Saturday, April 4, 2015

Weekend Wonderings: Reminder about the soapmaking challenge. Phenoxyethanol and polysorbates!

I hope you're all enjoying your long weekend - if you get one - spending time with family and friends! I'm spending the day with my bestie playing with this stuff called Inkodye, which silk screens fabric using the sun! I'll post results when we're finished.

We had great fun making gummies (video) and lollipops at craft group this week! Click on the links to see how to make these at home!

Don't forget about Kevin Dunn's soapmaking challenge! He's had no submissions so far, which kinda weirds me out as there were some very vocal soapmakers who should have jumped at the chance to prove me and the other doubters out there wrong. I really am eager to see what the results might be!

In this post, Choosing a preservative, Tammy asks: I was wondering about the combination of Optiphen Plus and Polysorbate 20. I was participating in an online forum today with a formulator (from Microformulations in the US) and he mentioned that polysorbate and other surfactants can deactivate phenoxyethanol. I can't seem to find any other reference to that online or in your blog. What do you think? I had never heard this so I've been using Optiphen Plus to preserve my cleansers, foaming soaps, and sprayable lotions (all of which contain polysorbate 20 for the FOs or EOs) and I haven't noticed a problem -- yet. 

I've never heard this before, either, but I found this reference at Making Skincare*, "Phenoxyethanol is inactivited by highly ethoxylated compounds including polysorbates so do not use with surfactants." This means we would want to keep it away from things containing polysorbate 20 or 80. Not all our surfactants are ethoxylated - for instance, decyl glucoside and cocamidopropyl betaine, according to this post at Chemist's Corner

*Making Skincare is a great site filled with loads of information from the chemist, Jane Barber. Add this to your list of reputable sites, if you haven't already. 

So which preservatives contain phenoxyethanol? Optiphen, Optiphen ND, Optiphen PlusLiquipar Optima, Liquipar PE, and Phenonip. To be on the safe side, don't use these in products that contain polysorbate 20 or 80 or any of the foamy and bubbly surfactants like SLeS

Which preservatives could you use if you're in doubt? Liquid Germall Plus, which we all know is my favourite, Germaben II,  Geogard Ultra, or Cosmocil CQ combined with a fungicide.

Join me tomorrow for more fun with your comments!


Tammy said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks for addressing this :) To further confuse the issue, here is a post on the reformulation of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo from Chemists Corner.

They switched to phenoxyethanol as a preservative, yet their formula contains cocomidopropyl betaine! The other thing the formulator told us that is making me wonder, is that phenoxyethanol should not be used on children under 3 years of age due to skin sensitivity issues -- yet here we find it in the world's most iconic baby shampoo! Does this formulator know things about phenoxyethanol that the rest of the world doesn't, or is it possible that he's wrong about some or all of it?

Tammy said...

OK, sorry, I just reread your post and realized that I misread it! Please disregard my comment about cocamidopropyl betaine. I'm still wondering about the under-3 crowd though.

Christine Montano said...

Susan, I have enjoyed your posts with your own experiments. I can understand curiosity and respect our choice to exercise free will by choosing to do or not do a challenge. I personally hope to make liquid soap someday but am not ready for this low pH challenge. If you are so curious why don't you start making regular liquid soap then try the low pH? You surely know that due to human nature we are not always successful at persuading others. So the lack of submissions to Dunn's challenge means only that no one wants to do the challenge right now. All the more reason why you should dive in. Lack of submissions does not mean it is not possible.

I do not know much about this topic so I have no opinion and so I do not accuse anyone of being wrong.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Christine. Why don't I try the low pH challenge? Because I don't think it is possible to get a liquid soap to pH 7 and still have it be a soap. Why don't I conduct the experiment at home? Because I don't think it is possible to get a liquid soap to pH 7 and still have it be a soap. Plus, I know that whatever results I present, they'll be questioned because I don't think it possible to get a liquid soap to pH 7.

I think it is far more interesting and scientifically accurate to see what happens with Kevin Dunn's challenge as he has access to all kinds of equipment that can test the soap beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I'm not accusing anyone of being wrong. I'm saying that based on the information I have read about liquid soap making and based on Kevin Dunn's words, I don't think it is possible to get a liquid soap to pH 7 and still have it be a soap.*

Just as people are free to exercise their free will about entering contests, I'm free to express my surprise that the people who claim they can take their liquid soap to pH 7 aren't chomping at the bit to be proven right. If I were a soap maker and had made such a claim, I'd book time off work so I could get into my workshop to make a liquid soap to send to Kevin Dunn. It seems like the perfect opportunity to have someone who is well respected in the soaping community declare that I had, in fact, created a low pH soap and erase all doubt.

