Emulsifier HLB Value | Definition, Calculation & Selection.

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Key points.

  • H in HLB is ‘Hydrophile’ for hydrophilic, L is ‘Lipophilic’ for lipophilic and B is ‘Balance’ for equilibrium.
  • HLB = hydrophilic of hydrophilic group / lipophilic of oleophilic group.
  • The larger the HLB value of the emulsifier represents the more hydrophilic, the smaller the value represents the more lipophilic, in general HLB value from 1 ~ 40.
Emulsifier HLB

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What is the Emulsifier HLB Value?

The HLB value (Hydrophile-Lipophile Balance Number) is the hydrophilic-hydrophobic balance value, also known as the water-oil degree, and was first proposed by W.C. Griffin in 1949 to illustrate the balance between the hydrophilic and lipophilic groups in the surfactant molecule.

Click here to learn more about “HLB was first proposed by WC Griffin in 1949”.

The degree of lipophilicity or hydrophilicity of a surfactant can be determined by the size of the HLB value, with a larger HLB value representing greater hydrophilicity and a smaller HLB value representing greater lipophilicity, generally with HLB values ranging from 1 to 40.

It is related to the hydrophilicity and lipophilicity of the surfactant, but also to the surface (interfacial) tension of the surfactant, the adsorption at the interface, emulsification and emulsion stability, dispersion, solubility, decontamination and other basic properties, and also to the application performance of the surfactant.

Emulsifier HLB Value and the Application of the Relationship

The HLB has important reference value in practical applications. It can help to screen emulsifiers and prepare emulsions with optimum performance. For example, in emulsification and decontamination, a surfactant with the right HLB value is selected depending on the polarity and temperature of the oil or dirt.

A lower HLB value indicates better oil (non-polar) solubility. Higher HLB values indicate better water (polar) solubility. The hydrophilic-lipophilic turning point HLB is 10. HLB less than 10 is oleophilic and greater than 10 is hydrophilic.

Emulsifiers with low HLB values are more suitable for water-in-oil emulsions (W/O), typically 3 to 7; emulsifiers with high HLB values are more suitable for oil-in-water emulsions (O/W), typically 7 to 19.

Plants can build emulsion systems using different ratios of low and high HLB surfactants, medium HLB surfactants or multi-component concentrates to improve formulation and cleaning efficiency.


Depending on the needs of the application, products with different HLB values can be obtained by changing the molecular structure of the surfactant. For ionic surfactants, the HLB value can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of carbons in the lipophilic group or by changing the type of hydrophilic group; for non-ionic surfactants, the HLB value can be finely adjusted by increasing or decreasing the chain length of ethylene oxide attached to a certain lipophilic group or by the number of via groups.

HLB Value Calculation Formula

HLB = hydrophilicity of hydrophilic groups / lipophilicity of lipophilic groups.

The formula for its calculation is:

HLB = 7 + 11.7 lgMW /M0

where MW and M0 are the molecular weights of the hydrophilic and lipophilic groups in the surfactant molecule, respectively.

Classification of Surfactants by HLB Calue

WO emulsifierHLB = 3 – 7
LubricantHLB = 8 – 13
OW emulsifierHLB = 7 – 19
DetergentHLB = 13 – 15
SolubilizersHLB = 10 – 18

