On Surfactants and Formulation (face wash, shampoo and shower gels)

So now we know how to combine (and why to combine) the different surfactants… but how to calculate the Active Surfactant Matter we want in our product? (which also mean: how much surfactant we have to add to our product to have the surfactant concentration we want to obtain?).

As I already explained the Surfactant Matter of a liquid surfactant which we buy is not 100%: the surfactant is made of the Surfactant Matter and Water (and probably other ingredients like glycerin, for example); therefore every surfactant we buy has a “Active Surfactant Matter” percentage which is what we have to consider.

As I wrote in the previous posts about formulation of detergents (shampoo, bubble bath, shower gel, face wash), the amount of the TOTAL Active Matter of surfactants has to vary according to the purpose of our detergent.

Generally this is the scheme:
– face wash: <10% 
– detergent for intimate use: <10% 
– shampoo: 10%-15%
– shower gel: 15%-20% 
– bubble bath: 20%-25% (in case you really use it only to make bubbles in the bath tub and you never use it directly on your skin, you could even reach 35%… but I don’t suggest it).

Now let’s learn how to formulate the detergent.

Let’s say we want to make a shower gel, with an Active Matter (once again, the effective concentration of surfactants) around 18%.
We have also already decided which surfactants we want to use:
– Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (Concentration 29%)
– Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Concentration 36%)
– Lauryl Glucoside (Concentration 52%)

There are two different approaches in the formulation to obtain 18% Active Surfactant Matter: 
Approach n.1:
We can choose which share/quota of the total ASM (active surfactant matter) we want to give to each surfactant.
For example this is my choice:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate 10
Cocamidopropyl Betaine 5
Lauryl Glucoside 3
Total ASM = 18 (as decided)

Now we need to calculate the effective grams of each surfactant that we need to add to our shower gel formula:
We divide the quota of each surfactant by the ASM of the surfactant (in decimals: the ASM of each surfactant is a percentage so if it is 29% we divide per 0.29 OR we divide per 29 and multiply the result for 100… up to you).
Anyway it is easier done than said:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (29%) = 10/29*100 = 34,44 (you can add 34.50 gr)
Cocamidopropyl Betaine (36%) = 5/36*100 = 13.88 (you can add 13.50 gr or 14 gr)
Lauryl Glucoside (52%) = 3/52*100 = 5.76 (you can add 5.5 gr)

Approach n.2:
You can also reason the other way around: you try to guess approximately how much grams of surfactants you want to add to the detergent and then calculate the effective total ASM; if the result is not close to 18% total, you change the grams and calculate again until you are satisfied.
For example this is my initial choice:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate 40 gr
Cocamidopropyl Betaine 15 gr
Lauryl Glucoside 5 gr

Now I calculate the total ASM of the detergent:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (29%) = 40*0.29 = 11.6
Cocamidopropyl Betaine (36%) = 15*0.36 = 5.4
Lauryl Glucoside (52%) = 5*0.52 = 2.6
Total ASM = 11.6+5.4+2.6 = 19.6

I can either decide that 19.6 is fine for me or I can decide to lower a little bit the grams or one or all of them and recalculate the Total ASM.
I decide to calculate again changing the value of grams:
SLS (29%) = 35*0.29 = 10.15
Betaine (36%) = 14.5*0.36 = 5.22
Lauryl Glucoside (52%) = 4*0.52 = 2.08
Total ASM = 10.15+5.22+2.08 = 17.45

Now I decide it is fine and I can proceed in the formulation of the Shower Gel! 🙂

Here I post a list of the most common surfactants you can purchase online, with their average Concentration (ASM) and for the most common I will add also few words on how to use them:
(Notice that the value may vary of few points % so the best thing would always be to ask the supplier which is the precise percentage for the exact batch of surfactant you are purchasing: suppliers always have this information, so you are not asking for something impossible; however you can also use these data 😉 ).
IMPORTANT: surfactants may have different commercial names from the substance they are, therefore always check the ingredients list when you purchase 😉

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate – anionic (29%)
One of the most commonly used eco-friendly surfactants. Improves the foam of other surfactants (specially betaines) making it more smooth and soft. It becomes viscous at pH 5, but only if used in high percentage in the detergent (so remember to acidify your detergent with drops of lactic acid or citric acid). It becomes liquid if in contact with oils (perfume oils included) so synthetic thickening agents or xanthan gum have to be used (you have to consider this in the formulation because the xanthan gum goes in the water phase). Not good in shampoos.

SLES – Sodium Laureth Sulfate – anionic (27%)
It becomes very dense once combined with betaine and salt (betaine can be enough). It is very good in shampoos because it has high wetting properties.
It is not eco-friendly.

SLSA – Sodium Lauroyl Sulfoacetate – anionic
It is not aggressive (this term of course is relative) and it is a powder. It is good if used in the making of Bubble Bars (recipe soon ok 😉 ?)

Sodium Lauryl Glutamate – anionic (36%-40%)
Very delicate and used in products for kids. Unfortunately it tends to melt down the viscosity of many other surfactants (therefore formulate accordingly).

Sodium Comopolyglucoside Tartrate/Citrate – anionic (30%)
Delicate and eco-friendly. Used in products for kids and for people who have very sensitive skin. Very low viscosity.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine – amphoteric (30%-38%)
Alone it is not delicate but it makes other surfactants more delicate (specially anionic surfactants) in a ratio of 1:3 or 1:4 with the primary surfactant of the recipe. It is eco-friendly. Combined with SLES it is a viscosity builder.

Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate – amphoteric (36%-40%)
Delicate. It is used in shampoo because it has conditioning properties to the hair (however for thin hair it might be too much). It doesn’t burn the eyes (therefore it would be good in a shampoo for kids or in a face wash). Usually it is used around 5%.