*I think I've made my position on this topic pretty clear!

Becky Vigon said...

The world was flat once, too.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'm not getting into this debate again. It is futile. If someone wants to prove they can get their liquid soap to ph 7, they have the opportunity to present their soap to Kevin Dunn and have him analyze it with all his scientific equipment.

Maria said...

As I said on another post--I've tried a number of time to lower the pH--and failed to get it to 7. The thing is, I was trying because I thought that soap would make a wonderful shampoo. It really doesn't and pH is only part of the problem. Supperfatting creates another problem--all those wonderful extra oils that don't saponify stick to your hair. Trust me, I know this from experience. Even the coconut oil/castor oil with zero supperfatting could only be used two days in a row. Even with vinegar rinses, you get buildup and let's face it--the vinegar rinsing is less than pleasant and not good for your hair (not frequent use). Vinegar is TOO acidic. So one question is: Why lower the pH in the first place? In any case, even if my reasons for doing so weren't the best reasons, I did try a number of times/different techniques and never got it down to 7. Maybe it can be done, but I've found other reasons to stop trying--namely, making my own shampoos with surfactants works better, is easier and it's actually faster.

CC Mirabella said...

Just an FYI I have been using jeecide CAP5.. INCI : phenoxyethanol,caprylyl, potassium sorbate, water, & hexylene glycol. In the formation guidelines at lotioncrafter it states for highly aqueous formations the addition of co-solvent or surfactant (eg Polysorbate 20) in a 1:1 ratio will make it water soluable to obtain a clear system...
Now I'm a bit freaked out...while I do quite a bit of my own research, I know point of interest is the most reputable out there (& THANK YOU SUSAN,) I'm pretty worried about what other suppliers may have mistakenly given errors information that's so important as lotioncrafter is a wonderful supplier

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Mirabella. I'm still looking into this idea that phenoxyethanol and polysorbates can't work together as it's something I've never seen before and something doesn't feel right about it.* I know that part of this is because the person who gave the information to the original questioner has been discredited recently, so a lot of his information is in dispute. The only references I can find are on Jane Barber's excellent Making Skin Care site, and I need more time to research it in my textbooks. (For instance, why is this not on the data bulletins of the preservatives?)

Yeah, I know I shouldn't go on feelings, but there's just something weird about this whole thing. I've never heard of it before and it seems like no one else has either.

Tammy said...

Hi Susan,

I agree that it seems weird. It's interesting that you say the formulator in question has been discredited recently. In addition to his insistence that phenoxyethanol can't be used for kids under three (when Johnson & Johnson is using it for baby wash), he asserted that it's "dangerous" to freeze carrier oils since freezing and thawing will cause solids in them to precipitate. I'm not a chemistry expert, but I'm pretty sure that isn't the case. Even if it were true, I'm not sure it warrants the use of the word "dangerous". Thank you for looking into this further on everyone's behalf :)

Matt said...

I was curious about the Phenoxyethanol/Polysorbate issue and found this data sheet that states "Ethoxylated surfactants may lead to loss of effectiveness." It also contains some interesting information about the amounts of Phenoxyethanol needed to inhibit the growth of different types of microorganisms.

Phenoxyethanol Data Sheet

Kneeley said...

This is quite worrisome as I tend to use Mikrokill COS for most of my products. I've only just started making foaming cleansers, with polysorbate, now I'm worried if they are safe or not. Is there an alternative to polysorbates for adding EO/FO and such preservatives?

Also, for those UK people looking for Liquid Germall Plus there is an alternative that you can buy at Gracefruit under the name GFplus GPL. I literally just found this after months of looking, so I think I will use this instead for my cleansers :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Matt! Thanks for the link. This is the line we are looking for: "Ethoxylated surfactants may lead to loss of effectiveness." This means any ethoxylated surfactant, like polysorbate, might lead to a reduced effectiveness of phenoxyethanol. (Click here for more on polysorbate as being ethoxylated.) I don't think I'd be comfortable using this with polysorbates, truth be told.

As a note, this is why I use liquid Germall Plus in my stuff. I have yet to find a restriction on it!