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Solubilizers and emulsifiers—these things sound like something from a chemistry class. What do they have to do with mineral sunscreen?
Chemistry is a branch of science that studies the composition, structure, properties and change of matter. Before people started making synthetic chemicals, they studied what nature made to learn from it. This knowledge has been applied today in both natural and chemical sunscreens to make products with a consistency people actually want to use. Learning to work with the structure and properties of the ingredients is what allows us to work with tiny rocks to reflect the sun, in a product that has a light lotion consistency.
What are solubilzers?
To keep it simple, solubilizers dissolve things. Water will dissolve sugar and salt, but both hold their shape in oil. Think of a salt scrub. In order for the salt crystals to stay completely intact, it has to be oil based. With a water-based formula, you’d end up with a scented sea water of sorts and it wouldn’t scrub at all. The sunflower and coconut oils we use in our sunscreens are solubilizers since they help dissolve the minerals and to ensure more even coverage.
Emulsifiers—some ingredients just don’t like each other
Some things are called immiscible. This means they won’t dissolve or even mix together; they just repel each other. The best example is oil and water.
Unfortunately, if you mix a water-based ingredient like aloe vera with something like coconut oil, you’d have a problem. The lotion would separate. It would look and feel terrible on the skin and, in a sunscreen, you’d likely have uneven coverage since the minerals would be dispersed unevenly.
That’s where emulsifiers come in. These are used to incorporate oil-based ingredients into water-based ingredients. They aren’t dissolved into each other, but the ingredients stay dispersed. Imagine if you took oil and water and blended it. For a short time, the tiny drops are all mixed up. Emulsifiers give products that freshly-blended feel, without requiring constant blending. We use non-GMO sunflower lecithin to prevent our products from separating and getting chunky—definitely a benefit! But don’t worry, sunflower lecithin is simply the fatty substance that comes from cold pressing dehydrated sunflower seeds.
There are gentle options
We need solubilizers and emulsifiers, even if they sound a little scientific. The good news is there are gentle options out there. Unfortunately, there are other not-so-gentle options out there, too. But if you can get oil and water to play nice with each other in a way that doesn’t cause health issues, doesn’t that just make more sense? And that’s just another reason to give harsh chemicals the bird!
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