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Demystifying surfactants

Demystifying surfactants


Surfactants are products that reduce the tension between raw materials that do not like and grow, such as the typical example of water and oil. By definition, an emulsifying wax to bind an aqueous phase and an oily phase in the manufacture of cream is a surfactant, but in the field of natural cosmetics, surfactants mainly refer to the cleansing and sparkling raw materials that make it possible to make soaps. Most surfactants are used for the manufacture of liquid soaps and some for the manufacture of solid soaps (the famous solid shampoos and the " Cake " Dish.

A few years ago, when natural surfactants (Natural, really? We will come back to it) have come to the market, we didn't have a lot of choices. This amounted to decyl glucoside and cocobetate, and the cost of making a liquid soap of one litre was about $50, which was not very advantageous. Over time, other natural surfactants have emerged, demand has increased, and prices have fortunately declined. We also realized that some surfactants, even if they were natural, were not very good for the environment and could be irritating. Natural origin is not synonymous with biodegradable or soft for the skin. Thus the cocokein became a surfactant to avoid as well as the sodium coco sulfate that we sell to meet the demand, but which we strongly suggest to limit (some formulas recommend up to 80 % of SCS, which is far too much, the sulfates being irritating). We now have soft and biodegradable surfactants that may be less muted, but which also cleanse just as efficiently. Better to prioritize our skin and the environment rather than a plentiful foam right?

Some people will tell you that natural surfactants aren't really because they're made in the lab. Instead, we should write: natural or natural sources, since they come from natural raw materials such as some fats (coconut, babassu). It is better to avoid products containing palm oil derivatives for ecological reasons (deforestation), for which we cleaned and removed from our shelves the raw materials that contained them. As far as surfactants are concerned, we want them to be without a palm, without sulfates and the most biodegradable possible (the more a surfactant is foaming, the less biodegradable). In our view, natural-source surfactants remain natural. The mere fact of having to manufacture them in the laboratory is not a factor of denaturalisation. In fact, if we were to stick to this logic, the essential oils in bottles would not be natural since they need the intervention of man to be extracted. Just accept the fact that it has several shades of " Natural " And that it is up to everyone to make their choices according to their vision and values.

Here is a comparative table that will help you find yourself better

Comparative table of surfactants

 A word about the mode " Zero waste " And solid shampoos. Let us be clear, unless we consume only the products that we grow and harvest ourselves, the " Zero waste " Does not exist. The surfactants used in the manufacture of solid shampoos travel (fuel), they must be packed in barrels (plastic) and bagged or bottled. To think that a solid shampoo is a zero waste product is illusory. Of course it is much better since the container is not necessary and the raw materials are supposed to be biodegradable (note that the soaps are easily degraded in the soil, in the earth, but not in the watercourses).

At Les Âmes Fleurs, we bottle liquid surfactants in recyclable or better, reusable plastic bottles and solid surfactants in recyclable bags. The glass bottles are unfortunately heavier, which generates more costs and more fuel (transport). Moreover, the production of glass is far from ecological. Fortunately, the glass is recycling well, but not everywhere, and it is britzable (problem during transport). As for the compostable bags, they do not allow good preservation of the product, and as they are very similar to non-compostable bags, the employees in the sorting centres remove them from the composte and throw them out of the garbage. Compostable products that are found in the garbage produce polluting gases. The best option for the environment remains, at least for the time being, that of the recyclable bags.

Surfactants are not perfect products, but they allow us to design healthier products for us and for the environment if you choose them well and use them intelligently. Here is a table that groups the surfactants selected by Les Âmes Fleurs and their properties, hoping that this can help you in your formulations. Let us make informed choices and continue our evolution towards ever healthier products!

Here are the courses and workshops we offer to make recipes with surfactants.

Manufacture of Personal Health Products and Coy-Courses

Liquid Soap Manufacturing-Workshop

Manufacture of body liquid soaps-Workshop

Capillary Care Product Manufacturing -Workshop

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  • Marie-Christine Vallières