Sunday, March 16, 2014

Weekend Wonderings: It's not easy being green...

I've seen quite a few comments and e-mails recently from people asking about making products with greener ingredients, like this one from Lucy: I STILL (!) haven't been able to make a shampoo with greenish ingredients that doesn't irritate my scalp. Tried the taurates/ isethionate but when I tried decyl & coco betaine...not cleansing can I try? I am thinking of buying next some coco glucoside, what could I combine this with in recipe? 

I'm going to let you in on a little secret...Being greener or Ecocert doesn't mean it's good for your skin. It might say something about how the ingredient was processed or where the ingredients come from, but it says nothing about how the ingredient will affect your skin. It might dry it out. It might irritate it. It might not moisturize well. It might not cleanse well. It might be completely awesome at all those things. We don't know until we try the ingredient in our products.

Let's say you make a green shampoo that contains decyl glucoside, water, and preservative. You can have something with a really high pH because decyl glucoside is generally over pH 8. You can have something that dries out your scalp and hair because you haven't included anything to increase the mildness, which is the key to making anything with surfactants.

Surfactants, by their very nature, are irritating to our skin. The goal when creating surfactant based products is to reduce the irritation to our skin by using milder cleansers, creating blends that enhance mildness, and adding ingredients like cationic polymers, proteins, or emollients.

When a surfactant comes into contact with our skin, it can bind to the surface and denature our skin's proteins. It can interact with the lipids on our skin and disrupt the organization of the stratum corneum lipids, which can lead to increased dryness and increased trans-epidermal water loss. Surfactants can remove the natural moisturizing factor in our skin, leading to a reduction in the ability of our skin to attract moisture from our environment. If they annoy our skin enough, the anti-inflammatory response can kick in leading to itching, drying, and redness. (This is one of the reasons you don't want to leave an anionic surfactant on your skin as a leave-on type of product!)

I'm going to leave you to read the rest of the post on increasing mildness before continuing on...go ahead...I'll wait. You might want to read the post on the chemistry of our skin as well. I encourage it...we've got time. Oh, you're back. Excellent!

So let's say we have a shampoo that looks like this (this is a made up recipe, untested, so try it at your own risk)....

40% decyl glucoside
preservative suitable for a shampoo
water to 100%

We have nothing in here to mitigate the irritation that the decyl glucoside might cause. We have no emollients, we have no cationic polymers, and we have no proteins. We have a high concentration of a mild surfactant, but it's still a high concentration with no mitigators. And we might have a high pH. So what can we do? We can add these various ingredients to the product or reduce the concentration of decyl glucoside.

We can add some emollient ingredients - say, something like coconut oil - but there's a problem...decyl glucoside isn't a great emulsifier, so you're going to end up with oil floating on the top of your product. You'll have to use something that is a good emulsifier or use a water soluble oil to get those emollients into the product.

We can add a cationic polymer, but I don't think there are any that are considered green. Maybe Honeyquat?

What about adding a protein? If you aren't using any other mildness increasers, you might want to consider using a protein like hydrolyzed oat protein or hydrolyzed silk protein at 5%. If you're using itin combination with other ingredients, then use as little as 2% in the heated water phase.

What about adding a humectant? Glycerin is a great choice here, and I'd encourage you to use it at up to 5%. However, if you have frizzy hair or hair that gets big when exposed to a lot of water, glycerin isn't necessarily your friend and might result in some slightly poofier hair than you expected.

And what about a thickener? Xanthan gum might thicken your mixture, but it doesn't do anything for incorporating mildness, so I'd suggest something like Crothix or Ritathix DOE, both of which will thicken the product and increase the mildness with their emolliency, but neither is Ecocert, so they don't fit the bill.

Consider adding another surfactant that can mitigate irritation, like cocamidopropyl betaine, which will also help to thicken the mixture. At a mere 10% this surfactant can turn your product from all right to freakin' awesome!

And we mustn't forget the importance of pH. If you have a pH over 7, your hair and scalp aren't going to be pleased with the product, so get the pH down with some acid. Citric acid is a good choice: Add it at 0.2% to your product to see a reduction down about 1 pH. Please don't do this, though, if you don't have a pH tester. I encourage you to get a testing meter if you plan to be using decyl glucoside 'cause you'll be doing a lot of pH altering with this ingredient.

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating!


Jäältantsija said...

Thank you for the post - this is exactly what I was looking for!
What about mixing different glucosides to one shampoo? I mean, in addition to decyl glucoside add also coco glucoside, lauryl glucoside - does it make sense or just the waste of time in your opinion?
The problem of the glucosides is, they won't give much foam. How to give fantastic foam to a "natural" shampoo with glucosides?
(I know the foam isn't essential in shampoo, but it feels so nice if it does have foam...)

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goodgirl said...

Thank you for your posting, Susan! I just bought decyl glucoside (one of those why the heck did I buy this? ;) ), so a lot of your information is really helpful :).

Robert Zonis said...

Thanks you so much for saying this. Far too many folks in our industry are content to make money off of fear-mongering.

FYI, Colonial Chemical makes some lovely surfactants from decyl glucoside that are very mild and make great shampoos.

(Full disclosure - I formulated a shampoo with this that is being sold by the company I work for)

Sandra said...

Hi! What a coincidence that you wrote about this, I was just about to ask you a shampoo question.

I made a shampoo recently that became an epic fail. It is extremely thin, makes my hair feel like straw when I wash it (it's really nice afterwards when it dries but I need loads of conditioner to get the straw feeling away) and it has separated in the bottle.

This is what I used:

Water 53,3%
Coco glucoside 17,5%
Lauryl Glucoside 17,5%
Guar gum 5 %
D-panthenol 2%
Hydrolized oat protein 2%
Optiphen 1.2%
Polyquat-7 1%
Salt 0,3 %
Citric acid 0,2%

It seems as if the guar gum is all settled on the bottle of the jar and I have to shake it alot before I use it. I don't wanna use silicones or any quaterniums over 7, nothing really that would leave a film on my hair - but I'm desperate to make the shampoo feel soft and glidy when I use it. Do you know any other alternatives? And should I use an emulsifyer? I see alot of people using salt as thickening agents in their shampoos too, but it didn't have any effect what so ever on the density, even after I upped the salt and guar gum percentage to 2% and 10%..

Thanks for your help!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sandra. I've written up my ideas for your product in Monday's Monday Wonderings for April 7th. The short answer is that your pH isn't right...

Inga Shargorodska said...

Hi Susan,

I'm in love with your blog. Thank you for doing all this great job!

About being green...I noticed that many "organic", and "all natural", and "no preservatives" brands are listing fruit juices in their ingredient lists. What are they? I checked quite a few ingredient suppliers and haven't found anything like "juice".

Thank you,