A cream is basically a mixture of oil and water. As you know oil does not readily dissolve or disperse in water, so to allow this to happen, a dispersing agent called an emulsifier is added to the mixture. A cream is therefore a type of emulsion, made of a water phase and an oil phase.

Emulsifiers ‘Unite’ Oil with Water

Emulsifiers are substances that have the ability to react with both oil and water. One piece of an emulsifier molecule joins to the molecules of water and another piece joins to the molecules of oil. This allows the oil to disperse as very fine droplets surrounded by emulsifier molecules, into the water medium. The emulsifier is often a waxy substance (e.g.: Glyceryl Stearate), which is melted into the oil before it is added to the water.

‘Oil in Water’ and ‘Water in Oil’ Emulsions

Oil in water emulsions

are prepared by dispersing a lesser quantity of oil in a greater quantity of water. The oil phase is called the ‘internal phase’ because the emulsifier molecules enclose the minute oil droplets as they disperses them through the water medium, which is referred to as the ‘external phase’. The oil is ‘wrapped within the water’. Such creams have a lighter feel, are more easily absorbed into the skin without leaving an oily residue.

Water in oil emulsions

are prepared by dispersing a lesser quantity of water into a greater quantity of oil. Water here is the internal phase because the emulsifier molecules wrap round the minute water droplets as they disperse through the medium of oil, which is the external phase. Such creams tend to have an oily feel and are used to provide an oily barrier, which protects the skin and reduces the loss of moisture in conditions like eczema.

The Water Phase

Water constitutes the major ingredient (61-77%) of most creams. The lighter and more cosmetic-type creams contain more water and less oil. This phase contains the water-soluble herbal ingredients of a cream. In our creams, the water phase is never tap or deionised water as is the case with most creams, except in our base cream. We always incorporate beneficial high quality active ingredients into the water phase in the form of distilled aromatic waters, strong infusions and decoctions and cold percolates of organic herbs.

The Oil Phase

Oils make up, anywhere between 11 and 24% of the bulk of a cream. The heavier purely medicinal creams contain a higher proportion of oil but water is still their major ingredient. Oil-soluble herbal ingredients like resins dissolve and become incorporated into this phase which gives creams a richer and heavier feel. Many oils are susceptible to oxidation or rancidification over a period of time. This process is hindered by the addition of antioxidants like vitamin E, to all our creams and lotions.

Making a cream

The ingredients of the water phase are heated gently until their temperature reaches 70-75 Degrees C. Simultaneously, the ingredients of the oil phase are heated gently in a separate container again to a temperature of 70-75 Degrees C. When both phases get to the required temperature the oil phase is poured gradually into the water phase. As this is taking place the mixture is whisked vigorously using a high sheer mixer, which breaks the oil, emulsifier, and water particles into minute droplets. This greatly facilitates the dispersion of oil into water and enhances the stability of the emulsion. A creamy texture forms after a few minutes of high-sheer high-speed mixing. This is then transferred to a low-shear low-speed stirrer, which gently mixes and turns the cream giving it body and gradually cooling it down. When the temperature of the cream drops down to around 40 Degrees C, heat sensitive ingredients like essential oils and some preservatives are added and stirred in for a few more minutes to ensure uniform dispersal. Here is your cream, which is now left overnight to cool to room temperature, then filled into sterile containers and sealed.