HLB value.

Good day! Honestly I'm new to this practice of using HLB value when formulating. Can someone please enlighten me with this method? It will be a very helpful for me in formulating. Thank you in advance!


  • HLB is only useful for non-ionic emulsifiers. The system doesn't tell you how much of the emulsifier to use either and you must figure it out via trial and error.

    You need to calculate weighted average HLB of all oils, waxes and other oil soluble items in the oil phase. Then you need to match high HLB and low HLB emulsifiers to the HLB of total oil phase.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist

    HLB is useful to know, but it is not really going to do much in terms of making you a better formulator ... over time, you will learn much from simply practicing in the lab using different oils and emulsifier(s). 

    HLB is much like the Comedogenicity ratings of oils.  They are historical relics of ideas that are based on assumptions and observations that are theoretical, but not based on properties of the molecules that are measurable, so they are assigned relative values.

    FWIW:  I don't often calculate HLB ... but, it is useful for you to know the assigned HLB values of various emulsifiers.   
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • Adding to the above, if you are new to formulation my advice is to stick to commercial blends for now. Such as Arlacel 165. It has HLB of 11 but works pretty much for all oil combinations (veg oils, synthetic oils or esters, silicones might be a different story). You can use it say with pure Almond oil which has HLB of 6 but it will emulsify it. Especially if you add stabilisers (carbomers, gums, polymeric emulsifiers). HLB is useful if you are trying to make your own blend of low and high HLB of non-ionic emulsifiers. Like Croda's tween plus span combo.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    IMHO HLB is a nice to have but not a must have. Knowing the HLB of an emulsifier can be helpful if you stumble upon a problem and might explain why you did (however, it doesn't necessarily tell you how to solve the issue).
    The HLB system works better when dealing with "pure" substances (such as the above mentioned Tweens and Spans) rather than mixtures (such as Xyliance, decyl glucoside, or polyglyceryls) and is most helpful in o/w emulsions which aren't particularly stabilised with gellants. It does however work with anionic too, only the original HLB system isn't made for those ;) . I haven't come across any helpful tool to predict HLBs for glucosides and polyglycerols. These are purely obtained by measurements and hence tend to deviate with different oil phases.
  • Thanks everyone for your responses. :) You guys are amazing! :) 
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