May. 05, 2022
In today's post, we'll discuss the topic of natural surfactants. It's a big topic! We'll explain the basic chemistry of surfactants, we'll talk more about the group used for cleansing formulations, and we'll compare and contrast the five main natural surfactants that we think every organic formulator should try to use.
Many beginning formulators start their journey creating waterless products like balsams and oils, but soon start using a variety of different ingredients and processes. At SANCOLO, we have professional chemistry and biology majors, many of whom are looking to explore different kinds of active and functional ingredients to enable them to expand the range of products they can confidently formulate.
First, let's talk about natural surfactants and their role in your formulations. Surfactants cover a large group of ingredients responsible for a variety of functions, including products that produce foam. They are cleansing agents and are typically found in body washes, shampoos and facial cleansers.
Surfactants or groups of surfactants actually include various types of ingredients that you may not have previously known or used. In fact, emulsifiers, solubilizers, dispersants, wetting agents and detergents all belong to this group of ingredients as well.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus only on natural surfactants used in cleaning products that clean and lather. Keep in mind that your formulation does not necessarily need to lather in order to clean. Natural surfactants are derived from natural sources and then undergo some degree of chemical processing in order to make them suitable for use in cosmetics.
Natural and organic skin care formulators mostly use nonionic surfactants when formulating surfactant-based skin care or hair care products. First, they choose nonionic surfactants because of their compatibility with other surfactant types. Nonionic surfactants are suitable for all the other groups we mentioned in the chart above. Second, nonionic surfactants are easy to formulate.
If you have not used surfactants before, then trying a nonionic surfactant is a good place to start. When used in cleaning products, these nonionic, natural surfactants are mild and provide relatively good foaming ability.
Nonionic surfactants are a great way to start your foaming product formulation journey. They are mild and gentle, produce good foam and are perfect for following the natural and organic route. Another benefit of nonionic surfactants is that they are compatible with all other surfactants. They typically perform best when mixed together (within the same group) or with surfactants that have different charges. In fact, we challenge you to try doing some blending and comparing their cleaning effectiveness as well as their foam.
Start simple by using one natural surfactant in water. Try again, mix two or even three natural surfactants together and observe. Check the pH, check the viscosity, check how good the foam is and determine the stability of the foam. This way, you will really know what can make or break your formulation. Which natural surfactant are you going to try first? We welcome your inquiries!