Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekend Wonderings: Decyl glucoside alternatives, packaging, and weighed down hair

In this post, Lucy asks: Hi. Total addict to your blog :-) I'm a newbie to actually making, although I've done years of reading....! Just started experimenting with shampoo. I've really sensitive scalp so have stuck to decyl glucoside and cocamidopropyl betaine but find it's a bit slimy and hard to foam...What is the next in the mild surfactant stakes I could use..? Are there any foam boosters? Many thanks for any help, I know how busy you are. Thanks, Lucy. :-)

There is this impression that decyl glucoside is one of the only mild surfactants, but it's not. One of the really big problems with using it is the pH. Decyl glucoside is almost always found to be on the alkaline side of the pH scale - pH 8 or over - and this isn't always the best thing for our skin!

Click here for a body wash I made with alkaline surfactants. It wasn't an insignificant pH!

Alkaline products feel slippery or slimy on our skin. Think about how handmade soap feels on your skin. That's the feeling of alkalinity! (I'm referring to the slippery part for soap. That's what makes it feel great!) 

From this post: So for judging detergents, it's safe to assume that most - if not all - are considered mild cleansers when it comes to personal care products.

  • Gentle or very mild - this surfactant is unlikely to cause skin irritation when used at the suggested amount or lower. It is unlikely to bother your eyes.
  • Mild - this surfactant is unlikely to cause skin irritation when used at the suggested amount or lower, but don't get it in your eyes. It could cause irritation for people with very sensitive skin.
  • Not so mild - this surfactant may cause mild skin irritation when used at the suggested amount or lower, and it may cause eye irritation. It could cause irritation for people with sensitive to normal skin. The only one that falls definitely in this category is SLS.

All the surfactants I mention on this blog are considered gentle to mild. If they aren't, I'll note that.

I don't use SLS because I couldn't find it at my local suppliers, and by the time I did find it, I already knew which surfactants I loved most. 

We can increase the mildness of any surfactant mix by reducing the concentration of surfactants, by combining surfactants and including amphoteric (cocamidopropyl betaine or disodium cocoamphodiacetate) or non-ionic surfactants (like decyl glucoside or polysorbate 20 or PEG-7 cocoate), or by adding things like proteins, emollients, humectants, and anti-inflammatories. (Using something like Crothix to thicken our product does double duty - it's a thickener and an emollient!)

If you don't have a pH meter or good pH strips, I don't recommend using decyl glucoside. Alkaline products aren't great for our hair or skin. And consider this - most of our preservatives need an acidic environment in which to live. Otherwise, they're inactivated.

Liquid Germall Plus and Optiphen have no pH restrictions. Geogard Ultra is pH 3 to 7, Germaben II is pH 3.0 to 7.5, Mikrokill COS is pH 3 to 8, Cosmocil CQ is pH 4 to 10, and so on. Check the pH ranges of your favourite preservative in the preservatives section of the blog.

It's hard to recommend a replacement for a specific surfactant because it depends on what you want in a product. If you're looking at a shampoo, I love SCI or ACI because it's very mild and offers great foam and lather. Plus, your skin and hair will feel conditioned afterward! (I recommend ACI, the liquid form, when making a liquid shampoo!) Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate is considered quite gentle to mild, and it offers good foam. SMC or SMO taurate is also considered gentle to mild, but it has a pH of 7.5 to 8.5, and you might need to bring that down if you combine it with disodium cocoamphodiacetate.

As for foam boosting, decyl glucoside is terrible for lathering and foaming. Substituting just about any surfactant will result in better lather and foam, so you don't really need a foam booster.

Related posts:
Surfactants section of the blog
Hair care section of the blog
Surfactants: Basic, general information

In this same post, Ingrid asks: I only want to ask where you find all these wonderful bottles you picture on your blog? I have checked many websites and just can't seem to find them. Any hints?

I get my packaging from either Voyageur Soap & Candle in Surrey, B.C. or Aquarius Aroma & Soap in Mission, B.C. Both have lovely containers, although Aquarius definitely has some I've never found anywhere else, like the pump in this picture.

Does anyone have suggestions for where you find your packaging? (Please include links or URLs.) If you're a business, remember that this isn't about advertising your company but helping the readers of this blog! I will let you know if you're veering off into self promotion. 

Related posts:
All the packaging posts on the blog

In this post, Ghislaine said: Looove your extremely informative blog. I make a hair conditioner using Elements b&b flakes which contain cetearyl alcohol, PEG40 castor oil and stearalkonium chloride. I added 1% panthenol, 1%cyclomethicone and 1% avocado oil. It leaves my hair incredibly soft but has no body. What can i add to keep the body in my hair? Thanks. 

