What is it? BTMS-25 is a cationic (positively charged) emulsifying wax. Because it’s cationic it is also “conditioning”—it adsorbs (creates a very fine coating) on skin and hair, giving an amazing finish that is unique to cationic ingredients. It contains 25% of the active ingredient, Behentrimonium Methosulfate (compared to BTMS-50, which contains 50%). I find BTMS-25 makes thicker/firmer products than BTMS-50 due to the higher concentration of a hardening/thickening ingredient.
INCI Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol
Appearance Small white waxy beads
Usage rate 1–10% of the overall product; ~25% of the oil phase to emulsify.
Scent Can be a bit fishy, but this usually doesn’t come through in finished products if used below 10–15%.
Approximate Melting Point 60°C (140°F)
pH 5–7 (2% solution)
Charge Cationic (positive)
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? It gives our products the most luxurious, wonderful skin feel and leaves hair feeling stunning—easy to comb through and all kinds of silky. It also functions as a complete emulsifying wax, and offers noticeable thickening.
Do you need it? If you want to make hair care products you’ll want a conditioning emulsifying wax—I tend to prefer BTMS-50 as it is more potent, but if you can’t get 50, 25 is a decent alternative. It is also wonderful as the emulsifier in lotions and as a conditioning add-in for body butters and balms!
Strengths Great conditioning skin and hair feel. Depending on where you live it may be easier to get than BTMS-50.
Weaknesses It’s more expensive than most non-cationic emulsifying waxes, and if you use a lot of it (more than 10%+) it can make your products smell a bit fishy.
Alternatives & Substitutions You’ll need to use something else that is both a complete emulsifying wax and conditioning/cationic. BTMS-50 is also a cationic emulsifying wax, but it contains twice the amount of active as BTMS-25, so you might want to consider using less. Behentrimonium Chloride (BTMC) can be a good alternative; pure BTMC does not contain any stabilizing ingredients so if a recipe calls for 5% BTMS-25 I would recommend using 1.25% BTMC and 3.75% cetearyl alcohol. The maxiumum recommended usage rate for BTMC is 3%.

You can also look at alternatives like Varisoft EQ 65 and Emulsense HC, but be sure to familiarize yourself with the formulation requirements for those options as they can have quite narrow effective pH ranges and other requirements. I also find they are not as potent as BTMS.

Non-cationic emulsifying waxes (Polawax, Emulsifying Wax NF, Olivem 1000, Ritamulse, etc.) are not good alternatives for BTMS-25 as they are not going to bring that conditioning element to your formulation. They’ll emulsify the product, but that’s it. This is likely not going to ruin the product, but it will definitely negatively impact the performance. If it’s a hair conditioner you will definitely notice a decline in detangling and the silkiness of the hair. If it’s a conditioning body butter, there’s really no reason to use something Polawax in place of the BTMS-25; the BTMS-25 was included primarily for the conditioning element, not the emulsifying element, so using a non-cationic emulsifying wax in its place is somewhat useless. In an anhydrous application I’d probably try replacing BTMS with 50% cetyl or cetearyl alcohol and 50% soft or liquid oil (more of whatever is in the recipe). That will likely require some tweaking for proper consistency, though. You would likely be better off looking for a body butter recipe that doesn’t use BTMS.

You could try incorporating a different cationic ingredient like a polyquaternarium into your formulation to replace the conditioning part of the BTMS-25, and then using a non-cationic emulsifying wax. You will need to watch solubility and usage rates, though.

How to Work with It Melt in the heated oil phase.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, BTMS-25 is very shelf stable. I’ve had some for upwards of three years that hasn’t changed at all.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks I find BTMS-25 can be a bit stubborn about melting in a water bath, so you might need to give your heated oil phase a quick burst in the microwave to get it to melt fully.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. In Canada you can get it from Voyageur, in the USA you can get it from Lotion Crafter.

