Friday, January 9, 2015

Shampoo: Formulating with greener ingredients?

Yesterday we took a look at what was important in a shampoo. Today we'll take a look at how to incorporate some greener ingredients in this product.

What does it mean to be "greener"? Honestly, much like the word "natural", this is undefined and varies from person to person. So I'm going to go with the idea that a greener ingredient is one that is ECOcert. The decyl glucoside I get from Voyageur Soap & Candle is ECOcert, so I'll consider that to be a greener ingredient. But here's the problem - I can't find any other surfactants considered ECOcert, so we are left to use only decyl glucoside in a shampoo. This is going to lead to a not very nice shampoo as we can't increase the mildness with cocamidopropyl betaine and we'll have a very high pH as decyl glucoside is generally quite alkaline.

Okay, hold on a minute, there's a cocamidopropyl betaine/lactylate blend that is ECOcert but cocamidopropyl betaine on its own isn't? I don't get this...

What to do? Honestly, I don't know. It's not that being more environmentally friendly isn't important to me, but I'm not willing to make an unpleasant product that makes me unhappy because it's ECOcert. I don't want to suggest to you that you use only decyl glucoside for your shampoo because then I'm saying that I wouldn't use this horrible product, but it's okay for you to do so. If you really must use it as the only surfactant, make sure you have a pH meter or reliable way to test pH to make sure you can bring it down to an acidic level to be good for your hair. 

Decyl glucoside can be quite nice alone in a facial cleanser or body wash, but it really is best when we combine surfactants to increase the mildness and moisturizing of our skin and hair. You could maybe make something that included polyglucose/lactylate blend as half of that ingredient is ECOcert, but that would only be suitable for people with dry hair as this surfactant is very moisturizing.

In the end, I have no specific recipes to offer. I've been thinking about posting a recipe that just contained decyl glucoside, but I can't in good faith offer you something that I know won't feel nice on your hair. If you really must use only this surfactant, then take any shampoo recipe you find in the hair care section and substitute all the surfactants for decyl glucoside. Make sure you have pH meter handy to record and adjust the pH as necessary. I warn you that it is unlikely you will like this product, but there is the off chance it'll work well for your hair type if you adjust the pH properly.

As a side note, I'm certainly not remotely close to being an expert on this topic, but I think we are already being greener when making our own products. We can re-use some of the bottles for surfactant based products. (Please don't re-use your bottles for anything that contained a lot of oils like emulsified scrubs, lotions, or anhydrous products as the oils can stay in the creases and go rancid. Ask me how I know this!) We can make our products more concentrated so we use less. We can make larger amounts and use fewer bottles.

Do you have some suggestions on how to formulate greener products? Make some comments below! 


La tía Maruja said...

Hello, Susan! That has been a very interesting post, very honest. Sometimes be greener is not equal to be the greanest and this is a great example.
Usually I don't comment your posts, but be sure I read and love your blog: one of the best I could find about cosmetic chemistry. Thanks for everything I learn from you!

Kisses from Spain!

Anonymous said...

Do you have the surfactant mix Plantapon SF on the North American continent? According to the product information, the ingredients are Ecocert,at least it's sold as the green alternative in continental Europe. (INCI: Sodium Cocoamphoacetate (and) Glycerin (and) Lauryl Glucoside (and) Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (and) Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate)

The chief thickener/emollient used together with Plantapon SF seems to be Lamesoft PO65 (Coco Glucoside (and) Glyceryl oleate, also sold as ecocert) used at 1-2 %. The final thickness is achieved when you adjust the pH with lactic or citric acid, it's supposed to thicken dramatically when you get below 5.5.

I've been too much in love with cocamidopropyl betaine and SCI to use Plantapon as the only surfactant, (as according to the company Lamesoft as a thickener is a bit of a one-trick pony that works only with Plantapon) but I thought I'd try this weekend and see how they work together (a drain fly infestation earlier this autumn has pretty much killed any inspiration, yuck. No fun formulating when flying pests compete to contaminate the product.

Best wishes and a happy new year, Elisabeth

Bunny said...

Man~ When you started this blog, did you think you'd spend half your time trying to explain the lack of a definition for "natural"? ;)

On a similar substitution note, is there ANY way you can get away without using cocamidopropyl betaine? I've got SCI and the polyglucose/lactylate blend, but until I get another big order I'm not planning on any betaine.... HMPH.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Susan! I'm learning so so much from your blog and appreciate the information!

I could swear I read in one of your entries about something which can be added to CP soap to make it less "squeaky." I've been through every post I can think of and I can't find it anywhere. Did I imagine it?


Susanna Originals said...