Lauryl Glucoside – non-ionic (50%-53%)
It is a thick, white paste so it needs to be heated a bit to be combined with other surfactants; the good news is that it helps the viscosity of the final product. It is quite delicate and it reduces the harshness of the primary surfactants. Usually added in low percentage.

Decyl Glucoside – non-ionic (63%-63%)
Good foam booster. Unfortunately it tends to liquefy the other surfactants. Usually added in low percentage.

Coco Glucoside & Glyceryl Oleate – non-ionic (50%-55%)
This is a combination of the surfactant Coco Glucoside with Glyceryl Oleate (Glyceryl Oleate is the ester of glycerin and oleic acid. It is produced from oils that contain high concentrations of oleic acid, such as olive oil, peanut oil, teaseed oil or pecan oil. Source Here), which limits already the harshness of the first. It is added in low percentages (3%-4%)

Lauryl Glucoside and Cocamidopropyl Betaine (43%)
This is made of already two combined surfactants

Coco Betaine (29%-33%)

Coco Glucoside (51%-53%)

Disodium Laureth Sulfoccinate – anionic (35%)

Hope this was clear enough 🙂
Next time I will show a full recipe of a detergent (I still have to choose between a shampoo and a face wash but anyway sooner or later I will post both).

If you want more posts about how to formulate Shampoos check HERE

Let me know if you have any questions 😉

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

75 thoughts on “On Surfactants and Formulation (face wash, shampoo and shower gels)

  1. Robert says:

    Hey, great! Maybe sometime I’ll write about all the decisions & compromises that went into my formul’n of the stuff I linked to here. Susan Barclay-Swift is the only other writer I know of online for DIY of such mixtures.

    I would take issue, though, with your use of the catch-all term “detergent”, because although it fits the other products you categorize, it’s a little off base for bath foams, because when used in bath water they’re too dilute to be effective cleaners for skin. However, I have no short alternate term that encompasses skin & hair detergents along with bubble bath.

    I also take issue with people who distinguish soaps from detergents in these contexts–because if you’re using soap to clean, it is a detergent–as well as with scientists who use “detergent” as a synonym for “surfactant”, even when the material isn’t intended for cleaning. And there are detergents that aren’t surfactant-based. It’s a functional category, not a chemical one.

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    • It's all in my hands says:

      Thank you for your comment!

      Indeed I wasn’t sure about using the word “detergent” but I am not English mother tongue and I couldn’t find a better word to refer to what I am talking here 😀 Suggestions? 😀

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      • Robert says:

        Since the only other major toiletries product I can think of that uses similar surfactant compositions to the detergents are bath foams, you could say “detergents and foamers”. To be a little more specific you could write “water-based detergents and foamers” if you wanted to leave out oil-based products and adsorbents such as dry shampoos. But the description starts to get unwieldy, so if you just write “detergent” or “cleaner” or “cleanser”, you cover most of the ground in few words.

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  2. Angel says:

    Hi, please i need some help.. im trying to make a sulfate free shampoo by using sodium lauroyl sarcosinate in replacement of the sodium lauryl ether sulfate but i cant get the product to thicken at all.. i thought that lauroyl glucoside would of thicken the product but it didnt.. Can you guys guide me with which chemical is needed to thicken sodium lauryl sarcosinate..

    Here is the list of ingredients im using:
    Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
    Lauroyl Glucoside
    Glycerin
    EDTA
    Citric Acid
    Desmineralized water

    Thanks

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    • It's all in my hands says:

      Hello there! 🙂

      Eh… Lauroyl Glucoside HELPS to thicken but it won’t thicken your Sarcosinate… cause THAT is the problem.
      You see, Sarcosinate thickens only at pH 5 and I think it works quite well combined with Cocamidopropyl Betaine; the Lauroyl Glucoside is fine but shouldn’t be used at high percentages so it won’t make the trick.
      Anyway, as I said, Sarcosinate thickens at pH 5 sharp… but the problem is that it doesn’t “bear” any kind of oil (if you add even just few drops of fragrance oil – the shampoo is liquid again!! 😀 ).
      If you wanted to make it thick I would suggest you use a gelling agent of the water phase (xanthan gum, for example… or maybe Sclerotium Gum! I think it might work great!).
      However, just my suggestion, I wouldn’t make a shampoo based on Sarcosinato simply because it has an awful wetting ability (all the opposite of SLES)… but that’s cause I have long thin hair 😀 so if you have short hair it might just work great for you! 😉

      Hope it was of some help 😀
      Have a great day!
      🙂
      – C

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      • Robert says:

        It’s true that sodium lauroyl sarcosinate doesn’t have great wetting power and doesn’t “bear oil” in concentrated solution, but it has a virtue as shampoo in that it works very differently with oil once diluted: its lather stays thick and on your head as it picks up scalp oil, rather than breaking and running off as most do. Pretty expensive stuff, last I checked, as surfactants go, but usually even expensive surfactants don’t turn out to be the major cost in products like this.

        As to thickening, other than the pH adjustment suggested above, the trouble with sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is that it doesn’t want to jell, but simply to precipitate out, so you can’t just add a sodium salt to get the common-ion effect for viscosity. So I’d go with a gum, a polymer carbohydrate, a carbomer, or something, if the formulator doesn’t want to switch surfactants.

