Polybutene

What is it? Polybutene is a rich, non-drying emollient that is a fantastic lubricant and gloss-boosting ingredient. It’s vegan, stable, crystal clear, and doesn’t smell like anything.
INCI Polybutene
Appearance Crystal clear liquid. Viscosities of different polybutene products can vary; mine is from TKB Trading and it’s extremely thick.
Usage rate The CIR has not stated an upper allowable limit. Given how sticky polybutene is, the desired consistency of your final product will dictate how much you’ll want to use. I’ve used it at 20–70% in lip products.

Table 3 in the CIR Safety Assessment of Polyene Group as Used in Cosmetics lists “Frequency (2014) and concentration of use (2013) according to duraction and type of exposure for polyene ingredients”. A maximum concentration of 82.4% for leave-on products and 20% for rinse off is listed for polybutene (this lower rinse-off level is likely due to it being very difficult to rinse off). These numbers are not legal limits, but the range of concentrations observed in formulations containing polybutene.

“Repeated insult patch tests of 3.1–50% polybutene in formulations produced, at most, minimal irritation in a small percentage of the test population. The products testing produced no irritation or sensitization.” (Source: CIR Safety Assessment of Polyene Group as Used in Cosmetics)

Texture Glossy and sticky; imagine if honey was also water repellent!
Scent None
Absorbency Speed Extremely slow
Solubility Polybutene mixes well with Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, liquid oils, and esters.
Why do we use it in formulations? Polybutene adds gorgeous, cushiony richness to lip formulations, making them feel more expensive and substantial.
Do you need it? If you love formulating high-end lip products I’d say it’s a must. If not, you probably won’t miss it.
Refined or unrefined? Polybutene only exists as a refined product.
Strengths I love the expensive, substantial feel it adds to lip formulations.
Weaknesses I’ve only found it for sale at TKB Trading.

Even though the poybutene I have is very viscous, it doesn’t work for suspending ingredients like coloured micas, pigments, and dyes. They’ll settle out pretty quickly.

Alternatives & Substitutions You’ll need to begin by determining why polybutene is being called for in a formulation.

If it’s being used as a rich emollient in a skincare product, I think Lanolin, Brassica Campestris Aleurites Fordi Oil Copolymer, or Lecithin might work as an alternative.

Hydrogenated Polyisobutene is not a good alternative. Polybutene is quite different from Hydrogenated Polyisobutene—the primary ingredient in Versagel® ME 750. Straight Hydrogenated Polyisobutene is a much thinner liquid that doesn’t have the same tacky richness that polybutene does. The two ingredients are lovely when paired, but they aren’t interchangeable.

Versagel® ME 750 can work if you’re using polybutene to add richness to a lip oil formulation. Versagel® ME 750 isn’t as rich feeling as polybutene, but I have seen many lip oils that use Versagel® ME 750 for richness and structure, so it’s definitely possible! You may need to do some re-formulating rather than doing a straight one-for-one swap; you might consider adding some lanolin to get a bit of the tacky richness you’ll be missing from the polybutene.

How to Work with It Polybutene is really thick, slow-moving, and sticky, so be patient and be careful!

This ingredient can be hot or cold processed, though the data sheet from TKB recommends not heating it, and keeping it below 120°C if you do. It’s oil soluble, so whatever you’re making needs an oil phase.

Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, polybutene should last at least 3 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Mix polybutene with a liquid oil you love to create a rich, shiny, long-wearing lip oil!

You can find polybutene in popular formulations like Pat McGrath Labs lipsticks, Tower 28 Beauty Jelly Lip Glosses, Sephora Lip Gloss, Jaclyn Hill’s Lip Oil, and Essence Cosmetic’s Lip Oil.

Recommended starter amount 100g (3.5oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Polybutene

Octyldodecanol

What is it? Octyldodecanol is a low polarity liquid fatty alcohol that is an emollient, moisturizer, and solvent. It’s very versatile and can be used like liquid carrier oils in many applications. Octyldodecanol is popular in colour cosmetics as it improves pigment dispersion (some manufacturers sell pigments pre-dispersed in a base of octyldodecanol).

Octyldodecanol is non-volatile and is very different from alcohols like isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and ethanol. It is more like carrier oils than ethanol.

Octyldodecanol is also known as 2-Octyl-1-dodecanol.