"It's not easy being green!" ~ Kermit the frog.
I do my greenest in as many areas as possible; reduce, reuse, recycle, and only drive to town once a week. No coffee runs for this girl! But I must admit I cheat when it comes to shampoo (too many ingredients) and buy the SLS free ultra shampoo base from New Directions. It seems to be the SLS that makes my head break out so I can have fun with the base and add stuff that is probably totally unnecessary. I have fine, wavy grey hair and it makes it squeaky clean, shiny and doesn't lose the body. And no ugly sores. And no, I'm not affiliated with ND, just a fan.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

Would it work if I made some castile soap and added panthenol, and silicones, and phytokeratin--to make a shampoo? I'm wondering if castille could work as the surfactant. Then add other things to make it into a shampoo. Would the castille lose it's lathering ability? Any insight?


Anonymous said...

I've made a shampoo with decyl glucoside as the only surfactant. It's very mild and there really isn't anything wrong with it as long as you adjust your pH (I usually bring it down to 5-5.5, which usually means adding about 0.5% citric acid). I'd say the biggest problem is that this surfactant limits your options when you want to thicken it. You're stuck with xanthan gum, which can be a PITA to work with. I've been giving away shampoo samples to people, and they're happy with the product. I'd be glad to share tips since I've worked with it exclusively since I started making shampoo (okay, I only started about a month ago... all thanks to Susan's great blog).


Melanie said...

RE: Castille soap: I have been reading this blog for a while and I have seen her answer this question multiple times. Castille soap is way too alkaline for hair. Soap is too alkaline for hair period. You can't bring the pH down low enough. And I will add my experience with soap-if you have hard water as I do (we live on a well) soap is horrible! It leaves a sticky scum that you can hardly get out! I had to shampoo my hair multiple times trying to get it out and it still took a week for my hair to stop feeling like straw.
RE: being greener: I think the best thing we can do is make products with no containers! Like Susan's AWESOME shave bar, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, emulsified scrub bars, and lotion bars! (Lotion bars can be put in deo tubes which is nicer but you could just put it in a mold by choosing harder butters I would think.)

Tracy Carlin said...

Hi Susan! I was wondering what your thoughts would be on replacing the dimethicone/cyclomethicone in most shampoo & conditioner recipes with broccoli seed oil?
I'm just curious because I bought some a while back as it perked my interest and I've been considering making my own shampoo/conditioner for a long time now. I have psoriasis and store shampoos don't help me at all. Hair loves it, scalp hates it.
Because of my scalp I bought a brand that has the mentioned green surfactants and my hair was a tangled and ugly mess. I could barely get a brush through it. So I started out putting a few drops in my palm and working it through before brushing and that helped immensely. Then I got the idea to add it to my lousy conditioner that wasn't working at all. I only added about 2 ml's to 8 ounces of conditioner and when I went to brush my hair out the brush was gliding through instead of dragging like it was. I am seriously impressed with it and some of the reading I've done indicates it performs as well as the "cones" do. Anyway, before I swap the cones out in my formula I wanted to see if you'de share feedback on your thoughts or hesitations?
By the way, it's great work you do that inspires/motivates people like me to jump in and get our feet wet. I can't speak to the number of times I've found answers to a failed formula here. Your blog is a great resource for people like me who want better options than store bought stuff and shampoo/conditioner seem to give me the biggest woes. Thus the reason I've waited. Thank you so much for all the advice you give through this blog!

Alexis said...

For those wanting to replace cocoamidopropyl betaine or pamper your scalp consider increasing the glycerin %.

Glycerin has been my experimental ingredient lately. I occurred to me that people who recommend making cp shampoo often claim that making it yourself keeps the glycerin in the soap. So I searched to find how much glycerin is in cp soap. What I found stated palm and coconut based cp soaps can have about 9% glycerin extracted from them to sell as a by-product for extra profit. This was for sodium hydroxide based soap, not potassium hydroxide based, which must be diluted for use.

So I played with the % of glycerin in my shampoos, face and body washes. Based on other info about glycerin in various posts, I went as high as 50%!

I did not notice the higher percentages making my hair any frizzier than 3% glycerin. It did make any hair and skin noticeably softer. Body washes tolerate the higher percentages well, but shampoos and face washes were better at lower percentages. I have been using 25% in my shampoo for a few months, but I'm planning on using less in the next batch since I think my hair is getting too soft. That sounds weird, but I don't know quite how to describe it!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi La tia Maruja! Thanks for commenting on the blog! I encourage you to participate as much as you want here. The blog can only be as good as the participants!

Hi Elisabeth! I couldn't find a retailer that sells it, unfortumately. Let us know how it turns out!

