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Natural Surfactants and Micelles in Surfactants

Apr. 15, 2022

Trying to avoid SLS and other harsh surfactants in your cosmetics? There are many mild natural surfactants to choose from. Learn about the different types of natural surfactants with my favorite list.

Surfactant functions

Some surfactants are emulsifiers, some are foaming agents (some may actually do the opposite of these functions). Some act as detergents, while others act as insecticides or fungicides. Some help to solubilize (for example, small amounts of oil into water) and others help to increase viscosity.


Why increase wetting?

Surfactants affect the surface tension of a liquid to increase wettability.
Often, when you spray water on a surface such as a window instead of applying it evenly to the surface, the water will form beads. That's because of the surface tension of water. Water molecules clump together in a stable configuration and attract each other. But beads don't help you when you try to clean that window. You want the water to be evenly distributed on the surface to clean it better. You also want something that will grab the grease and grime on whatever surface you are trying to clean.


Natural Surfactants and Micelles in Surfactants


Micelles in surfactants

Surfactants affect the surface tension that causes water to bead up rather than spread out. They have a head that likes water and a tail that likes fats (oils). They clump together in a structure called micelles.
The water-loving head of the micelles binds to the water, while the oil-loving tail inside the micelles binds to the grease and dirt. This pulls the grease and dirt into the center of the micelle so that it is no longer in contact with the water, thus making them easier to rinse off.
You will also find that hot water helps to clean better because hot water helps to melt the fats, which makes it easier to carry them into the micelles.


Natural Surfactants

Natural surfactants can come from a variety of plants. A common source is coconut or palm, but they can also come from other types of fruits and vegetables.
There are many natural surfactants on the market today, and as consumer demand increases, I think more will be available in time. I have tried many, but today I will focus on some of my favorites. I like these surfactants because they are gentle, easier to find, and they work well together. You can use them in everything from mild shampoos to body washes, face washes and baby baths.

Natural Surfactants and Micelles in Surfactants


All-natural surfactants

While not as effective as other, more processed surfactants derived from natural sources, those looking for completely natural alternatives may be interested in researching some of these natural surfactants. These plant-based cleansers all contain natural saponins, which are nonionic surfactants. They can be used alone or in combination with other surfactants for a more effective end product.


Choosing your surfactants

Another thing to remember is that these surfactants may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The names are aggregated and do not refer to the exact structure. Some places will use different plants as a source for making each surfactant, and the way each surfactant cleans, solubilizes, etc. may vary depending on where you buy it from. I will describe these surfactants based on my suppliers, but if you need to know which plants are used to extract them, pH, concentration, etc.


Natural Surfactants and Micelles in Surfactants


Sancolo has manufacturing plants annual capacity 5000tons for CDBS(hydrous/anhydrous calcium salts); 5000tons capacity for nonionicsurfactant;10000tons capacity for Polycarboxylicacid cement water-reducer. 

Please contact us if you need to buy the surfactants.


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