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The Use of Structuring Waxes in Developing Stick Formulations

Cosmetic formulations which rely on structuring agents such as Paraffin, Synthetic and Polyethylene waxes can
benefit from a better knowledge of the chemical nature of these waxes and what attributes they bring to the
formulation. This article will provide the cosmetic chemist some information concerning the use of Paraffin,
Synthetic and Polyethylene waxes. It will show that with the introduction of the new Acculin™ line of
Polyethylene Waxes from The International Group there is now a product that will bridge the gap from Paraffin
Wax to Polyethylene. These new Acculin™ waxes will complete the continuum of molecular weights as will be
described. This will also show how the physical properties of these wax types can affect a standard formulation.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin Wax is the structural backbone of much cosmetic formulation. It can add hardness to lip care
formulation and increase the viscosity of emulsion products. Paraffin wax is a by product of mineral oil
manufacturing. Molecular weight distribution ranges from C-18 to C-60 but the useable range for cosmetics is
about C-22 to C-45. Within that range there are a variety of melting point products. Since most paraffins
contain straight chain and some branched chain molecules the physical characteristics can vary depending on the
method of manufacture. Paraffin wax is a distilled product so the molecular species with the same boiling point
will distill at the same time. So it is possible to have straight chain and branched chain (isomers) distilling at the
same time. Figure 1 show the typical molecular weight distribution of a paraffin wax. It is this molecular weight
distribution which gives the different physical characteristics of each paraffin wax.

Fig.1 Typical Gas Chromatograph of a Paraffin Wax


Figure 2 shows the relationship between the melting point and the penetration (Hardness) of some paraffin
waxes. Many times the two characteristics are confused but it should be pointed out that they are two different
distinct characteristics and do not necessarily correlate.

Penetration @ 25 C vs Melting Point Paraffin Wax

16
14
12
Penetration dmm

10
8
6
4
2
0
54.4 58.9 61.4 66.1 69.4
Melting Point Degree C

Fig. 2 Correlation between Melting Point and Penetration Paraffin Waxes

In cosmetics the use of paraffin wax imparts structure to the formulation. That structure generally leads to a
rigid, brittle product which then needs to be modified with oils and other waxes. The single largest use of
paraffin wax in cosmetics is in Color Cosmetics Lip Sticks, Lip Balms, Mascara, Eye Shadow and Eye Liners.

Synthetic Wax

Synthetic Waxes are generally known as Gas to Liquid (GTL) or Fischer Tropsch (FT) waxes. These are
produced by the reaction of Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen gases by use of a catalysis. The Carbon Monoxide
can be sourced from coal, natural gas or from biomass. Through the controlled polymerization of these
materials these waxes can have long carbon chains. Figure 3 shows a typical GC of an FT wax. Although there
are some isomers in the FT waxes they are generally straight chain alkanes with both odd and even carbon chain
numbers.
Fig. 3 Typical GC of a Fischer Tropsch Wax

Figure 4 shows the relationship between the penetration and melting point of synthetic waxes. These are
polymer products with both even and odd carbon chains with lower isomer content than paraffin wax so that the
relationship between these two characteristics becomes more linear.

Penetration @ 25 C vs Melting Point Synthetic Wax

20
18
16
Penetration dmm

14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
60 70 74.7 87
Melting Point Degree C

Fig. 4 Correlation between Penetration and Melting Point Synthetic Waxes


Polyethylene

Polyethylene is derived from ethylene gas via a polymerization process. This process produces carbon chains
which can range up into the hundreds. These waxes have high melting points and have very limited use in
cosmetic formulations. IGI had developed a new line of Polyethylenes called Acculin™ which have carbon
numbers and molecular weights ranges which are more useful in cosmetics. A typical GC of an Acculin™
product is shown in Figure 5.

Fig. 5 Typical GC of an Acculin™ Wax

As can be seen from the GC, Acculin™ wax is generally even carbon numbers with very low isomers content.
This would lead to a very linear melting point vs. penetration curve Figure 6.
Penetration @ 25 C vs Melting Point Acculin™ Wax

12

10
Penetration dmm

0
81 88 94 99 104 107 113 126 129
Melting Point Degree C

Fig. 6 Melting Point vs. Penetration Curve for Acculin Waxes

Once we understand the differences between these three waxes, it is important to know how each will perform in
a standard cosmetic stick formulation. The typical specifications for each of the waxes are in Table 1. The test
procedure for the various waxes changes due to the limits of each test procedure.

