Moisturizer leaving a waxy residue - Lecithin to blame?

I've been prototyping a Natural Moisturizing Factor based moisturizer that to some extent mimics the skin's lipid and NMF profile with the addition of small amounts of vitamin "actives" with the goal of making it suitable for daily use.

One common complaint that I notice myself is that it leaves some residue/a waxy sheen, and before I start eliminating ingredients I wonder what the most likely culprits are: soy lecithin, lanolin, sterols? Here are the ingredients (not in perfect order):

Water, Allantoin, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Sclerotium Gum, Glycerin, Beta-Sitesterol, Campesterol, Stigmasterol, Fish Oil, Lecithin, Polysorbate 80, Lanolin, Squalene, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), Ascorbic Acid, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbic Acid, Coenzyme Q10, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide 1, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Retinol, Polysorbate 20, Lactic Acid.


  • The lanolin and the safflower seed oil.
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  • What Belassi said, and glycerin and the fish oil might be making it worse.

    The problem with plant and animal oils is that their emolliency can noticeably differ among different batches, which is the reason mineral oil is so popular.

  • ZinkZink Member
    Not had a problem with (high linoleic) safflower seed oil in other formulas, but could potentially be the lanolin or fish oil. If you apply enough you can rub it off your skin post application.
  • I've never had lanolin rub off my skin post application, and I've used it in high concentrations in some formulas. Sticky? Yes. Waxy? Not in my experience. But I don't know what grade lanolin you're working with. I always stayed as close to pharmaceutical grade as possible. It's possible the lower grades still have a greater percentage of the waxes that are part of raw lanolin. If you wanted to test this, you can get a small tube of pharmaceutical grade lanolin at most drugstores. It's marketed as Lanisoh, and is used by nursing mothers as a salve to protect their nipple areas.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Do a knockout experiment first eliminating the Lanolin, then the fish oil, etc.  You'll find the culprit quick enough.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

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  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Depending on the amount beta-sitesterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, and squalene leave a waxy residue on the skin and have an unpleasant feeling (like a mix of cold bees wax with chalk) which also depends on other lipids mixed with them. Though, at reasonably low concentrations and when mixed with oils they shouldn't.
    Lecithin is a very large term and can be a lot of things. I don't like the liquid (soy) lecithin which contains roughly 50% soy oil (triglycerides) and can be very sticky but never waxy in my experience. That's why I prefer granulated (deoiled) lecithin.
    Apropos lecithin, it's said that adding lysolecithin (which usually contains only a fraction of actual lysolecithin and still a lot of original lecithin and oil) to bees wax reduces the waxy feeling of the latter and makes it comfortably smooth and silky. Was it 1 part lysolecithin per 4 or 5 parts wax? I still have to try that myself...
    As several others stated too, lanolin is quite sticky but I've never experienced it to be waxy unless you mistook wool wax alcohol for lanolin.
  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    Sometimes the fix is not to pull out an ingredient, but to add one (or two). One approach would be to add feel-improving powders - DryFlo starch, for example. The other would be to add a lighter oil, maybe Jojoba, since you seem to be trying to stay "natural".
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  • ZinkZink Member
    So I got a similar effect with a new formula using a different emulsification system (ewax), which I think makes it reasonable to exclude lecithin or lanolin as causes. The commonalities that could be causative unique to these two formulas:

    Squalene 5%
    Retinol 0.1%
    Ceramide Complex from Makingcosmetics (Ceramide 3, ceramide 6 II, ceramide 1, phytosphingosine, cholesterol, sodium lauroyl lactylate, carbomer, xanthan gum)
    Hyaluronic Acid 0.5% ~10kDa

    They could only cause problems in combinations with other ingredients, so testing them alone might not work. Thoughts?

  • ZinkZink Member
    So I found the culprit, >50 kDa Hyaluronic Acid, in the emulsion it becomes weirdly stringy and I doubt much or any of it penetrates the skin.

  • ZinkZink Member
    Is there any way to change the topic title btw? would be useful to mark it as resolved :)
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