Hi Bunny! I have to admit that I'm surprised at how much I have to try to work with the word "natural". When I started making products, I wanted to make natural products. But I soon learned that there was no definition for the word. It is something that plagues me at night. What does it mean???

Hi Lindsay! I'm sorry, but I think you dreamt it one night. I know you could be dreaming about winning the lottery or flying or playing on stage with your favourite band, but instead you dream about my blog. I'm really flattered, but a little sad that your dreams aren't more exciting! :-)

Having said that, maybe sodium lactate? I think that's the only ingredient I use that is used regularly in CP soap making!

Hi Susanna Originals! No, it's not easy being green, but we do we can, as you mention! I try, but there are just some things in this world - like tea bags that come in a plastic wrapped box with each bag individually wrapped - that I just can't quit!

Hi Laura! I don't recommend soap as a shampoo for many different reasons. Check out today's Weekend Wonderings for the short answer and a few links.

Hi Melanie! I missed your comment as I was writing the Weekend Wondering! Shoot! Thanks for answering Laura's question. And I didn't think of making something greener by avoiding packaging. Duh!

Hi Scott! What are some tips and tricks you're using? I ask because I've never made something I've liked with just decyl glucoside and I've never heard anything positive from anyone who has either. I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Hi Alexis! I get what you mean about your hair being too soft! You can't get it to do what you want when it's busy being all silky!

Interesting about the glycerin. I'm a big fan of this ingredient, and I have done as high as 10% in a body wash to increase the lather and bubbling as well as the humectancy of it, and it was glorious. 50%? That sounds incredible! What other surfactants are in the mix?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tracy! Thank you for your very kind words. I'm so happy that I can be helpful!

I can't really speak about broccoli seed oil because I hate the stuff. It smells like broccoli, which is one of my least favourite things in the world. I hate hate hate hate it. I know a lot of people can't smell it, but I can and it is just awful. (It's like BTMS - some people can smell the fishiness, some can't, and some can't stand it!) I really can't stress enough how much I hate broccoli and the smell of it. Sorry I can't be more helpful!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it. It sounds like you really like it and it's working well. I will direct people to this comment when they ask about it, so any other thoughts you have to share would be great!

From the Simpsons:
Dr. Hibbert: Another broccoli-related death.
Marge: But I thought broccoli was—
Dr. Hibbert: Oh yes. One of the deadliest plants on Earth. Why, it tries to warn you itself with its terrible taste.

That is how I feel about it....

Birgit said...

Susan, for less plastic waste from drinking tea, try loose tea (I love brewing myself a pot of tea) or if that seems like too much trouble try Celestial Seasoning or Tea Republic. Both make really good tea that is less packaged.
Have a nice Sunday,

Birgit said...

I just realized I misspoke, the tea brands are Celestial Seasonings and the Republic of Tea.
I also wanted to repeat a question I already asked here:
Namely, which ingredients have you decided not to use because of environmental/safety reasons despite of them sounding good on paper? Is there anything you used to use but dismissed after learning something bad about them? Where I'm going with this is - which lovely sounding ingredients should we avoid to stand by our health and planet?
Thanks again for all your thought-provoking,

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Birgit! I love tea! We buy a lot of loose tea - in fact, I only drink two bagged teas now - and I'm pretty happy with those as they tend to be stronger than other teas, like Twinings or Tetley.

I haven't answered the question because I don't have an answer. I haven't found an ingredient I don't use for green reasons or health reasons. I know there are some concerns about things like palm kernel oil, but it hasn't affected what ingredients I buy. I do my research on every ingredient I use, and I haven't found anything that is really alarming to me. Every ingredient I use I use on myself, my friends, my family, and the kids in my group, and I think of each one of them as healthy or I wouldn't expose those people I care about to them!

I hate to say that being green isn't a big concern for me, but it isn't something I think of all the time. I drive a very fuel economical car. I make my own clothes, my own toiletries, my own food (canning, jamming, pickling, and cooking at home). I shop local as much as I can - I live in a farming community, so that's not hard. I try to ride my bike instead of taking the car. I don't buy a lot of things, preferring to download books, music, movies, etc. - legally! - instead of buying DVDs, CDs, books, and so on. We recycle, and we throw out very little garbage. And so on. I think we're doing a good job at home, so it's not really been on my radar.

After all of that, the only thing I guess I don't use are the plastic beads in my products. It's not a change in perspective because I've never used them and I prefer to use salt or sugar in a scrub anyway.

If you have any suggestions for things I could investigate, let me know! I'm open to ideas!

Anonymous said...


