Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thickeners: Guar gum

Don't confuse guar gum with cationic guar gum - regular guar gum is non-ionic and does not offer any substantivity to your hair, and it's a fine white powder, not a yellowy powder. It will, however, behave as a good thickener for our products. It's water soluble and non-ionic, which means you can add it to more products than you could an anionic thickener like xanthan gum.

85% of guar gum is a water soluble polysaccharide called guaran. This is what gives it its thickening abilities. (That's the interesting molecule to the left!)

Guar gum is ideally used in products with a pH of 5 to 7, but it can handle higher and lower levels without degradation. We need to hydrate it before using it in our products, so it's suggested that you sprinkle the guar gum over your room temperature water phase, stick blend or mix well, then leave to sit for about 15 minutes or so or until it is well hydrated (you'll be able to tell because it creates a gel). Then you can add your other water phase ingredients like aloe vera, hydrosols, proteins, and so on and heat and hold as usual. The usage suggested ranges between 0.3% to 5%, so you'll have to do some playing to figure out the best usage for your product.

Guar gum offers more than thickening. It can behave as a light emulsifier as it prevents oil droplets from coalescing. It can behave as a stabilizer as it keeps solid particles from settling in a bottle. And it can behave as an anti-freeze by retarding ice crystal growth in our products (which is very useful when you're shipping things across the country and don't know where it might end up sitting for a while!).

Because guar gum is non-ionic, there are really no limits on where you can use it. You can use it in lotions, surfactant products, conditioners, and pretty much any product where you might want a little thickening. It is water soluble, so it's not suitable for use in anhydrous products.

Join me tomorrow for fun with hydroxypropyl methylcellulose!


sweeteababy0427 said...

Hey Susan!

Can you use guar gum to make a gel that has a small percentage of oils? If yes, what is the usage rate for adding oil?

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

I have the same question as the previous poster. How much oil (roughly) can guar gum emulsify, if you were using it to create a gel without any other emulsifier or solubilizer.



Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Ayanda. I'm sorry, but I simply do not know. I don't like using gums myself, so I haven't experimented myself. And I can't find this information in my text books or usual resources. (To be honest, I'm getting really annoyed by the lack of information, so I have to stop searching now!) Sorry I can't be more helpful!

Vidyut said...

How good is guar gum for a final product that is transparent?

M.V. said...

Hey! Just wanted to reply to the above questions:

I've made an aloe juice-based serum in the past that had about a gram of watermelon seed oil, a bit of watermelon extract, banana extract, licorice extract, cucumber extract, a few drops of veggie glycerine, seakelp bioferment and, of course, guar gum! I think I added 1/8th of a teaspoon at the end, shook it up and let it sit. It really thickened the second day, and my brother used it all up within a month and a bit without needing to shake it!

Sasha said...

Hi Susan,

I am interested in your advise on using guar gum in shampoo, because I tried many times myself but guar always separates from water!
I tried to dissolve guar gum first in water (or glycerin) and then add glucosides; also I tried to dissolve glucosides first in water and add guar gum later - but the final result is always the same!
Do you know any secret how to prevent separation?


Rick Burbrujo Findley said...

Re: mixing and using guar. I have worked quite a bit with guar. Besides using it in my DIY shampoo formula (which I am very proud of) I have use it for several years as a polymer for my giant soap bubble recipes. Even though alcohol is an excellent dispersant for guar I choose to use glycerine instead. Neither alcohol nor glycerine contain water what you want to do is disperse the guar powder evenely so when you do add your water it will hydrate evenly. For example: in my shampoo recipe I use 6% guar to get the preferred viscosity (thickness or resistance to flow). I add 9% glcyerine (150% or 1 1/2 x). You can use more glycerine if you like. I mix the 2 together until it creates a paste. It is important to not mix your water into the guar slurry but rather add the slurry to the water to prevent premature clumping. Best, Rick