Emulsifying Wax NF

What is Emulsifying Wax NF? Emulsifying Wax NF is a complete vegetable-derived non-ionic emulsifying wax used to create oil-in-water emulsions. You cannot change the type of emulsion that an emulsifier creates by altering the phase sizes or changing which phase is poured into the other.

It is made from Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Polysorbate 60. Polysorbate 60 emulsifies, while cetearyl alcohol thickens and stabilizes the emulsion. Emulsifying Wax NF is approximately 70–80% cetearyl alcohol and 20–30% polysorbate 60 (source).

INCI Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Polysorbate 60
Appearance Small white beads/pastilles.
Usage rate 2–25%, though 25% would be unnecessary in almost everything and would make for a very waxy, draggy emulsion.
Scent Nothing much.
Approximate Melting Point 50°C (122°F)
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? In lotions and creams it functions as an all-in-one emulsifier as well as contributing some thickening.

In cleansing oils and balms it creates products that self-emulsify on contact with water and rinse off the skin well. It also brings the “cleansing” element as the Polysorbate 60 in Emulsifying Wax NF is made up of molecules that have an oil-loving and a water-loving end; the oil-loving end grabs the oil on your skin, and the water-loving end grabs the water you are washing with to rinse away easily (this is how soap cleanses, too).

If you want to make a formulation thicker/harder, Emulsifying Wax NF is not the ingredient to use/increase. While it does add some viscosity to our formulations, it’s not the best choice if thickening/hardening is the primary goal. Instead, try incorporating plain cetearyl alcohol (or a different fatty alcohol) into the heated oil phase.

Do you need it? I’d highly recommend having either Emulsifying Wax NF or Polawax (or both!) on hand.
Strengths It is a very simple to use, pretty much foolproof complete emulsifying wax that will both emulsify and thicken emulsified formulations. It works reliably at 20–25% of your oil phase. Learn how to calculate that here.

If using Emulsifying Wax NF for rinse-off in an anhydrous formulation (cleansing balm, emulsified sugar scrub, creamy mask, etc.), 20–25% is almost always far too much and will leave the skin feeling stripped once the product is rinse off. 5–10% is typically enough for such formulations.

Weaknesses Some people object to Emulsifying Wax NF as it is not considered “natural“, though it is perfectly safe to use.
Alternatives & Substitutions for Emulsifying Wax NF Polawax NF is a very easy alternative and you’re unlikely to notice substantial differences in the end product.

Ritamulse SCG, Olivem 1000, BTMS-50, and BTMS-25 will typically work as well, but there will be consistency changes with the first two, and BTMS-50 & BTMS-25 are cationic, so that will impact the skin feel and may interact with other ingredients in the formula. Make sure you are researching each of these emulsifying waxes to understand how the differ from Emulsifying Wax NF. Some will have different requirements for pH, charge, and phase sizes, and your formulation may or may not meet those requirements.

You cannot use a solubilizer, like Polysorbate 80, in place of Emulsifying Wax NF.

You cannot use a true wax, like beeswax, in place of Emulsifying Wax NF. True waxes are not emulsifiers and will not create an emulsion. Watch this video to see what will happen if you do! (You can create emulsions using a combination of beeswax and borax, but the structure of those formulations is very different—you cannot use beeswax and borax as the emulsifier in a formulation designed to use Emulsifying Wax NF as the emulsifier).

You cannot use plain cetearyl alcohol instead of Emulsifying Wax NF, even though cetearyl alcohol is a component of it. It is not an emulsifier and will not create an emulsion.

How to Work with it Melt it into your heated oil phase; as it’s solid it needs to be melted to incorporate with the other ingredients in your formulation.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Emulsifying Wax NF should last at least two years (though I’ve had some for far longer and it’s been stable).
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks The term “Emulsifying Wax” is quite a broad one, encompassing many products. The “NF” in “Emulsifying Wax NF” stands for “National Formulary”, meaning it adheres to an established monograph: “Emulsifying Wax is a waxy solid prepared from Cetostearyl Alcohol containing a polyoxyethylene derivative of a fatty acid ester of sorbitan.” (source)

Be sure to check the INCI of a non-“NF” emulsifying wax so you know what you are purchasing; without the “NF” you cannot be sure it will perform the same wax as Emulsifying Wax NF. Check the description & reviews to ensure what you are purchasing is a complete emulsifier; I’ve found some suppliers that sell cetearyl alcohol as “emulsifying wax”, and that won’t work!

Recommended starter amount 50–100g (2–3oz)
Where to Buy It  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier; it is quite widely available.

Some Formulations that Use Emulsifying Wax NF


Posted on

November 24, 2018