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  3. Angel says:

    Hey thanks for the quick response!
    After some various tests we have noticed that the reaction of Cocamidopropyl betaine with sarcosinate and lauroyl glucoside seems to thicken the formulation to certain extend..
    Also Adding Cocamide(DEA) to the formula seems to thicken it as well… on the other hand adjusting the pH sounds like a great idea! I havent tested it yet.. my only concern is that the pH is going to be too acidic.. the shampoo is going to be aimed as dog shampoo.. so a neutral PH would of been ideal for their skin.. We are trying to develop a sulfate free shampoo thats delicate and not harsh to their skin.. for that reason we chose sarcosinate and lauroyl glucoside as main ingredients in the formulation..
    Its true basing the formulation with only sarcosinate might be an expensive way to do it..Can you guys suggest which other surfactant can i use in conjuction with sarcosinate and lauroyl glucoside to reduce costs??

    Thanks

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    • It's all in my hands says:

      hmmmm I am not sure actually of which other surfactants might be cheaper, to me, in fact, they all cost very similar – except for the very cheap SLES which you don’t want to use – the others have similar costs where I buy. 🙂
      However… about the pH being too acid for dogs… I don’t know cause I am not an expert about dogs but pH 5 doesn’t sound very harsh to me and, also, consider that you have to rinse it off completely (therefore there is water bringing the pH back to neutral), so I am not sure but I wouldn’t worry too much about that! 🙂
      IF the pH adjustment works, I would just go with it! 🙂

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    • Robert says:

      Usually cocamide DEA (or any alkanolamide) is going to bring in some alkali, so I wouldn’t be concerned with its lowering pH (may raise it, though). However, the ethanolamides tend to sting eyes, which you wouldn’t want in dog shampoo. By my direct observ’n, lauric DEA stings eyes worse than soap; coconut diethanolamide less so, but still considerably.

      Many pro dog washers use human baby shampoo on dogs. The ingredients of those are also slightly expensive, though maybe less so than sarcosinate. Typically no-eye-sting shampoos have been heavy on highly ethoxylated derivatives of glycosidic and/or of monoglyceride surfactants, and have been buffered to neutral pH with citrate, borate, or phosphate buffer, and don’t concern themselves too much with viscosity. In fact, you probably would want a less viscous liquid for washing dogs, because you want to pour on a lot of it and spread it quickly on wet, squirmy bow-wow. An adult human user may want to put a little viscous liquid on wet hands and pre-lather it before putting it on the head, but a dog washer is going to be holding the wet dog in one hand and pouring shampoo on it with the other.

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  4. Debbie Blyth says:

    I have read the articles and used Approach #1 in the above article to figure out how many grams of each of the surfactants I could add to my bubble bath. I used your 25 ASM as the goal. I assigned values to the 3 surfactants and ended up with 37gm; 21 gm and 12.7 gram. What do I do with those numbers of grams? I would like to experiment but I dont want to waste ingredients. Do I make a surfactant that is topped up to a 100 ml surfactant AND THEN use the BLEND as the surfactant in my bubble bath? For instance, a recipe asking for 50% surfactant of my choice-Would I use my BLEND at 50%?

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    • It's all in my hands says:

      Hello Debbie.
      It would be correct but there would be two problems:
      If you do like that, you would end up with a mix that you could never change.
      Secondly, surfactants are preserved so it sounds like it would be fine but it is not: the different pH and the different composition (plus the probably different preservatives used) dont make for a stable mixture to be kept in the shelf just like that. You would have to add some kind of preservative and then, once you make your final bubble bath, you would have to add preservative there as well. Doesn’t sound like a very good option.

      So, do like this: formulate your bubble bath and make just one batch of it.
      Now you know the amount of grams of each surfactant that you need to use in order to make your bubble bath…
      Just remember: you have to reach 100 grams total 🙂
      So you can add a gelling agent, if you want a very thick bubble bath, you will have to add water (but you calculate its amount in the very end), and then you can add other things as well… 1% oil? (but remember your bubble bath will make less bubbles 😉 ), 0.25% caffeine? (for a good wakeup 😀 )… just anything you want.
      Don’t forget you have to add the preservative as well.
      Then a good smell 🙂

      I made many detergents (mostly shampoos, but the procedure is the same) so you can find a recipe on my blog just as example and then you can make your own 😉

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      • Debbie says:

        thanks, for the reply. It was a big help. I appreciate your site and I will enjoy following it as well.

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    • Robert says:

      I took some shortcuts in formulating my bubble bath because I wasn’t originally intending to make a commercial product, plus I got a little lucky. To figure out the proportions of 3 surfactants (sometimes I used 4), the way I experimented was by starting with free sample solutions of the surfactants (which manufacturers were more eager to supply in those days), and pipetting each separately into bath water, recording the amounts. So in the experiments, the ingredients wound up mixing only in the bath. Then I splashed & saw the foam’s characteristics. A few rounds of that, and I’d figured a range of proportions and overall quantity of active matter. I actually shipped the components separately to the family I made it for, and had the children mix it in the bath, which they loved doing. (When it comes to solutions for blowing discrete soap bubbles, it turns out the surfactants & other ingredients benefit from time sitting mixed together in concentrated solution, but when it comes to foam-making solutions, not so much.)

      When it came to making it as a product that could be sold, my task was simplified by the fact I wanted an unfragranced & uncolored product. I got lucky in that the surfactant solutions all had the same preservative, and in the same concentration; but that’s not a great streak of luck, because that’s not an uncommon circumstance. I decided to add no water, which meant the mixture would have the same concentration of preservative each surfactant started with. It meant the total active matter would be in the range of 30-40%, which is certainly no problem with bubble baths. (I’ve read that Badedas, which was to be used either in bath water or on a wet cloth, was at one time around 60% TAM.) I wasn’t aiming at a precise concentration of total surfactant actives, but only the proportion; TAM calculated out nominally to 36.7%. I also got lucky in that the solutions mixed well without dilution, as long as they were mixed in the right order; gelation was a problem if a certain couple ingredients were mixed first. Also, the betaine surfactant included was a good pH buffer, and although different samples of it came in at different pH, they were all in an acceptable range. Eventually the mixture did become nonuniform, but that was after many years, due to the slow breakdown of the sulfosuccinate surfactants included, and my inability to sell much of the stuff!