List of HLB Calues for Common Emulsifiers

Trade NametypeHLB Value
Oteic acidanion1.0
Span 85 Sorbitan tribleateNonionic1.8
Arlacel 85 Sorbitan trioleateNonionic1.8
Atlas G-1706 Polyoxyethylene sorbitol beeswax derivativeNonionic2.0
Span 65 soibitantristearateNonionic2.1
Arlacel 65 sorbitantristearateNonionic2.1
Atlas G-1050 polyoxyethylene sorbitol hexastearateNonionic2.6
Emcol EO-50 ethyleneglycol fatty acid esterNonionic2.7
Emcol ES-50 ethyleneglycol fatty acid esterNonionic2.7
Atlas G-1704 polyoxyethylene sorbitol beeswax derivativeNonionic3.0
Emcol PO-50 propylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic3.4
Atlas G-922 propylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic3.4
“Pure” propylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic3.4
Atlas G-2158 Propylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic3.4
Emcol PS-50 Ethylene glycol fattyacid esterNonionic3.4
Emcol EL-50 ethyleneglycol fattyacid esterNonionic3.6
Emcol PP-50 Propylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic3.7
Arlacel C sorbitan sesquioleateNonionic3.7
Arlacel 83 sorbitan sesquiolateNonionic3.7
AtlasG-2859 Polyoxyethyle esorbitol 4,5 oleateNonionic3.7
Atmul 67 glycerol monostearateNonionic3.8
Atmul 84 glycerol monostearateNonionic3.8
Tegin 515 glycerolmonostee(rateglycerol monostearateNonionic3.8
Aldo 33 glycerol monostearateNonionic3.8
“Pure” HydroxylatedlanolinNonionic3.8
Ohlan polyoxyethylene sorbitol beeswaxNonionic4.0
AriasG-1727 derivativeNonionic4.0
Emcol PM-50 propylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic4.1
Span 80 sorbitan monoo1eateNonionic4.3
Arlacel 80 Sorbiatan monooleateNonionic4.3
Atlas G—917 propylene glycol monolaurateNonionic4.5
AtlasG-385l propylene glycol monolaurateNonionic4.5
EmcolPL-50 Propylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic4.5
Span 60 sorbitan monostearateNonionic4.7
Arlacel 60 sorbitan monostearateNonionic4.7
AtlasG-2139 diethylene glycol monooleatNonionic4.7
Emcol DO-50 diethyleneglycol fattyacidesterNonionic4.7
AtlasG-2146 diethylene glycol monostearateNonionic4.7
Emcol DS-50 diethyleneglycol fatty acidesterNonionic4.7
Ameroxol OE-2 P.O.E.(2)oleylalcoholNonionic5.0
AtlasG-1702 polyoxyethylene sorbitol beeswax derivativeNonionic5.0
Emcol DP-50 Diethylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic5.1
Aldo 28 glycerol monostearateNonionic5.5
Tegin glycerol monoStearateNonionic5.5
Emcol DM-50 diethylene glycolfattyacidesterNonionic5.6
Glucate-SS Methyl Glucoside SeequisterateNonionic6.0
AtlasG-1725 polyoxyethylene sorbitol beeswax derivativeNonionic6.0
AtlasG-2124 diethylene glycol monolaurateNonionic6.1
Emcol DL-50 diethylene glycol fatty acid esterNonionic6.1
Glaurin diethylene glycol monolaurateNonionic6.5
Span 40 sorbitan monopalmitateNonionic6.7
Arlacel 40 sorbitan monopalmitateNonionic6.7
AtlasG-2242 Polyoxyethylene dioleateNonionic7.5
AtlasG-2147 tetraethylene glycol monostearateNonionic7.7
AtlasG-2140 tetraethylene glycol mbnooleatNonionic7.7
AtlasG-2800 Volvoxvlropylene mannitoldioleateNonionic8.0
Atlas G-1493 Polyoxyet hylene sorbitol lanolin oleate derivativeNonionic8.0
Atlas G-1425 polyoxyethylene sorbitol lanolin derivativeNonionic8.0
Atlas G-3608 Polyoxypropylene stearateNonionic8.0
Solulan 5 P.O.E(5)lanolin alcoholNonionic8.0
Span 20 sorbitan monolaurateNonionic8.6
Arlacel 20 sorbitan monolaurateNonionic8.6
Emulphor VN-430 polyoxyethylene fatty acidNonionic8.6
Atbs G-2111 Polyoxyethylene oxypropylene oleateNonionic9.0
Atlas G-1734 Polyoxythylene sorbitol beeswax derivativeNonionic9.0
Atlas G-2125 tetraethylene glycol monolaurateNonionic9.4
Brij 30 Polyoxyethylene 1auryl etherNonionic9.5
Tween 61 polyoxethylene sorbitan monostearateNonionic9.6
Atlas G-2154 Hoxaethylene glycol monostearateNonionic9.6
Splulan PB-5 P.0.P(5)laolin alcoholNonionic10.0
Tween 81 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monooleateNonionic10.0
Atlas G-1218 Polyoxyethylene esters of mixed fatty and resin acidsNonionic10.2
Atlas G-3806 Polyoxyethylene cetyl etherNonionic10.3
Tween 65 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan tristearateNonionic10.5
Atlas G-3705 polyoxyethylene lauryletherNonionic10.8
Tween 85 polyoxyethylenesorbitan trioleateNonionic11.0
Atlas G-2116 Polyoxyethylene oxypropylene oleateNonionic11.0
Atlas G-1790 Polyoxyethylene lanolin derivativeNonionic11.0
Atlas G-2142 Polyoxyethylene monooleateNonionic11.1
Myrj 45 polyoxyethylene monostearateNonionic11.1
Atlas G-2141 polyoxyethylene enemonooleateNonionic11.4
P.E.G.400 monooleate Polyoxyethylene monooleateNonionic11.4
Atlas G-2076 Polyoxyethylene monopalmitateNonionic11.6
S-541 Polyoxyethylene monostearateNonionic11.6
P.E.G.400 monostearate Polyoxyethylene monostearateNonionic11.6
Atlas G-3300 Alkyl aryl sulfonateanion11.7
triethan01amine oleateanion12.0
Ameroxl OE-10 P.O.E.(10)o1eyl alcoholNonionic12.0
Atlas G-2127 polyoxyethylene monolaurateNonionic12.8
Igepal CA-630 po1yoxyethylene alkyl phonolNonionic12.8
Solulan 98 Acetylated P.O.E.(10)landin derivNonionic13.0
Atlas G-1431 polyoxyethylene sorbitol landing derivativeNonionic13.0
Atlas G-1690 Polyoxyethylene alkyl aryle etherNonionic13.0
S-307 Polyoxyethylene monolaurateNonionic13.1
P.E.G 400 monolurate Polyoxyethylene monolaurateNonionic13.1
Atlas G-2133 Polyoxyethylene lauryl etherNonionic13.1
Atlas G-1794 polyoxyethylene castor oilNonionic13.3
Emulphor EL-719 Polyoxyethylene vegetable OilNonionic13.3
Tween 21 polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurateNonionic13.3
Renex 20 polyoxyethylene esters Of mixed fatty and resin acideNonionic13.5
Atlas G-1441 polyoxyethylene sorbitol 1anolin derivativeNonionic14.0
Solulan C-24 P.O.E.(24)cholesterolNonionic14.0
Solulan PB-20 P.O.P.(20)1anolin alcoholNonionic14.0
Atlas G-7596j polyoxyethylene sotbitan monolauratNonionic14.9
Tween 60 polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearateNonionic14.9
Ameroxol OE-20 P.O.E.(20) oleyl alcoholNonionic15.0
Glucamate SSE-20 P.O.E.(20) Glucamate SSNonionic15.0
Solulan 16 P.O.E.(16) lanolin alcoholNonionic15.0
Solulan 25 P.O.E.(25) lanolin alcoholNonionic15.0
Solulan 97 Acetylated P.O.E.(20) lanolin DerivNonionic15.0
Tween 80 polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearateNonionic15.0
Myrj 49 Polyoxyethylene monostearatNonionic15.0
Altlas G-2144 Polyoxyethylene monooleateNonionic15.1
Atlas G-3915 polyoxyethylene oleyl etherNonionic15.3
Atlas G-3720 polyoxyethylene stearyl alcoholNonionic15.3
Atlas G-3920 polyoxyethylene oleyl alcoholNonionic15.4
Emulphor ON-870 Polyoxyethylene fatty alcoholNonionic15.4
Atlas G-2079 polyoxyethylene glycol monopalmitateNonionic15.5
Tween 40 polyoxyethylene sorbitan monopalmitateNonionic15.6
Atlas G-3820 Polyoxyethylene cetyl alcoholNonionic15.7
Atlas G-2162 Polyoxyethylene oxypropylene stearateNonionic15.7
Atlas G-1741 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan lanolin derivativeNonionic16.0
Myrj 51 Polyoxyethylene monostearateNonionic16.0
Atlas G-7596P Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurateNonionic16.3
Atlas G-2129 Polyoxyethylene monolaurateNonionic16.3
Atlas G-3930 Polyoxyethylene oleyl etherNonionic16.6
Tween 20 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurateNonionic16.7
Brij 35 Polyoxyethylene lauryl etherNonionic16.9
Myrj 52 Polyoxyethylene monolaurateNonionic16.9
Myrj 53 Polyoxyethylene monolaurateNonionic17.9
sodium oleateanion18.0
Atlas G-2159 Polyoxyethylene monolaurateNonionic18.8
potassium oleateanion20.0
Atlas G-263 N-cetyl N-ethyl morpholinium ethosulfatecation25-30
Texapon K-12 Pure sodium lauryl sulfateanion40

