The Hydrophile-Lipophile Balance (HLB) System simplifies the process of choosing the right emulsifier to use in formulations.
A formulator is faced with literally thousands of options for emulsification. So finding the right one to blend into a product can be challenging. That’s why back in the 1940s, William Griffin created the Hydrophile-Lipophile Balance System (HLB).
The HLB system saves time, by enabling you to assign numbers to ingredients or blends of ingredients you want to emulsify, and then choosing an emulsifier of the same number.
In theory this system works very well, but in practice nothing is ever as simple as the theory portrays it to be. Regardless the HLB system is an invaluable tool to help guide formulators to choosing the correct emulsifier.
HLB number code
Within the HLB system, each emulsifier is given a number which is called its HLB which can be found from the supplier information.
The HLB is assigned due a particular emulsifiers Hydrophile-Lipophile Balance e.g. the balance of the size and strength of the hydrophilic (water-loving or polar) and the lipophilic (oil loving or non-polar) groups of the emulsifier.
The emulsifiers that are lipophilic in nature are given a low HLB number (less than 9) and those that are hydrophilic are given a high HLB (more than 11). The 9-11 range is considered intermediate.