      If you’ve already determined that your surfactants foam together the way you want in a certain proportion, then your approach of making a blend & using it in different mixtures is OK if all you want to vary are minor ingredients. It’s still possible that one fragrance oil (or mixture thereof) will affect the foam or viscosity more than others, especially if you need to add more of one than another in different versions of your product.

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      • It's all in my hands says:

        Thank you Robert.
        I never liked foam in the bath, so I never thought of taking advantage of the fact that, if not mixed together, surfactants are “stronger”. I always saw it the opposite way: to make a milder detergent, i mix certain surfactants that, if taken alone, would be more harsh!
        So thank you!! 🙂

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      • Robert says:

        I wasn’t trying to take advantage of any increased harshness or “strength”, far from it! What I meant was that if you’re making a solution for blowing discrete bubbles, it helps to let the mixture age for a while. This is well known to makers of bubble blowing solutions. At one time I scoffed at that notion; I figured, these are all small molecules, they should equilibrate quickly, unlike large molecules like proteins, with no big free energy barrier to their flipping around at an interface. But while that may be true on the level of individual molecules, apparently when it comes to a mass of even small surface-active molecules, statistically it takes them a while to settle into a structure in solution — like at least overnight, maybe days.

        But that doesn’t seem to be the case for foaming solutions such as those of bubble bath, maybe because they’re used at high dilution or maybe because it’s different when you’re not trying to blow large bubbles. So you can dilute the ingredients separately in the bath water (or test cylinder), stir the water to mix it, and it acts the same as if the foaming ingredients had been pre-mixed. At least I haven’t been able to tell a difference. It speeds up testing a lot when you can do this.

        And I did test a lot. My aim was to make a foaming composition that could be tolerated at relatively high concentration for long periods by a friend’s daughter without causing the urogenital irritation she’d experienced when taking bubble baths with her younger brother & sister, or when playing with shaving cream in the bathtub. I took a guess that sulfosuccinate-betaine mixtures would be at least as mild as a linear combination of their properties separately, and I hoped they would be even milder, as had been shown with ether sulfate-alkamidopropyl betaine mixtures. The sulfosuccinates would be the primary foamers, the alkamidopropyl betaines secondary foamers and also foam stabilizers. At first I tried lauryl sulfosuccinate & lauramidopropyl betaine, and found that if the sulfosuccinate predominated, the resulting foam was very dense, which would be good for children who liked shaving cream (Don’t they all?), but not so voluminous to begin with & not very stable, which was a disadvantage because these kids stayed in the tub sometimes for literally hours at a time. So I tried adding variable amounts of laureth-3 sulfate, and found definite tradeoffs between density and volume + persistence of the foam. I found a proportion they liked and which the one with the sensitive crotch tolerated no matter how much or long she sat in the bath.

        But once friends encouraged me to try to do more with this, I found sensitive-crotch test subjects for whom it made a difference whether ether sulfate or ether sulfosuccinate was used, and I settled on a mixture whose anionic surfactants were all sulfosuccinates. I found other anionics could be used instead along with the lauryl sulfosuccinate, but it seemed using the ether sulfosuccinate would be my best bet in terms of mildness. I also played around with the alkamidopropyl betaine, and found that a ratio of 3:2 or 2:1 lauric to palmitic amidopropyl betaine made it more skin-softening and produced a more cottony foam while sacrificing very little in foam volume and nothing in foam persistence. However, palmitamidopropyl betaine was too hard to obtain in an affordable small production quantity. Other alkamidopropyl or alkyl betaines gave inferior foam in these mixtures.

        To get a US patent (which has expired), I came up with an objective test of the density of the foam in a cylinder shake test, which was to weigh a fixed volume of the foam. However, it took an assistant at a lab I engaged for the purpose to come up with a practical way to pack foam into a vial: drill 5 small holes in the bottom to prevent an air pocket.

        So I encourage people trying to formulate such products to play around like this with surfactant solutions using graduated pipets and a bathtub, sink, or clear plastic cylinder to see how the foam acts. If you have friends with young children, they’ll tell you how it behaves when they splash & play with it, get it in their eyes, etc. I believe some of the newer formulas (such as using sucrose esters & various synthetic glycolipids) surpass mine in terms of mildness for a given foam height or persistence when allowed to settle, but I doubt they beat it yet for density or resistance to breakage when being played with, for the same degree of mildness.

        Some people are now moving away from ethoxylated surfactants because of contamination with 1,4-dioxane, which is a probable weak carcinogen. I still believe in using ethoxylates, whose dioxane content can be considerably reduced, but mostly because even if all ethoxylated surfactants were taken out of toiletries and hand dish detergents, they’re practically indispensable for now in formulating low suds laundry detergents, which are all the more needed with HE washing machines, and there are many uses for polyethylene glycol, which even shows promise in, of all things, cancer prevention! I’m afraid taking ethoxylates out of baby shampoo, etc. to reduce dioxane exposure would be something like a smoker who stops barbecuing to reduce exposure to smoke.