FAQ - Emulsifier HLB Value

The HLB Value, also known as the Hydrophile-Lipophile Balance Number, is a measure of the hydrophilic-hydrophobic balance of a surfactant molecule. It represents the balance between the hydrophilic (water-loving) and lipophilic (oil-loving) groups in the surfactant.

– The formula for calculating the HLB value is: HLB = 7 + 11.7 * (lg MW / M0), where MW and M0 are the molecular weights of the hydrophilic and lipophilic groups in the surfactant molecule, respectively.

– The HLB value is crucial in practical applications as it helps in screening emulsifiers and preparing emulsions with optimal performance. It determines the surfactant’s hydrophilicity, lipophilicity, surface tension, adsorption at the interface, emulsification, emulsion stability, dispersion, solubility, and other properties. It also influences the application performance of the surfactant.

– Emulsifiers with low HLB values (typically 3 to 7) are more suitable for water-in-oil emulsions (W/O), while emulsifiers with high HLB values (typically 7 to 19) are more suitable for oil-in-water emulsions (O/W). The hydrophilic-lipophilic turning point is at HLB 10, where HLB less than 10 indicates oleophilic (oil-loving) properties, and HLB greater than 10 indicates hydrophilic (water-loving) properties.

– Depending on the application requirements, surfactants with different HLB values can be obtained by modifying the molecular structure of the surfactant. For ionic surfactants, the HLB value can be adjusted by changing the number of carbons in the lipophilic group or the type of hydrophilic group. For non-ionic surfactants, the HLB value can be fine-tuned by adjusting the chain length of ethylene oxide or the number of via groups attached to the lipophilic group.

Emulsifiers play a crucial role in cosmetics, helping to blend oil and water-based ingredients together to create a smooth and stable product. The HLB value of an emulsifier is a key factor in determining its effectiveness, as it indicates how well it will interact with different types of ingredients. To learn more about emulsifiers in cosmetics and how they work, check out our dedicated page on the topic.

These FAQs provide an introduction to the Emulsifier HLB Value, its calculation, and its significance in practical applications. Understanding the HLB value helps in selecting the right emulsifiers and formulating emulsions with optimal performance.

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The role and classification of surfactants – ESTEEM-India | Excerpt: October 14, 2022.

Hydrophilic-lipophilic balance – wikipedia

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