Today we’re re-visiting this summer’s Super Simple Moisturizing Lotion to learn how to adapt formulations to use the emulsifier Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate instead of emulsifying waxes like Polawax, Emulsifying Wax NF, Olivem 1000, BTMS-50, or Ritamulse SCG. I’ll also be showing you what happens when you swap them one-for-one and walking you through why you’ll want to make two changes to your formulations rather than just one. It’s all pretty simple, and will help you better understand why Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate is so unique and awesome ❤️ Let’s dive in!
Before we dive in, you need to read through the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia entry on Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate. If you’re not familiar with the basics of lotion making, you should also read through the original Super Simple Moisturizing Lotion post.
Make sure you watch the partner video as well!
What are the key differences between Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate and emulsifying waxes like Polawax and Olivem1000?
There are three big differences that need to be accounted for when adjusting formulations that were originally designed to work with emulsifying waxes like Polawax and Olivem1000 to use Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate instead.
Note: For simplicity’s sake I mostly refer to Polawax as the counter-point emulsifying wax throughout this post. Please consider this to be shorthand for emulsifying waxes that work like Polawax, including Emulsifying Wax NF, Olivem 1000, Ritamulse SCG, BTMS-50, and BTMS-25. These emulsifying waxes all have similar usage rates and thicken as well as emulsify.
The first difference is the viscosity of the finished product; if you swap Polawax one-for-one for Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate, the resulting emulsion will be much thinner than the Polawax version. With this formulation, the emulsion was so much thinner that it was no longer stable and split after about a day (there are photos further down in this post + I show this version in the video).
The second difference is the usage rate. Polawax-type emulsifying waxes are typically used at 20–25% of the oil phase, while Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate works at much lower usage rates. Sample supplier formulations I’ve looked at fall within the 9–16% range, and I’ve had lots of success using that range as a general guideline.
The third difference is how invisible Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate is in our formulations; I’ve often called it a “naked” emulsifier. The weightlessness of this emulsifier means the skin feel of your finished products will definitely be impacted; even after you make both modifications you’re likely to notice the Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate version is lighter than the Polawax version.
What changes need to be made to adapt an emulsion to use Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate instead?
With the differences between Polawax-type emulsifying waxes and Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate, you should adjust two parts of the formulation as a starting point. Fortunately, these two changes work together nicely!
- Since you’ll need less Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate, reduce its usage rate to roughly half of what the other emulsifying wax was called for.
- Since Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate makes for much thinner emulsions, replace the reduced emulsifying wax with a fatty thickener like cetearyl alcohol.
So, if a formulation called for 8% Polawax, I would start with 4% Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate and 4% cetearyl alcohol, and adjust from there.
If you want to embrace the lower viscosity of a Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate emulsion I would recommend incorporating 0.3% of some sort of gum or carbomer to add more stability to the formulation. So, if a formulation called for 8% Polawax you might use 4% Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate, 0.3% xanthan gum, and 3.7% carrier oil or butter.
I do recommend plugging both the old and adapted versions of the formulation into a spreadsheet so you know what the usage rates of the emulsifiers are, and to make it easier to keep track of what you’ve done and troubleshoot/adjust as needed. If the original emulsifier was used at 25% of the oil phase you should be able to use less than half, but if it was right at 20% you’ll want to tread a bit more carefully, and a spreadsheet will tell you this!
When it comes to adjusting the weight and skin-feel of the final product, you may find you need to make a few different versions, playing with the fatty thickeners (in regards to type + amounts) to get the same feel as the original. That said, if you prefer lighter emulsions, you may prefer the Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate version without any further adjusting! I find that I generally do.
How did I modify this particular formulation for Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate?
This updated version has the same oil phase size (13%), but the emulsifier (Glyceryl Stearate [and] PEG-100 Stearate) is used at 1.3%, and I’ve added 1.7% cetearyl alcohol to compensate for the loss in viscosity caused by the emulsifier switch (1.3% + 1.7% = 3%, the concentration of emulsifying wax NF in the previous version). This modified version has the emulsifier at 10% of the oil phase (vs. 23%).
This is fairly close to my recommended starting point of halving the emulsifier and making up the difference with a fatty thickener. That would’ve been 1.5% for each Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate and the cetearyl alcohol, which would have the emulsifier as 12% of the oil phase. From my experience with the emulsifier and this formulation (which is prone to be quite thin), I decided to use slightly less emulsifier (while keeping within the 9–16% range mentioned earlier) and slightly more thickener.
What else do you need to keep in mind?
I find that thinner emulsions made with Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate are more prone to separating if not mixed properly. Make sure you’re using a powerful high-shear blender, like an immersion blender, and blend the emulsion for at least two to three minutes. Thinner emulsions are also much more prone to spraying all over the place, so make sure your measuring cup/beaker is large enough to accommodate some splashing, and work your way up to full power with the blender.
How can you modify a formulation designed for Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate to use something like Polawax instead?
This will depend very much on the formulation, and will not always be possible. You can adapt any formulation designed to use Polawax to use Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate instead, but not vice versa.
If the formulation is relying on Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate to create a thinner emulsion than is possible with Polawax-type emulsifying waxes, you will likely have to go back to the drawing board and completely re-formulate. Even then, it may not be possible to create a terribly similar end product.
If the formulation features some combination of Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate and a fatty thickener like cetearyl alcohol, you can likely make it work. If the formulation called for 3% each Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate and cetearyl alcohol I would try replacing that with 6% Polawax and go from there.
Make sure you watch the partner video as well!
Super Simple Moisturizing Lotion with Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.
Weigh the heated water phase into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or glass beaker. Weigh the entire lot (measuring cup + ingredients) and note that weight for use later. Weigh the heated oil phase into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place both measuring cups in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
After about 20–30 minutes the oil part should be completely melted and the water part should be thoroughly dissolved. Remove the water bath from the heat and weigh the water phase. Add enough hot distilled water to the heated water phase to bring the weight back up to what it was before heating, and then pour the water part into the oil part. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.
Grab your immersion blender and begin blending the lotion, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid lotion doesn’t whirl up and spray everywhere. Blend for 2–3 minutes, leave to cool for five, blend for another minute or two, and repeat this blend-cool-blend cycle until the outside of the glass measuring cup is barely warm to the touch and the lotion is thick and creamy.
When the lotion is cool it’s time to incorporate our cool down ingredients. Because cool down ingredients are typically present at very low amounts you’ll need to use an accurate scale—preferably one accurate to 0.01g. As these more accurate scales tend to have fairly low (100–200g) maximum weights you won’t be able to put the entire batch of lotion on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of lotion, and then weigh the cool down ingredients into that, using the more accurate scale. Stir to thoroughly incorporate, and then stir all of that back into the master batch of lotion. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.
Once the cool down phase has been incorporated, all that’s left to do is package it up! This lotion is thin enough to package in a pump-top bottle or a soft squeeze tube. A 120mL (4 fl oz) package is a good choice for this 100g (3.5oz) batch. Use as you would any lotion. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this cream contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative, this project may eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 100g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of fractionated coconut oil.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
- If you want to incorporate anything else, please read this.
- If you want to use a different emulsifying wax, please refer to the original Super Simple Moisturizing Lotion post.
The Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate was gifted by Mystic Moments.