Article by: Perry Romanowski

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.

Hydrophilic emollients

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.

Lipophilic emollients

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.


  1. Avatar

    Hi Perry,
    Could you please suggest what should I add to a gel cleanser so it will not leave my face so dry. My original formula includes 0.7% lauryl glucoside and 6.7% cocamidopropyl betaine (30% active matter). Apart from this the gel has propanediol, allantoin, pomegranate glycerol, cucumber glycerol, quinoa protein, beetroot extract, sodium PCA, leucidal liquid, potassium sorbate, glucono delta lactone, xantan gum and of course water.
    Also could you please help me out to determine what % of cacamidopropyl betaine is the minimum for the micelles to form?
    Thank you!

  2. Avatar
    Sayanta Banerjee

    Hii all,

    I am doing a study on cosmetics ingredients market. Where I have taken skin care, hair care, make up, fragrance and oral care. As we all know emollient is one of the vital ingredients of cosmetics, I would like to know the value percentage (%) of Hydrophilic, Lipophilic and Silicone fluid used in cosmetics. Please help me by proving the information.

  3. Avatar

    Is it very hard to set up your own firm, create your own brand and earn good money on it? I mean if you have not a lot of money to start

    1. Avatar

      It’s not hard to get started and probably not that hard to make a decent amount of money. But you have to have a good, unique idea and about $15,000 starting capital. If you know how to formulate you can probably do it for less than $10,000. Either way, you’ll have to have some money to get started.

      1. Avatar
        Nancy Liedel

        Build slowly, go organic as possible and source as locally as possible. I estimate I’ve put 20K into the education beyond what I knew and incis. More to create the formulary, but many people can convert a room, with more ease than they believe and still meet GMP. As for a unique idea? Just hit a small, but lively niche in the market. Transparency is the most important thing you can do. videos of you formulating, etc.

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