Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weekend Wonderings: Learning to make substitutions for ingredients and using decyl glucoside as a surfactant

I have to ask this question as well - if you are a beginner, why are you trying to make products from scratch? I've been getting quite a few e-mails and comments from people who are creating their own recipes and wondering why they won't work. Please please please find a tried and true recipe that has worked for others and try that if you want to make a product of that nature. I get that you don't want to spend money on ingredients, but it's the only way you will learn (and it might turn out you really love what you've made)! And I get that you want to customize your own products, but if you don't know what each ingredient brings to the party, how can you know how to switch it for another ingredient or leave it out?

When I do my lotion making and anhydrous product classes at Voyageur Soap & Candle, we always play at the oil bar, which is a table of every oil in the shop, so we can figure out what each brings to the mix. We can figure out which ones are dry or greasy, light or heavy, clear or coloured, and make decisions about which we want to use in specific applications. By learning about our ingredients, we can learn how to substitute one for another in our products. This is one of the reasons we did the newbie series - learning about the skin feel of our oils.

Everyone seems to want to substitute any surfactant with decyl glucoside, but it's not as easy as doing a 1-to-1 substitution. Decyl glucoside has a higher pH, is thinner, and doesn't thicken with salt. If you are eliminating SCI and cocamidopropyl betaine for decyl glucoside, you're completely changing the recipe. You'll have a higher pH, much lower viscosity, a less mild cleanser, and the inability to thicken with salt. Those are huge differences, and you'll be making something that isn't at all like the product I had in mind. If you're making a bubble bath with this ingredient, you'll end up with fewer bubbles, less foam, and less lather than the original ingredients I use.

When I make products with surfactants, you'll probably notice I will use two or three different surfactants in a product. This is because each ingredient brings something different to the mix, and generally increases mildness and viscosity of the product. For instance, cocamidopropyl betaine is something we use as a secondary surfactant, something we add to increase viscosity and increase mildness. It increases our foam and lather and reduces irritation. To take this ingredient out of the mix means you are creating a product that will be more irritating and less mild, which is a pretty big deal.

I'm not sure why everyone wants to use decyl glucoside - I guess because it's an Ecocert ingredient, but that doesn't mean it's better or more gentle for your hair or skin than a non-Ecocert ingredient. Being Ecocert is about how the ingredient is made, not how it will behave on your hair or skin.

I think we're in need of a few posts on this ingredient. Look for that soon! 

Related post:
Surfactants section of the blog
Why doesn't my hair feel nice when I use decyl glucoside?


Brandi Yates said...

Susan, how much hair loss is normal on a daily basis? Im losing handfuls of hair in the shower. I dont really see the thinning but still worried about it. I bought a shampoo with this ingredient but I havent tried it yet. It seems like the "organic" label makes people automatically think its going to be more gentle. The shampoo I have is Renpure and if you look at the reviews there is a trend that sodium lauryl sulfate is causing hair loss.

Aljonor said...

hi Susan. Thanks for your post on decyl glucoside. I must admit that I have tried many surfactants and no matter what I tried, it seems as decyl glucoside wins.I put it in my product at a low percentage and it does not irritate my scalp and my hair is less tangled. I am African American with very dry hair. After trying all recipes, I am sticking with decyl glucoside only. I even notice that flakes are gone using this only surfactant. I use regular guar gum to thicken and it works very well. On another note: I also agree with your that you must, must try the successful formulas in order to find out what to change. As in the Chemist corner, after you have tried the successful formula, you can start the process of elimination to see what you can remove. It is very important to understand the reasons of adding an ingredient. I have been making my own products for 3 years now and still enjoy learning new things.

Mer said...

For myself, I was rather ignorant about the different types of surfactant and lumped all the sulfates together and searched out all the "natural" products because a lot of them didn't use sulfates. I was concerned because I have excema and react rather strongly to some soaps. That said I have found that two of my favorite body washes are made with decyl glucoside and once I get some experience I might try to recreate them if some of your recipes don't quite feel right. But I likely won't since I'm not worried about the specific ingredients as much as the feel of the body wash and you've explained in many of your posts what causes the tight dry feeling and you have tons of other recipes that should provide the moisturizing I need in my cleaner.