Tag Archives: how to make natural shampoo

Surfactants in Natural Shampoo Part 2

How to Formulate and Make Natural Shampoo Part 2: Surfactants in Natural Shampoo

Part 1 Types of Shampoo

Part 2 Surfactants for Natural Shampoo

Part 3 Formulating and Making Natural Shampoo

How to Formulate and Make Natural Shampoo Part 1 (read here) covered Types of Shampoo. Part 2 covers Surfactants for Natural Shampoo.

Surfactants are necessary to remove dirt and grease. Surfactants are surface-active agents. Surfactants alter and reduce the surface tension allowing for better penetration. Surfactants are hydrophilic (water-loving) and lipophilic (oil-loving); they have a water-loving head that is attracted to water and an oil-loving head that is attracted to oil. Learn more about surfactants here. 

Water has an inherent property of surface, a high surface tension. By adding a surfactant, it makes the surface of water more soluble by flattening it out and the surfactant can be used as foaming agent, detergent, emulsification agent and conditioning agent and for solubilizing, depending on the surfactant.

Sulfate Cleansers can be irritating to the skin. They have high foaming and cleansing actions. Sulfated surfactants are SLS-sodium lauryl sulfate, and ALS-aluminum lauryl sulfate.

Sulfate-free cleansers are generally non-irritating and milder than sulfate cleansers.

There are four types of surfactants.
1. Anionic Surfactants carry a negative charge.
2. Nonionic Surfactants have no charge.
3. Cationic Surfactants carry a positive charge 
4. AmphotericSurfactants carry a negative or positive or no charge.

Anionic Surfactants
Anionic surfactants have a negative charge to the water-loving head, called hydrophilic. Anionic surfactants perform the highest foaming and cleansing actions. They can also build viscosity. Anionic surfactants may be harsh on the skin and hair. Cold process handmade soap is anionic from the reaction of the fats with sodium hydroxide but  cold process soap is not harsh on the skin if there is extra oil in the soap. A lot depends on the formulation and the ingredients in the formulation.

Nonionic Surfactants
Nonionic surfactants have no charge to the water-loving head. Nonionic surfactants are one of the gentlest surfactants but they produce very little foam. They are usually combined with other surfactants to boost foam. Nonionic can act as solubilizers and assist with dispersing essential oils.

Cationic Surfactants
Cationic surfactants have a positive charge to their water-loving head. The positive charge creates adherence to the net negative charge of hair. Cationic surfactants are used in hair conditioners to adhere to the hair and not rinse away allowing the conditioner to provide conditioning and leave the hair smooth, soft, silky and with less static electricity. Cationic surfactants are good in formulations for co-wash and 2-in-1 conditioning shampoo. Cationic surfactants do not combine well with anionic surfactants.

Amphoteric Surfactants
Amphoteric surfactants can have a negative or positive charge or no charge depending on the acid or alkaline environment. Amphoteric surfactants are generally used as the primary surfactant in mild shampoo formulations.

Natural surfactants should be sulfate-free and from renewable plant sources, biodegradable and use processes that are not harmful to humans, animals and the earth. In a shampoo formulation there is usually a combination of surfactants to provide sufficient foam, manageability for the hair and a good feel when shampooing the hair.

Availability of Surfactants to the Small Manufacturer
Surfactants available to the small manufacturer of natural hair care products have been limited. This is changing and smaller raw material suppliers are offering more surfactants. Here are a few natural surfactants currently available to the small manufacturer. I use these surfactants and others. From my experience, shampoo is one of the most challenging products to formulate. Shampoo performs different depending on the hair type and they are affected by the water used to wash the hair, especially hard water.

Apple Surfactant INCI Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids
Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids is derived from apple juice amino acids. It is non- irritating, gentle and mild and can be used in baby shampoo and sensitive skin shampoo. Anionic

Coco-Glucoside INCI Coco-Glucoside
Coco-Gllucoside is derived from coconut and sugar. It is a mild surfactant and non-irritating. It has good foaming strength. Nonionic

Decyl Glucoside INCI Decyl Glucoside
Decyl Glucoside is derived from sugar and plant oil. It is very mild and non-irritating. It is good for sensitive skin. It does produce a fair amount of foam for being a nonionic surfactant but little flash foam. Nonionic

Potassium Cocoate INCI Potassium Cocoate
Potassium cocoate is also known as liquid soap. I find it harsh on the hair unless combined with more moisturizing surfactants. It is available from a cosmetic raw material supplier or one can make it. It is made with potassium hydroxide (KOH), a similar process like cold process soap. Anionic

Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate INCI Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate
Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate is derived from coconut oil and coconut milk and has been used in the food industry for a long time. It is used as a secondary surfactant. I like combining it with decyl glucoside. It provides a soothing feel to the scalp and hair. Nonionic

Look at the hair care aisle and read the ingredients on natural shampoos. See if you can figure out which ingredients are surfactants and the combination of surfactants used in the shampoo. Look up information on surfactants online; find a supplier and note if the surfactant is anionic, nonionic, cationic or amphoteric.

