Sunflower Wax

What is it? Sunflower wax is a vegan wax made from the winterization of sunflower seed oil.
INCI Helianthus Annuus Seed Wax
Appearance Dusty beige pellets; typical of many other waxes.
Usage rate Review the results of this experiment to learn more; I likely wouldn’t use it much above 30% as it is such a potent hardener.
Texture Hard, smooth pellets.
Scent Nothing noticeable
Absorbency Speed Varies with concentration. Above 30% mixtures don’t seem to absorb at all. Lower usage rates tend towards slow absorbency rates. Review the results of this experiment to learn more.
Approximate Melting Point 74–77°C (165–171°F)
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in recipes? Sunflower wax is included in formulations for hardening and thickening. It has a creamy skin feel that is somewhat similar to beeswax, but hard to find in vegan waxes.
Do you need it? No, but if you are vegan I would recommend it more as vegans don’t use beeswax.
Refined or unrefined? Sunflower wax only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Very potent hardening wax with a unique creamy/astringent skin feel.
Weaknesses Harder to find than other vegan waxes.
Alternatives & Substitutions I’d probably try a blend of beeswax (for the creaminess) and candelilla or carnauba wax (for the hardness).
How to Work with It Include sunflower wax in your heated oil phase
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, sunflower wax should last at least 3 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Learn more about sunflower wax here!
Recommended starter amount 30g (1.06oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Sunflower Wax

Sodium Stearate

What is it? Sodium Stearate is saponified stearic acid—the sodium salt of stearic acid.
INCI Sodium Stearate
Appearance Fine white powder
Usage rate 0.5–20%
Texture Smooth powder
Scent Nothing noticeable
Approximate Melting Point 245–255° C
pH 10–11
Charge Anionic
Solubility Water, alcohol, cosmetic esters
Why do we use it in recipes? Sodium Stearate has a couple of really neat uses in cosmetics. It functions as a thickener/gelling agent and co-emulsifier. You’ll commonly find it in deodorants, where it is combined with propylene glycol or propanediol to create a solid stick base that actives can be added to.
Do you need it? No, but if you have a formulation that calls for it there’s no substitution.
Refined or unrefined? Sodium stearate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Excellent thickener/gelling agent.
Weaknesses Harder to source than many ingredients, high pH.
Alternatives & Substitutions I haven’t found any viable alternatives for sodium stearate when used as a gelling agent. As a thickener, you might try stearic acid, but keep in mind stearic acid is not water-soluble like sodium stearate is.
How to Work with It Slowly sprinkle sodium stearate into the hot aqueous phase to dissolve, whisking to incorporate.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, sodium stearate should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Sodium stearate + propylene glycol or propanediol creates a very cool semi-translucent gelled solid!
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.5oz) or less.
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Sodium Stearate

Carnauba wax

What is it? Carnauba wax is a hard, yellow wax from the leaves of the Copernicia Cerifera palm in Brazil. It is the hardest vegetable wax.
INCI Copernicia Cerifera Wax
Appearance Thin yellow flakes
Usage rate Typically 30% or less will be sufficient. Learn more here.
Texture When melted it creates very firm, glassy products. Learn more here.
Scent Mine smells like pretty much nothing, but I have heard from readers that theirs has a very strong scent that comes through in finished products. I would recommend sourcing a refined version and inquiring with the supplier about the scent before purchasing.
Absorbency Speed Average
Approximate Melting Point 80–85°C (176–185°F)
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in recipes? Carnauba wax offers excellent, glassy hardening to our products, and thanks to its high melting point it can be an especially good choice for hot climates. I will sometimes blend it with beeswax to get the creaminess of beeswax and the glide of carnauba wax.
Do you need it? No; I’d recommend having one of the “C” waxes (candelilla or carnauba), but they’re similar enough that I don’t think you need both.
Refined or unrefined? I would recommend sourcing a refined version and inquiring with the supplier about the scent before purchasing.
Strengths Strong, glassy, glossy hardening wax.
Weaknesses Carnauba wax does not give the creamy consistency beeswax does, and as such it can be a bit disappointing in products if you are looking for a creamy end product.
Alternatives & Substitutions Candelilla wax is a good alternative.
How to Work with It Include it in the heated oil phase of your formula; it must be melted into the product.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, carnauba wax should last at least
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Carnauba wax is sold in three different grades: T1, T3, and T4 (learn more here). You’ll want T1 for your cosmetics.
Recommended starter amount 50g (1.76oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Carnauba Wax

Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex AVC)

What is it? Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) is a gelling agent and oil-in-water pseudo-emulsifier (according to the manufacturer it can stabilize up to 15% hydrophobic ingredients). It can be used to quickly create lightweight gel-creams. It is a synthetic polymer. Unlike some other gelling agents, it is pre-neutralized and does not need to be pH adjusted.

Clariant (the manufacturer) productes an entire line of Aristoflex® products; the “AVC” distinction is important! The AVC variety is marketed as the most versatile of the line.

INCI Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer
Appearance Fine white powder
Usage rate 0.5–2%
Texture Creates silky smooth gels.
Scent Nothing noticeable.
pH 4–6 (1% in distilled water)
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in recipes? I primarily use it to create lightweight gels with small amounts of pseudo-emulsified oils.