Some Formulations that Use BTMS-25

Behentrimonium Chloride

What is it? Behentrimonium Chloride is a cationic emulsifier and conditioning ingredient. Unlike Behentrimonium Methosulfate (BTMS) it is often available without any stabilizing additives like cetearyl alcohol, so you’ll need to add some of your own in order to create stable emulsions with it.
INCI Behentrimonium Chloride
Appearance White pellets or flakes
Usage rate 0.5–3%
Texture Products made with behentrimonium chloride tend to have a smooth, powdery finish.
Scent Strong fishy odor
Approximate Melting Point 90°C (194°F)
pH 6–8
Charge Cationic
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? Behentrimonium Chloride is an excellent conditioner, helping improve comb-through, reduce static, and soften coarse hair. It is most typically used in cream-type hair conditioners, both leave-in and rinse-out.
Do you need it? No, but I’d recommend trying a store bought product that uses it as the primary conditioning agent—some people find their hair really prefers Behentrimonium Chloride to Behentrimonium Methosulfate (BTMS).
Refined or unrefined? Behentrimonium Chloride only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Behentrimonium Chloride is an excellent conditioning active in hair products.
Weaknesses Behentrimonium Chloride smells pretty bad, though I don’t find it tends to come through in finished products. Its higher melting point can also make it difficult to work with (it doesn’t like to melt in water baths).
Alternatives & Substitutions BTMS-50 is a good alternative.
How to Work with It Melt it in your oil phase; I find it typically needs some form of direct heat (microwave or stovetop) to melt through. Be careful not to burn it!
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Behentrimonium Chloride should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks  Behentrimonium Chloride is made from canola oil and is Whole Foods Premium Body Care approved.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Behentrimonium Chloride

PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides

What is it? PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides is a water-soluble emollient made from medium chain triglycerides typically sourced from coconut oil. The HLB value is approximately 12.5–14.
INCI PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides
Appearance Thin clear liquid
Usage rate 0.5–5%
Texture Smooth, slick liquid
Scent Nothing much
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Water, alcohol, and oil
Why do we use it in formulations? PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides are pretty versatile! I primarily use this ingredient as the active cleansing ingredient in micellar water formulations; I’ve experimented with every liquid surfactant/solubilizer I own and only PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides  produce good results.

PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides can also be included in body washes and other surfactant products to make them gentler and more emollient, and as a solubilizer.

Do you need it? If you want to make micellar water I consider it to be essential. Otherwise, no.
Refined or unrefined? PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Excellent skin feel, even in leave-on applications. Versatile, gentle ingredient.
Weaknesses Not considered natural, can be harder to find than other surfactants.
Alternatives & Substitutions In micellar water I have not found any suitable alternatives to PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides. In other projects other water soluble “oils” like Olivem 300 will work well.
How to Work with It Include it in the water phase of your products; PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides should last at least 2–3 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides are in no way interchangeable with Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides.
Recommended starter amount If you’re primarily using PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides for micellar water 30mL (1fl oz) will go a very long way. If you also wish to use it as a water soluble emollient I’d purchase at least 100mL (3.3fl oz).
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides

Cromollient SCE (Di-PPG-2 Myreth-10 Adipate)

What is it? Cromollient SCE is is a versatile water-soluble emollient—so, basically, it feels a lot like an oil, but self-disperses in watery products. It is also compatible with surfactant products. It is a patented product made by CRODA, so there is only one manufacturer.
INCI Di-PPG-2 Myreth-10 Adipate
Appearance Clear liquid
Usage rate 1–25%
Texture Semi-viscous smooth liquid with a velvety skin feel.
Scent Nothing strong, a bit chemical-y.
Solubility Oil (but also self-dispersible in water)
Why do we use it in formulations? Cromollient SCE is a popular ingredient in DIY cleansing oils as the ingredient that makes the oil self-emulsify with water, improving wash-off. It decreases the possible irritancy of surfactant systems, and helps improve comb-through in hair products. Cromollient SCE can also function as a solubilizer.
Do you need it? No
Refined or unrefined? It only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Cromollient SCE is a silky smooth emollient that adds wash-off properties to otherwise oil based products. It also makes surfactant products more gentle, and can add some emolliency to otherwise water-based products without the need for an additional solubilizer. In hair products in drastically reduces the comb-through force required to detangle wet hair
Weaknesses It is hard to source outside the USA.
Alternatives & Substitutions It depends on what you’re using it for. My first choice would likely be Olivem 300. After that, something like water soluble shea butter or polysorbate 80 would be a decent alternative.
How to Work with It Include it in the heated oil phase, or cold process. If the recipe doesn’t have an oil phase it can also be added directly to the water phase.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Cromollient SCE should last at least two or three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks You can easily make a super-simple cleansing oil by combining 5–10% Cromollient SCE with an inexpensive carrier oil like safflower oil, almond oil, or sunflower oil. The more Cromollient SCE you use, the more cleansing the oil will be.
Recommended starter amount 100mL (3.3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Formulations that Use Cromollient SCE


