Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Questions I've seen this week on cetyl alcohol

Let's take a look at a few questions that ended up in the comment box this week!

Kari posed this question in this post on cetyl alcohol: Hi! I recently bought your e-books from Lotion Crafter and had a question about adding Cetyl Alcohol to the conditioner when there isn't a lot of oil. Is it possible to use it when you have only a very small amount of oil? I've tried adding it, and it ends up gritty in the formula.

I'm not sure why it would end up gritty because you can add quite a bit of cetyl alcohol to a conditioner without problem because the BTMS-25 or BTMS-50 acts as an emulsifier for any fatty ingredients - like cetyl alcohol - in the product. With 4% BTMS-25 or BTMS-50, you can add up to about 10% in the heated oil phase without any problems. Having said this, I'm really not sure about the grittiness you're feeling.

Has anyone else had problems with grittiness and cetyl alcohol?

Anonymous asked in the same post: I have some ingredients around, and I want to make a leave in conditioner, with a lotion consistency. I was wondering if it is possible to do this using ONLY cetyl alcohol as the primary emulsifier? Would it even work, and would it have enough slip? I do have BTMS, but was just wanting to experiment without it.

No, for two reasons. Cetyl alcohol is not an emulsifier, so you'd end up with your oil phase floating on top of your water phase. And two, it isn't positively charged, so you wouldn't have a conditioner at all. Cetyl alcohol on its own doesn't do much for your hair - it might moisturize it as it is a nice emollient on its own - and you really need the cationic quaternary compound like BTMS-50, BTMS-25, Incroquat CR, cetrimonium bromide, and so on to behave as the conditioning agent and the emulsifier!


Jenny Welch said...

Hi Susan,
Cetyl Alcohol should not be gritty in a formulation, irrespective of the amount of oil it contained. My first thought would be to question the processing temps. Conventional wisdom says to heat our oil and water phases to 80C, mix each phase well, and then combine them. This ensures we have exceeded the melt points of all of our oil phase ingredients. If phases are not hot enough when combined, there is the potential for some of the oil phase materials to harden before being emulsified. This would lead to a feeling of grittiness or graininess in the resulting emulsion.

Jenny Welch said...

I should clarify that this would be most likely if the water phase temperature was lower than some of the melt points of the materials in the oil phase. Cetyl Alcohol has a melt point of 47C - 50C.

Clive said...

I have the feeling that when I first began formulating, I ran into some kind of issue with cetyl alcohol. I think it was a cream that had so many lipids - 25% - in it that it was more like a butter and after several months I noticed the emulsion beginning to break down with what looked like inclusions of a white lipid, possibly the cetyl alcohol. The primary emulsifier was stearic acid. I later adopted capric/caprylic triglycerides for our facial cream range. Kinder than cetyl.

Nedeia said...

@Clive- so, your emulsifying system was ... stearic acid and cetyl alcohol? This is quite unusual...

Ben said...

Hi Susan,

One of my preparations went rancid the other week. Mold starting growing in the container -- in all the containers in which I placed it. I was extra careful sanitizing everything that touched it, including the containers, and used 0.5% liquid germall plus. However, I used tap water (we have super pure well water here in NH) and did not boil it. I'm willing to bet that this is where the bacteria came from.

Anyways, it got me thinking: maybe I could add .5% or less citric acid to the water phase to reduce the possibility of spoilage. It works well for my sports drinks that sit in the sun all day (that I also leave lying around sometimes for weeks) with fantastic results.

My questions is: will putting citric acid in the water phase have any detrimental effects on our other lovely WS ingredients, like panthenol and hydrosols? Or on our cool-down ingredients like honeyquat and essential oils?

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, thank you so much for your answer. I'm the one that asked about using the Cetyl Alcohol as a primary emulsifier. I have a leave in conditioner that I like (Giovanni Direct Leave in, Weightless moisture), because it really does not get greasy. I'm running out and thought I could do something sort of similar. Some of them with BTMS end up feeling greasy and too powdery, the longer I use them. I read the label on my conditioner and could only see cetyl alcohol without another emulsifier, so I thought that's what made it less greasy, but obviously I'm missing something now that I know it won't work. They must have another emulsifier. Thanks again for you quick response!

Clive said...

Nedeia: Yes. I don't see anything unusual with it; the emulsion has passed repeated freeze/thaw tests and test samples have been sitting around for over a year now, and are fine.
As an example our face cream has this ratio in the nonpolars:
class A shea butter 4%
Capric/caprylic triglycerides 3%
stearic acid 2%
glycerol monostearate 2%
of course we use Carbopol to establish the correct viscosity.

Clive said...

