Friday, February 24, 2012

Some questions I've been asked this week about xanthan gum

In this post on xanthan gum, Anonymous writes: Hi Susan! Just wanted to make sure I understood right, is it ok to use xanthan gum up to 2%, even for mild facial cleansers? Some say xanthan gum lowers the shelf life of products. Is that true? Lastly, I really like using polyquat 7 because it makes using the soap a lot more pleasurable, what would be a good substitute for this if I cannot use pq7? Thanks!

It's okay to use xanthan gum at up to 2%, but 0.1% to 0.3% is the suggested usage rate. As you saw in the post on xanthan gum, I used it at much higher levels and things were just fine, but it's not something I suggest. (The reason: Because it can feel gummy and sticky and slough off in little balls when you rub the product into your skin!)

It depends on what you mean by lowering the shelf life. If you use an ingredient with a shorter shelf life than something else - for instance, adding hempseed oil to shea butter - your expiry date becomes that of the shorter shelf life ingredient. Shea butter has a shelf life of about two years. Hempseed oil can be as short as three months. Therefore, the product should expire in three months. So the only way that xanthan gum will reduce the shelf life of the product is if its shelf life is lower than the rest of the product.

What is the shelf life of xanthan gum? According to - 1 year. This is the best reference I could find! 

You're asking about the polyquat 7 in your product because we know xanthan gum doesn't play well with cationic ingredients like polyquat 7, polyquat 10, polyquat 44, honeyquat, cationic guar gum, BTMS-50, BTMS-25, Incroquat CR, cetrimonium bromide, cetrimonium chloride, and so on. I suggest using something to increase the slip and glide of your product, like a water soluble ester - I like water soluble shea butter in a body wash and water soluble olive oil in a facial cleanser - or add some Crothix to the mix. (I know Crothix thickens and your point is to thicken your product, but it is a great emollient, too!) You can add some oils to the product by solublizing them in some polysorbate 80 or something like Cromollient SCE to give it more slip and glide, but if you have really oily skin, this isn't a good option. There really isn't a great alternative for the polyquat 7 that isn't a cationic polymer, but I hope I've offered a few options.

Personally, if I had to choose between my cationic polymer and xanthan gum, I'd choose the cationic polymer any day. Besides, Crothix is great for increasing mildness and emolliency of a facial cleanser. Or put it in a foamer bottle and don't worry about thickening at all! 

In the same post, another Anonymous writes: I have a lotion recipe that I made but the lotion is a little thin. Is there a way I can thicken the already-made lotion using xanthan gum?

No. Once you've made a lotion, you can't add anything to it. You could compromise the preservative system or you could mess up with the chemistry - for instance, if you have a cationic ingredient in there that could mess with the xanthan gum. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you really do want to add the xanthan gum in the heated phase. (I have used it in the cool down phase, and it didn't go really was okay, but not the superior product I expect my lotions to be!)

Related post:
How do anti-oxidants affect the shelf life of our products?
Determining the shelf life of your products.
Can you re-heat a finished lotion?


Anonymous said...

Everytime I use xanthan gum I get fisheyes and air trapped in my product. How do you mix it without having to get very expensive equipment like a Rotor Stator to make sure none of that happens?

Clive said...

How does guar gum compare with Xanthan gum, Susan? I'm formulating a shampoo cream. Or would I be better off using, say, Ultrez-20? Thanks!

Tara (not the same T in your blog) said...

@Anon I know this is little late but I use Xanthan gum in cooking to stabilize meringues and make foams. Xanthan gum does a really great job in keeping mousse thick and airy without having any liquids weeping hours after I make my dessert. That would explain the product trapping air.

@clive-Have you tried using crothix and/or carrageen to thicken your shower gel?

judie osammor said...

Hi how can I incorporate guar or xanthum gum in a water based serum. I'm trying to mix a water soluble active into an oil blend to make a face serum. What holds both phases together so as not to avoid separation

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to make a no-rinse laundering agent using lanolin as a base. I'm looking for an emulsifier which will bond the lanolin and the water and which is a saponifier as well. I'm about the furthest thing from a chemist, but hoping to learn some options I have for this application.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. Please amend your comment to include a name. Even a jaunty "bye, (name)" works. I'll try to answer your question when you've made those modifications.

Matthew Griffin said...

Hi Susan,

I know that xanthan doesn't play nice with cationic ingredients, but is there a problem with using a leave-in conditioner with btms and honeyquat, and then following that with a xanthan gum hair gel? Also, given xanthan's affinity for water, is there a chance that it could dry out one's hair? Thanks in advance for your help--and for such an informative blog! Matthew

Matt said...

With regard to the question/comment about fish eyes, I've never had a problem with fish eyes using xanthan gum; however, I have had that problem with Carbomer (940 and 980) and Acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer (ETD 2020).

For the past month, I have used this mini-sifter I found on Amazon. You can see it at For the past month, this little sifter has virtually eliminated all fish eyes in my formulating.

It's small so 1) I can control the placement of the powder in the vessel and 2) I don't waste as much of the polymer ingredients. I think it's a little expensive, but I think I recoup that cost by the lack of wasting the powders.

Hope someone finds this comment useful.