Friday, April 13, 2012

Formulating for dry skin: Creating a body wash from scratch

For the purposes of this series on creating skin cleansers, I'm going to be using the same three surfactants - SCI or ACI, cocamidopropyl betaine, and polyglucose/lactylate blend in each product. You can choose any combination you want and just substitute one surfactant for the SCI and another surfactant for the polyglucose/lactylate blend. I really encourage you to use the cocamidopropyl betaine because we really want an amphoteric surfactant in the mix to increase our viscosity and mildness. I also know that I have created many body washes in the past - click here to see a variety of recipes - but I really want to go through the process from scratch so you can follow along and learn to make your own version!

When I create a body wash, I generally have between 30% and 45% surfactants, which I divide between two or three surfactants. In a body wash, I want to include surfactants that will clean my skin gently and won't leave me feeling tight or dry, something that has foam and lather in it, and something that smells nice. The smelling nice part comes from the fragrance or essential oils I choose, so the surfactants have to be gentle to mild cleansers with some foaming and lathering that will rinse off well. I like to use SCI or ACI and the polyglucose/lactylate blend because they fulfill all these needs.

SCI is a great foamer, bubbler, and latherer that leaves behind what is called an elegant skin feel. The polyglucose/lactylate blend rinses off cleanly and leaves behind a very moisturized feeling. Both are considered gentle to mild cleansers, and when we add the cocamidopropyl betaine to the mix, we increase the mildness dramatically to give us a cleanser suitable for even the driest skin!

For a dry skin body wash, we can consider using 30% surfactants, then loading it up with a variety of humectants and moisturizers. Because we'll be using a ton of emollients in here that can suppress the foam, we want to make sure we have surfactants that will overcome those barriers to give us something really fluffy and foamy! (You know you want a lathery body wash full of fluffy bubbles. You might not think you do, but try something that doesn't bubble well and you'll realize how important that aesthetic is to you!)

So let's divide that 30% surfactants evenly between our three surfactants. This leaves us 70% for other ingredients. What are the other goals we have for this product? We have taken care of the mild cleansing part with the surfactants, so now we need to include our moisturizers, emollients, humectants, and more!

I'm going to suggest using at least 10% aloe vera in your product for two reasons. The first is that it is a great moisturizer in our products. The second is that the electrolytes we find in aloe vera will help thicken our product. With 30% surfactants, we're going to need a lot of help in thickening this product to the point where it will come out of our container well, so every electrolyte helps! If you can't use aloe vera or don't want to use it, leave it out.

I'm going to suggest using one of the humectants that will remain on your skin after rinsing, which means sodium lactate and sodium PCA are right out. Glycerin is always a great choice because it not only behaves as a humectant and stays on your skin, but it increases the bubbles in the product and increases the viscosity. Plus, it's inexpensive. When it comes to body wash, glycerin is always my first choice for a humectant. I'm going to suggest that you use it at 5% in your heated water phase of the product. I also like to include panthenol in my body wash in the cool down phase at up to 5%. It's not the cheapest ingredient, so I tend to use it at 2% to save on costs!

I'm also going to suggest that you use a cationic polymer. I like to use polyquat 7 at up to 5% in my products, but you could use honeyquat at up to 5% to behave as both a humectant and a cationic polymer.

As an aside, out of all the polyquats, polyquat 7 is the cheapest. You could use polyquat 44 - it's about the same price because you wouldn't use more than 1% - but it's not as local to me as polyquat 7.

I like a protein in my products, so I'm going to suggest using one of the hydrolyzed proteins at up to 2% in the heated water phase. You can use any you wish - I tend to like silk protein in my body wash, and I admit that it might be all in my head, but I swear I feel a silkiness that I don't find when I use oat protein or Phytokeratin.

And you really want to use an emollient. Yes, this will reduce the amount of foam and lather you have in your product, but as someone with dry skin, you really need to re-fatten your skin once you've removed what few oils you have in your stratum corneum! You can do this a few ways. I like to use a water soluble ester at up to 10% - water soluble shea or olive oil is very nice - and I like to include myristamine oxide at 5% in the heated water phase. You could use a regular oil and solubilize it with equal parts something like polysorbate 80 or Cromollient SCE or Caprol Micro Express, but this will definitely make your product opaque and less bubbly (but if you're getting major moisturizing with it, who cares?).

As a note, if you're using Cromoillient SCE, Caprol Micro Express, or one of the non-polysorbate water soluble esters that can help you use oil in your products, I really encourage you to try it without the oils and just rely on this ester to offer moisturizing. It works really well and you will get a clearer product without running the risk of having the oils pool on top. 

If you're using polysorbate 80, you'll want to mix the oil of choice with an equal amount of polysorbate 80 in a small container, then add it to the product at the same time you add your fragrance or essential oils. More about this shortly...