I'd be glad to share. Keep in mind I just got started, but here are a few of my observations working with decyl glucoside:

* You're going to want a pH meter to adjust the pH down to 5-5.5, but I can usually get pretty close by measuring out 0.5%. It's going to feel terrible otherwise.
* It's very gentle! I went with decyl glucoside because I wanted to make a shampoo for my wife, and it seems to be the only surfactant that doesn't cause her hair to fall out. I cannot explain why, but it seems to work for her. I aim for 25% in my shampoo.
* I always combine with lots of humectants and moisturizers. I've tried different variations, but all of them have 10% aloe vera, 5% glycerin, and 2% hydrolyzed proteins. I'm still experimenting with film formers, but you'll probably want dimethicone at 2% too.
* So far, I've worked exclusively with xanthan gum as a thickener (it has other properties too, e.g. it's a film former). You need to either mix it with glycerin or with oil, before adding it to your water phase (adjust pH to <6 before adding xanthan/oil or xanthan/glycerin mix). Oil works better, in my experience. If you do it right, you can mix it with a spoon (my earlier trials involved a stick blender, which worked but caused too many bubbles). I think 0.3% would be right. Keep in mind that if you use xanthan gum, you can't use a lot of other ingredients (quats, cetac).

As you can tell, the worst part about decyl glucoside is that you're really limited by your thickeners. I'm going to experiment with HEC (hydroxyethyl cellulose) and colloidal oatmeal; I'll let you know how that goes!


Tracy Carlin said...

Thank you for the quick response Susan. I understand your adversion to the oil. I was hesitant to buy it myself for the same reason. As it happens, I fall into the group that can't really smell it, lol! Good for me, I guess. Anyway, I plan on moving ahead with it as soon as my ingredients arrive. I'll come back after I've formulated and used it for a time with my results. I'll also be adding essential oils to my formula so I'm hoping it will hide any odor that tries to come through in the final product. I'll be shipping bottles out to my 3 daughters for testing as well so it should be interesting to see if they will be able to smell it as well. Again, thanks so much. Cheers!

Alexis said...

I was having such a difficult time formulating a shampoo that worked for both the highlighted and unprocessed sections that I decided to strip the shampoo down to the basics. I also wanted to get some sort of idea for what was occurring between DLS Mild, peg-150 distearate and the pH regarding viscosity.

Since my last comment I remembered that I added glucono delta lactone (GDL) to my last batch of shampoo and conditioner. I think this also contributes to the "too soft" feeling. I also decided I hate GDL for hair products! So glad I only make 250g at a time! Why did I use it? Wanted to see how it lowered the pH since I keep my hair products around pH 4.5.

For the previous batch of shampoo, I used
qs. water
50% DLS Mild ( to give 15% active surfs)
3% peg-7 olivate
1% dl-panthenol (powder)
0.2% disodium edta
1.5% peg-150 distearate
1.5% sodium lactate
1.5% sodium pca
5% Polyquat 7
5% date palm extract
5% lycopene bioferment
3% lactic acid
2% 1,3-propanediol
0.2% germall plus powder
0.5% eo

You may be wondering why I put sodium lactate and sodium pca in a shampoo....The first time I tried it was because I didn't want to throw out unused, going-to-expire product. It may wash out, but at least I used it! Annnnnnnnnnnnnd by doing that I stumbled across a neat relationship! Peg-150 distearate, DLS Mild, sodium lactate, sodium pca and lactic acid will thicken the shampoo. Peg-7 olivate slightly lessens this thickening. I'm not sure if it's a buffer thing that causes this or if it's a sodium/pH thing. I'm inclined to think buffer. Also this has worked only for DLS and peg-150 distearate thus far.

Interestingly I had no glycerin in that batch. 5% polyquat 7 was a bit slimy. As a shampoo it worked well but after a month or so I noticed more dryness than I wanted. At that point I did tiny, one wash samples varying the ratio of shampoo to glycerin. I settled around 25% glycerin for my shampoo.

Aside: When formulators talk about a surfactant's foam quality, I now get what they mean.

So for my current shampoo I took out all of the peg-7 olivate, added 4% apple surf (it adds really lovely foam!), added 15% glycerin, added 1% GDL, and reduced lactic acid to 2%. After using it for about a week, I adjusted the glycerin level to make it about 25% and added extra preservative to compensate for the extra glycerin.

Styling hasn't been so much an issue for me. My biggest concern is the highlighted sections matting when I shampoo, which GDL seemed to cause. Increasing the glycerin % after I made the shampoo reduced some of the matting. I will not use GDL in hair products again. I didn't like how the conditioner turned out. The emulsion for my leave-in broke when GDL was added. My hair seems to behave best when I use lactic acid.