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  5. Debbie says:

    To It’s all in my hands: I have another questions concerning the formulation of my bubble bath. I am trying to duplicate a bubble bath that I already use. Water is the first ingredient on their label. When I calculated the grams of each surfactant using the ASM calculations above based on use of the same surfactants that they have listed on the label, I am finding my surfactants are taking up to 78% ( with the larger at about of the surfactants calculated at about 45 grams) and obviously I can’t proportion water a higher gram than that. QUESTION: How are they able to make water the largest ingredient by weight? I wondered if it because they recognize that the liquid surfactants are mostly comprised of water or is there another explanation I haven’t considered? Thanks

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  6. Gugu says:

    To It’s all in my hands: I am a mother who is interested in making an organic hair shampoo for my daughter, however I have little information on organic ingredients. On the list of surfactants above, is there an organic surfactant?

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    • It's all in my hands says:

      Hello Gugu. There are many so called “organic surfactants” and if you check some online resellers of cosmetic ingredients they should give you all the data. However: if your daughter has long hair it can get tricky: the surfactants with the best wetting ability are not “organic”. On the other hand, it is true that nowadays you can even purchase shampoos with good ingredients at a low cost.
      I wouldn’t worry too much about “organic” surfactants in a shampoo, I would worry more in finding a delicate shampoo (with “as good as possible” ingredients). This is just my idea but if you think about it: a shampoo touches our skin for a very short amount of time, the worst thing it can do is to irritate and dry the scalp. I have posted a recipe of a No SLES shampoo (SLES is a great surfactant for a shampoo, however it can irritate in the long run) that should have good ingredients (actually I have no idea if a surfactant can be “organic” but those in this recipe are at least “eco-friendly”).

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    • Robert says:

      The only system I know of for classifying products as “organic” apply to foodstuffs according to rules regarding how they’re grown. Surfactants of the kind you want may be available from fats or oils that would be considered organically farmed, or not. However, is that actually your concern in making your daughter’s shampoo, or are you meaning “organic” in some other way?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Eman says:

    Hello ..im trying to make free sls shower soap with olive oil &koh..but the problem is that the foam is not enough .can i add any surfactant like coco amid propyl betain &lauramid ? To increase the foam
    Please reply ..
    Thank you

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    • It's all in my hands says:

      Hi Eman.
      You want to mix a liquid soap with a detergent. Not a very good idea.
      Why don’t you make directly a detergent without sls? Most detergents don’t contain sls anyway, but at least the pH would be better than the one of liquid soap!

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      • Robert says:

        A mixture of potassium olivate (the liquid soap solution Eman is contemplating) with other surfactants may not be the BEST idea, but it’s not necessarily a bad one. Various mixtures of soaps with other detergent surfactants have been commercially or at least technically successful. In particular, soap + cocamidopropyl betaine, and soap + lauric diethanolamide, both suggested by Eman, have been done, although the soap wasn’t pure olive oil soap in the examples I know.

        Olive oil soap is known to be a rather low foamer, and is usually chosen for mildness. (Also for label or ad appeal, being expensive.) Cocamidopropyl betaine will almost certainly boost its foam, promote rinsing, and possibly even enhance mildness. Lauramide DEA (lauric diethanolamide) will boost foam & viscosity of the solution, and requires only small amounts, but may increase eye sting & waterlogging of skin. Lauramide DEA’s been out of favor for some years due to a cancer scare resulting from a routine test in rodents, but I believe that result to have been a fluke and not to reflect any actual danger. Either of those ingredients mix well with soap solutions and may be preserved by the same preservative as soap solution; one’s choice of preservatives active at the pH of a soap solution are limited, but once you’re satisfied with whatever you were going to preserve the soap with, the other surfactants won’t present any additional problem. Both of those surfactants are also stable at the pH of soap solutions.

        One possible problem, though, is that if there’s a significant amount of free dimethylaminopropylamine in the cocamidopropyl betaine solution, it will stink when mixed with soap. You might be able to reduce the odor to an acceptable level by mixing in an open container until enough of the amine evaporates, or by overcoming it with perfume. You cannot deal with it by neutralizing it with acid, because of the soap in the mixture.

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    • Robert says:

      To the extent superfatting works, that would be predicted, because usually liquid soap makers strive for a clear solution, which they can’t get with superfatting. But I think the “aggressiveness” of a soap formula would be influenced more by its fatty chain profile than by superfatting. Just a hunch based on things I’ve read & remember vaguely, rather than much experience. If my hunch is correct, all the superfatting you could manage with, say, coconut soap would not make it as mild as olive soap.

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    • It's all in my hands says:

      You can mix soap and surfactants BUT I don’t really think it is done like that: if you add SLSA at trace it means you are adding it when the soaping process has just started and it doesn’t sound right to me.
      For what I know syndets are done differently.
      But why do you want to add SLSA to your cold process soap? What do you want to obtain?

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  8. Zwe Zarni Win says:

    Hi Mr!
    I’d like to request you to answer me about the ASM value of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
    Thank you

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    • It's all in my hands says:

      I am not a Mr. Anyway you can find this data on the MSDS of the ingredient that you purchase. It should be around 30% more or less, but do check on the MSDS because these values vary depending on where you purchase from!