INCI Octyldodecanol
Appearance Clear, thin fluid
Usage rate Recommendations are usually in the 1–20% range. I have not found a maximum allowable level. “The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that … Octyldodecanol [was] safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products.” (source)
Texture Smooth, spreadable
Scent Nothing noticeable
Absorbency Speed Average to fast
Approximate Melting Point Liquid at room temperature
Solubility Octyldodecanol is oil and paraffin soluble, miscible in alcohol.
Why do we use it in formulations? Octyldodecanol is very useful in formulations. It offers emolliency, moisturizing, and lubrication. It also helps decrease foam, stabilize emulsions, and is an excellent solvent.
Do you need it? No, but it is very useful if you are formulating with salicylic acid.
Refined or unrefined? Octyldodecanol only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Octyldodecanol is an excellent solvent for salicylic acid.
Weaknesses Octyldodecanol can be tricky to find.
Alternatives & Substitutions Before you choose an alternative, you’ll need to determine why octyldodecanol is used in a formulation.

If it is being used as an emollient you could try different emollient ingredients like liquid oils, esters, and silicones.

If it is being used as a salicylic acid solvent I’m afraid I don’t have many suggestions; octyldodecanol is an excellent salicylic acid solvent with a much higher ability to dissolve salicylic acid than most other options.

How to Work with It Include octyldodecanol in the oil phase of your formulations; it can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, octyldodecanol should last at least 12 months.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Octyldodecanol and stearyl alcohol (a component of Cetearyl Alcohol) are both long chain fatty alcohols.
Recommended starter amount 60mL (2 fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. Mine is from TKB Trading.

Some Formulations that Use Octyldodecanol

Isoamyl laurate

What is it? Isoamyl laurate is a light, highly spreadable, non-oily, silky emollient for all kinds of skincare, colour cosmetic, and hair care applications. It is an ester made from isoamyl alcohol and lauric acid (a naturally occurring fatty acid that is found in many plant-derived oils like coconut oil and murumuru butter. It is considered natural.

Trade names for isoamyl laurate include:

  • dermofeel® sensolv MB (Evonik – Personal Care)
  • DERMALCARE® LIA MB (Solvay Novecare)
  • GreenSens™ IL (Green Line, LLC.)
  • Jolee 7750 (Oleon)
  • Vercare ISOLA (Jover Scientech SL)

Isoamyl laurate can be an alternative for cyclomethicone in some applications, but will not work well in formulations where the volatility (fast evaporating nature) of cyclomethicone is key to formulation performance. Isoamyl laurate is non-volatile.

INCI Isoamyl laurate
Appearance Clear, thin liquid. Water-like.
Usage rate Ranges vary quite a lot.

  • Solvay: 2–20% for rinse off, 2–7% for leave on
  • Jover: 1–10%
  • Skin Chakra: 0.5–2.0% in hair care, 1–20% in skin care
  • Formulator Sample Shop: 0.1–2% in hair care, 0.5–20% in skin care

Given the spread of these numbers, I suspect that most of these ranges are more “what is likely to be useful in the average formulation” than safe upper limits. Why would something be safe to leave on your skin at 20% but only safe for hair at 2%? You can read the full CIR report on Alkyl Esters as Used in Cosmetics here. The CIR has concluded that isoamyl laurate is “safe in the present practices of use and concentration described in this safety assessment when formulated to be non-irritating.”

Texture Smooth, thin, light, slippy.
Scent Nothing distinct.
Absorbency Speed Very fast
Approximate Melting Point Liquid at room temperature.
Solubility Isoamyl laurate is oil soluble. Medium polarity.
Why do we use it in formulations? Isoamyl laurate helps soften and moisturize the skin without feeling greasy or oily. I love it in emulsions as an ultra-light alternative to oil (it’s considered an “oil free” emollient). Isoamyl laurate also helps improve spreadability, reduce tack, and can help reduce the soaping effect in emulsions.

In haircare products, isoamyl laurate can lighten anhydrous formulations, re-fat cleansers, and boost conditioning.

In foaming cleansers, isoamyl laurate improves foam, boosting it and making it creamier (usage ~1%).

Learn more with this helpful data sheet!

Do you need it? No, but I would recommend having at least one lightweight liquid ester in your pantry.
Refined or unrefined? Isoamyl laurate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Isoamyl laurate is a light, non-greasy emollient that’s natural and feels downright lovely.
Weaknesses It can be hard to find.
Alternatives & Substitutions The best alternatives will be other light, liquid esters like Neossance® Hemisqualane, Coco-Caprylate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, or isoamyl cocoate. I don’t recommend Isopropyl Myristate as it has more of an “oily” feel.

