love some suggestions! 

I did get a consistancy I was I was pretty happy with and it tested really well. I did get some feedback asking me to try and make the product thicker and swap out a nut oil to cater for those with severe nut allergies (I know that topical nut oils won’t necessarily interfere with these, I don’t want to take the risk).

so I made some fairly subtle changes to the formulation and now the product has gone runny! Which I find strange, given that I have added slightly more wax.

does anyone on here have any suggestions? 

Original formula that worked:

New formula that has gone runny:

Thank you in advance for your suggestions, I hope that you can help.


  • I will note that the original formula was poured into 30ml tester jars and the updated formula was poured into 100ml product container, would this make a difference? 
  • The second formula has borax instead of Naticide tho.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    1% borax is a lot (also not very healthy -> borax is banned for many applications and for sales to end-users in Europe for a reason) and will rise pH considerably.
    0.1% as preservative (not to be used as sole preservative, though!) shouldn't be exceeded IMHO. If you really want to go with 1%: Use a mixture of boric acid and borax to adjust pH and create a buffered solution.
  • Okay great, that was just me being stingy as going for a cheaper option. I have also thought about using optiphen plus as a preservative. So using the borax would be the reason the consistency has changed? 

    When i bottled the original formula, the product was harder cream consistency and the second formula formed a thick skin and when you went to scoop it was like a custard! 

    Thank you for your input! 
  • Will using 1% of any preservative be too high? Or just too much in this case using borax? 
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Just borax, other preservatives require other percentages (some even more than 1%).
    Could you check pH of the two products?
  • I honestly hadn’t thought about checking the pH of the products, I’m new to this so please excuse my ignorance.  How will the pH affect the consistency? 
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    edited September 2019
    How? That's going to be a lengthy lecture I'm not having the time for right now. Basically, pH affects zeta potential, interfacial surfactant packaging and curvature, affect droplet size and size distribution or even change emulsion type, high pH may also turn candelilla wax into an emulsifyin wax. That's just to name a few things which are altered by pH and have a high impact on consistency and stability. Oh, and pH also influences microbial and chemical stability.
  • Alright, so borax is off the list! What are your thoughts on optiphen plus as a preservative? Will I get a better result with this? Would I be able to use this as the soul preservative given there are a blend of ingredients in optiohen plus? 
  • FekherFekher Member, Professional Chemist
    edited September 2019
    @bgeorge ; actually borax for your system is not only preservative actually it makes with wax emulsifier ingredient so it will change your emulsifiers hlb . I see it is very logic that second cream has lower viscosity cause you transformerd wax( thickner)  to ( emulsifier soap ) wich will be more creamy and less viscous  ( just for more help the hlb of borax wax is near to 5 and the level of it depends on saponified wax ).

  • Thanks for your input @Fekher! A cream was not the end goal here I wanted a nice thick paste, which I was able to achieve with the original formula. What would you recommend I use as a preservative for this original formula to get the consistency I want? 
  • FekherFekher Member, Professional Chemist
    @bgeorge ; try cayhon CG i thin it will work .

  • Is Cayhon GC a natural preservative? And at what percentage would you recommend? 
  • FekherFekher Member, Professional Chemist
    @bgeorge not natural and for your case 0,1%
  • Chemist77Chemist77 Member, PCF student
    Please check regs in your country as it has been restricted for leave on products now in certain countries.
  • Hey guys!

    Thank you all for your input, I have removed the borax from my formula and I have done another test batch of pomade tonight, I will keep you posted on the results. 

    What are your thoughts on Naticide as a preservative? 

    PS. I am also working on a Matte Clay based on my pomade formula. I’m having a real issue with the consistency of this as well. I’m finding that it is really dry and flaky. Not like a cream which is what I am aiming for. It also separates when you are rubbing between your fingers. Any feedback for me? 

  • FekherFekher Member, Professional Chemist
    edited September 2019
    @bgeorge verify your system's hlb and even the level of your emulsifiers (5%) seems low.
  • PEG-40 has a HLB of 15 and Soy Lecithin has a HLB of 7. How do calculate the average, and how much I will need to increase the emulsifiers? Thank you for your suggestion! 
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Lecithin as sole emulsifier will be very tricky to get it to work. Your formula looks like an oil in water emulsion which can work with lecithin (e.g. mayonnaise) but requires high amounts, further additives, and a special mixing sequence.
    PEG-40 is not an emulsifier but a very low viscosity water soluble PEG. You probably forgot half of the name.
    I suppose that your formula feels weird because of the high amount of waxes. Probably replace some with hydrogenated oils or fatty alcohols?
    Personally, I don't trust naticide because the INCI is perfume. Nobody knows what's really in there and IMHO that's really scary!
  • I was actually thinking the same thing about Naticide, I found it extremely weird that the INCI is parfum or frangrance.

