HLB stands for “hydrophilic-lipophilic balance system, and was developed in 1949 by William Griffin as a method for deciding which emulsifiers worked best for the oil phase of an emulsified product.

The HLB calculator which you can download for free below allows for mixing your own emulsifier rather than being forced to use a self-emulsifier such as e-wax or BTMS.

The oils and butters you use in your lotion each have a HLB value. The high HLB value oils will be more water soluble while those with lower values are more oil soluble. The calculator assess the overall HLB value for the oils/butters selected. The formulator would then use, both a low HLB emulsifier and a high HLB emulsifier which when added together equal the HLB value of your oil phase. This creates a more stable product.
For further information on the HLB system see – http://www.lotioncrafter.com/pdf/Emulsions_&_HLB_System.pdf

Here’s my free downloadable excel HLB calculator:-

click here to download the HLB calculator

To use the calculator:-

Note: you only need to fill in the purple/red parts

Step 1: Delete the oils which aren’t in your lotion and replace with the oils that are. Then find the HLB number of those new oils – http://www.theherbarie.com/files/resource-center/formulating/Required_HLB_for_Oils_and_Lipids.pdf and insert into row E that HLB number. Then insert into column B the % of the oil phase ingredient in your recipe. Ignore all the other columns. The oils/butters which you list should include cetyl alcohol or stearic acid but they should not include emulsifiers. All oils/butters in your recipe should be listed including those in your cool down phase but excluding your emulsifiers.

Step 2 – pick 2 non ionic emulsifiers.  So, the following emulsifiers are NOT suitable – anionic, cationic, self emulsifiers like ewax or btms, not lameller/liquid crystal ones like cetearyl glucoside or olivem.  You will need to choose a high HLB value one (eg around HLB12) and one low (eg around hlb 3). Glyceryl stearate (the non SE version) or Sorbitan Stearate are good low HLB emulsfiiers.  Cetearth-20 and polysorbate 60 are good high HLB emulsifiers.  Here’s a list of emulsifiers and their HLB values http://www.theherbarie.com/files/resource-center/formulating/Emulsifiers_HLB_Values.pdf

Step 3 – Insert the HLB values of your 2 chosen emulsifiers into A44 and B44

For a lotion with a low to medium oil phase (generally for oily to normal skin) try the emulsifier at 4%. D46 and E46 tells you how much % you need of emulsifier 1 and how much you need of emulsifier 2

Note – if you are making a lotion with a high in oil content try 5-8% emulsifier. To do this adjust the formulas in D46 and E46 – delete the 4 and replace with a 5, 6, 7 or 8. Also take note of the manufacturers recommendations.


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