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A Quick Guide to Surfactants in Skincare

Nothing quite beats the feeling of the rich and foamy lather we use for cleansing the skin. But did you ever think about what gives your favorite skin cleanser its lovely bubbles? In this blog, we’ll be diving into the world of surfactants in skincare. Let’s get started!

What Are They? 

Surfactant is the short term of surface-active agent. This skincare ingredient help degrease and emulsify oils and fats and suspends them which allows them to be washed away. They are often used in many forms of cleansers like facial washes, shampoos, and soaps.

The most common surfactants used in skincare products are disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate, cocamphocarboxyglycinate, cocoamidopropyl betaine, and alpha-Olefin sulfonate.

Surfactants come in a variety of types. This includes:

  • Anionic Surfactant. These are very strong and are by far the most common type of surfactant or cleaning chemical. They are used in just about everything that you come into contact with and are specifically designed to clean grease and dirt from any surface, including our skin and hair.
  • Cationic Surfactant. These are commonly used in fabric conditioners and hair products.
  • Amphoteric Surfactant. These ingredients are really adaptable to both alkaline and acid, they help to adjust the pH of the water used in solution. Because they are so neutral, they are really mild and gentle on the skin.
  • Nonionic Surfactant. These surfactants are often used in heavy thick creams, such as hand or body creams. Fatty acid alcohols such as cetearyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol, are the simplest non-ionic surfactants.

Uses of Surfactants

Surfactants can do more than just help get rid of dirt on your skin. It also serves a variety of purposes for skincare products.

They are excellent emulsifiers that allow cosmetics manufacturers to combine immiscible and insoluble liquids together. It helps oil and water mixtures to stay stable for long periods. They are often used in creams, serums, lotions, conditioners, foundations, makeup products, and gentle cleansing products.

They can also be used as a wetting agent. It allows products to penetrate the skin better.

Furthermore, they can be used as a preservative. It can protect cosmetics and skincare products from being contaminated with bacteria and germs. They kill microbes by breaking the lipid membrane that protects their cells.

They can also be used as a thickening agent. Surfactants work well with salts, polymers, and other surfactants. It can be used in creams, lotions, conditioners, shampoos, cleansing products, mascaras, and other makeup products.

Finally, surfactants can be used as a conditioning agent. Cationic surfactants in particular form a resistant film on the surface of the skin. This helps reduce water loss and lock in nourishing ingredients. 


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