Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Surfactants: Sulfosuccinates

If you've read any of the shampoo posts on this blog, you'll know I love sulfosuccinates! This happy molecule is disodium laureth sulfosuccinate (known as DLS mild) and it is a mono-ester of a sodium salt.

Sulfosuccinates are generally sodium salts of alkyl esters of sulfosuccinic acid that are a result of condensation of maleic anhydride with a fatty alcohol, followed by sulfonation with sodium bisulfite (NaHSO3). In other words, they are sulfonated like the other sulfates and sulfonates.

The monoesters of sodium salts - like our friend DLS up there - are the most common sulfosuccinates you'll find. They are considered very mild, with good foaming and detergent properties. Sulfosuccinates are recommended for oily hair as they can remove oil and sebum gently without stripping hair too much, but all hair and skin types can use them without fear of harshness.

The pH of the sulfosuccinate is around 6.0, so it is perfect for hair and body care products. They are stable in hard water, but they are poor solubilizers, so you might need to use something like polysorbate 20 or polysorbate 80 if you want to add more than 3% oils or fragrance or essential oils. They don't thicken with salt, so if you're using a sulfosuccinate as your primary surfactant, you'll have to thicken them with Crothix or gels or other non-salt based thickeners.

I use sulfosuccinates in two ways - as DLS Mild, which is just the sulfosuccinate, or in LSB, which also contains sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (SLSa, but in liquid form).

DLS mild is about 32% active sulfosuccinate with a pH of 6.0. It is biodegradable. LSB is 25% active - which, unfortunately, isn't the best information as it is two surfactants combined - with a pH of 6.0.

I love using sulfosuccinates in my creations! I'd use DLS mild more often, but up until recently, I've had to order from the Herbarie (love the Herbarie, but the shipping costs and taxes charged at the border make it very expensive!) Because the pH is 6.0, we don't have to worry about messing with adding citric acid or other things to get the pH to a skin or hair friendly level.

Here are a few recipe ideas for using DLS mild in your creations...
Shampoo (using DLS or LSB)

Here are a few recipe ideas for using LSB in your creations...

Gardener's hand scrub (replace the BSB with LSB or DLS mild)

Join me tomorrow for fun with isethionates.


Meaue said...

I'd like to make the Gardener's Hand Scrub - but I don't have Ultrez 20 or ETD2020. Can carbomer (powder) or hydroxyethylcellulose (ready made) both from The Personal Formulator be used in replacement? Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

This looks to be carbomer 940, which is a great substitute for Ultrez 20 or ETD2020. You should be able to use the same amount or less gel in this recipe. I haven't used this product, but I've seen it a million times listed in various gelled creations, so I know it's a good one. As for the hydroxyethylcellulose, I don't think it's a great substitute for the gel - it can make a gel, but not one as viscous as the carbomers. (But try it and let us know how it worked!)

Naomi said...

I don't have LSB, but I have DLS Mild (liquid) and SLSa (powder). Do you think I can combine to make LSB for the recipes that ask for LSB? If so, at what %s of each?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Naomi. You can just use DLS mild in those recipes if you aren't looking for the super bubbliness of the SLSa - which are pretty much all those recipes I posted above. The problem with adding powdered SLSa is the viscosity building - if you add the powder at around 10%, you will see a lovely hunk of bubble bath, not a liquid, so we really can't substitute the powder for the liquid.

You can substitute a variety of surfactants for the ones I mention in these recipes. For instance, here's a variation on the foamy bottle recipe that uses SMC Taurate. Choose the surfactants your skin likes. For the most part, you won't need to do a ton of modification - it's mostly about the thickening of the mixture - to get something that works with the surfactants you have or your skin type.

If you substitute DLS mild for LSB, it will be a thinner mixture, but you can thicken it with something like Crothix or glycol distearate. And it probably won't be as bubbly, so if you're making a bubble bath, you'll want to include a good bubbler like SLes or one of the taurates.

Naomi said...

Wow, thanks for the advice. I have crothix for a thickener so I can stick with the DLS. You are right about the lower bubbly-ness when using DLS... I'll put LSB on my to-buy list

Anonymous said...