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    • Robert says:

      Usually SLS solutions are sold at a nominal 30% actives (w/v) in water, the specs saying something like “at least 28.5%”. However, it can also be obtained in alcohol-water solutions at 60% or 70%; those don’t get promoted much for use in toiletries, but they’re out there. And it can also be gotten as a powder or noodles which might be 88%-97% surfactant, the remainder consisting almost entirely of sodium sulfate. Don’t waste your money buying electrophoresis grade!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. gracie1985 says:

    I’d like to make a shampoo for my scalp. I use a medicated shampoo called Alphosyl 2 in 1 – helps with scalp psoriasis and dandruff. It says the active ingredient is coal tar and alcohol. But the other ingredients aren’t amazing – it does help maintain my scalp and stop the flakijg and soreness but it leaves my hair dry and I have hair loss at the too of my head. Anyway – how would I formulate a nice shampoo with the coal tar added (assuming that is what controls the excessive flaking) – I tried castor oil once and omg within 2 days I had 10 layers of scalp, had to remove it all with baby oil. I just bought sea buckthorn oil to try

    Like

    • It's all in my hands says:

      Hello Gracie.
      This is a cosmetic blog, I don’t have ANY knowledge to formulate medicated shampoos.
      What I would suggest you to do, is to make a VERY DELICATE shampoo to use every second time you wash your hair.
      Castor oil is a strong emollient, it wouldn’t help the flaking. It would simply attach the layers together.
      There are some ingredients which help against dandruff, like climbazole, piroctone olamine, sulphur… But I don’t know if they would help in case of psoriasis. So, once again, if you need a medicated shampoo, buy it. You can just alterbate between your delicate one and the bought one.
      Sorry I couldn’t help more.

      Like

      • gracie1985 says:

        Thanks for the response! 🙂 I had some genius idea to make a mild shampoo and add coal tar and make some scalp creams / oils with seabuckthorn oil – it’s all an experiment

        Like

      • It's all in my hands says:

        I checked: it contains an alcoholic extract of coal tar at 5%.

        This shampoo says it makes a lot of foam. Often in case of dandruff and psoriasis the shampoos are a little more aggressive than usual, for washing away really well all the flakes. This works, but maybe it doesn’t work for everybody and for a prolonged time, so it might be good to really alternate this shampoo with a very mild one that you make.

        If you really want to attempt replicating this, you shouldn’t add coal tar to your homemade shampoo, but you could think of making a hydroalcoholic extract of coal tar and add that at 5%. But I would avoid trying to make a medicated shampoo at home.

        You can make an hydrating scalp gel, but I would really avoid any oils because they make the scalp greasy, they are difficult to wash away and I don’t believe they would give you the feeling you wish to get. I would really stick to a simple hydrating and soothing scalp gel. I have seen in some salons Hyaluronic acid scalp treatments. You could start from there, maybe?

        Like

    • Robert says:

      Wait a minute…it said alcohol was one of its active ingredients? Ordinary ethyl alcohol? I strongly doubt that would be active. You might feel something if the instruction was to apply it undiluted to a dry head; if it had a high percentage of alcohol, you might feel a sting, which might be a kind of counter-irritant effect, though not one I’d recommend.

      Like

      • gracie1985 says:

        Ok that sounds like a good Idea – I will try to make a mild shampoo and alternate with the medicated one – I am still learning about shampoo from your blog. I am not sure how to make a gel yet. would that need to be washed out? I’d need a gel or a scalp lotion that I can apply and leave on daily (I have afro hair so can’t wash daily)

        Thanks for the advice I really appreciate it 🙂

        Like

      • It's all in my hands says:

        You can make a scalp gel that you can leave in, but I am.not sure if reapplying it everyday would be a good idea. I believe applying it just once could be enough (and then reapply only after you have washed the hair again).
        The scalp has its own oil production that protects the skin so the hyaluronic acid gel would simply help the hydration of the scalp, without adding extra oils! 🙂
        I have a very simple HA gel formula here! (Use medium weight Sodium Hyaluronate! If you use low molecular weight SH it will stay liquid)
        Good luck with experimenting! 😉

        Like

  10. Pawel Lewandowski says:

    Hi! Just yesterday I got my hands on these surfactants (Polish DIY stores only sell the glucosides and cocamidopropyl betaine; one has Plantapon SF, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate and Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (granules)). There’s no chance of buying other anionic surfactants 😦 So I had to buy these from German store:
    * Sodium Coco Sulfate (granules) – 90-95% WAS
    * Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSA) – 65% WAS
    * Disodium/Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate – 24-26% WAS
    * Sucrose Cocoate (which is rather a “sebum restorer” than surfactanct)
    I wanted to buy Sodium Laureth Sulfate, but I could not find it in near european online stores. So I chose Sodium Coco Sulfate. It is in solid form and thus has more than 90% of actives. But the manufacturer doesn’t give precise % amount. It states: 90-95%….
    And I want to make my diy shampoo, based on your recipe (with SLeS, CAPB and lauryl glucoside). But I know that I have to keep that maximum 15% of active matter in the product. So what should I do if I don’t know the precise percentage of WAS of Sodium Coco Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine (30-38%)?
    Another question is: it is said that the optimal ratio for SleS/CAPB is 4:1/3:1. But are we talking about the ratio of WAS or the ratio of the sub-products? You know what I mean?
    If you could help me again, I would be very grateful. I’m on the higher level (as I’m not using only Lauryl/Caprylyl-Capryl/etc. Glucosides). After many years of trials and fails I realised that I need anionic surfactants in my daily personal care routine. But I want my personal care products to be made sensibly, so they can do me no harm and make my life better 🙂
    Take care,
    Pawel

    Like

    • It's all in my hands says:

      Hello Pawel!
      There are many shops in Europe that sell SLES! I am from Europe too 🙂
      However what you bought is fine!
      It is normal to not know precisely the ASM so just use a medium amount: for example 93 and 35 respectively.
      The ratio is about the ASM 🙂
      You will need a small amount of your SCS, whatever is left you should substitute with water. It probably will need heat to melt! 🙂
      Let me know how it goes

      Like

      • Pawel says:

        Hi!
        Thank you for your help. I’m gonna play around with the new surfactants tomorrow and I’ll let you know.
        When I look at your recipes I see SLES to CAPB ratio at about 2:1 (of course I’m talking about the ASM ratio). I’m confused… Which ratio is the best?

