It turns out that old adage is true: “oil and water do not mix” – they form an emulsion! I am sitting in a beachside café, drinking coffee on a gorgeous sunny afternoon with founder Paul Penders. He is explaining to me that as the pace of life has increased dramatically the world over and competitors began to put out “lather, rinse, and go” shampoo brands, people stopped buying “non-emulsified” products to their detriment.
I look at him a bit bewildered. What does he mean? What’s wrong with a quick wash-and-go? And what does this fascinating word, emulsification, mean precisely? As soon as I can get home to my computer, I google “emulsifiers.”
- “In what I call ‘non-emulsified shampoos,’ “ Paul says, “you shake them to use, and then the oil immediately starts separating. Then the oil begins to cling to the hair. If you use emulsifiers, the natural oils are stripped away.”
I start to understand. Like that popular tropical drink – a Tequila Sunrise – liquids of different weights tend to form layers which you have to stir or shake to get them to mix. Stir them up and walk away; in a while, they will separate into layers again. Sort of like what happens to my coffee when the milk is curdled.
Make a vinaigrette — pour water or vinegar and some kind of oil into a bottle — and shake. What happens? Scientists say that shaking breaks up two ‘immiscible’ (non-mixing) liquids into droplets that “statistically distribute” themselves throughout the bottle.
Add an ‘emulsifier’ and the mixed liquid will stay together as an ‘emulsion.’ But if you do not add an emulsifier, then the liquids will start to move apart again – the heavier ones towards the bottom, the lighter ones floating on top.
So what does the emulsifier really do?
It gravitates to the border where the oil and water or air and water meet and reduces the surface tension so they can’t separate, thereby stabilizing the whole solution so it stays mixed. We hear a lot about ‘emulsified’ foods, creams, lotions, and shampoos. Is this just a fancy term or does it means something for your health and beauty?
Paul tells me that way back in 1984 Paul Penders International began when he started using a non-emulsified shampoo formulation invented by his grandmother. His hair salon customers loved it for years – until “Hurry!” became the watchword of modern life.
In order to give shampoos a long shelf life, commercial manufacturers add emulsifiers – usually detergents or ‘emulsifying waxes.’ These break up oil into droplets indiscriminately – both the oils in the shampoo and the natural oils in your hair. Every time you use an emulsified shampoo, your hair gets stripped of the natural oils that your body produces to protect it.
Emulsifiers also form chemical bonds to oils and water, preventing them from attaching to other things – like your hair. They dilute the oils and other nutrients in the shampoo which might be good for your hair – and the result is most of the ‘good things’ are just washed away in the rinse water. Seems like such a waste of money!
On the other hand — taking Paul’s point — if only people were willing to take an extra minute to shake up a non-emulsified shampoo (like Paul’s grandmother’s formula), then natural oils would be retained. The added herbals and oils in the shampoo would cling to the hair, making it healthier and giving it greater body and sheen. Shake! Lather-rinse-and-go!
Paul Penders International’s Research & Development team works overtime – the company is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the products. Some years ago, Paul Penders scientists found a gentle emulsifier that doesn’t strip the hair to add to the acclaimed Paul Penders shampoo – keeping up with the times.
Paul Penders R&D is currently at work on a new shampoo based on the old formulation. What’s new is research into the chemistry and uses of indigenous tropical plants as well as studies of the traditional health and beauty practices of the native peoples of Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
In the coming months, you’ll be hearing more about this exciting research and how tropical flowers, herbs, and fruits, and other plants will be used to enhance Paul Penders shampoos and other beauty products in the line. Stay tuned to this blog!
By Teviot Fairservis.