Help with understanding emulsifiers

I have seen a few product on the market that use essential oils in a water to make a face mist. On their ingredients, they do not list anything but oil and water. Now I know that this is impossible and it's obviously mislabeled. But what I am trying to figure out is what they use to get the water and oil to mix?  Also is there a "natural" emulsifier that would work since these same companies claim to be all natural.  


  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    To make a clear solution it is necessary to use a solubiliser such as hydrogenated castor oil, polysorbate 20, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • johnbjohnb Member, Professional Chemist
    Some essential oils are sufficiently water soluble to impart a fragrance/flavour to water without the assistance of other agents. Peppermint and spearmint come to mind.

    Then there are the distillation waters that is the water collected during the steam distillation of vegetation like rose and orange blossom.

    Quite a number of "waters" can be made by thorough shaking of an essential oil with water mixed with a small amount of an insoluble dispersant such as magnesium carbonate. The mixture is left to stand undisturbed to allow the solids to settle and the fragranced water is decanted. A dispersant such as MgCO3 causes the essential oil to agglomerate around the solid matter and settle to the bottom of the container. In many instances oils with a density less than that of water (that normally float) will be taken to the bottom of the container.

    The amount of oil dissolved is very low. Depending on the oil involved, much less than 1% moves to the aqueous phase but that is sufficient to impart a strong fragrance for use in a spray.
  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    also, the fact there is no rigorous or legally/scientifically agreed definition of 'natural' means they could be using almost anything
    UK based cosmetic chemist with 13 years' experience at the bench. I've worked with pretty much everything apart from pressed powders, soap, solid lipstick and aerosols.
  • Thanks for the information everyone. Your input has helped me understand this a little better.

    Bill_Toge, you are right about the "natural" is all over the board I laugh at some of these companies as to what they call natural. But then again it's all about the marketing to most.   

    It's my understanding that "floral waters" are a pain to formulate with as they are hard to preserve. Is that correct information? I would like to make a rose scented water. Could someone recommend how they might approach the process to make this that they would consider the most stable? 

    I know of course it will have to be stressed tested to truly know if it's stable. So I'm just looking for a good starting point to create this and play around with to understand it better.       
  • johnbjohnb Member, Professional Chemist
    Rosewater can be bought on the open market from the manufacturers of rose oil (and their agents). If you only need a small amount you can buy it from Amazon (or similar). Likewise with orange flower water

    Real rosewater is self preserving due to the relatively high level of phenethyl alcohol it contains. Peppermint and spearmint waters are also self preserving when prepared in the old fashioned way.

    The items called "floral waters" and "hydrosols" should have been made by distillation methods from the plants named on the label but are often products of the laboratory.

    It is not really worthwhile to make your own.
  • I have seen facial mists like that too, but mostly on DIYer sites like Etsy and the sellers usually advise that you should shake the product prior to use. I usually keep essential oils out of facial mists and just purchase lovely hydrosols which already have a light wonderful scent... but if I do want to mix essential oil in a water based product like my home made mouthwash or husband's aftershave, I use veg glycerine. It's not perfect but it does the job. Approx 1 ml glycerine per drop of essential oil.
  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    Most essential oils have some level of toxicity, and a few are poisonous. Please be EXTREMELY careful about putting any in a mouthwash.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
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