Emulsifying wax is a very popular emulsifier in homemade cosmetics. I wanted to do this article because emulsifying wax is an unknown thing to many. The name of the substance is somehow misleading and many people think it is a natural wax like beeswax.  Emulsifying wax has been used for a very long time. That is why a popular name has also been invented for it. In reality, emulsifying wax contains chemical compounds like other emulsifiers. Now, let’s find out what emulsifying wax actually contains.

Emulsifying wax

Emulsifying wax; what is it?

An emulsifying wax is a solid, white, waxy substance. It is combined during the heating process with the oil phase of the emulsion. Emulsifying wax is a very popular and common cosmetic emulsifier. It is used in both washing and care products. The popularity of emulsifying wax is based not only on its versatility but also on its stability and easy use. Emulsifying wax is easy to use even for a beginner. You can make products with a pleasant composition with emulsifying wax. The structure of the product withstands storage and temperature fluctuations well.

Emulsifying wax has nothing to do with natural waxes such as beeswax or candelilla wax

I have heard someone said that an emulsifying wax is a natural wax that emulsifies. This is certainly not true. Sometimes the word wax can mislead us. Emulsifying wax is in no way comparable to natural waxes such as beeswax, candelilla wax or rice wax. In the case of emulsifying wax, the word wax only describes the phase of the product, meaning waxiness. There is no other similarity between these ingredients.

Natural waxes do not contain synthetic chemicals. They cannot be used as an emulsifier, meaning to combine water and oils. Natural waxes are also not detergent surfactants like emulsifying wax.

What chemicals does the emulsifying wax contain?

Emulsifying wax is not an ingredient in natural cosmetics. The chemicals it contains are completely synthetic with the exception of cetearyl alcohol. The emulsifying wax has a slight odour of fatty alcohol. It indicates the cetearyl alcohol contained in the product. Cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol most commonly made from palm oil, and sometimes also from coconut oil.

According to the NF standard, emulsifying wax contains the following chemicals.

The NF standard is a very old chemical standard. It is from the 1880’s USA.  The NF standard indicates the composition of chemicals. In this case the standard specifies the ingredients that the emulsifying wax may contain. That standard does not apply worldwide. That is why there are quite a variety of chemicals for sale under the name of emulsifying wax. The emulsifying wax we see in Europe often contains SLS, a compound called sodium lauryl sulphate, and cetearyl alcohol. SLS is a non-natural cosmetic chemical that irritates and dries the skin.

You can read more about SLS here: SLS in cosmetics, find out the facts and dangers. https://helenatur.com/sls-kosmeteti-assa-tiedosta-faktat-ja-vaarat-2/

What is emulsifying wax used for?

The main applications of emulsifying wax are creams and emulsified detergents. An emulsifying wax is both a surfactant and a detergent. It is used as an emulsifier to combine the fat-soluble portions of the cream with the water-soluble portions. Emulsion creams containing emulsifying wax can also be used as detergents.

In detergents, emulsifying wax is also used as a detergent ingredient. Often, the product may contain other detergent ingredients as well. Emulsifying wax is very popular in industrially made cosmetics precisely because of its versatility. Shampoos as well as shower soaps often contain caring oils. It is desired to compensate for the skin drying effect of the product with oils. The emulsifying wax combines the oil contained in the product with water. Without an emulsifier, the oils in the product do not form a stable emulsion with water.

How can I replace emulsifying wax in homemade cosmetics?

I understand very well the popularity of emulsifying wax. It is an easy, inexpensive and versatile product. You can continue to use emulsifying wax in your products. In this article, I just want to clarify the nature of emulsifying wax. An emulsifying wax is an emulsifier.

In case you have used emulsifying wax already in your products and you haven’t noticed any problems, and your passion is not to make 100% natural cosmetics, then you may well continue to use emulsifying wax in your products. The emulsifying wax is in no way toxic. Anyway, get emulsifying wax from a reliable supplier as there are huge quality differences in the products. A product bought cheaply from far away may be contaminated.

Two eco-certified emulsifiers

Three different emulsifiers; top emulsifying wax, left Vegetal and right Olivem 1000

If you want to change the emulsifying wax to more natural emulsifiers, I warmly recommend you the Olivem 1000 emulsifier. Olivem 1000 is sold as light, waxy flakes that are combined with the oily phase of the cream. Olivem 1000 is a herbal emulsifier made from olive oil. Olivem 1000 contains Cetearyl oleate and sorbitan oleate.

