Sulfate Free Personal Care Products

Solving the Problems of Sulfate-free Formulating

Posted by Rebekah Smith on 09/24/2020

As consumers demand personal care and beauty products with little or no sulfates, manufacturers are turning to sulfate-free formulas.

The challenge is finding sulfate-free formulations that deliver the performance and sensory experience that consumers have come to expect from sulfated products. Lubrizol Life Science (LLS) has a wide range of ingredients across various categories of non-sulfated surfactants that accomplish this:

In addition to ingredients, LLS has the knowledge to overcome the difficulties most often encountered in sulfate-free formulating:

  • Thickening problems – Sulfate-free surfactants can be difficult to thicken because many of them do not form micelle structures in the way anionic surfactants do. They also have poor response to salt thickening.

    Adjusting the surfactant ratio and/or using a polymer or thickener designed for a sulfate-free chassis.

  • Stability issues – Stability can be difficult to achieve because many sulfate-free surfactants will crystalize during cold temperature stability cycles. Salt response also can be uneven and cause problems with viscosity.

    Choosing a surfactant with improved water solubility and using the best polymer/thickener to stabilize insoluble material.

  • Poor flow aesthetics – Sulfate-free surfactants can have stringy and chunky flow/rheology because of non-uniform micelle structures.

    Choosing the right thickener/polymer and adjusting use levels for favorable flow; adjusting surfactant levels and ratios; making sure the pH of the final formula aligns with the recommended pH for the chosen surfactants.

  • Lack of clarity: Formulating in certain pH ranges can be a challenge, especially for amino-based surfactants.

    Solutions: Choosing surfactants with a pH above 5.5 and using a polymer/thickener compatible with the chosen surfactant chassis.

  • Poor foam and sensory performance: Sulfate-free surfactant foam generation is poor compared to traditional sulfated surfactants.

    Choosing an amphoteric or other foam-boosting surfactant; reducing level oils and/or other foam suppressors; adding other ingredients that help improve foam.

  • Poor results: Some sulfate-free surfactants can strip and dry skin and hair.

    Choosing a sulfate-free system with performance-enhancing ingredients, such as conditioning polymers, esters and humectants.

The success and performance of sulfate-free systems depends on the right combination of rheology modifiers, conditioning agents and surfactant chassis. LLS owns a broad portfolio of ingredients and our technical team has the expertise to take the complexity out of sulfate-free formulating. 

For more information, contact us today!

Rebekah Smith

Contact Becky

Have a question or comment about this post? Contact the author using the form below.

Input symbols

Related Categories