My next batch will change quite a bit. I don't really have the patience to make small changes! I finally bought some honeyquat and will use that instead of polyquat 7 but at a lower %. I bought keratin hydrolysate 30, which appears to be formulated for shampoos. I'll use this instead of the lycopene or I may reduce the lycopene to 1%. I think I'll try the glycerin at 10%. I haven't decided how the surf phase will be other than that the majority of it will be DLS Mild.

Alexis said...

I forgot about the body wash...

I can't seem to find notes on exactly what I did. Sometimes shampoos become body washes.....For the time frame when I was using this as a body wash, I had experimented with DLS Mild, apple surfactant and Plantapon as the only surfs in shampoos, each at 50%. I think I might have mixed the Plantapon and apple surf shampoos together...(All had the exact same preservative at the same %.) What ever it was, I found it too drying. I made a one-use sample that was 50% wash, 50% glycerin. I liked it and adjusted the batch. FYI: The apple surf as the only surf separates at a pH below 5.

Then I made a body wash for a friend that gets extremely dry skin in the winter. I used 15% DLS Mild, 12% SCI Pearl, 5% apple surfactant and 40% glycerin. He liked it but said it was slimy at first. I didn't think it was slimy. He said it helped take away the extreme dry feeling but didn't make his dry skin go away completely. He said it made trimming his goatee easier - softer fur!

For either batch, I noticed that the little bumps on the back of my arms were not flaky. The bumps are still there, just not dry and flaky looking. I think my legs looked less dry. It seems that my skin accepts lotion better when I use a high glycerin wash. My skin looks healthy all day long instead of just a few hours after applying lotion once in the morning .

For now I will keep my body washes between 30%-50% glycerin. I have to see how it makes my skin feel when warmer weather arrives.

DeeDee said...

Plantation is available in North America. I just received an order I placed with a company in Quebec, Canada which sells it (the only one I could find in Canada so maybe the only one in NA??). It might be a little hard to navigate around if you don't speak French but if you just poke around and look for "Tensioactifs", which is French for surfactant, you should be able to figure things out just fine. If you need more information, just respond to this post and I should see it.

DeeDee said...

Sorry, that should say "Plantapon SF", not Plantation. Argh, autocorrect really messes up way too often.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi DeeDee! Which company was that?

Tracy Carlin said...

Chemistry Connection carries Planapon product and may have the SF. Not sure since I've not checked to see but here's their website.

DeeDee said...

Hi Susan, it was Les Âmes Fleurs. Their email is

I'm not fluently bilingual but I could get around well enough. They sell Plantapon SF. The most you can buy in one order is 1L (and of course they sell smaller quantities), but I have ordered it again within a few days apart and no issues. Their shipping is also really fast. After I placed my order, their processing was really quick and I got my order well within a week. I have waited 3 weeks for similar type companies to ship to me that are way closer. I also find their prices really great too and I am in love with their glycerites. I hope this helps. I doubt anyone would be dissatisfied with their products or customer service. They are both excellent!! DeeDee :)

DeeDee said...

Does anyone know where to get Lamesoft PO 65 in Canada or even the US? It works really well with Plantapon SF but I can't find it. Help please?!?!?! Tysm :)

DeeDee said...

Sooo, I guess I should do some experimenting before I waste anyone's time here with my really amateur questions but I just got my Plantapon SF to thicken without Lamesoft. It took about 0.4% lactic acid. Mind you, I did have salt already added to the Plantapon/Water mix to see if it would thicken with a small percentage of salt but no luck. But as soon as I added just a touch of lactic acid, it thickened up beautifully, so thankfully no more need for gross xanthan gum, or as much anyways. But one last amateur question I promise (well, actually two (lol),...first (and I guess I'll find it next time I make shampoo, for now I'm stuck with ugly but effective xanthan gum thickened stuff) do you think it was just the lactic acid or was it both salt AND lactic acid do you think? Also, now that I have the thickener sort of figured out, does anyone know what would give the shampoo a nice "slip" without using synthetics? Marshmallow root? Flax seed gel? More oils? Thank you so much!!! DeeDee :)

DeeDee said...

Oh, the nice thing was the final pH of my Plantapon SF shampoo thickened with lactic acid was about 5.5 so it's a nice pH for healthy hair and scalp. From what I've read, that is about perfect for skin and scalp. The lactic acid deed seem to make the lather more close and more of a flash lather. I hope it's a little longer lasting when it's blended with the rest of my additives, like oils, sea kelp Bioferment, silk protein, etc.

DeeDee said...

