Basic cosmetic formulation types

Are at the Naked chemist we are all about transparency.

On occasion, we like to go behind the scenes and get technical about ingredients.

Previously we have discussed different cosmetic chemistry terms.

For this article’s purpose, we are going back to basics and look at how some of these personal care products are formulated.

Oil in water cosmetic formulation

This is one of the most popular cosmetic formulations of skincare products. They are mostly water-based but contain oil-based ingredients.

Typically these formulas are very hydrating and moisturising and can be readily absorbed into the skin, more than water in oil formulations.

Water-free cosmetic formulations

This is a cosmetic formulation that contains fats and oils but no water.

The body butter is a good example of such a product; they are usually quite oily to touch and sit on the skin for quite a long period of time; they are a great formula for dry skin types.

Water in oil cosmetics

These are oil-based skincare formulas containing water. They have limited moisturising properties and impart higher occlusive properties, as the ratio of oil to water increases in the mixture.

Oil-free cosmetics

These formulations contain no oils but contain ingredients that impart oil-like properties, such as silicones and modified lipids.

These group of formulas is either alcohol or water-based, or a gel.

Multiple emulsions

In cosmetic chemistry, this is known as a controlled release delivery system.

These have been used mostly in the pharmaceutical field, helping to extend shelf life and stability.

These delivery systems are now prevalent in skincare, especially in anti-ageing formulas, delivering active ingredients over a longer time frame.


This is the delivery system we like to use in many of our formulas, including Fortify barrier repair cream.

In essence, formulations utilising liposomes are a specialised polyphase or W/O/W emulsion, where phospholipids represent a major part of the oil phase.

Liposomes are best described as tiny spherical shaped, soluble capsules; their role is to carry the formulation’s active part. Once applied to the skin, they deliver it to the lower layers of the epidermis.

The liposomal structure allows slow osmotic diffusion of water or water-soluble agents through the lipid membrane and onto the skin.

The medical profession first introduced the use of liposomes in formulations as an effective vehicle for delivering drugs to targeted areas within the body.

The following article does an excellent job of explaining liposomes and nanotechnology in greater detail.

One thought on “Basic cosmetic formulation types

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