If you don’t have any light liquid esters, a fast-absorbing carrier oil can work as well. Fractionated coconut oilCamellia Seed OilRosehip Oil, and Hazelnut Oil could all work well.

How to Work with It Include isoamyl laurate in the oil phase of your formulations; it can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry,
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks You can also purchase isoamyl cocoate; this is a similar product made from whole coconut oil instead of isolated lauric acid.

Isoamyl laurate is approved as a food additive.

Recommended starter amount 60–100mL (2–3.3 fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Formulations that Use Isoamyl laurate

Silicone gel (Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer)

What is it? Silicone gel is basically gelled cyclopentasiloxane. It has all the slippy goodness of cyclopentasiloxane with added viscosity.

Mine is from TKB Trading and the SDS states it is comprised of 90–98% cyclopentasiloxane and 2–10% of the gelling ingredient (Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer).

INCI Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer
Appearance Crystal clear, viscous gel
Usage rate 0–100%, though I generally start around 10%. Usage is similar to Cyclomethicone + other cyclo-siloxanes, but with added viscosity.
Texture Incredibly silky smooth and slippy, with wonderful skin feel and soft powderdry dry-down.
Scent None
Absorbency Speed Very fast
Flash Point 76°C (169°F)
Solubility Oil, silicones
Why do we use it in formulations? Just like cyclomethicone and other cyclo-siloxanes, silicone gel adds wonderful slip to our products and helps reduce tackiness. Small concentrations add a really gorgeous, expensive-feeling skin feel. Higher concentrations of cyclomethicone help “lighten” products, speeding up dry down/absorption speeds. Because silicone gel is viscous, it can also add body and viscosity to our products, depending on the concentration used.

Learn more with this encyclopedia entry: Cyclomethicone + other cyclo-siloxanes.

Do you need it? Generally no, but if you are interested in making high-end colour cosmetics I definitely recommend it.
Refined or unrefined? Silicone gel only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Silicone gel is an easy way to add silky viscosity and luxurious slip to our formulations.
Weaknesses Silicone gel is not widely available—I’ve only found it in the USA and Australia.
Alternatives & Substitutions Cyclomethicone + other cyclo-siloxanes would be the best place to start, though you will lose the viscosity of the gel. Depending on the formulation this might be ok, or you may need to replace that viscosity with something else.
How to Work with It Silicone gel should be cold-processed due to its low flash point; if you need to heat it, do it slowly, carefully, and briefly!
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, silicone gel should last at least three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks There are 22 different products on UL Prospector with this INCI, but from reading the descriptions they vary in viscosity, so the INCI doesn’t tell the whole story.
Recommended starter amount 50g (1.76oz)
Where to Buy it My silicone gel is from TKB Trading, and if you want to be certain you’re getting the same product I have I’d recommend purchasing it from them if you can. Making Cosmetics carries a product with the same INCI, but from the photos it is far thicker (solids are listed at 20% vs. 2–10% for TKB’s product)—if you have that, I’d just it at about half the rate and make up the difference with more cyclomethicone. LotionCrafter also has an INCI-identical product; they describe it as a “clear fluid gel”, and from the photos it looks like it might be the same as (or very similar to) the product sold by TKB Trading.

New Directions Aromatics Australia also has an INCI-identical product; it looks similar to the Making Cosmetics product.

Some Formulations that Use Silicone Gel

Coco-Caprylate

What is Coco-Caprylate? Coco-Caprylate is an ultra-light, fast-absorbing medium polarity natural ester and emollient. It functions like an oil in our formulations but is much lighter.
INCI Coco-Caprylate
Appearance Clear, thin liquid
Usage rate 2–25%
Texture Lightweight, smooth, oil/cyclomethicone-like
Scent None
Absorbency Speed Fast
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? Coco-Caprylate is oil-like, but ultralight. I love it in many things, but I find it especially shines in cosmetics and haircare, where we want oil-like emollience, but without the weight and greasiness that oil can bring to formulations. It also works wonderfully to lighten up anhydrous formulations.

Coco-caprylate can be a good cyclomethicone alternative in situations where the success of the formulation does not depend on cyclomethicone’s volatility (ability to evaporate quickly). This means coco-caprylate typically will not work as a cyclomethicone alternative in waterproof cosmetics or in ultra-light hair oils.