I think I have the natural "slip" thing figured out if anyone is attempting, like me, to keep things "all-natural" (as natural as some of these necessary ingredients can be anyways). I was experimenting with glucomamnan from Konjac root powder for a gluten-free bread since xanthan gum just wasn't working for me. Wow!! First of all, I had wayyyy too much the first time for my bread so I had to dilute it way down. Just a teaspoon in a cup of water will solidify as a jel in just a couple minutes. Anyways, I thought I would try just a sprinkle in a cup of water and Oh my!! Silkiness beyond belief. I've read that glucomamnan share being used in more and more beauty products nowadays but I imagined a "root" sort of look to the powder. Nope, white powder and the "gel" is clear and silky. I added some Plantapon SF and a smudge of lactic acid and what a beautifully silky cleanser. I put it in my bathroom soap dispenser with orange EO to use that up because I hate waste but will be adding hat to my next shampoo attempt with a little more glycerin. I hope it gives more spreadability as Plantapon SF, though wonderfully mild and easy to use, does not spread itself well. Wish me luck!! :)


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Dee Dee! Is that supplier in Quebec? I think I'd like to order a few things from them. They have some really interesting stuff!

It's hard to find the precise pH, but it appears to be 6.5 to 7.5 to start. I'm wondering why you chose to add lactic acid to this mix? It isn't a thickener for products, although some ingredients might become thicker when the pH changes.

As for the slip, have you tried glycerin? And if you're using all kinds of botanical ingredients, what preservative are you using?

Thanks for sharing. This was really interesting!

DeeDee said...

Hi Susan!
Yes, the supplier is in Quebec and they are super fast with processing and shipping:)

As for the lactic acid, I read somewhere that it can be a thickener, especially for the Glucoside type surfactants so I tried it. It literally takes just a drop. It probably does have to do with the pH as I find that it gets to the perfect thickness at 5.5 but Plantaponbis not much higher than that to start. I have tried glycerin for "slip". I bought a few glycerites from this Quebec company (amazing!!!) so I add it through those and also straight glycerin but I don't get that "spreadability" from it and I think it lowers the lather. That's one thing I no Iced about Plantapon is very mild, Exocert approved and as natural as a surfactant can get I suppose but low sudsing. I just bought some disodium lauryl succinate (I think that's what it's called and funny story, once when I was messing around with my shampoo, I read that Sennakot-D (I believe that was the one, I had the right one here anyways) was a surfactant so I got out the mortar and pestle and ground up a few and wow, it is indeed a surfactant and very frothy) to see if I can get more lather from the addition of that one with my Plantapon. I also ordered SCI too but I read that it's hard to dissolve so we'll see.

What would you recommend as a more natural thickener? I can't find Lamesoft here and I'm not terribly excited about getting a product that can only work for Plantapon anyways. I HATE using xanthan gum since it leaves the shampoo feeling "fluffy". You can only add just a smidge before it gets gross and that doesn't really thicken it. I guess I could just use the Konjac root as that stuff is a great thickener, VERY cost effective since you use so little and feels so silky. I haven't tried another formulation yet since I'm waiting for my second surfactant. Also, I ordered something Les Âmes Fleurs called "plant silicones" so that might give me the slip and spreadability I was missing before. But I have to add Konjac root (sometimes called glucomannan powder because the silliness is amazing, plus an awesome thickener with just a good sized pinch of it.

I'd love to hear your suggestions for me. I don't want to make shampoo to sell but rather for my family and myself. I have a genetic collagen disorder which affects every single system in my body and I am very sensitive to all sorts of things and suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity. Before switching to more natural options for my home, just using the most widely used household cleaners in my home could send me to bed for a couple days. Now I feel much better on that department anyways and I want to make a superior product for my family. They are of course, my most treasured "customers" :)

If you have ideas, please fire away. I love your blog and would love to learn more from someone so well-versed in this area. Plus, I love doing these kinds of things now. Since my incurable collagen disorder has forced me to quit my career and keeps me sitting most of the time, this is something very rewarding I can do at the kitchen table or sitting on a stool at my counter. It has been a god-send for my emotional health. If I can learn more, I would appreciate it so much!!!

Thank you,

DeeDee said...

Sorry Susan, forgot about your final question. As for my preservative, I use Leucidal. Mostly because it is Ecocert approved and made from fermented radish root. I don't get that one from Les Âmes Fleurs though because they don't have it. There are several Leucidals but the one I have is just he most basic one. I did just order the Leucidal preservative to protect again bacteria AND fungus. The one I have right now is only for bacteria and I noticed a lotion I made a couple months ago has something appearing in it that looks like a mould. My only issue with Leucidal though is that it is pretty expensive and you need to use upwards of 4% on some formulations so it gets used up pretty quick. I am trying to get my hands on Geogard, which is also Ecocert certified but the other supplier I use if Les Âmes Fleurs doesn't have something I want had been out of stock of Geogard forever now so I guess I need to look elsewhere. I try to get things close to Ontarip to keep shining low but looks like I'm going to have to maybe look into BC companies. BTW, if you spend $150 at Les Âmes Fleurs, their shipping is free. Just make sure you choose the "$150, free shipping" Orion from the list of shipping choices. I don't think they just add it for you automatically.