It can also be used as a co-thickener/emulsion stabilizer in products containing other primary emulsifying/thickening ingredients, and to gel concoctions that contain high concentrations (upwards of 50%) of ethanol.

Do you need it? No, but it is wonderfully fun and very useful for certain types of projects.
Refined or unrefined? Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) only exists as a refined product.
Strengths  Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) quickly creates beautiful gels. It can also create “pseduo-emulsions” by stabilizing non-water-soluble ingredients (oils, silicones) into an otherwise aqueous formula. Clariant (the manufacturer) says “the stabilizing effect of Aristoflex® AVC is explained by the cross-linked structure of the polymer, providing a yield value and thus ‘trapping’ the oil droplets or solids (e.g. pigments) in the water/polymer matrix.”
Weaknesses Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) does not play well with electrolytes—you’ll notice an immediate loss of viscosity as soon as electrolytes are added. Avoid ingredients including electrolytes like aloe vera, sodium lactate, salt, and urea. If your end product is significantly thinner than expected, double-check the ingredients for anything containing electrolytes.
Alternatives & Substitutions At this time I can’t suggest anything terribly suitable. You could try using a different gelling agent like hydroxyethylcellulose for the gelling job, and then incorporating a solubilizer like Cromollient SCE for the emulsifying/stabilizing part. This sort of two-part alternative will require you to at least partially re-develop and re-test the formula.
How to Work with It Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC) can be hot or cold processed. It can be pre-dispersed in the oil phase (as you would a gum) before blending in the water phase with a high shear mixer. I’ve also had good results mixing together all the other ingredients in the recipe before sprinkling the Aristoflex® AVC over the surface of the mixture and blending that together with a high shear mixer.

Keep the pH of the final product in the 4–9 range. A pH above 9 will release ammonia.

Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Aristoflex® AVC should last up to three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks For clear gels, use at least 1% Aristoflex® AVC, or include ~5% glycerin or other solvent. Distilled or de-ionized water will give the best results.
Recommended starter amount 30g/1 ounce
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. So far I’ve found it at Windy Point Soap Making Supplies (Canada) and LotionCrafter (USA).

Some Recipes that Use Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex® AVC)

Cera Bellina

What is it? Cera bellina is a modified beeswax (“the free fatty acids have been converted to polyglycerols esters“) that thickens oils and butters into very cool, glide-y oil gels.
INCI Polyglycerol-3 Beeswax
Appearance Small off-white pellets/beads
Usage rate This really depends on what you want to make. I did an experiment using it at different levels that you can review here. You aren’t likely to need more than 30% cera bellina in products.
Texture Creates rich, slippy oil gels.
Scent Nothing noticeable
Absorbency Speed Quite slow
Approximate Melting Point 63–73ºC (145–163°F)
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in recipes? Cera bellina does a few very cool things! Its primary use is as a thickener/solidifier, creating very smooth, slippy oil gels. It also helps with pigment distribution, reduces sweating in solid balms, and can function as a co-emulsifier. I love using it to create ointments and lip glosses, where it thickens and gives a beautiful gel consistency that is really well suited to those types of products.
Do you need it? No, but I would recommend it if you are especially fond of ointments or lip gloss.
Refined or unrefined? It only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Creates very cool, smooth oil gels.
Weaknesses Not vegan, harder to acquire than most waxes.
Alternatives & Substitutions Nothing really works the same way as cera bellina; you can try using beeswax instead, but you won’t get the oil gel effect.
How to Work with It Include cera bellina in your heated oil phase; it must be melted to use. Products made with it can feel quite greasy, so I’d recommend shifting your oil balance towards faster absorbing oils.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, cera bellina should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks The inclusion of cera bellina in your formulas can help prevent graininess in butters like shea butter.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Cera Bellina

Guar Gum

What is it? Guar Gum is a thickening gum extracted from the guar bean.
INCI Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba Gum
Appearance Fine beige powder.
Usage rate <2%
Texture When hydrated it creates slippery, rather snotty gels.
Scent Nothing noticeable
pH 5.5–7 (1% solution)
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in recipes? Guar gum is used to thicken water-based products. It can be used as the sole gelling/thickening agent in products like gels or body washes, or can be incorporated at lower amounts (typically 0.5% or less) to thicken and stabilize emulsions.
Do you need it? No
Strengths Inexpensive, natural, vegan thickening agent.
Weaknesses Gels made solely with guar gum tend to have a snotty consistency, and I really don’t like how they feel on the skin when they dry down.
Alternatives & Substitutions I prefer hydroxyethylcellulose, but xanthan gum can also work.
How to Work with It Whisk the guar gum into something from your formula other than water to create a slurry; glycerine is a good choice, or a liquid oil. This allows us to distribute the gum without it starting to hydrate, which will cause it to clump and create “fish eyes” in our product. Once the gum has been thoroughly dispersed in the non-water medium you can start to slowly incorporate the water. Gentle heating will speed the thickening process, but it is not necessary.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, guar gum should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks One can also purchase cationic guar (Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride). This is not the same ingredient and they are not interchangeable.
Recommended starter amount 30g (1oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon. Guar gum is also often available at health food stores.

Some Recipes that Use Guar Gum

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