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Reference Guide to HLB Values of Common Emulsifiers

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What Is HLB System and Why Is It Important?

The HLB system is a numerical scale developed by William Griffin in the 1940s to classify emulsifiers based on their balance between hydrophilic (water-attracting) and lipophilic (oil-attracting) properties.

This balance, typically represented on a scale from 0 to 20, determines the surfactant's emulsifying capabilities. Emulsifiers with lower HLB values exhibit more lipophilic characteristics, making them suitable for water-in-oil emulsions, while those with higher HLB values display greater hydrophilicity, making them apt for oil-in-water emulsions.

reference-guide-to-hlb-values-of-common-emulsifiersAn illustration of HLB Scale. [1]

Given the wide variety of surfactants available in today's specialty chemicals market, formulators need efficient tools to narrow down their choices. The HLB system is one of the most practical and effective tools. The following table lists the HLB values of some commonly used emulsifiers for reference only.

HLB Values of Common Emulsifiers

EmulsifiersHLB ValuesEmulsifiersHLB Values
Glycol Distearate1Polysorbate 8511
Sorbitan Trioleate1.8PEG-7 Olivate11
Propylene Glycol lsostearate2.5Ceteary Glucoside11
Glycol Stearate2.9PEG-8 Oleate11.6
Sorbitan Sesquioleate3.7Polyglyceryl-3 Methyglucose Distearate12
Glyceryl Stearate3.8Oleth-1012.4
Lecithin4Oleth-10 / Polvoxvl 10 Oleyl Ether NF12.4
Sorbitan Oleate4.3Ceteth-1012.9
Sorbitan Monostearate NF4.7PEG-8 Laurate13
Sorbitan Stearate4.7Cocamide MEA13.5
Sorbitan Isostearate4.7Polysorbate 60 NF14.9
Steareth-24.9Polysorbate 6014.9
Oleth-24.9Polysorbate 8015
Glyceryl Laurate5.2Isosteareth-2015
Ceteth-25.3PEG-60 Amond Glvcerides15
PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate5.5Polysorbate 80 NF15
Glyceryl Stearate SE5.8PEG-20 Methy Glucose Sesquistearate15
Sorbitan Stearate (and) Sucrose Cocoate6Ceteareth-2015.2
PEG-4 Dilaurate6Oleth-2015.3
Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate6.6Steareth-2015.3
PEG-8 Dioleate8Ceteth-2015.7
Sorbitan Laurate8.6Isoceteth-2015.7
PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate9Polysorbate 2016.7
Laureth-49.7Polysorbate 20 NF16.7
PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate10Laureth-2316.9
PEG-20 Almond Glycerides10PEG-100 Stearate18.8
PEG-25 Hydrogenated Castor Oil10.8Steareth-10018.8
Stearamide MEA11PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate19.1
Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate11

How to Choose Emulsifier Based on HLB System?

Choosing an emulsifier according to the Hydrophilic-Lipophilic Balance (HLB) system involves considering the HLB values of both the oil phase and water phase in the emulsion you are creating.

  • Determine the HLB value of the oil phase


Different oils have different HLB requirements for effective emulsification. For example, a low HLB value (3-6) is suitable for creating oil-in-water emulsions with oils that are more hydrophobic, while a higher HLB value (8-18) is needed for water-in-oil emulsions with oils that are more hydrophilic.

  • Determine the HLB value of the water phase

The HLB value of the water phase (including any water-soluble additives) also needs to be considered. For instance, this could include any surfactants or co-emulsifiers that contribute to the overall HLB requirement of the water phase.

  • Calculate the required HLB value for the emulsifier

Once you have the HLB values for the oil and water phases, you can calculate the required HLB value for the emulsifier using various HLB calculation methods or charts.

  • Select an emulsifier with the appropriate HLB value

Choose an emulsifier with an HLB value that matches or is close to the calculated required HLB value. Emulsifiers with a range of HLB values are often used to achieve the desired stability and characteristics of the emulsion.

Learn more about selecting emulsifiers based on HLB systems.


  1. W Vikrant, et al. Journal of Chemistry, 2018, 2319-9849.
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