What is it? Lecithin is a blend of lipids that can be found in egg yolks, soybeans, and sunflower seeds. The precise composition varies with the source of the lecithin; I typically use soya lecithin. This entry does not distinguish between soya and sunflower lecithin—both are lecithin.
INCI Lecithin
Appearance It can be purchased in dry granules or in liquid form (the liquid is a dark amber colour). The liquid form contains up to 35% triglycerides, and is much easer to use.
Usage rate Typical use is 0.5–5%; the CIR limits its use to 15% or less in leave-on products.
Texture Waxy granules or a smooth, viscous, syruppy liquid.
Scent Somewhat nutty—different sources can vary in strength
Absorbency Speed Very slow.
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? Lecithin can serve a variety of purposes in formulations. It does have emulsifying properties (I’ve found HLB values from 4–9 listed for lecithin, so check with your supplier for the one you have), but they are fairly limited and emulsions made with lecithin as the lone emulsifier are quite tricky to create. If you are looking to create lightweight, fast-absorbing creams, lecithin is not going to be your emulsifier of choice.

Lecithin is an excellent emollient and occlusive, making it wonderful in products for extremely dry skin or lips (it also helps with barrier repair). Lecithin also contributes a beautiful creamy consistency to anhydrous lip products. Its consistency is really unique—gooey, silky smooth, and sticky in high concentrations—and it brings those properties to our products in varying amounts, depending on how much is used. Lecithin contains antioxidants, thickens our products, and functions as a humectant (this is very rare for oil-soluble ingredients).

While I have made emulsions with lecithin, I prefer to use it in anhydrous products to make them richer and creamier. I especially love it in lip products for the rich, creamy feel.

Do you need it? No, but if a recipe calls for lecithin it is very hard to substitute.
Refined or unrefined? Make sure you get the liquid version; the granules are a slightly different composition and are much harder to work with. If it’s a choice of granules or nothing, go with nothing.
Strengths Excellent multi-purpose emollient and occlusive that is wonderful for the skin.
Weaknesses Can be harder to find than some ingredients.
Alternatives & Substitutions Liquid lecithin from different sources can be used interchangeably (soy, sunflower).

I really can’t recommend anything as a great alternative to lecithin. You could try blending some lanolin with castor oil, but that will mostly just approximate the consistency and also be oil soluble.

Lecithin cannot be used as a replacement for a complete emulsifying wax like Polawax, or vice versa.

How to Work with It Include lecithin in your heated oil phase.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, lecithin should last about two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Lecithin can help stabilize emulsions as a co-emulsifiers.
Recommended starter amount 100–200g (3.3–6.6oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Lecithin

Olivem 300

What is it? Olivem® 300 is a water-soluble lipid (fat) that softens skin and adds richness to our products.
INCI Olive Oil PEG-7 Esters
Appearance Pale yellow liquid
Usage rate 1–84%
Texture Lightweight oil-like liquid
Scent Nothing strong; a bit oil-like
pH 5–7 (5% solution)
Solubility Water & oil
Why do we use it in formulations? In watery concoctions like room sprays, body sprays, and hand washes Olivem 300 will self-disperse so you can easily include a bit of oil, making surfactant products gentler and mists more moisturizing. It can also help solubilize essential oils and fragrance oils.

In oil-based products like cleansing oils and cleansing balms Olivem 300 adds cleansing power and boosts rinse-off. I’ll often include it in body oils or after-bath oils because it means the body oil will self-emulsify with any water on the skin during application, but unlike a polysorbate it isn’t sticky and still has a lovely skin feel.

Do you need it? It isn’t essential, but I enjoy having it around and using it.
Strengths It’s an easy way to incorporate a bit of oil into otherwise watery concoctions.
Weaknesses It can be hard to find in some parts of the world.
Alternatives & Substitutions Check out this page to learn more about making solubilizer substitutions. Water soluble shea butter (PEG-50 Shea Butter) would be a fairly simple alternative.

You cannot Olivem 300 instead of a complete emulsifying wax, and you cannot use a complete emulsifying wax in place of Olivem 300.

You cannot use a liquid surfactant in place of Olivem 300, and Olivem 300 is not a good alternative for a liquid surfactant.

You cannot use other members of the Olivem family, like Olivem 1000, in place of Olivem 300.

How to Work with It Mix the Olivem 300 with the oil phase before gently whisking it into the water phase.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Olivem 300 should last at least 3 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks It can cause some foaming in your products but it isn’t a surfactant and cannot be used in place of surfactants in recipes.
Recommended starter amount 100mL (3.3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Olivem 300

Pin It on Pinterest