Water swellable crosslinked polymers are widely used in oil-in-water emulsions for the healthcare and cosmetic industries due to their thickening properties. In this study, we investigate the rheological and lubrication behavior of a microgel-forming polymer, a lightly-crosslinked hydrophobically modified polyacrylic acid (HMPAA), in an aqueous medium and in an emulsion. Hydrogenated phosphatidylcholine, a class of phospholipids, is used as a surfactant in the emulsions composed of different oil content. Rheological behavior is probed both in the linear and non-linear regimes using small strain amplitude and large amplitude oscillatory shear (LAOS) experiments, respectively. We observe all systems to exhibit gel-like behavior with the elastic modulus (G’) dominating and being frequency independent. Lissajous-Bowditch plots and nonlinear parameters obtained under large deformation show that the emulsions can resist greater deformations with smaller increase in the viscous dissipation when compared to a HMPAA gel. For tribology experiments, friction curves in a range of entrainment speeds are examined using substrates to mimic the skin surface (PDMS and Bioskin®). The role of polymer hydrophobicity on the different substrates are also explored by comparing the behavior of HMPAA to that of its hydrophilic analog, a polyacrylic acid highly crosslinked. We find the friction coefficient to be dependent on the hydrophobicity of the substrate and the polymer as well as the substrate roughness. These results taken together provide insights in the formulation of skincare products with efficient lubrication properties for different skin characteristics.
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