Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating Tips For Hydrating Hydroxyethyl Cellulose (HEC)?

  • Tips For Hydrating Hydroxyethyl Cellulose (HEC)?

    Posted by LLarson on June 23, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    I’m using hydroxyelthyl cellulose (HEC) as a thickener in a body wash formula. I’m having a difficult time hydrating it. It becomes lumpy when cooling. Do any of you have experience working with it? Any tips? 

    Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a homogenzier. I do, however, have a quality stick blender. 
    OldPerry replied 8 years, 11 months ago 4 Members · 8 Replies
  • 8 Replies
  • LLarson

    June 23, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    Should have been more specific. I’m having issues with lumps. I think there is an issue with my process. 

    HEC=2% of total formula
    1. Hydrate in water (~50% of formula) for 30-60mins. This yields a very thick gel base. 
    2. Add additional water phase ingredients (3% of formula)
    3. Stir and heat to 75 C
    4. Add surfactants (40% of formula) to above gel mix and stir
    5. Lumps
    Once the surfactants are added the agitation required to break up the lumps would result in bubbles.
    I’m having trouble thinking my way around this one. Any advice? 
  • Bill_Toge

    June 24, 2015 at 11:45 am
    the fundamental problem is that the two parts of your formula (HEC gel and surfactants) are not sufficiently mixed, and the large difference in viscosity makes efficient mixing very difficult
    one way round it is to take advantage of the fact that the speed of hydration increases with temperature
    the best way to do this is to add HEC to your room-temperature water, skip the hydration step, add the surfactants on top of your non-hydrated HEC dispersion, and heat it up with constant stirring
    once it gets to 75°C it will hydrate within minutes, if not seconds, and you should get a more uniform gel 
  • LLarson

    June 24, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks, Bill. This was helpful. 

  • OldPerry

    July 1, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    I’ve actually found that HEC goes into solution better in colder than room temperature water.  This helped us speed up production.

  • MarkBroussard

    July 1, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    I’ve personally always found Xanthan Gum easier to work with than HEC.  It also helps if you first “pre-hydrate” the Xanthan Gum or HEC in Glycerin to form a slurry and add the slurry to the room temperature water with rapid stirring.  The glycerin will help prevent the Gum from agglomerating.

  • Bill_Toge

    July 2, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    just remembered something important: are you using a surface-treated grade of HEC?

    the method I’ve described works well for surface-treated grades, and less well for untreated grades
  • LLarson

    July 7, 2015 at 2:19 pm
    Perry, would you completely hydrate the HEC prior to adding surfactants/additional ingredient phases?
    Mark, I actually experimented with this and it did seem to improve the process. I’m trying to formulate a 3-in-1 product. Would xanthan gum interfere with cationic guar? That’s why I initially avoided it.
    Bill, I found a different supplier of HEC. Seems to be much easier to work with than the first product I was using. They are marketed as similar ingredients, but perform vastly different. 
    Thanks, everyone. 
  • OldPerry

    July 7, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Yes - we completely hydrated the HEC before adding additional ingredients.

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