1. Ointment Bases
✓Bases play an important role in the proper formulation of
✓there is no single base universally suitable as a carrier of
all drug substances or for all therapeutic indications
✓Semisolid vehicle for medicated ointments
2. Types of base for ointments and pastes
• There are four types of base that are used to formulate
pharmaceutical ointments and pastes:
(3) water-miscible/removable; (emulsion base)
3. 1. Hydrocarbon bases
▪ Oleaginous bases
▪ non-aqueous formulations, emollient
▪ restrict water loss from the site of application
➢ Due to the formation of an occlusive film
▪ Excellent retention on the skin
▪ Predominantly hydrophobic
➢ Difficult to remove from the skin by washing
➢ difficult to apply to (spread over) wet surfaces (e.g. mucous membranes, wet skin)
4. 1. Hydrocarbon bases
▪ Small amount of water (5%) can be incorporated into it with difficulty
▪ Can be protective to water labile drugs such as tetracycline and bacitracin.
▪ Greasy and can stain clothing.
▪ Chemically inert
5. Hydrocarbon bases frequently contain the
• (1) hard paraffin;
• (2) white/yellow soft paraffin;
• (3) liquid paraffin (mineral oil); and
• (4) microcrystalline wax.
6. Hard paraffin
• A mixture of solid saturated hydrocarbons that are derived from petroleum or
• A colorless or white wax-like material that is physically composed of a
mixture of microcrystal.
• The melting temperature of hard paraffin is between 47 and 65oC and,
➢used to enhance the rheological(The study of flow characteristics)
properties of ointment bases (stiffen the ointment).
7. White/yellow soft paraffin
• This is a purified mixture of semisolid hydrocarbons
(containing branched, linear and cyclic chains) that are
derived from petroleum.
• White/yellow soft paraffin consists of microcrystals
embedded in a gel composed of liquid and amorphous
hydrocarbons that are themselves dispersed in a gel phase
containing liquid and amorphous hydrocarbons.
8. White/yellow soft paraffin
• The melting range of the soft paraffins is between 38 and
• White soft paraffin and yellow soft paraffin (the former
being a bleached form of yellow soft paraffin) may be
used as an ointment base without the need for additional
components, although it may be combined with liquid
9. Liquid paraffin (mineral oil)
• This is a mixture of saturated aliphatic (C14–C18) and cyclic hydrocarbons
that have been refined from petroleum.
• It is usually formulated with white/yellow soft paraffin to achieve the required
viscosity for application to the required site.
• On long storage it may oxidize to produce peroxides and therefore, it may
contain tocopherol as antioxidants. It is used along with hard paraffin and soft
paraffin to get a desired consistency of the ointment.
• Tubes for eye, rectal and nasal ointments have nozzles with narrow orifices
through which it is difficult to expel very viscous ointments without the risk of
bursting the tube. To facilitate the extrusion up to 25% of the base may be
replaced by liquid paraffin.
10. Microcrystalline wax
• This is a solid mixture of saturated alkanes (both linear
and branched) with a defined range of carbon chain
• This excipient is used to enhance the viscosity of
ointments (and creams). One of the advantages of
microcrystalline wax is the greater physical stability
provided to formulations containing liquid paraffin
(reduced bleeding of the liquid component).
11. Advantages of hydrocarbons bases
• They remain on the surface as an occlusive layer that restricts the loss of
moisture hence, keeps the skin soft.
• ensures prolonged contact between skin and medicament
• They are almost inert
• They consist largely of saturated hydrocarbons
• They can withstand heat sterilization(sterile ophthalmic ointments )
• They are readily available and cheap.
12. Disadvantages of hydrocarbon bases:
• It retains body heat, which may produce an uncomfortable
feeling of warmth.
• Rubbing onto the surface and removal after treatment are
• Makes application unpleasant and leads to contamination
• Poor in absorbing exudate from moist lesion
13. 2. Absorption bases
➢ Absorption bases, unlike the hydrocarbon types, absorb considerable amounts of
water or aqueous solutions.
➢ Compared with the hydrocarbon bases:-
• They are less occlusive, nevertheless, are good emollients
• They assist oil-insoluble medicaments to penetrate the skin
• They are easier to spread.
• Not easily removed from the skin with water washing, since the external phase
of the emulsion is oleaginous.
• Useful as pharmaceutical adjuncts to incorporate small volumes of aqueous
solution into hydrocarbon bases.
• Absorption base can be measured by water number (max amount of water
taken by 100g base).
14. I. Non-emulsified bases
▪ These bases absorb water and aqueous solutions to produce water-in- oil ( W/O )
▪ Typically non-emulsified bases are commonly composed of:
(1) one/more paraffins, and
(2) a sterol-based emulsifying agent.
▪ Examples: (1) lanolin (wool fat);
(2) wool alcohols; and
(3) beeswax (white or yellow).
15. Lanolin (wool fat)
▪ Lanolin is a wax-like material that is derived from sheep’s wool.
▪ Typically mixed with paraffins to produce an ointment base
➢ Can absorb approximately twice its own weight of water to produce water in oil emulsions.
