Monday, December 2, 2013

Are these surfactants right for a bubble bath?

In this Weekend Wonderings post, Brandi and anonymous make this plea: I also would like to know how to make the bubble baths with dls mild or bioterge if you have time.

Can you specify which Bioterge you mean? Is it my old favourite, Bioterge 804?

To be honest, I really hope that I offer enough information on this blog to help you figure out if these surfactants would work in a bubble bath, but let's walk together through the process as we take a look at these surfactants and a bubble bath recipe and see if they will work well together to create a bubbling, lathering, foaming treat! (Check out the surfactants section of the blog or use the surfactant chart as a quick reference!)

What's the goal of a bubble bath? Bubbles! Are either of these surfactants good at bubbles, flash foam, or a layer of lather that sits on the surface of the water?

DLS MILD or disodium laureth sulfosuccinate
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.

Bioterge 804 (INCI: Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and Lauramide DEA)
What do we know about these surfactants? Sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate is mainly used in detergents and syndet bars, as well as shampoos, bubble baths, and body washes. It has great flash foam and good cleansing. It has great flash foam, good lather, and good bubbles.

Sodium laureth sulfate has good foam stability in hard water, good skin tolerance (less irritation), and is easily thickened by salt, Crothix, or glycol distearate. It is also thickened by adding cocamidopropyl betaine. It is considered a mild cleanser (definitely milder than SLS!). It's stable in hard water, but it's not especially great as a bubbler, foamer, or latherer.

Lauramide DEA, like its relative cocamide DEA, is a non-ionic surfactant derived from coconut fatty acids (hence the coca- part) that behaves as an emulsifier, slip enhancer, and re-fattener when included in surfactant mixes. Cocamide DEA can improve the density, body, and stability of foams, so it is a great addition to a bubble bath, but it does not boost foams, and isn't a foaming or lathering surfactant. It is difficult to create a clear product using cocamide DEA, so keep this in mind if you really want a clear product.

If we look at these surfactants, my first thought is that only the C14-16 olefin sulfonate and lauramide DEA would make for a good bubble bath, but you can use any of the bubbling and foaming surfactants to make bubbling and foaming surfactants, so why not try making one with these ingredients?

40% water
50% surfactants
3% glycerin

0.5% to 1% preservative (Germall Plus or Germaben)
2% fragrance oil
Colouring, if desired

Up to 5% Crothix

After you've mixed all the ingredients, allow to come to room temperature, then add up to 5% Crothix or Ritathix DOE 1% at a time. Add, mix, check viscosity, add mix, check viscosity, and so on, until you get the viscosity you want.

To be honest, these aren't the first choices I'd make for a product with these surfactants as they are really lovely cleansers and detergents for normal-oily to oily skin and hair. Consider making facial cleansers or body washes with them.


Brandi Yates said...

Thank you! It was bioterge 804 I think I have 2 lbs of it. I will use this.

Leslie said...

Do you think this would gentle enough for small children?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Leslie. I'm planning on giving to a bunch of kids this Christmas, so I'd say yes!

Katie VanBlaricum said...

All your bubble bath recipes call for surfactants that are mixes, many of which are impossible/difficult to obtain. Do you have another recipe with more commonly available surfactants that we could try?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Katie! Take a look at the basic recipe here and then a look at the surfactants chart in the surfactants section of the blog and make substitutions with what you have a home! That is why I write up these basic recipes; it means you can use whatever you have as I know pretty much I one out there will have the same supplies I have in my workshop!

Robert said...

You can get some idea of the relationship between ingredients and qualities by my patent -- -- especially if you look at the tables in image form. It's always some kind of compromise.

Versions I preferred (all in the public domain now) used a mixture of lauryl sulfosuccinate, laureth sulfosuccinate, and an alkamidopropyl betaine. You can use ammonium lauryl sulfosuccinate solution for a liquid formula, disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate for powder, and disodium laureth sulfosuccinate solution. For alkamidopropyl betaine I really liked a mixture of lauramidopropyl and palmitamidopropyl betaine solutions, although lauramidopropyl betaine alone was what I went with for production, and the more commonly seen cocamidopropyl betaine is almost as good. The trick is getting these in hobby quantities.

As to the tradeoffs, you might want to gear the product more to children or adults. Kids want to play in a bath, adults want to relax in one. That makes a difference because the ratio of lauryl to laureth sulfosuccinate, or sulfosuccinates to betaines, makes a product with more flash foaming (the lazy way, just running the water hard from the faucet) that's somewhat fluffy & lacey, or one that requires a lot of splashing to develop foam but makes a finer, more lathery and pliable foam. The latter would be more for adults, while the latter would be more for children, because you can hardly get kids to not splash, they love playing with the foam, and are not interested in relaxation. I'm sure there are many other surfactant mixtures that can be adjusted that way.

Another criterion that should be familiar to soapmakers is the average fatty chain length, or distribution of fatty chain lengths, of the molecules in the surfactants. More C12-13 makes the foam fluffier, while more of longer chain lengths make the product less degreasing & more skin-softening. However, a lot of foam-making surfactants are available only in the sudsiest, grease-cutting lauryl (C12) or coconut (still heavily C12) versions.