Tips to select the Best Surfactant For Rinse-off Products


How much do you know about the surfactants used in rinse-off formulations?

We will be sharing on the selection of primary surfactants for rinse-off formulations. A rinse-off product can include shampoo, body wash, facial wash, baby wash and feminine wash etc. Rinse-off formulations usually contain at least three types of ingredients. The three types of ingredients are:

  1. Primary Surfactants
  2. Secondary Surfactants
  3. Additives

What are the Primary Surfactants?

Primary surfactants are main cleansing agents found in our daily shampoo and body wash products. Hence, they are also known as the “workhorse” in a rinse-off formulation. They form the bulk of the ingredients in rinse-off products and are typically added at a dosage between 6-12% actives.

Problems With Early Generation Surfactants

Earlier generation surfactants such as Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfates (SLES), is a common primary surfactant used in rinse-off formulations. However, many sulfate or sulfo-containing surfactants are plagued by safety issues arising from their by-products. For example, SLES contains a by-product, 1,4 dioxane, and it is carcinogenic.

Recent Highly Recommended Primary Surfactants: Amino-based Solutions

Amino acid-based surfactants are expected to be the next generation surfactants due to their improved safety profile over sulfate or sulfo-containing surfactants. Unlike the sulfate or sulfo-containing surfactants which contain by-products such as dioxane, methanol and sultone, amino acid-based surfactants’ by-products are safe and benign.

Many amino acid-based surfactants have been developed in recent years to meet the demands of sulfate or sulfo-free rinse-off formulation in Asia. The amino acid-based surfactants include sarcosinates, glycinates, glutamates and alaninates.

The Guideline on Amino-based Surfactant Selection for Rinse-off Formulation

Selecting a suitable amino acid-based surfactant can be a challenge to Asian formulators. There is a wide range of amino acid-based surfactants and each of them impart different benefits to the formulated product. We have created a simple illustration to highlight the key benefits of using different amino acid-based surfactant in a rinse-off product.


Figure 1 Key benefits for the amino acid-based surfactants in personal care formulation

In the subsequent articles, we will share more information on the current products in the market that use amino acid-based surfactants and how to formulate an amino acid-based surfactant rinse-off product. Do contact us to find out more about formulating with amino acid-based surfactants.

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