HLB number | Energy Glossary

Explore the Energy Glossary

Look up terms beginning with:

HLB number

1. n. []

A number on the scale of one to 40 according to the HLB system, introduced by Griffin (1949 and 1954). The HLB system is a semi-empirical method to predict what type of surfactant properties a molecular structure will provide. The HLB system is based on the concept that some molecules have hydrophilic groups, other molecules have lipophilic groups, and some have both. Weight percentage of each type of group on a molecule or in a mixture predicts what behavior the molecular structure will exhibit. Water-in-oil emulsifiers have a low HLB numbers, typically around 4. Solubilizing agents have high HLB numbers. Oil-in-water emulsifiers have intermediate to high HLB numbers.


  • Griffin WC: "Classification of Surface-Active Agents by 'HLB,'" Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists 1 (1949): 311.
  • Griffin WC: "Calculation of HLB Values of Non-Ionic Surfactants," Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists 5 (1954): 259.

Alternate Form: hydrophile-lipophile balance number

See: coalescencedispersantdrilling detergentemulsionemulsion mudfoaming agentinterfacial tensionlipophilicoil-in-water emulsionoil-mud emulsifiersurface tensionsurfactantwater-in-oil emulsionwater-mud emulsifier