    im using PEG40 Hydrogenised Castor Oil. If this helps :)
  • The process I have been using with my test batches is combining the oil phase in a double boiler until it reaches 75 degrees Celsius.

    bring water phase to the same temperature.

    pour water phase into the oil phase whilst combining with a milk frother. Hold temperature for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and bring down to 50 degrees Celsius.

    then I add the clays, fragrance and preservative and combine that with the frother.

    then pour into the jar while still hot. 
  • Wow the SDS on ULProspector for Naticide says "Vegetable origin fragrance, obtained with particular and reserved procedure". Does anyone know what its derived from or its composition? Bizarre!
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Ah, okay.
    Forgot to mention: If you added a pinch of Epsom salt, your formula would be the perfect nutrient broth for microbial growth. Mixing water, bentonite/clay, and fluid lecithin is a preservation nightmare even without addition of native oils/butters and the extra magnesium and sulphur from Epsom salt! These two elements will likely become limiting factors, but only once your product looks like a months old pizza slice you forgot under your sofa :smiley: . Naticide would have to be added at probably something like 30-50% to do anything!
  • So I’m thinking I will change my preservative to optiphen plus. 

    To help with my dried out product, would you recommend that I drop some of the waxes and lift the amount of PEG40 hydrogenised castor oil? Will this fix my consistency issue? 

    I have seen other products currently on the market with very similar ingredients, and they have been able to preserve their product to go to market.  Will optiphen plus preserve this formula do you feel?

  • Slight adjustment to the formula, lifting the PEG40 HCO and dropping some waxes. Hopefully this will make a difference to the consistency. What are your thoughts on this adjustment? 
  • FekherFekher Member, Professional Chemist
    @bgeorge about calculating hlb for 8 % ( 5%PEG 40 and 3 % Lecithin)  , hlb = (hlb (peg40) × 5 + hlb (lecithin)×3 )  /  ( 5+3)
    AN : hlb = (15×5+ 3×7)/ 8 = 12.
    About level use of emulsifers may 1/3  (oils phase without clay)  will be good.
  • Bentonite can be a bit of a nightmare to work with, it really need to be added to the heated water phase and homogenised to hell to properly hydrate. I'd probably scrap out the bentonite and add more kaolin (8-10%) if you're just after the mattifying effect. Adding some cetearyl alcohol (~3%) will also help stabilise your emulsion - I'd take this off the soya wax. 
  • @LincsChemist thank you for your suggestion, I will scrap the bentonite and up the amount of Kaolin, this clay seems a lot easier to work with anyway! 

    @Fekher is a HLB of 12 good? 
  • FekherFekher Member, Professional Chemist
    @bgeorge make calculation for required hlb and see if 12 is good.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    12 is absolutely okay for an o/w emulsion. Calculating may predict how chances are that the emulsion will be stable over time.
    As @LincsChemist said: Switching out some wax with fatty alcohols will not only result in a nicer feel but also broadens HLB requirement or in other words increases the tolerance to not so perfect HLB matching.
  • Thanks for all of your input guys! I’m really trying to keep this product as natural as I possible can. 

    So I have been happy with the performance of this particular formula of my products. The only thing that I am find is that I am getting a lot of what I would describe wax and water separation when putting it through my fingers, eventually it does come back together and when put in the hair is perfect! 

    I just want to fix the separation of the product, if I was the consumer this would turn me off! 

    So I reformulated as I mentioned previously as I felt the product perhaps hadn’t emulsified properly. I removed the bentonite clay and made up for it with kaolin clay and have added that to my water phase now, making sure I have hydrated the clay before adding to the oil phase. I have also swapped my preservative to Optiphen Plus.

    This was a disaster the consistency again was like when I added the borax! A very creamy consistency like a moisturiser! 

    Where do I go from here? I want to bump the soy wax back up again and take the PEG40 down to match the lecithin.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    bgeorge said:
    ...I removed the bentonite clay and made up for it with kaolin clay...
    ...This was a disaster the consistency again was like when I added the borax!...
    Well, that's obvious! Bentonite is highly thixotropic and gives way higher viscosity than kaolin. You can't swap these two 1:1 since they aren't identical products ;) . You would have to add a water thickener/gelling agent.
    Do you still have the separation issue when rubbing it between your fingers? I suppose it comes from your oil phase being solid or a suspension of solid wax microcrystals in oil.
  • @Pharma because the formula went creamy like moisturiser there was no separation like the original formula, which was great! So I need to get the perfect mix of the two formulas! Then I will be happy. 
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