        Have a nice day!

        Like

      • It's all in my hands says:

        That’s simply because I don’t like to follow the rules too much 😀
        The beauty of surfactants is that you CAN play around with them and find what you like more. Is it more foam? With bigger bubbles? Smaller bubbles? Silky feel? Dry feel?… and so on 🙂 you are free to make your own calculations and try the “advisable” ratio first and see how things change after 🙂

        Like

      • Pawel Lewandowski says:

        Oh, I get it. I think I’m being too annoying. But I’m that kind of person who likes to get everything in black and white to avoid failures, etc. Especially when it comes to health-related topics.
        I love your blog and I wish you posted more frequently here 😉 You’re a great inspiration for me.

        And the same goes to Robert.

        Thank you, guys.

        I send you a lots of love from Poland.

        /Paweł

        Like

      • It's all in my hands says:

        Cesc! (I think it is written wrong 😀 but I can also say a tongue twister in Polish… something like V schebjashign schounsc b vsmi… oh well I cannot write it down! Ha!) 😀

        Good luck with surfactants 😉

        ps. I wouldn’t use too many good ingredients in a shampoo cause you wash them away soon after (a little is fine, just don’t add the expensive stuff). If you want to apply some good ingredients to your scalp, you could create a light gel or fluid serum to apply to the scalp after washing your hair 😉

        Like

      • Pawel Lewandowski says:

        Cześć (It’s “Hi” in Polish) 😉

        I know, I know…. I shouldn’t be using this and that in a shampoo… Etc. A shampoo is only for removing dirt from our scalp/hair. If so, why like 99% of the drugstore shampoos don’t click with me? Flat hair, itchy scalp, increased greasiness made me search for something that I could make myself and hope it would work for me. I don’t want my shampoo to be filled with unnecessary ingredients, believe me. I don’t care about the scent, etc. I want a simple solution with some nice things added, like “zinc pyrithione”, betaine, maybe 1 or 2 herbal extracts. And if the shampoo is made the way it should be, why not to keep it on the scalp for 1-5 minutes, so that the active ingredients have the chance to do something good? I need to shampoo my hair every single day. I want this product to clean my hair well and leave it in good condition.

        Like

      • It's all in my hands says:

        Well drugstore shampoos aren’t formulated on you! And there’s also another factor: our head and needs and season change, so the shampoo that might work a moment before, might not work well the moment after.
        This happens both with drugstore shampoos than with the ones you are going to make.
        That’s just how it is: you won’t find THE FORMULA that will work great ALL THE TIME. You can find a formula that works well most of the times… But it will still need constant tweaking and changing to make it better.
        About leaving the shampoo on for 5 minutes… It depends on the formulation but generally speaking surfactants can be quite strong on the skin so it is not a good idea to leave them on for more than necessary to wash the hair: it is more likely the surfactants will reach deeper rather than the extracts 😉
        So really, if you want to add good ingredients to the scalp, do so after the shampoo is rinsed! A leave on gel will be a great solution!

        Like

      • Pawel says:

        Could you give an example of the formulation of such gel, please? Only an idea of how to make it. I mean.. what would be the base of the gel?

        Like

      • It's all in my hands says:

        The easiest thing would be using gums (they have no issues with electrolytes) so for example xanthan gum and then the extracts you want to use and a preserving system. That’s all.
        I would add a little glycerin too (1%-2% or it gets sticky).
        Very simple!

        Like

      • Pawel says:

        Thanks. I have xanthan gum. I always use it for thickening glucosides based shampoos.
        I will play around with it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robert says:

        I do have one ingredient recommendation for shampoo to remove flakes, and that is, if you’re going to include an alkamidopropyl betaine, the palmitamidopropyl (cetamidopropyl) has been shown superior in removing skin flakes. This was in the Bisset-Mao patent that was used in Ivory Dishwashing Liquid, and removed more dandruff from swine (as shown by protein recovered in the rinse water) and left human hands smoother, and made my own skin feel softer. I don’t know why it hasn’t been used in shampoos. It won’t prevent dandruff from occuring, it’s just better at removing flakes that are there. However, there are fewer suppliers of it than there are of cocamidopropyl, lauramidopropyl, and oleamidopropyl betaine. Even in Ivory Dishwashing Liquid, it was used for only about 3 years, possibly because of its expense.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Robert says:

      Where did you get the idea you had to keep TAM to 15%? maximum? If it’s more concentrated than that, you’ll just use less of it each time. People even formulate shampoos as solids, with much higher TAM by weight. Consider, for instance, how much soap there is in a cake of soap, yet there’s no problem with using it directly.

      Also, the ratios of the various surfactants are not critical. The difference between 90% and 95% will make very little difference in how the product acts. Since you stated an optimum ratio of between 3 and 4:1, you can see that’s a broad range. If anything, in some cases I’d be concerned more about the difference between 5% and 10% that implies of other materials in there — probably mostly sodium sulfate, glycerol, and fatty alcohol. That won’t matter to your shampoo, but it might in some things.

      Like

      • Pawel says:

        Hi, Robert.

        Thanks a lot for your response!

        I want to make my shampoo as delicate as possible, so I’m gonna stick to that max. 15% of active matter in case of the shampoo.
        I’m not gonna dilute it before putting it on my scalp because I’m planning to include some active ingredients in it.

        Take care,

        Paweł

        Like

      • It's all in my hands says:

        “Where did you get the idea you had to keep TAM to 15%? maximum?”
        This post is about formulating LIQUID detergents and I have written the general guideline that a liquid shampoo should have a surfactant active matter between 10% and 15%, and I totally stand by this guideline. It is not a strict rule but when people just start formulating with surfactants it is a good place to start from.

