Saturday, March 24, 2012

More about cetyl alcohol...

There's been a very active discussion at this post on cetyl alcohol. Neither cetyl alcohol nor stearic acid are considered emulsifiers in any way. They are considered to be oil soluble ingredients, like our oils or butters. They have a required HLB value, meaning they have a value that helps you figure out how to emulsify them into your products. If you want to make something - let's say an "oil free lotion" with water, cetyl alcohol, and preservatives, you will need an emulsifier to make the water and cetyl alcohol combine into one phase instead of separating into two different phases of oil and water.

As an aside, do you notice that OH at the end of the carbon chain in cetyl alcohol? This is how we know it's an alcohol! It isn't called an alcohol because it's a watery substance that makes it easier to talk to the opposite sex - it's called an alcohol because it has that hydroxyl group at the end of the chain! 

So if you want to make something like the Giovanni Leave In Conditioner - click here for the attempted duplication - you'll have to find an emulsifier you like so the cetyl alcohol isn't just floating on top of the water phase in the bottle. Cetyl alcohol behaves like our oil soluble ingredients, meaning it won't create a homogeneous product without an emulsifier. (If this product isn't separating on you, they aren't giving us an accurate ingredient list.) And when we consider that to call something a conditioner we need to use a positively charged emulsifier, we might want to choose a positively charged emulsifier that will offer substantivity. I wonder which one that might be....

(Hint: Look in the hair care section for the topic of substantivity!)

13 comments:

Nedeia said...

Excellent post :) thanks!!

raquel said...

How do products like Trader Joe's Nourish Spa Conditioner become a thick emulsification with only Cetyl Alcohol being the closest ingredient to an emulsifier? Ingredients: Purified water, organic rosemary oil, organic valencia orange citrus, organic mango, organic lemongrass, organic ginko biloba, organic echinacea, organic willow bark, organic sea kelp, organic chamomile flower, organic textured soy protein, organic lavender, organic grapefruit, C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Tocopherol (Vit E), Citric Acid, Methylparaben, propylparaben, sea salt, botanical fragrance

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Raquel. That's not a conditioner. That's a shampoo, body wash, or facial cleanser of some kind with an out of order ingredient list! I think you might have posted the wrong ingredient list!

Raquel said...

LOL, while it would seem so since it lacks an actual "conditioner", these are the ingredients listed on this very popular conditioner. I have personally NEVER been able to figure it out. I no longer use this product since I prefer paraben-free mixtures but I thought I would try to duplicate it and to no avail. Seems that something has been excluded.

Raquel said...

Another site lists the ingredients as such: Purified water, rosemary oil, valencia orange, mango, lemongrass, ginko giloba, echinacea, willow bark, sea kelp, chamomile flower, textured soy protein, lavender, grapefruit, tocopherol (Vitamin E), acetamide MEA, cetyl alcohol, citric acid, methylparaben, propylparaben, botanical fragrance.

This doesn't have the surfactants shown...perhaps the other site listed the shampoo ingredients instead. Still no Conditioner that I recognize.

Anonymous said...

ANYWAY, the question was HOW is it emulsified?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. Please edit your comment to include your name or I'll have to delete it.

As for your question, it's not emulsified. If it is, then the label is hiding something. There is nothing in that conditioner's ingredient list that will emulsify oils and there isn't anything it in that is positively charged to behave as a conditioner.

Marie-Elaine Guay said...

Hi! I'm having trouble making conditionner...
I used 4L of water, heated it. Then added my 200ML of heated oil and 250ML of Cetearyl alcohol to the heated water. Blended it in a Kitchen aid pro mixer for 45 minutes and it still hasn't emulsified.
Ended up adding xanthan gum to thicken it, then added my dimethicone and pro-vit B5 and preservatives.

What did I do wrong? helppp!

Marie

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Marie-Elaine! What emulsifier did you use? I think the issue may be that you don't have one?

Marie-Elaine Guay said...

I thought Cetearyl alcohol was an emulsifier and that combined with my oils and heated, it would make my conditionning base that wouldn't separate? Did I get it all wrong?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Marie-Elaine! Cetearyl alcohol is not an emulsifier. You would need something like BTMS-50 or Rita BTMS-225 to act as the emulsifier and conditioning agent. You need a positively charged emulsifier for a conditioner. Cetearyl alcohol isn't a positively charged emulsifier, and you need one of those for a conditioner.

Sasha said...

Hi Susan,

I really like the Faith in Nature shampoos and conditioner and these are the ingredients of the fragrance free conditioner:
Aqua (Water), Cetearyl alcohol, Caprylic/capric triglyceride, Glycerin, Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, Tocopherol, Theobroma cacao (cocoa) extract, Vanilla planifolia fruit extract, Cetrimonium chloride, Sodium benzoate, Potassium sorbate, Citric acid, Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil.
There isn't any emulsifier here either, right? I'm tempted to duplicate it and see what happens, I'm just not sure what the percentages would be.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sasha. You're right. There's no emulsifier here. Cetrimonium chloride can be a light emulsifier, but not for all those oils. Plus, they aren't using a complete preservative here. Start with 3% of everything and see what happens. But there's no emulsifier, so it won't work. But try it and let us know how it turns out!