Ben, if that happened, your preservative system is inadequate. Doesn't matter what the source is. A. Niger for instance is everywhere.
I don't use that preservative - I use Spectrastat - but I seem to recall seeing somewhere that Germall should be used at a minimum of 0.8% so it's not surprising you have problems.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Liquid Germall plus is recommended at 0.1 to 0.5%. I'm not at my home computer so I can't give you the link, but if you take a look at the preservatives section of my blog, you'll see the post on liquid Germall Plus and other preservatives.

Ben - what kind of containers are you using for storage? I have an idea, but I need some more information from you. As an aside, your product didn't go rancid - that would mean your oils had oxidized - but it did get contaminated.

I'll write more later today or tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Cetyl Alcohol does not function as an emulsifier in GDLI as it contains no other organic phase ingredients. In fact, the cetyl alcohol is the only active ingredient in it. Cetyl alcohol melts at about 60C as I recall, and the trick to making a GDLI substitute is to keep blending the mixture as it cools over the temperature range from about 62 to 55.

Ben said...

Clive: Susan is right, it's recommended at .1 to .5%. I have accidentally used it at 1% in a prior formulation that I made in November 2011, which is still fine.

Susan: I used one of those ziploc tupperware containers, clear. My laboratory setup is in my kitchen, with windows facing east and west, so a good amount of sunlight hit it. That probably didn't help.

After I made it, when people would come over, they would always want to sample. I would sanitize a spoon with rubbing alcohol and scoop them out a bit. Then I got lazy and thought "hey, it has preservative in there. I'll just stick my fingers in there. After all, you can do that with store-bought creams, right?"

I also stored quite a bit in a walmart-bought lotion dispenser. I cleaned it out with soap and water and blew dry it dry. This one also became contaminated -- quicker than the other.

Crazy thing is -- they became contaminated after only 6 weeks :(

I know there are 1000 different variables that may have caused or contributed to contamination, but if anyone sees anything that catches their eye in an aha! moment...let me know! :)

Clive said...

Well, if it got contaminated in 6 weeks Ben, obviously the preservative isn't adequate. The preservative should be able to eliminate any residual presence of mould. If anything grows in it, then the preservative has to have failed. Our customers for instance often have a hand cream lying around for 3 months and it has people sticking their fingers into it all that time, but the preservative system holds up. It has to; it's awful having a product go bad with the consumer.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm so confused haha! It sounds like you are saying that the GDLI has no real emulsifier? Or that it does actually emulsify with only cetyl alcohol? I tried a mixture with 4% cetyl alcohol,and blended my ingredients until they were 40C- nothing. Total separation :/ I'm not getting it obviously. I love that conditioner, and was hoping to make something even half as good, but will probably have to go buy it again anyway :) I am Serena, but I don't have any of the ID's needed, so I always come across an anonymous~

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hey everyone. A few quick notes...

Cetyl alcohol is not an emulsifier. It is a fatty alcohol and is considered an oil soluble ingredient with a required HLB value. It is not water soluble and it is not an emulsifier in any way.

Here's a post I wrote on the leave in conditioner you're discussing. I thought about duplicating it, but didn't bother as it really isn't a conditioner.

As for preservation,'s a post on various containers and how they perform when it comes to contamination. An open mouthed container like a jar is the worst option for storage and contamination, and I wonder if a more air tight container might not be a good idea.

Just a few thoughts for now. Sorry I'm not around more...It's been a busy week, and I won't have more time until Saturday morning!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Serena. There is no real emulsifier in this conditioner, and by definition, it isn't a conditioner as it doesn't contain a cationic quaternary compound and nothing substantive to your hair. So the Giovanni leave in conditioner is not considered a conditioner as per their ingredient list.

Personally, I think they're leaving something out the ingredient list as this product can't work the way it is listed on the label. If you look at the link I posted for the duplicate, you'll see that there are different ingredients list for this product.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, this is Serena. Thank you! I felt like I was missing an ingredient too! I'm not sure what you would call this, but my hair loves it. It doesn't get that late day weightless crispy feeling from silicones, or the overly heavy greasy feeling like a lot of leave ins-this is just my experience. (sigh) I will be $$ purchasing it again and again I believe, but I will try your leave in recipe from your link also. Maybe that amount of BTMS will not be too powdery. Thank you again for all your patience!

Katie said...

I find that I have to keep the temperatures quite high in both the water and oil phases when using BTMS and cetyl alcohol for conditioners. Unlike lotions or creams, if the phases cool to below 140F, the BTMS/cetyl alcohol blend will bead up when blended. This happened to me just the other day while making a small batch of conditioner. I quickly put the whole concoction back on the burner to reheat gently, and then reblended. It seemed to work and the conditioner is still fine! I noted on my recipe sheet that I should blend the phases immediately after heat-and-hold next time.