Glycol distearate

What is it? Glycol distearate is “the diester of ethylene glycol and stearic acid.” It can function as an emulsifier and emulsion stabilizer but tends to be primarily used as an opacifier/pearlizer for surfactant products. Glycol distearate lends a really lovely creamy, pearlescent appearance to surfactant products without thickening them or negatively impacting lather (as added fats do).

Glycol distearate is often sold with some variation on the word “pearl” in the name, so make sure you’re searching by INCI when looking for this ingredient.

INCI Glycol distearate
Appearance Medium-sized flat white flakes
Usage rate 1–4%
Texture Brittle, snappable flakes
Scent Nothing noticeable.
Approximate Melting Point 60–63°C (140–145°F)
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Oil-soluble, self-emulsifies in water
Why do we use it in formulations? Glycol distearate gives opacity and some pearlescence to our surfactant formulations without diminishing lather.
Do you need it? If you want to make an opaque, creamy-looking body wash/face wash/shampoo that still has rich, plentiful lather, you’ll want some glycol distearate.
Refined or unrefined? Glycol distearate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Glycol distearate is a very effective way to opacify surfactant products without negatively impacting lather.
Weaknesses It can be harder to find, depending on where you live.
Alternatives & Substitutions Glycol distearate is unlikely to be a lynchpin ingredient in a surfactant formulation, so you can likely just replace it with more distilled water if you don’t have it. This will mean the end product is not opaque, but the function of the product should not be massively impacted.

I’ve had good results using Glyceryl Stearate SE instead of glycol distearate with two main modifications. The first is that you’ll need to reduce the thickener in the formulation as Glyceryl Stearate SE contributes much more thickening than glycol distearate does—a one-for-one swap without any other adjustments will make for a noticeably more viscous end product. And, for better pearlescent-ness, I’d include a small amount (perhaps 0.25–0.5%) of a shimmery mica of your choice.

If you can find a liquid pearlizing ingredient that contains Glycol distearate you can likely tweak the formulation to work with that instead. Make sure you are reading through the documentation on that ingredient (specifically the recommended usage rate) to see how much you are generally supposed to use and go from there.

How to Work with It Glycol distearate must be melted, so include it in a heated phase. I’ve used it in heated oil and heated water phases; both work, so let your formulation guide you.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Glycol distearate should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks It is also possible to purchase products that contain Glycol distearate blended with other ingredients like Laureth-4, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and Cocamide MEA. These are usually sold as pearlizing agents for surfactant products. Make sure you are watching the INCI of what you are purchasing, as these ingredients are not necessarily directly interchangeable.

While many suppliers list glycol distearate as an emulsifier, I have not found it makes a suitable replacement for emulsifying waxes like Polawax, Olivem 1000, Glyceryl Stearate SE, etc.

Recommended starter amount 30g (1.06oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Glycol distearate

d-Limonene

What is it? d-Limonene (citrus terpenes) is a natural solvent derived from citrus peels. I mostly use it in cleaning applications. It is a terpenoid hydrocarbon found in many essential oils. It can also be found as an adulterant in low quality essential oils (especially citrus ones).
INCI d-Limonene
Appearance Clear liquid
Usage rate Up to 100%, though that would be a very strong cleaning solvent! Recommendations for incorporation in formulas are typically 20% or less.
Texture Thin, volatile liquid
Scent Citrusy—orange/lemon
Approximate Melting Point -74ºC to to -96.9ºC (-101.2°F to -142.6°F)
Solubility Oil, alcohol
Why do we use it in formulations? d-Limonene is an excellent de-greasing solvent that also adds a fresh, citrusy scent to our products. I have only used it in cleaning products.
Do you need it? It’s great if you intend on making your own cleaning products, but beyond that I wouldn’t bother.
Refined or unrefined? d-Limonene only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Fantastic natural de-greasing solvent that also smells great.
Weaknesses Can degrade/break down some plastics in high concentrations with extended exposure.
Alternatives & Substitutions Citrus essential oils are typically high in d-limonene; sweet orange, grapefruit, clementine, bitter orange, tangerine, and satsuma essential oils can all contain upwards of 90% d-limonene. Those essential oils seem like a reasonable place to start, though they are all likely to be more expensive than isolated d-limonene. Out of those essential oils sweet orange, satsuma, and tangerine are not photosensitizing, so I would likely choose one of those.
How to Work with It Include in the oil phase of your products or solubilize into the water phase. Avoid heating as the flash point is quite low (43–49°C/109–120°F).
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, d-limonene should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Try solubilizing some d-limonene with vinegar for an excellent cleanser.
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 d-Limonene

