Should those with sensitive skin avoid Emulsifier based products?
If you have sensitive skin, then you know that it can be difficult to find skincare products that don't cause a reaction. If you have avoided harsh ingredients & fragrances and are still reacting to skincare products, then it might be worth looking into skincare formulations that are free of emulsifiers. In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of emulsifier-free skincare, and you can decide for yourself if it is right for you!
What are emulsifiers and why are they used in skincare products?
An emulsifier is a substance that helps to mix together two substances that normally wouldn't mix well, such as water and oil. When added to skincare products, emulsifiers help to create a smooth, uniform texture. They also help to distribute the active ingredients evenly throughout the product.
In skincare products, emulsifiers are used to combine oil and water-based ingredients to create products such as lotions and creams. Without emulsifiers, these products would separate into their individual components over time.
Emulsifiers work by creating network of oil and water molecules and holding them together. This allows the two substances to remain suspended in the formula, creating a smooth and stable product.
There are many different types of emulsifiers available, and each have their own unique properties. Some emulsifiers are used to mix oil into a water base and are called Oil-in-Water emulsifiers.
Oil-in-Water emulsifiers are used to create most lotions and creams.
Another class of emulsifiers, that are used to suspend water droplets into an oil base, are called a Water-in-Oil emulsifiers. These emulsifiers are used to make thick creams and ointments that are supposed to form a layer on the skin, such as diaper creams and some sun protection products.
The benefits of emulsifier-free skincare
Emulsifiers are added to skincare products to help the ingredients mix together and create a smooth texture. However, emulsifiers can also act as surfactants on the skin depending on the skincare formulation. Surfactants are Surface acting agents, meaning they can act like soap on the skin.
You can test this yourself by applying your favorite cream to your skin and then applying a little bit of water. As you rub your skin you will notice that the cream looks and acts a bit like soap.
This ability of emulsifiers to act like surfactants can potentially prevent sensitive skin from feeling comfortable and hydrated. For those with sensitive or dryness prone skin, this might feel like no product can ever hydrate and moisturize the skin.
You might also experience irritation, redness and itchy or flaky skin. Constant dry or irritated skin can also disrupt the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria on your skin, making your skin look and feel worse. By choosing products that are gentle and non-stripping, you can help to soothe and protect your sensitive skin.
Why are emulsifiers used so extensively in skincare products?
The main reason that emulsifiers are used in skincare formulations is because it’s the easiest and most convenient way to combine water and oil based ingredients into a formulation. This is the traditional method of creating a cream or lotion, and every chemist and formulator learns to create a stable emulsion as a necessary step towards gaining skills in formulation.
Emulsifier based products are also pleasing to consumers, easy to apply, can be made shelf-stable over a very long period of time, and are easy and inexpensive to produce.
What are the alternatives to traditional emulsifiers?
There have been many exciting and amazing advancements in the cosmetic industry and there are many new methods and ingredients that can help bring formulations together in an easy to apply format.
Formulations created with these new ingredients have the potential to be as stable and effective as the old emulsifier-based creams and lotions. These emulsifier-free products are usually a combination of natural gums and lecithin, or might be made using synthetic polymers.
Forshelli Lindre Serum-in-Gel moisturizer is an example of such a product that only contains natural gums and lecithin as a gelling and suspending agent. The potent yet gentle ingredients are processed without heating the ingredients. The resulting gel formulation can work both as a serum and a moisturizer, thanks to the breathable, oil-free barrier created by the gelling agents.
For those who need a little extra oil on the skin, a drop or two of quality face oil, like our fragrance-free Stell Face Oil, can give your skin emollience and glow, when applied soon after using the emulsifier-free gel moisturizer. You can apply sunblock and/or makeup after this step and your skin should look and feel hydrated and comfortable all day.
What are the disadvantages of emulsifier-free products?
Emulsifier-free products are typically more expensive due to the high cost of the raw ingredients and the method of manufacture. However, this is compensated by the fact that you only need a little bit of product for each application.
Gels and creams made without traditional emulsifiers are also not as easy to apply as a cream. Using too much or too little of the product might create a bit of stickiness or pilling. T
here is a bit of a learning curve, but for those with constantly irritated skin it might be worth trying such a product, especially as the first layer or product that touches the skin.
If you have tried a variety of skincare products and are not able to get your skin to feel comfortably hydrated, or feel like your skin is irritated, it might be worth trying an emulsifier-free gel or cream as the first layer on your skin.
Follow this up with a drop or two of a high-quality face oil in the areas that need it, and your skin should feel comfortably hydrated all day. You will start to notice an improvement in the tone and texture within a month.
Have you tried emulsifier-free products? How did your skin do with these products? Comment below or write to us using our contact form.