I'm going to be referring to Carbopol Ultrez 20 Polymer (Ultrez 20, INCI: Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer) because this is what I'm using as the polymer for making gels. You can also find ETD 2020 - they're virtually the same, although the ETD 2020 requires longer to get wet.
So what is this exciting polymer that makes ooey gooey fun? From Lubrizol: "A self-wetting rheology modifier designed to impart moderate-to-high viscosity as well as stabilizing and suspending properties to personal care applications." In other words, it's a white powdery thingie that you add to water to create a gel that will thicken your creations. It's great for making hair gels or thickening up your toner to make a gel or to make an aloe vera gel or to use instead of something like Crothix.
Sounds awesome, but there's always a down side, eh? Gels don't tend to like electrolytes, cationics, or salts - three things we want to include in a gel in the form of aloe vera, surfactants, conditioners, and the like. So how do we do this? We add them in small amounts to something like Ultrez 20, which is specially formulated to work with these difficult ingredients, and we add them in the right order.
Ultrez 20 notes that it can handle up to 10 to 12% surfactants, which isn't a lot, so this isn't the thing to thicken up a body wash or bubble bath (although I have tried it and it will work well for a few months, so if you're going to use it quickly or want to make something like bubble goo for the kids, have fun!)
What do I mean by "it won't work well" - if the gel doesn't like your ingredients, it'll stop being a gel. It's not the worst thing in the world as the product will still work, but it won't be a gel any more.
Here's the basic way to make a gel as recommended by the manfacturer (with my notes).
1. Add your Ultrez 20 to water and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes, depending upon how much powder you have used. (0.5% takes 3 minutes, up to 3% takes 5 minutes). This allows the gel powder to wet and get ready for the other ingredients. If you're using ETD 2020, wait up to 20 minutes.
2. Add your anionic surfactants (check the information on your surfactant - for instance, coco betaine is an amphoteric.)
3. Add the neutralizer. (You can use TEA or you can use an 18% lye solution. I have tried both and prefer the 18% lye solution. Weigh 82% water into a container, then add 18% lye to it. Mix well. Make sure it is a glass container as the lye will heat up for a while. When it has cooled, put into a clean bottle with the words "THIS IS LYE. DO NOT DRINK. IF YOU DO, AND YOU DIE, IT'S NOT MY FAULT. I DID WARN YOU" on it and store in a safe place.)
4. Add amphoteric surfactants, silicones, cationics, salts, etc. in that order.
5. Add pearlizing ingredients like mica, glycol distearate and so on.
6. Add fragrance, dye, and preservative (you don't need to add preservative if you've done it in the gel).
So basically what you are doing is adding these gel flakes to water, getting them wet, then neutralizing the process with 18% lye solution or TEA to create a gel.
And here's what I have found works to make a medium thickness gel. (I believe I found these instructions originally on a supplier site. I'm afraid I can't remember which one!)
242 grams of water
3 grams of Ultrez 20
4 grams of 18% lye solution
1.25 grams preservative (at 0.5%) or 2.5 grams preservative (at 1.0%)
Measure out the water. Add 3 grams of Ultrez 20 flakes. Stir to make sure the powder gets wet. Wait about 3 minutes - you could wait as long as 10 if you wish - then add 4 grams 18% lye solution. Stir well. It's gel! Awesome! (Note: I like to use a big fork to stir it. There's no need for blenders or mixers here.) Store in a sealed container for a bit and use it as you want.
As a note, you can use 4 grams Ultrez 20 to make a thick gel or 2 grams Ultrez 20 to make a thin gel.
Now you've got your ooey gooey mess, let's make something! How about a hand sanitizer? (I'm not making any guarantees here, but at 60% alcohol, it should work okay for this purpose.)
HAND SANITIZING GEL
Make your gel as above to get a medium weight gel.
39% gel by weight
0.50% honeyquat, condition-eze 7, or other cationic polymer
60% ethanol or other alcohol (like denatured perfuming alcohol)
Colour is optional
Mix the ingredients into your gel and stir well. Bottle. You're done.
The fragrance and colour are optional, but this will smell of alcohol. 0.5% fragrance isn't really going to make the smell, but it's worth a shot, eh?
You can add 1% d-Limonene with 1% polysorbate 20 to this mixture to make a waterless hand cleaner that will remove grease. Take 2% out of the gel amount or 2% out of the alcohol amount.
Join me tomorrow for more fun with gels and how to incorporate aloe vera!