 Olivem 1000 is a COSMOS and ECOCER approved, easy to use and stable emulsifier. It does not have a washing property like emulsifying wax. Therefore, it also does not irritate or dry the skin. Olivem 1000 is also suitable for sensitive skin and small children. Olivem 1000 emulsifiers are easy to find in online stores that sell cosmetic ingredients which is a really good thing.

Another similar emulsifier is Vegetal or Montanov 68. Vegetal is sold as white wax pellets or flakes. It is a safe, COSMOS and ECOCERT approved emulsifier. Vegetal contains cetearyl alcohol and cetearyl glucoside. Vegetal gives the creams a wonderful skin feeling and texture. Vegetal applications and principle are similar to Olivem 1000. Vegetal is not a very common emulsifier in Finland. If you want to try Vegetal, you have to order it from abroad.

What is your favourite emulsifier?

Many cosmetics products are based on Polyethylene glycol. Polyethylene glycol is commonly referred to as PEG in INCI names. It is hard to even find a product on the supermarket shelf that doesn’t have this mystical ingredient. Are the PEG compounds safe and why they are used in cosmetics is a common concern?

This article is part of a series of “dirty dozen in cosmetics”. In the series, I present to you 12 meanies of cosmetics. I have written earlier an article about formaldehyde releasers. Why have PEG compounds ended up in a dirty dozen? Are PEG compounds really harmful? Let’s find out now!

Kuva Jill Wellington Pixabaystä

What is PEG or polyethylene glycol?

Polyethylene glycol is a synthetic chemical that is made in chemical plants. It is a polyether refined  from crude oil. Thus, PEG does not belong to natural cosmetics nor to vegan cosmetics. PEG is not just one compound. It has been used to make thousands of different variations. PEG compounds are widely used by several industries

How do I know if a product contains PEG compounds?

PEG compounds are widely and plentiful used in the cosmetics industry and for very different purposes. There are 1464 of them in the INCI list. It is self-clear that no-one can remember them all. However, PEG compounds are quite easy to find in the INCI product list. The INCI name for PEG compounds always or almost always includes the abbreviation PEG.

Why should PEG compounds be a concern?

PEG compounds alone are completely non-toxic. They have been found to be safe excipients even for vaccines and foods. Indeed, the problems with PEGs are related to their potential impurities. PEG compounds are prepared by a complex process. Depending on the manufacturing method, polyethylene glycol may be very impure. Toxic ethylene dioxide and 1,4-dioxane may be found in a low-quality product.

Ethylene dioxide

Ethylene dioxide is a carcinogen to humans. It has been linked in some studies to breast cancer. It has also been found to damage the human nervous system and cell development. Ethylene dioxide is very harmful when inhaled. Therefore, sprayable detergents should never be used. Many cleaners and housekeepers have been diagnosed with lung cancer due to inhaling cleaning chemicals. Ethylene dioxide is also absorbed very well even through clothing and shoes, causing irritation and dermatitis.


1,4-dioxane is a substance that is toxic to humans. 1,4-dioxane damages the liver and kidneys. Inhaling and swallowing it causes malaise, vomiting, drowsiness and even unconsciousness. 1,4-dioxane is very easily absorbed through the skin into the body. Dioxane is not easily biodegradable but accumulates in groundwater.

Dioxin is highly soluble in water and ends up in the water systems and seas. The fish in the Baltic Sea have been rich in dioxins. The good news is that dioxin levels in fish have declined as much as 80% in recent years thanks to the vigilant environmental authorities. The study shows that current restrictive measures have been effective.

PEG compounds enhance the absorption of other substances into the skin

This is a desirable effect but it  can also be a disadvantage if the product is very impure. The effects of impurities in PEG compounds are multiplied if applied to broken skin. For example, if your skin has a rash, abrasion or other irritation, you should use products that are as clean as possible.

It is also possible that dioxane may also end up in cosmetics through some other way than impurities in PEG compounds. That is why I always recommend you to use and make only natural cosmetics.

PEG compounds may cause allergies

Another concern is the potential allergies caused by PEG compounds. Because PEG compounds are so common in foods, detergents, and cosmetics, the potential for sensitization is obvious. Indeed, PEG antibodies have already been detected in 72% of the US population.

How many of us have considered PEG compounds to cause the allergy to cosmetics?  You can test your sensitivity to PEG compounds yourself by leaving them out of your cosmetics, detergents and diet for a while. The medicines you use may also contain PEG compounds. You can only change medicines by consulting your doctor.