DeeDee said...

Oh, I forgot about this. This is where I got the idea of thickening with lactic acid. I guess I could have used any acid really but I had lactic acid handy so I used that. I take it from this excerpt that it does thicken the solution but because the more acidic formulation causes swelling? Maybe it is also creating adversive conditions I'm experiencing though, like collapse of lather and poor spreadability. Then again, that might be the nature of having only Plantapon as the only surfactant (for now). Thoughts?

"Acidic ingredients (such as lactic, glycolic, salicylic or fruit acids) used in personal care treatment products can serve both as active agents and acid swelling agents for the polymer to achieve the desired viscosity."

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Dee Dee. That quote about acidic ingredients relates to polymers. Surfactants aren't polymers so adding an acidic ingredient could only result in messing with the pH and wrecking the surfactants and other ingredients. I wouldn't do that without a great pH meter to measure every drop I added.

As for natural thickeners, you can use salt, but otherwise, there isn't much else if you don't want to use gums. But remember, anything like a gum is a hard thing to preserve, so you need a good, broad spectrum preservative.

I'm wondering about what you could find in Crothix that wouldn't be okay for your body?

As for preservatives, I don't trust the Leucidal line any more, and I don't recommend them. I wrote this on the blog recently. I prefer liquid Germall Plus at 0.5% because it's affordable, safe, and effective.

I'm not really about natural ingredients as I don't believe anything we're using, apart from our oils and butters, are natural. Everything has to go through a process to become what we're using, and none of that is remotely natural. There's very little difference between a surfactant declared "ECOcert" and one that isn't. But for some reason, we think that because it has that designation, it's natural. I feel comfortable in declaring I don't believe there's anything natural in any surfactants we use. (Maybe liquid soap or HP soap, but they're still processed through a fairly violent process called saponification.)

I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm as I love it when someone wants to make things, but I don't think I can offer what you need in my recipes. I don't categorize my ingredients as natural or not natural. I research my ingredients, and anything you see on this blog is considered safe. I make products with these ingredients for people I love, and I wouldn't do that if they were't safe. That isn't to say that I can't answer some questions, but I don't have time to help you create brand new recipes from scratch with ingredients you can use. It's a lengthy and time consuming process with so much work on researching each ingredient and how they interact with the other ones, and it's not something I can offer right now.

I think the best I can offer is that you know what you can use and what you can't, so do as much research as you can to learn what each ingredient brings to the mix. This will help you design your own shampoo recipe eventually. (This is the most fun way to make your own things! Knowing everything you can about each ingredient is a great way to make something incredible!)

DeeDee said...

Thank you so much for your reply. I hope I didn't seem to be suggesting that you formulate a recipe for me. Goodness, I would never ask that of you or anyone with tour kind of knowledge. I just really enjoy his blog and am leaning so much that I would like to use the principles and somehow try to incorporate them into my own "formulations". And I am really starting to lean your way, in that "natural" is a very loose term and should I be using up so much time, effort and money to make inferior products for my family and myself that might make me "feel" better but are duds? I think I will be trying to strike a balance between more natural ingredients, in terms of directly plant-derived ones and ingredients that allow these other more "natural" ingredients " (for complete lack of a better word) do their job and be delivered more efficiently and effectively. I don't see the sense of continuing to use all these beautiful plant derived ingredients I have, when at the end of the day, they don't do anything positive because the final product doesn't work out.

So thank you. I will be using more standard ingredients to try to create a wonderful end product for my family (I still have SO much to learn though at this point) that I can at least say I have made with love and attention and I know every ingredient that goes in it, even if it's not Ecocert or the best on EWG's website. I am becoming more and more convinced that these are clever marketing tools that are using scare tactics (EWG especially....I still do appreciate Ecocert for their sustainability efforts but that's about it) to corral a huge population of people to move into a totally different direction. Also, I think we should honk more about what goes in our bodies than on our bodies and washed down the drain. It doesn't make much sense to me for anyone to be strict that every single thing in their cleansing products be "natural" (in the strict sense of the word) and then serve their families known carcinogens like certain food dyes or McDonald's for supper. I have always thought that moderation is key so I don't know why I have gone so crazy thinking hat I'd be harming my family if I didn't make very thing as pure as driven snow. I now feel so much relief. I was struggling to get anything to be effective and stressing that I was failing my family. I now realize that just caring and wanting to give them something I made because I love them is much more important than a few ingredients Inwas wary of literally washing down the drain.