First, let's figure out the ingredient you are using as your main conditioning agent. You're using Incroquat CR, which means you're making more of a cream rinse instead of a conditioner. Nothing wrong with that, but we should know which ingredients we're using so we can figure out how to modify the recipe! (The CR stands for cream rinse.) Incroquat CR is an amazing softener and static reducer, and I include it in my products for those reasons. Incroquat CR isn't great with the substantivity or adhering to our hair strands, which means you should see your hair being weighed down less than if you used something like Incroquat BTMS-50 or Ritamulse BTMS-225.

I have a few thoughts on what might be causing this. One, the cetearyl alcohol in the Incroquat CR is a little waxier and heavier than cetyl alcohol, and it might be too much for your hair. Two, the oil might be unnecessary. And three, you may be using too much conditioning agent.

I did a little experiment in this post, and eventually found that I could reduce the amount of Incroquat BTMS-50 in the product by 50%! I didn't expect that result. But it did lead me to question the amount of conditioning and moisturizing we think we need in our hair. I encourage you to start low and work your way up because you probably need far less conditioning than you think. As well, really consider how much oil you're putting in a product. I see huge amounts of oils in conditioners, on par with body butters, and very few hair types need that kind of oil. If you have fine hair, I would avoid oils at all costs and find something lighter that offers moisturizing and smoothing, like dimethicone or an ester. 

I don't know your hair type or specific recipe and process so I can't help you modify your recipe, but I would remake your conditioner with only Incroquat CR, water, and preservative, and use it a few times to see how your hair feels. If your hair is still weighed down, reduce the amount of Incroquat CR. If it's still weighed down, consider that you might not need a conditioner and might be okay with just a cationic polymer or a detangler like cetrimonium chloride.

Related posts:
Hair care section of the blog
Basic cream rinse recipes and information
Modifying cream rinses
Detanglers using cetrimonium chloride

Have a question? Visit this post and add your thoughts for future Weekend Wonderings! I will be checking there first, then the comments and e-mail messages for topics.


Leslie said...

Hi Susan, Thanks for all the good info. I really find these weekend ponders very helpful.
I get my bottles and jars from Cape Bottle Company in Plymouth, MA (888-833-6307). They have no minimum order and low prices. Also, they are really nice to deal with!

More Cowbell said...

Hi, Susan,

On the shampoo subject...I have really wacky skin and have so many problems with shampoos. I don't think it's the detergent part because the one kind of shampoo I can use with impunity is dandruff shampoo.

So-called gentler shampoos, like baby shampoo? I burn and blister almost immediately.

Shampoos with conditioner??? Weeping sores on my head and thje sides of my face for days afterward.

So, the milder and more "conditioned" the product, the worse it is on my skin. The harsher -- at least I think of dandruff shampoos as harsh -- the less reaction (none, really) I have to it.

Do you have any idea what part of the shampoo could be causing me trouble? I'd love to make my own just so I wouldn't have to keep changing. Sometimes I can only use something once or twice before I react, sometimes I can use them for a week or more.

I don't mind the dandruff shampoos, but they are very hard on hair coloring, and I don't see me stopping coloring my hair any time soon. ;)

I know this is pretty vague, but I'll appreciate any enlightenment you may be able to provide.

catherine said...

For packaging:

Aljonor said...

I ordered from They have a wide selection and now have a special selection for specialty bottles. I am thinking;however, about staying with
because use can order as many as you like and they offer a lot of free samples. The shipping is quick.

Aljonor said...


I use Decyl glucoside with Cocamidopropyl Betaine. I also have problem scalp, but use more Cocamidopropyl Betaine than Decyl and the product does not feel slimy. I like it because it seems to exfoliate my scalp. The foaming for me is ideal. I use to use it with the Glycol distearate, but it reduces the foam greatly. So I deleted it. I really like Decyl glucoside and am working with other thickeners.

melian1 said...

i am loving the weekend wonderings!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi More Cowbell! I have no idea. Have you spoken to your doctor or dermatologist? This sounds so painful and serious to me. Does there seem to be a common thread? A preservative, a fragrance, an ingredient like aloe vera or a hydrosol? I wish I could help!

Hi Aljonor! That slimy feeling comes from it being alkaline! That's what gives soap that slippery feeling.

More Cowbell said...

I also am bushwacked by any "hypoallergenic" product I've ever tried. My dermatologist had no idea what was causing it but said that hypoallergenic products often remove a lot of the oils, since those typically cause reactions. So, our best guess on that was that the oils were the only thing standing between my skin and whatever was actually bothering it. But that doesn't explain the conditioning shampoo reactions. Sigh.

I've been seeing a lot about washing your hair with baking soda and may give that a try, but carefully, starting with just a patch of scalp to see how it works. I have long hair and like to shampoo almost every day, so this has been a major issue all my life.

BTW, thanks again for this wonderful resource and for being willing to lend a hand where you can.

Alexis said...

I've order from E. D. Luce. Their website is

I find their prices reasonable. They sell small lots of 12 for most bottles. Pumps are sold per item.

Almost ordered from but the shipping charge was $38 for $10 worth of caps; so I didn't complete that order.