The purity of PEG compounds is closely monitored in the EU

Kuva Gerd Altmann Pixabaystä

The European Union pays special attention to the safety of chemicals. In Europe, PEG compounds are also closely monitored. So you don’t have to worry too much about the levels of 1,4-dioxane or ethylene dioxide in the products you use, provided of course that you purchase your cosmetics from the EU.

My main concern would be the products ordered online from outside the EU. In them, the concentrations of harmful substances can be anything.

In this context, I can again warmly recommend you the DIY cosmetics. By making your own cosmetics, you know what chemicals are in your product. Also, domestic Natural Cosmetics is also very high quality and free of all potentially harmful chemicals.

Do you avoid PEG compounds?

Now I want to introduce you to one of the safest and most useful ingredients in cosmetics. Lecithin is rarely talked about in connection with home cosmetics. However, it is an ingredient used in many commercial cosmetic products. Lecithin is a very useful ingredient as it is very natural and suitable for almost everyone’s skin. Perhaps you are familiar with the health benefits of lecithin?  In skin care, lecithin is usually not mentioned. Now we are focusing on the properties of lecithin in skin and hair care. How can you use nourishing, protective and moisturizing lecithin in your cosmetics?

Lecithin creme

What is Lecithin?

Lecithin consists mainly of fatty substances called phospholipids. Phospholipids are building material of cell membranes that are particularly rich in choline for humans.

Lecithin is found naturally from many sources like eggs, soy and sunflower seeds. Lecithin is a thick, waxy substance that is soluble in water but also in fat. Lecithin contains, in addition to choline, linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, glycerol and small amounts of biotin. Lecithin is used as a food supplement as it is believed to lower cholesterol level in blood. That’s why it is very easy to find soy lecithin on the shelves of supermarkets.

Lecithin is a very common ingredient in many industrial products

You can easily find lecithin as an ingredient in both cosmetics and foods. Sometimes lecithin may also be called as phosphatidylcholine. Lecithin acts as a thickener and emulsifier in foods. Not so many people are aware that for instance chocolate, is an emulsion in which lecithin is the emulsifier. In mayonnaise, lecithin is an essential ingredient. Humans are not generally allergic to lecithin. Naturally some may be. That is why it is so commonly used by food industry.

Lecithin is used in many cosmetic products precisely because of its emulsifying ability. However, lecithin is also rich in skin care properties. However, the utility of lecithin is rarely highlighted. Lecithin is at its best in creams with high percentage of oils. It is widely used in combination with other emulsifiers and thickeners.  More steady emulsion is obtained by combining other emulsifiers and thickeners with lecithin.

How is Lecithin Made?

Lecithin granules available in shops are usually are made from soy. There is also lecithin made from sunflower seeds, which is sold in liquid and powder forms. Sunflower lecithin is significantly less common than soybean lecithin. Many people prefer liquid sunflower lecithin in cosmetics because it is easy to use. Also, sunflower lecithin is not GMO modified as soy products often are. The soy lecithin I use is GMO free. Sunflower lecithin is extracted much gentler than soybean lecithin. Its production does not require any toxic chemicals.

Use of lecithin as an emulsifier in cosmetics

Lecithin is not a very easy emulsifier. The problems are its slow dissolution in both water and oil. Grinding of lecithin granules helps a little the dissolution. Liquid lecithin is ready for use immediately. If you find some, just buy it.

Dissolve lecithin, preferably in oil

Although lecithin is soluble in both oil and water, I personally prefer dissolving it in oil. I have tested different methods of preparing lecithin creams. It is much easier to get the result you want by dissolving lecithin in oil first and then add the liquid to it. The emulsion requires particularly strong whipping. I recommend the use of an (electric) mixer.

Pure water is the safest liquid in lecithin emulsion

Boiled water is the safe choice for Lecithin emulsified creams. Lecithin is a delicate emulsifier that does not like all ingredients. I managed to dissolve the emulsion simply by adding a few drops of preservative to it.  I will study making of lecithin creams more carefully in the future. I want to find suitable liquids and preservatives for the lecithin emulsion.

Lecithin cream is challenging but worth the effort


One weakness of lecithin is its slow absorption. The skin remains sticky for a long time. That’s why I recommend making lecithin cream as night cream. Allow it to absorb slowly. I do understand well why lecithin as an emulsifier has not been very popular in commercial creams. It is also quite a challenging ingredient in home cosmetics. Despite all of these problems, I am fond of lecithin cream. It makes the skin feel very comfortable, soft and moisturized. There is no any other type of ointment that can deeply moisturize dry winter skin in the same way.