Do you need it? No, but it is great. I would highly recommend it if you have type 1 or 2 hair and/or if you enjoy making cosmetics. It’s also very useful to have on hand if you prefer to avoid silicones.
Refined or unrefined? Coco-caprylate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Coco-caprylate is an excellent lightweight naturally derived emollient and cyclomethicone alternative.
Weaknesses Depending on where you live, this ingredient can be hard to source.
Alternatives & Substitutions Other lightweight emollients like Neossance® Hemisqualane and C12-15 alkyl benzoate are good options. After that, I’d try squalane or fractionated coconut oil. You could also try blending fractionated coconut oil with some cyclomethicone to get the lighter feel of coco caprylate, though keep in mind that cyclomethicone is volatile, so you don’t want to heat it. I recommend checking out the table on page two of this document for ideas!
How to Work with it Include coco-caprylate in the oil phase of your formulations; it can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, coco-caprylate should last at least two to three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks You can purchase both coco-caprylate and coco-caprylate/caprate. BASF sells both; they have one coco-caprylate product (Cetiol® C 5) and two coco-caprylate/caprate products (Cetiol® LC and Cetiol® C 5C). Cetiol® C 5 and Cetiol® C 5C appear to be indistinguishable from one another, while Cetiol® C LC is a bit heavier and more viscous. You can compare them with the table in this document. Both C 5 and C 5C are described as being good cyclomethicone alternatives, so if you’re shopping for this ingredient and find coco-caprylate/caprate described as a good cyclomethicone alternative I’d go ahead and get that and use it interchangeably with coco-caprylate.
Recommended starter amount 100mL (3.3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Formulations that Use Coco-Caprylate

LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 (natural dimethicone alternative)

What is it? LexFeel™ N350 is a natural dimethicone alternative manufactured by INOLEX Inc. LuxGlide N350 is a product with identical INCI sold by Crafter’s Choice. It appears that LuxGlide N350 is the Crafter’s Choice brand name for LexFeel™ N350 as the INCIs are identical it is not listed independently in UL Prospector (the Crafter’s Choice URL for this product ends in “LuxFeel-N350“). I have yet to find a product named “LexFeel™ N350” sold to home crafters—they all seem to be called LuxGlide N350.

INOLEX has an entire line of LexFeel™ products, with different products designed to function as alternatives for different silicones. The LexFeel™ N series (N5, N20, N50, N100, N200, and N350) all have the same INCI but are intended to be alternatives for different silicones, so make sure you aren’t just matching the INCI with this ingredient.

INCI Diheptyl Succinate (and) Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer
Appearance Semi-viscous clear liquid.
Usage rate I’ve seen widely varied ranges. Crafter’s Choice states 0.5–3% on their product detail page, while Wholesale Supplies Plus mentions 5–30% in this article. I have not found any information about maximum safe usage rates; some INOLEX sample formulations for their LexFeel™ N series use LexFeel™ N ingredients at 80%+ of the formulation.
Texture Smooth, slippy, rich.
Scent Faint, vaguely chemically
Approximate Melting Point LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 is liquid at room temperature.
Solubility LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 is oil soluble.
Why do we use it in formulations? LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ serves a similar role as dimethicone 350 in formulations. It improves skin feel, enhances shine, reduces tackiness, can reduce greasiness, and can be used to wet/disperse pigments in colour cosmetics.
Do you need it? No, but it is a useful silicone alternative if you wish to keep your formulations silicone-free.
Refined or unrefined? LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 only exists as a refined product.
Strengths LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ is an easy, natural alternative to dimethicone 350.
Weaknesses I don’t find LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ to be quite as slippy and rich as dimethicone 350.
Alternatives & Substitutions Dimethicone 350 would be the easiest alternative.

You could also try rich, slippy oils as an alternative (something like oat oil), though these will not offer the same level of de-tack-ifying and skin smoothing. The importance of this is very formula dependent, and I also find perceptions of stickiness/tackiness are very personal. If you’re not very sensitive to stickiness (or just plain ol’ don’t mind it) you are less likely to notice the loss of silicone in a formulation.

How to Work with It LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ can be included in the heated phase of your products, but it does not need to be heated.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, LuxGlide N350 should last approximately one year.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Check out this article from Wholesale Supplies Plus to learn more about this ingredient.
Recommended starter amount 30mL (1fl oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. In the USA, LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 can be purchased from Wholesale Supplies Plus. In Canada, LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350 can be purchased from Windy Point Soap

Some Formulations that Use LuxGlide N350 / LexFeel™ N350