Neossance® Hemisqualane

What is it? Neossance® Hemisqualane is a beautiful non-volatile, lightweight emollient made from plant sugar.
INCI C13-15 Alkane
Appearance Clear liquid
Usage rate Up to 55%
Texture Lightweight, smooth, oil-like
Scent None
Absorbency Speed Fast
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? Neossance® Hemisqualane is oil-like, but ultra light. 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.
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.
Refined or unrefined? Neossance® Hemisqualane only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Excellent lightweight naturally derived emollient.
Weaknesses Can be harder to source.
Alternatives & Substitutions You have a few options. C12–15 Alkyl Benzoate is probably the best option. 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 Neossance® Hemisqualane, though keep in mind that cyclomethicone is volatile, so you don’t want to heat it.
How to Work with It Include in the oil phase of your formulations; Neossance® Hemisqualane can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Neossance® Hemisqualane should last at least two to three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Neossance® Hemisqualane is sometimes sold as a stand-alone facial serum at a substantial markup—if you like it, purchase it from a DIY supplier and enjoy some substantial savings!
Recommended starter amount 100mL (3.3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Formulations that Use Neossance® Hemisqualane

Corn Starch

What is it? Corn starch is starch isolated from corn. It’s a common kitchen ingredient, where it is often used for thickening.
INCI Zea Mays Starch
Appearance Fine white powder
Usage rate Up to 100%
Texture Soft, smooth, silky
Scent None
Solubility Insoluble
Why do we use it in formulations? In anhydrous products it helps reduce the greasy/oily skin feel, and in higher concentrations it can give the entire product a powdery, dry-touch finish and contribute to thickening.

In powdered cosmetics it acts as a diluent and improves slip.

It can also be used in dusting powders, or even used as-is for a dusting powder.

Do you need it? No, but there’s a good chance you already have it!
Strengths Readily available, inexpensive and effective ingredient.
Weaknesses Unsuitable for anyone with corn allergies.
Alternatives & Substitutions Other starches, like wheat or arrowroot, and good alternatives to corn starch.
How to Work with It In anhydrous products, add to the oil phase—I like to let it soak with the liquid/melted oils and then stir everything together. In powdered products, include it in the grinding phase.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry,
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Some companies sell corn starch in a shaker bottle as a natural baby powder—if you want to try that just put your own (cheaper!) corn starch in a shaker bottle!
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Corn Starch

C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate

What is it? C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate is a lightweight oil soluble ester with a beautiful dry skin feel. It is made from benzoic acid and C12–15 alcohols.
INCI C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate
Appearance Clear liquid
Usage rate Manufacturers suggest 1–30% (The CIR does not mention a maximum usage level; tests a 100% concentration showed no reaction or irritation)
Texture Smooth, thin liquid
Scent Nothing noticeable
Absorbency Speed Fast
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate adds dry-touch emolliency and improves pigment dispersion in our products, making it a great choice for colour cosmetics. Its light, dry touch also makes it a great base for body oils and other anhydrous products we’d like to have a light, dry finish (it is similar to isopropyl myristate in this way).
Do you need it? No
Refined or unrefined? C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Excellent light-weight emollient that improves slip and reduces greasy feel.
Weaknesses Not considered natural, can be harder to source.
Alternatives & Substitutions Isopropyl myristate would probably be my first choice, or a lightweight silicone like cyclomethicone (take care not to heat volatile silicones). A very lightweight carrier oil will also work, though that will still be heavier than  C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate.
How to Work with It Include C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate in the oil phase of your formulations. It can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate should last two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate is sold under many different trade/brand names; be sure to check the INCI so you know what you’re buying.
Recommended starter amount 50–100mL (2–3fl oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate

Distilled water

What is it? Distilled water is water that has been distilled to remove impurities like minerals and salts.
INCI Aqua
Appearance Funnily enough, it looks just like water 😝
Usage rate Up to 100%
Texture It feels just like water
Scent Nothing
Absorbency Speed Fast
Approximate Melting Point 0°C (32°F)
pH ~5.8 (read this to learn more)
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in formulations? We use distilled water in our formulations because it removes the variable of whatever might be in tap or mineral water. Learn more here.
Do you need it? Yes
Strengths Inexpensive, easily available, low-variable water.
Weaknesses It doesn’t come out of your tap?
Alternatives & Substitutions De-ionized water is a good alternative, and tap water will likely work in a pinch assuming your tap water is clean and not extremely mineral heavy. You can learn about other alternatives here.

If you’d like to fancy up a recipe you can swap some of the water for other watery-type ingredients like aloe vera juice, witch hazel distillate, or hydrosols.

How to Work with It Use as the recipe directs—it’s an extremely flexible ingredient!
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, distilled water should last indefinitely.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Distilled water is not sterile—it simply lacks the minerals and salts that can be found in tap water or mineral water.
Recommended starter amount 4L (1 gallon)
Where to Buy it  I recommend buying it from your local grocery store; you’ll be buying it roughly 4L/1 gallon at a time (at least) and you don’t want to pay to ship that!

Some Formulations that Use Distilled Water

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