Lecithin is a skin nurturant ingredient

In this article, I’d like to emphasize the skin care properties of lecithin. Because lecithin is generally used as emulsifier, its effects on the skin has not been notified. By using lecithin, you can make a simple lotion and many other products with all the nurturant ingredients.

Lecithin also takes care of the hair

Lecithin is really good for hair care. Big haircare product manufacturers use commonly lecithin in their products. As a moisturizing ingredient, lecithin-containing products can be used to treat dry ends. The scalp also benefits from lecithin. Add lecithin to your hair masks.

How can lecithin be used in home cosmetics?

In home cosmetics, lecithin suits well to nourishing creams. Lecithin as an emulsifier is at its best in formulas with equal amounts of oil and water. A very light cream with lecithin cannot be made unless you use other emulsifiers. You can also combine beeswax or vegetable butter with lecithin. This naturally gives you more product stability without using any potentially toxic chemicals.

You can add small amounts of lecithin to the facial lotions. It helps the facial lotions to soften the skin and create a matte, non-shiny finish on the skin. Please bear in mind that lecithin colours the facial water grey.

Learn how to use lecithin in your products

Soy Lecithin

Once you learn how to use lecithin, you will no longer want to give it up. I’ve used lecithin in my own products for a while now and I’m really excited. I always come up with new uses for lecithin.

I also find it great that I can easily purchase all the cosmetics ingredients I need from local store. Lecithin is a safe ingredient. It is a food that is intended as a supplement. Such cosmetic ingredients are the best. Cosmetics should not contain any toxic chemicals. Everything we apply to our skin is also absorbed by our body. Therefore, we should choose only really safe ingredients for our cosmetic products.

Have you used lecithin before?

Main reason to start using natural cosmetics is the chemicals in traditional industrial cosmetic products. The possible health effects of cosmetic chemicals are often criticized and feared. They can be potentially very toxic. However, many chemicals do not pose a direct risk to health. However, they can be extremely harmful to the skin and the environment. One very common ingredient in cosmetic products is Sodium Laureth Sulfate, SLS.


What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a very versatile chemical. It is produced using either mineral oil or vegetable oils such as coconut oil or palm oil. SLS is chemically processed from lauryl alcohol and sulfuric acid. Then the chemical is neutralized with sodium carbonate aka washing soda.

SLS is a surfactant which are very versatile chemicals. They remove tension from the surface of the water.  When the surface tension is removed, the water can penetrate deeper and wider. The surfactants are extremely detergent, meaning they remove grease and other dirt effectively.

SLS has amphiphilic properties

This means that SLS acts as an emulsifier. Water and oil form a cream when adding SLS to the mixture.

SLS is very foamy. It forms a thick, durable foam in all products to which it has been added.

SLS is one of the most common chemicals in cosmetics

Due to its versatile features, SLS is very popular. It is found in all cosmetic products, from shampoos and shower soaps to moisturizers and cleansing milks. You will also find SLS in regular toothpastes.

It is very difficult to come up with a product that SLS would not fit. Cosmetics industry simply needs this substance with so many required properties.

How SLS affects skin and hair?

SLS is a well-tolerated ingredient

SLS is suitable for the skin because it causes little to no allergies or hypersensitivity. If you are sensitized to any cosmetic ingredient it is probably not SLS but some other ingredient. The cosmetics industry has decades of experience in the suitability of SLS for skin care. It has been found to be safe in principle and is therefore used as the very first option when adding detergents to the product.

Persons who are intolerant to plant-based products may well tolerate SLS. SLS has also not been identified as a carcinogenic chemical.

Although SLS does not actually cause sensitization, it does not mean it a safe ingredient for the skin.

So why is SLS not a good ingredient in cosmetics?

SLS is a powerful dehydrator

SLS is also a highly detergent ingredient. Therefore, it dries the skin, sculp and hair. SLS is the only ingredient in shampoos that makes your hair “crunchy”. It is very difficult to achieve a similar washing result with any other cosmetic ingredient.  We are used to use strong washing shampoos and detergents throughout our lives so we are also used to get the “crunchy” result.


SLS is best tolerated in shower soaps, gels and shampoos because it is rinsed off quickly. This will reduce the skin irritation.

Household Cleaners and Laundry Detergents

SLS is also commonly used in household cleaners and laundry detergents. It is worth considering whether the same chemical is suitable for washing skin, hair, teeth, floor and laundry – and car.

