There are a variety of cosmetic emollients that cosmetic chemists will use to formulate skin and hair care products. The type you use will depend on your specific formula and the characteristics you are trying to achieve.
Traditionally, emollients are considered ingredients which have smoothing or softening properties. They are put into formulas to provide moisturizing benefits and support a variety of conditioning claims. There are a number of types which we’ll list below.
The term emollient is rather broad so things that are humectants can also be considered emollients. Water soluble ingredients like glycerin, sorbitol, and propylene glycol are all technically emollients. When you need conditioning, this are good ones for your water phase.
These are ingredients that are not soluble in water and make up the bulk of the available varieties of emollients. The one that you use depends on properties such as polarity, emolliency scores, spreading behavior, compatability with other ingredients, rheological behavior, and hydrolytic stability. This group can further be broken down by grouping them by their polairity.
Non-polar: These are mostly derived from petroleum and include ingredients like mineral oil, Isoparaffin, and Isohexadecane.
Polar: This includes a range of ingredients including materials such as natural oils (Jojoba oil, Olive oil, coconut oil), esters (Octyl Palmitate, Isopropyl stearate, Isopropyl palmitate) and alcohols (Octyl dodecanol).
Silicone fluid emollients
The final group is silicone fluids. They provide incredible levels of slickness and also feel light compared to lipophilic emollients. The most common ones used include Cyclomethicone and dimethicone. There are a number of varieties to choose from and each have different characteristics when it comes to viscosity, volatility, and ease of formulation.