One of the final thoughts should be about how we're going to thicken this recipe. This product will be too thin to use as a body wash - you'll squish your bottle and it'll come out like water - so we have to thicken it. There are many different ways to do this - various gums, gels, and esters - but if we use something like Crothix, we get three great things in one. Crothix will thicken our products and perform as an emollient and increase the mildness of our products. If we use something like glycol distearate, it will do the same thing, but it is a little harder to use as we have to add it to the heated phase and make sure it melts well. There are other thickeners out there, and you'll have to find one in a supplier near you that thickens your product well.

If you can't get a thickener you like, I suggest putting any cleansing product into a foamer bottle. Yep, it's a bit of a cheat, but it's better than standing there for three days trying your Crothix at 0.5% at a time and getting annoyed when you're up to 10% and it's still like water! Remember that the fragrance you choose can make a huge difference when you're making surfactant based products, so if you choose a fragrance heavy with vanilla - for instance, Pink Sugar - you're going to end up with a far more watery product than if you choose something with citrus or lavender! (Click here for more on this topic!)

Are there any other things we could add to a body wash? We could add some extracts - chamomile hydrosol (10% in the heated water phase) or powdered chamomile extract would be nice for irritated skin (0.5%, cool down phase), lavender hydrosol for the same reason, 0.5% powdered banana extract might add some nice vitamins, niacinamide might reduce transepidermal water loss at 2% in the cool down phase, and 5% water soluble calendula extract might be pretty nice in the water phase. There are lots of extracts and botanical ingredients we could add to this body wash - once you've found a version you like, start playing and adding those things you like. (For instance, I really like 0.5% white willow bark in my version for oily and acne prone skin!)

All right! I think we've got some great ideas here, so let's take a break and reconvene tomorrow to create a body wash that someone with dry skin will love! (Or, for fun, try putting together a recipe from the suggested usage rates I mention in this post!)

Related posts:
Surfactants, fragrance, and viscosity
What ingredients could we include for dry skin? (Part one)
What ingredients could we include for dry skin? (Part two)


My Soap Factory said...

Your post comes at a perfect time! I'm reading everything I can about Surfactants lately and busy making just the bodywash I like(or bodyscrub based on surfactants).
And I agree with you. Try to understand why and how much you use and use a recipe like an example not just copy, but understand the ingredients.

Rocio said...

Dear Susan:
I have a question, 30 or 45% of surfactants are added as they are purchased?
Or we have to take into account the concentration in which they meet?

I appreciate your help.

My best regard

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rocio! 30% to 45% of the recipe should be surfactants. You'll have to see what the concentration of each surfactant might be, what the active amount might be, and what the suggested usage rates are. I have information in the surfactant section of the blog with some of this information, but your surfactants might be different.

kerzuke said...


I emailed you also but i put my question here also, shortly. When im gonna use Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Plantapon LGC and Alkyl Polyglucoside Surfactant. How could i thicken it? I havent tried yet but im planning to order some surfactants to test with but first i want to know what to order for thickening. I dont find anywhere crothix. Where i order, there is xanathan gum - can i use this as a thickener with these surfactants? Also there is Lamesoft PO65 Surfactant which is also said to be as thickener. There also is surfactant named Sodium C14/C16 Olefin Sulphonate - do you know something about it? Is it mild enough for dry skin. Its cheap, thats one plus, but is it good also?

I really appreciate your help! I just need some advice what to order...

Thank You,

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Kerli. You can find a lot of information on surfactants in the surfactants section of this blog (click on the link). Click on the information on increasing viscosity to learn more about thickeners or click on the label "thickeners" on the right hand of this blog to learn more about how to thicken our surfactant based products. There's a post there on C14-16 olefin sulfonate - it's one of my favourites, but it's better suited for oily skin than dry skin. I'm not a fan of thickening products with xanthan gum, but some people like it.

Erika Macaw said...

HI Susan!
I seem to be having a heck of a time getting my fragrances to stay 'emulsified' in my surfactant based products. I'm using your basic everyday shampoo recipe. What do you think the problem might be? Also, your recipe says to use dimethicone, but it wouldn't incorporate and just looked like oil in the top of the surfactant mixture. Kind of the same problem as the fragrances. What do I do to combat this?
64% water
8% aniotic-I used LSB blend
5% cocomidopryl betaine
9.5% aloe
2% hydrolyzed protein
3% glycerin
3% honeyquat

2% dimethicone
2% panthenol
1.5% Neo Defend in water phase

You recently responded to a question of mine where I was asking about hyaluronic acid. We couldn't find what could have been the problem in my recipe but I just realized that I was using Lotioncrafter Hyaluronic acid SLMW. It supposedly doesn't form a gel like the original and it's supposed to be able to better penetrate the skin. Not sure if this makes a dif? Anyways, thanks for your help!!