Thanks so much Susan. You just lifted a huge burden from this mama's shoulders. I know that sounds insane but scare tactics aimed at caring moms can drive us nuts with worry. I will go through your blogs an recipes and hopefully try to incorporate some of the ingredients I have and order the ingredients you suggest that I don't have. I hope I didn't offend you in some way by trying to "circumvent" the tried and true. It was not my intention. You are wonderful and I can't wait to get creating with much less worry!!!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi DeeDee! I think all of us start off wanting to make natural products, and then we realize we can't get what we want in a product if we are sticking to less processed things. I know for me, it started with all oils, butters, and beeswax for lotion bars and balms. Then I found the joys of surfactants and silicones, and I couldn't get enough of those ingredients.

You didn't offend me! I just wanted to let you know my perspective on the blog.

I'm glad to have someone like you who has such great enthusiasm commenting on the blog!

DeeDee said...

Thank you for appreciating even my completely newbie comments Susan, and thank you for understanding my position so much. I think we all do set out to make a difference and try to keep our family away from anything that might not be the healthiest ingredients (as deemed by others and organizations who scare us into that) but at the end of the day, I really think this whole thing has gotten crazy and out of hand. Companies are now making mothers, in particular, feel like we're failing in our role of protective mama bear if we allow one "hazardous" ingredient to make contact with their bodies. And as time goes on, this list of hazardous ingredients is becoming enormous and is enough to cause a parent to go into hyper-vigilant mode and a little crazy with worry. It IS crazy, but not because of our intentions but because of what these companies, etc, are trying to do to every parent out there, especially new parents. I asked my husband, who has a co-worker with a brand new baby, if he thought they would appreciate some homemade baby stuff, like talc-free powder, homemade diaper rash ointment, a comfrey/calendula balm for bad rashes, etc, and he said "probably better to not make it because we don't know what they want to use on their baby". Even MY husband, who I have seen spit out gasoline from siphoning, has noticed this need for us all to make this increasingly difficult (!!) decision in determining what out there is "toxic" and what is not as toxic to wash our babies with!! It is getting nuts! I would definitely love it if someone made my new baby something themselves and would feel better about it than store bought simply because it was made with care and beautiful ingredients, not supposed toxins. It's all gone so haywire the last few years!!

And yes, I am enthusiastic about this because there is a blog like your's that makes me want to be enthusiastic about something. I haven't been enthusiastic about something in so long. I got post-partum depression after my son was born 8 years ago and it has never left me. I developed chronic pains and numerous other symptoms very soon after that and after having to go to another country for help in the diagnosis, found out I have an incurable, genetic disorder which is degenerative and progressive so being excited about something just hasn't happened....till now. And I thank you for showing me that I can be excited about something, not go crazy with worry and be proud of something I've made for my family and myself and perhaps, in the process, get a little bit of the old me back. I know it sounds corny, but I owe a lot of that to you and your blog. So thank you so much Susan. You never know just how much something like making a body wash or shampoo for your loved ones can make a difference, but it can. It can bring back a little meaning to an otherwise hopeless feeling existence. I hope I can continue to learn from you and you can put up with


PS, I will make my posts quick and to the point from here on in now that my major worries are lifted. Haha :)

DeeDee said...

Hi Susan :)

Now for my first really level-headed question with much less worry about natural vs non-natural ingredients...

I have a good deal of Plantapon SF and have SCI now too and some disodium laureth sulfosuccinate on it's way. To use what I have (and will have in a couple weeks (this is the Ontario company that is very slow to process and ship *sigh*), which of the two other surfactants should Ibuse with Plantapon SF to get some nice lather? I have read that SCI is very conditioning and a beautiful surfactant but can be a PITA to get to dissolve and not re-crystallize. Also, I read that it takes heat and I'm worried if that might somehow make the other surfactant less effective (now my uber-newbiebess is becoming very apparent isn't it? Lol). My daughter has very thick, unruly, curly hair and I would love to use a very conditioning surfactant for her but I wonder if the SCI is over my head. Thoughts?

Also, I do have coco-silicone that has arrived and from my research, it provides great slip and I'm hoping to use the Konjac root to thicken it (as it does with just plain water beautifully) but if not, I will be ordering something like Crothix, as per your suggestion.

Last question, to incorporate some nice oils into my shampoos, like meadowfoam, Argan, comfrey (extract in oil), etc, do I need some sort of emulsifier made for liquids or does the surfactant by nature do that on it's own. Or does adding an oil to it's lipophilic head just hinder it's ability to grab sebum from hair and scalp and render t pretty much ineffective?

Thank you Susan,