O.k, so here is my issue. I want to use sulfosuccinate as my primary surfactant but use over 3% of oils and sorbic acid. Now, sorbic acid doesn't work with non-ionic products like polysorbates. So, does anyone know a way around this curve ball. I need something that is non ionic that will allow the oils and sulfosuccinate to work together so as to keep the sorbic acid in my recipe. Thanks.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. You'll could find a surfactant can act as a good emulsifier - for instance, C14-16 olefin sulfonate - because the sulfosuccinates are terrible emulsifiers.

As a note, although sorbic acid is slightly inactivated by non-ionic ingredients, this doesn't mean it's inactivated by all non-ionic ingredients. You could try using Cromollient SCE, glycol distearate, and other non-ionic dispersers, as long as it's not polysorbate 20 or 80. You will have to do some research, but there are options other than the polysorbates.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about sulfosuccinates and dry hair. "Sulfosuccinates are recommended for oily hair as they can remove oil and sebum gently without stripping hair too much, but all hair and skin types can use them without fear of harshness". This sentence makes me think that sulfosuccinate is efficient at removing oil and that it does in fact remove a lot of oil from hair. Should I stay away from this surfactant? I have very dry and soft hair. Also, thanks for this website. It's amazing.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Is a Sulfosuccinate a sulfate??

Anonymous said...

Is DLS a non-ionic surfactant? Couldn't seem to find this info elsewhere on your blog. Forgive me if I am asking a question you have answered elsewhere. I notice that DLS is recommended as a "secondary surfactant". As I recall you suggest we use non-ionic surfactants as secondary surfactants(usually with cocamidopropyl betaine as the main surfactant). So is DSL non-ionic? Why do you recommend we use non-ionic a as secondary surfactants? Why not use cocamidopropyl Betaine with another amphoteric?

Thanks so much for everything you do! Your blog is a constant source of inspiration and delight.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Bridget. DLS mild is anionic and is used as a primary or secondary surfactant. Part of that is because it tends to cost more than things like SLS or SLeS.

I can't recall ever saying that the secondary surfactants should be non-ionic. I have said they should be amphoteric. I might have said that decyl glucoside, a non-ionic surfactant, is generally used as a secondary surfactant, but that doesn't mean that all secondary surfactants are non-ionic. Can you point me to where I might have said that? I need to correct it if I did.

Non-ionic surfactants are generally those that don't foam or lather but offer support to the other surfactants in the form of foam boosting, bubble boosting, or solubilizing. They are also things like Polawax, e-wax, or other emulsifying waxes, as well as solubilizers. As I mentioned above, decyl glucoside is the only foaming or lathering non-ionic surfactant that we use on a regular basis, and it's mostly used as a secondary surfactant for a bunch of different reasons. (See the post on decyl glucoside for more information.) I do use a few other ones - for instance, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate - but I wouldn't call them secondary surfactants on the blog as it gets a bit confusing. (Yes, they are surfactants and yes, they are used as a secondary surfactant, but as they aren't foaming or lathery surfactants, I don't call them secondary surfactants on the blog!)

As for secondary surfactants, cocamidopropyl betaine is used as a secondary surfactant and it's amphoteric. Disodium cocodiamphoacetate is also used as a secondary surfactant, and it's also amphoteric. When it comes to secondary surfactants, they are generally amphoteric, not non-ionic.

Again, let me know where you saw that and I'll make sure it's updated!

Clarisse said...

Hello and thank you for sharing so much on your blog.
I could only get DLS in a powder form (in Europe). Could you indicate how to use it in one shampoo recipe for instance ? I was thinking of using 1/3 of what you recommend for the liquid form but i don't know how it will disolve in water.
Thanks for all your help and advice

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Clarisse. I've never used DLS as a powder, so I'm afraid I can't offer many useful suggestions. Have you tried using it in a shampoo bar?

Clarisse said...

Thank you Susan for answering so fast.
I was actually thinking about using it in a bar with sci, instead of slsa which doesn't agree with my hair. Something like :
Sci 30 + dls powder 30 + as 40 bioterge 15 + cocamidopropyl betaine 10
Plus proteins, bar hardener...
What do you think ?