To learn to formulate and make many types of natural shampoo join the Professional Natural Hair Care Product Making Online Course.

How to Formulate and Make Natural Shampoo: Part 1

How To Formulate and Make Natural Shampoo: Part 1
This series is on how to formulate and make natural shampoo. This is part 1 of 3. To formulate and make a natural shampoo requires knowledge of the types of shampoos on the market, understanding the chemistry of surfactants and their purpose and other ingredients to develop a natural shampoo that cleanses the hair but also does not strip the hair.

Part 1 Types of Shampoo

Part 2 Surfactants for Natural Shampoo

Part 3 Formulate and Make Natural Shampoo

Purpose of Shampoo

The purpose of shampoo is to clean the hair and improve the appearance of hair.


Shampoo is one of the most bought and used cosmetic, personal care product . The use of shampoo has continually grown due to more grooming and the trend of washing the hair more often, hair and scalp issues, more shampoos are available for different hair types and more consumers are willing to pay money for shampoo. Babies, children, teenagers and adults use shampoo and some on a daily basis.

Natural Shampoo

The natural shampoo market has grown in popularity and now consumers want more natural shampoo containing sustainable earth friendly and plant-based ingredients that provide gentle cleansing of the hair.


There are many types of shampoo on the market; clarifying, for oily hair, normal hair or dry hair, 2 in 1 shampoo, shampoo for color treated hair, volumizing shampoo, co-wash, baby/children’s shampoo and dandruff shampoo. There are categories for curly hair, textured hair, fine hair, grey hair and more. There can be many types of shampoos in these categories.

Natural Shampoo
Any of the types of shampoo can be made natural containing mostly natural ingredients. Ingredients that are sustainable, biodegradable, mostly derived from nature, no threat to human health, sulfate-free surfactants, essential oils or plant-derived scents for scenting the shampoo. No animal testing.

Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoo removes build-up of products, chemicals, pollution and hard water. Clarifying shampoo is usually on the alkaline side and can be drying to the hair if used daily.

Oily Hair Shampoo

Shampoo for oily hair is more clarifying and cleansing to remove oil but does not strip the hair of all the natural oil. The pH can be more alkaline.

Normal Hair Shampoo

Shampoo for normal hair is pH balanced and can be made with ingredients that cleanse and promote shine, luster and soft hair. Normal shampoo can also be moisture shampoo.

Dry Hair Shampoo

Shampoo for dry hair is pH balanced with moisturizing and conditioning ingredients to coat and protect the hair.

2 in 1 Shampoo

This is a shampoo and conditioner in one product. 2 in 1 shampoo is popular for men’s shampoo, baby and children’s shampoo and elderly shampoo. The shampoo needs to cleanse and coat the hair at the same time, performing as a shampoo and conditioner. This type of shampoo is challenging to formulate since cationics do not combine well with anionics. Anionics are needed to cleanse the hair and cationics are needed to condition the hair. The selection of surfactants and other ingredients need to synergize together to produce an effective 2 in 1shampoo.

Color Treated Hair Shampoo

This shampoo does not strip the color from the hair. Generally, these shampoos are formulated at a lower pH and gentle surfactants. Higher pH will strip the color from the hair.

Volumizing Shampoo

This shampoo adds volume to hair and contain volumizing ingredients.

Co-Wash/Cleansing Cream

This shampoo is a conditioner containing a smaller percentage of surfactants and conditioning agents.

Moisture Shampoo

This shampoo contains humectants and hydrating ingredients.

Baby and Children’s Shampoo

Shampoo for babies and children should be very mild with low amounts of mild surfactants and little to no lather and foam.

Dandruff Shampoo

Dandruff shampoo is an over the counter (OTC) product and is regulated by the FDA. Dandruff shampoos contain active ingredients and must be approved by the FDA.


Look at the hair care aisle and take note of the types of shampoo. Note the names, the ingredients, hair types the shampoo is for, directions for using the shampoo, the container, the ounces/grams and the retail price of the shampoo. Also note how many shampoos in each type of shampoo.

To learn to formulate and make many types of natural shampoo join the Professional Natural Hair Care Product Making Online Course.