        ” If it’s more concentrated than that, you’ll just use less of it each time.”
        Except when you forget about it and then end up with a dry/flaky/itchy scalp.

        “People even formulate shampoos as solids, with much higher TAM by weight.”
        This post is NOT about solid shampoos (I have written about those in other posts).
        However I would like to say that on the market the solid shampoos are in a MUCH SMALLER amount than the liquid shampoos and one of the reasons why is exactly that they are less tolerated than liquid shampoos.

        Like

  11. felicia monroe says:

    Hi..
    What if the total ASM is higher than best practice? For example, total ASM of hairwash is 18% (should be range 10-15%). Does it always cause surfactant irritation or allergies or it depends on people who use it? My hairwash is 18.9% of total ASM and it works better than the other one which 14% of total ASM. Please for your advice.

    Like

    • It's all in my hands says:

      Of course the suggested ASM gives just a general idea and you can formulate out of the guidelines of course.
      The irritation depends on so many factors, included the kind of surfactants you have used.
      There are also commercial shampoos which have a higher ASM than usual, they are usually for dandruff or other scalp conditions like psoriasis. 😉

      Like

    • Robert says:

      This is just a matter of fashion in use & marketing. For instance, shampoo used to commonly come in non-pourable gel form squeezed from a tube, or a paste from a jar, advertising it as requiring just fingerfuls to use. Some suppliers of ingredients were seeking to promote versions of finished product that would be anhydrous or nearly so, but that idea didn’t catch on. At the other extreme are face washing products dispensed at their final dilution, the user not needing to add water and lather them, and children’s shampoos dispensed as foam on hair that’s just damp or not even dampened.

      Regardless of the concentration of surfactants in your shampoo, people are just going to use as much as it takes for their pre-wet hair to feel “soapy enough” to them. You, the formulator, don’t have any control of the concentration it reaches in use.

      Like

      • It's all in my hands says:

        The comment you are making is not wrong but it is not exactly on point: while it is true that you cannot control the concentration people use, you can control the concentration in the product and that MAKES a difference.
        For instance, shower gels can be applied directly to the skin so they have way lower concentration than bubble baths (which are supposed to be put in the water and make bubbles). Bubble baths have even 35% ASM and it is totally NOT ADVISABLE to use them directly to the skin cause studies have shown that so high % of ASM can disrupt the first layers of the dead cells of the skin and get pretty deep (causing irritation). So, yes, concentration does make the difference.
        We can’t control the use people do of a product, but it is not the same thing as to say that one can go ahead and use whichever concentration they please.
        That’s why there are guidelines, which can be bent, but which are meaningful too!

        Like

  12. Suzane says:

    Hello, Im making a shower gel with essential oils and I need something that works, because I have oily skin and need to be clean, so mild sufractants are not for me. Can anybody provide info on suitable detergents? As less ingredients as possible.

    Like

      • Robert says:

        I agree.

        It has commonly been observed that when cleaners are irritating, skin produces more sebum in response, defeating the purpose of aggressive grease-cutting.

        The only extra suggestion I have is that if you can get palmitamidopropyl betaine (also called cetamidopropyl betaine), replacing some or all of the CAPB with it is likely to soften skin better, removing dandruff-like flakes more effectively. However, palmitamidopropyl betaine is not as widely available as is CAPB, and jells more strongly with SLES than CAPB does, so extra work is required in mixing.

        And use washcloths with a high thread count. Also make sure the essential oils are not irritating in the concentrations you’ll be using them at.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Suzane says:

    Thank you wery much.
    Now I have cocoa glucoside and decyl glucoside mix 10 and 20%, the rest is water, citric acid for pH control, 5% panthenol and 3% essential oil.
    It makes excellent shower foam but I would like to have smoother feeling on skin, what should I add?

    Like

  14. chris keating says:

    Hi
    Ive just bought in some surfactants to make a range of shower gels, shampoos. I have (thanks to your site) managed to get an idea of the ASM of most but need it for Plantapon SF. I have searched for this but can’t seem to find it, I have the data sheets but it is not listed.
    Can you advise?
    Thanks
    Chris

    Like

    • It's all in my hands says:

      It should be written somewhere. I am not home right now but I believe Plantapon SF is already a blend of surfactants (I might be wrong).
      Are you sure there is no range in the data sheet? For example 30-33%? 🙂

      Like

      • Pawel says:

        You’re welcome 🙂

        And here’s an example of the anti-hair loss shampoo with Plantapon SF in it (it’s called “IHT9 Natural Hair Loss Therapy” and it’s made in India):

        Plantapon SF*, Rose Water (Rosa Damascena), Dehyton KT* (Cocoamidopropyl Beatine), Lamesoft PO 65* (Coco Glucoside & Glyceryl Oleate), Olivem 400®, Bhringraj Ext. (Eclipta alba), Jatamansi Ext. (Nardostachys Grandiflora), Fenugreek Ext. (Trigonella Foenum Graecum), Neem Ext. (Azadirachta Indica), Shikakai Ext. (Acacia Concinna), Ritha Ext. (Sapindus Mucorosai), Amla Ext. (Emblica Officinalis), Aloe Vera Ext. (Aloe Barbadensis), Saw Palmeto Ext. (Serenoa Serrulata), Ginseng Ext. (Panax Ginseng Extract) Henna Ext. (Lawsonia Inermis), Cocoa Ext. (Theobroma Cacao), Tea tree Ext. (Melaleuca Alternifolia), Lemon Ext. (Citrus Limon), Citric Acid, 2-Phenoxyethanol.

        Like

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