Typical Melting Point °C Typical Congealing Typical Mettler Drop Typical Needle
ASTM D-87 Point °C Melt Point °C Penetration, dmm @
ASTM D-938 ASTM D-3954 77°F (25°C)
Paraffins ASTM D-1321

IGI 1230A 54.4 14


IGI 1302A 58.9 12
IGI 1303A 67.8 14
IGI 1260A 69.4 12

Synthetic

IGI 8718A 60 25
IGI 8719A 69 15
IGI 8722A 76.7 13
IGI 8755A 83 9

Polyethylene

Acculin 400 2053A 79.4 12


Acculin 500 2056A 88.9 6
Acculin 600 2059A 92.8 2.5
Acculin 655 2061A 97.2 2

Table 1 Typical Properties of Test Waxes


The following formulation was used to show how the chemical makeup of each of the wax types affects a stick
formulation. No color was added to the stick so that only the influence of the waxes could be tested.

Sebapet L 11%
Cetylstearyl Alcohol 15%
Test Wax 10%
Synthetic Candelilla Wax R4770A 8%
Microcrystalline Wax 5788A 6%
Lanolin Alcohol 6%
Synthetic Carnauba Wax R5159A 4%
Isopropyl Palmitate 40%

The following tests were performed on each test formulation. Table 2 shows the results of these tests.

Capillary Tube Melting Point USP 741 sometimes referred to as the slip point. This test consists of filling a
standard capillary tube with molten sample and allowing it to solidify. The capillary tube is then attached to a
thermometer and immersed in a water bath. The bath temperature is slowly raised and the point at which the
wax rises in the tube is the melting point. This test method is well suited for formulated products.

Needle Penetration ASTM D1321 is a standardize test procedure whereby a wax sample is poured into a defined
mold and held at a specific temperature for a given period of time. The hardness of the wax is then determined
by using a standard needle attached to a penetrometer. Readings are given in dmm which is the distance the
needle travels into the sample, hence the higher the readings the softer the wax.

Break Test is used to determine the strength of a stick formed using a typical lipstick bullet. Lipstick bullets
were made using a small polycarbonate mold. The wax sample was poured into the mold at 190°F and
immediately place in a freezer. The temperature was monitored until it was at or below 77°F; this usually took
between 5-7 minutes. The mold was then removed from the freezer and placed in a constant temperature bath at
77°F for thirty minutes before the test was performed. The bullet was suspended between two plates while a
weight was hung from the center of the bullet. The weight was increased until the bullet broke. (Drawing 1)
This same device was used in an Instron to confirm the measurement. In the case of the Instron the two plates
were pulled apart until the bullet broke and the force in grams was determined. The two methods had good
correlation.

Drawing 1
Cap Tube Melting Needle Penetration Breakage
Point °C @ 25°C Grams
Samples Identification USP 741 ASTM D-1321

Paraffin Wax IGI 1230A 51 114 778


IGI 1302A 52 112 944
IGI 1303A 59 116 1146
IGI 1260A 62 116 941

Synthetic Wax IGI 8718A 58 122 1113


IGI 8719A 62 129 1347
IGI 8722A 68 111 1325
IGI 8755A 71 103 1443

Acculin™ 400 2053A 66 97 1293


500 2056A 71 100 1572
600 2059A 74 86 1730

Table 2 Test Results

The results of this testing demonstrates the effect of the chemical structure of each wax on the final formulation.
Paraffin waxes while varying in melting points had little effect on the penetration and breakage of the sticks.
Synthetic waxes showed some relationship between the change in melting point, penetration and breakage.
While the Acculin™ polyethylene waxes showed and overall harder penetration and higher breaking strengths.
This data also shows that relying on the melting point only in the selection of a wax may not give the best
indication of the overall quality of the finished product.

THE INTERNATIONAL GROUP INC.


USA Canada Visit our website at:
1007 East Spring Street 50 Salome Drive www.igiwax.com
Titusville, PA 16354 Toronto www.igicares.com
Ontario M1S 2A8
Toll Free: 1-800-852-6537 Toll Free: 1-800-561-3509
Telephone: (814) 827-4900 Telephone: (416) 293-4151
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While the data and information contained herein are presented in good faith and believed to be accurate, it is provided for your guidance only. As actual conditions of use may vary and are beyond the
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product be consulted prior to handling.. 913