➢ The usual concentrations of lanolin used in ointments (e.g. Simple Ointment BP) range
from 5 to 10% w/w.
➢ It is available in two forms, termed
Anhydrous lanolin (wool fat) and hydrous lanolin.
➢called wool wax, wool fat, or wool grease,
➢greasy yellow substance
➢ contains < 0.25% of water
16. Lanolin (wool fat)
• Wool fat is a major constituent of Simple Ointment B.P and Eye Ointment
Simple ointment B.P
• Hard paraffin ………50g
• Cetosteryl alcohol….50g
• Wool fat……………..50g
• Soft paraffin……….850g
Eye Ointment B.P
Yellow soft paraffin……850g
17. Wool alcohols
▪ A crude mixture of sterols and triterpene alcohols
▪ Added to mixtures of paraffins (hard, white/yellow soft or liquid) to produce the required
▪ The inclusion of wool alcohols (5% w/w) results in a 300% increase in the concentration of
eg. wool alcohol ointment B.P contains 6% wool alcohol and hard, liquid and soft paraffin.
18. Beeswax (white or yellow)
• A wax that consists of esters of aliphatic alcohols (C24–C36) and linear
aliphatic fatty acids (up to C36) that is combined with paraffins to produce
▪ White beeswax is the bleached form of yellow beeswax.
▪ included in some ointment bases to increase water-absorbing power.
Eg. Paraffin ointment B.P. contains beeswax
19. II. Water in oil emulsions
➢These are similar in properties to the previous group and are
capable of absorbing water.
➢Absorption bases are less occlusive than the hydrocarbon bases
and easier to spread.
➢They are good emollients.
Eg. hydrous lanolin, which is a mixture of lanolin and 25–30% water.
20. ➢It is used alone as an emollient and is an ingredient of several
B.P ointment bases, i.e
Hydrous wool fat ointment
Calamine and coal tar ointment
Methyl salicylate ointment
22. 3. Water-washable/removable bases
▪ Water-miscible bases that are used to form O/W emulsions.
• They can be applied to scalp and other hairy regions.
• There are 3 official anhydrous water-miscible bases.
• Emulsifying ointment B.P – anionic
• Cetrimide emulsifying ointment B.P – cationic
• Cetomacrogol emulsifying B.P- non-ionic
E.g. Compound Benzoic Acid (Whitfield Ointment) - used as antifungal
23. Water-washable/removable bases
• Advantages of water-miscible bases
✓ able to accommodate large volumes of water.
✓ able to accommodate excess moisture , they can absorb serous discharges
e.g. exudate from abrasions & wounds.
✓ Reduced interference with skin function
✓ easily washed from the skin and from clothing.
✓ readily applied to (and removed from) hair, skin. Hence High cosmetic
24. Characteristics of water removable bases
Resemble creams in their appearance
Can absorb water
May be diluted with water or with an aqueous solution
Certain medicinal agents may be better absorbed into the skin
25. 4.Water-soluble bases
• Completely water-soluble bases have been developed from the
Macrogols (Polyethylene glycols) known as “carbowaxes”, a
range of compounds with the general formula:-
• PEG is also known as polyethylene oxide (PEO) or
26. • Polyethylene glycols are polymers of ethylene oxide and water
C2H4O + H2O Poyethylene glycol (Macrogol )
▪ The chain length may be varied to achieve polymers having desired viscosity
and physical form.
✓ Macrogols 200,300 ,400 - Viscous liquid
✓ Macrogol 600- 1000 - Semi-solid
✓ Macrogols >1000 - waxy solids
28. Advantages of water- soluble bases
➢ Water solubility
– Easily removal from the skin
➢ Good absorption by the skin
▪ valuable when drugs are required to penetrate the skin
➢ Good solvent properties
– For some water soluble dermatological e.g. Hydrocortisone
29. ➢Freedom from greasiness
➢ Satisfactory ageing properties
• They don’t hydrolyze, rancidity or support microbial growth.
➢Compatibility with many dermatological medicaments
e.g. - Ammoniated mercury
- Yellow mercuric oxide
30. Disadvantages of water-soluble bases
• Less bland than paraffins/lacking strong features or characteristics
– Reduction in activity of certain antimicrobial agents, due to hydrolysis by (phenols,
hydroxybenzoates and quaternary compounds).
• Solvent action on polythene and bakelite;
– these plastics should not be used in containers or closures for macrogol ointments
31. • Inability to incorporate large volumes of aqueous solutions b/c
▪ Ointments will soften or
▪ dissolve the ointment base if the concentration of water is large enough (
❖Its use is usually reserved for the incorporation of solid therapeutic agents.
• It may incorporate up to 25% of an aqueous solution if a portion of the lower-
molecular-weight polyethylene glycol is replaced with stearyl alcohol.
– This enhance the mechanical properties of the ointment.
32. Properties of water-soluble bases
➢ Water soluble and washable
➢ Non-greasy & soften greatly with the addition of water
➢ Non/less occlusive
➢ Lipid free
➢ Synthetic base
➢ Relatively inert
➢ Does not support mold growth
➢ Little hydrolysis, stable