In shower soaps and gels, the unnecessarily strong washing effect of SLS is diluted by adding oils to the product. The cosmetics industry talks about curative shower products. My question is why SLS is used at all if it causes skin problems.

SLS as an emulsifier for creams

SLS is one of the most stable and effective emulsifiers. It is also very affordable. When purchasing home cosmetics emulsifiers, avoid emulsifying wax. All emulsifying waxes are made from SLS. The emulsifying wax is a very drying ingredient. It should not be used at all, especially in products that are mentioned to stay on the skin. Many manufacturers are adding emulsifying wax to shampoo and shower soaps/gels. There are much better emulsifiers for this purpose.

SLS causes skin and eye irritation

The irritation caused by SLS is caused precisely by its detergent property. All of the skin’s own protective fat and sebum are very effectively washed away. This will make the skin more exposed to many external stimulations. Removing the fat and sebum cause itching and irritation. Symptoms are similar to allergies and hypersensitivity but they are caused by SLS.

Skin rash and eczma

SLS also aggravates previous skin symptoms. Continuous washing of dry skin suffering rash using strongly detergent products may aggravate symptoms.

SLS in toothpastes


SLS is widely used in toothpastes. Consumers obviously want the toothpaste to foam. People do not believe that paste cleans without foam – or do they?  The foaming property of SLS is very commonly used in toothpastes. There are very few non-foaming toothpastes available. It is very difficult to find a toothpaste without SLS in a regular shop.

Mouth Odours

SLS has also been found to affect mouth odours. It neutralizes odours to some extent. Therefore, it is a highly desirable chemical in dental care.

SLS also does its damage in the mouth.

It has been found to cause aphtha, or small painful blisters on the oral mucosa. Patients suffering aphthous ulcers have switched to a more natural version of toothpaste and have got rid of them.

Cracked Lips

Toothpaste containing SLS is in many cases the reason for mouth sores and fractured, cracked lips. You should try changing toothpaste if you suffer from such symptoms.

SLS is also claimed to reduce the effect of fluoride on toothpastes. Here’s another reason to avoid SLS in toothpastes.

SLS and palm oil

SLS contains lauryl acid, which is a natural ingredient in coconut fat. Sometimes, SLS is called sodium coco sulphate, emphasizing that lauryl acid is coming from coconut. However, the chemical is completely the same and just as harmful to skin and hair as SLS.

Make Sure You Know the Origin of Lauryl Acid

Lauryl acid of Sodium Laureth Sulfate is often made from mineral oil or coconut but also from palm oil. If you want to avoid the use of palm oil for ethical reasons, make sure you know the origin of lauryl acid. It may be, however, an impossible task. The products of chemical industry are sold all over the globe. It is not always possible to identify an individual product, even in case when the producer is a responsible company.

How to find SLS in cosmetics?


You should learn to recognize all different names of SLS and its aliases that appear on products by using INCI-lists. The cosmetics industry would not give up a good, versatile and inexpensive raw material. Therefore, SLS has over 100 different chemical and commercial names. It is therefore quite impossible for an average consumer to learn all the possible names of the same chemical.

Here are Some Common Names of SLS

However, here are some common names. The most common trick is to replace word lauryl with coco in SLS. This gives an idea of ​​the natural ingredient. We know this is not true. SLS is always a synthetic chemical that cannot be found in nature.

Different names of SLS

Similar substances that you should also avoid

How to replace products containing SLS?


The easiest way to replace products containing SLS is to use soap-based products. Marseille soap contains only natural ingredients and is great for the skin.

There are currently many sulphate-free alternatives for hair washing. Your local store selling only natural cosmetics would be glad to guide you. They are presumably the experts.

Curly Girl

Natural, eco-friendly Curly Girl method is very recommendable way to treat hair. Curly Girl products are suitable for both curly and straight hair as they are much gentler and contain no silicones or sulphates.

Consider changing your toothpaste to more natural product. Be careful because many toothpastes considered eco-friendly and naturals contain some form of SLS. People do not buy paste that without foam. Or do they?  Here’s how to make homemade toothpaste.

Make Your Own, Natural Hair Wash

If you want to make your own, natural hair wash, try aloe vera juice of which I have written here. Aloe Vera contains saponins, which are natural cleansing agents. They do not wash the skin too clean and do not remove the skin’s own protective layer of sebum.

Are you trying to avoid products containing SLS?