|What is it?||Isoamyl laurate is a light, highly spreadable, non-oily, silky emollient for all kinds of skincare, colour cosmetic, and hair care applications. It is an ester made from isoamyl alcohol and lauric acid (a naturally occurring fatty acid that is found in many plant-derived oils like coconut oil and murumuru butter. It is considered natural.
Trade names for isoamyl laurate include:
Isoamyl laurate can be an alternative for cyclomethicone in some applications, but will not work well in formulations where the volatility (fast evaporating nature) of cyclomethicone is key to formulation performance. Isoamyl laurate is non-volatile.
|Appearance||Clear, thin liquid. Water-like.|
|Usage rate||Ranges vary quite a lot.
Given the spread of these numbers, I suspect that most of these ranges are more “what is likely to be useful in the average formulation” than safe upper limits. Why would something be safe to leave on your skin at 20% but only safe for hair at 2%? You can read the full CIR report on Alkyl Esters as Used in Cosmetics here. The CIR has concluded that isoamyl laurate is “safe in the present practices of use and concentration described in this safety assessment when formulated to be non-irritating.”
|Texture||Smooth, thin, light, slippy.|
|Absorbency Speed||Very fast|
|Approximate Melting Point||Liquid at room temperature.|
|Solubility||Isoamyl laurate is oil soluble. Medium polarity.|
|Why do we use it in formulations?||Isoamyl laurate helps soften and moisturize the skin without feeling greasy or oily. I love it in emulsions as an ultra-light alternative to oil (it’s considered an “oil free” emollient). Isoamyl laurate also helps improve spreadability, reduce tack, and can help reduce the soaping effect in emulsions.
In haircare products, isoamyl laurate can lighten anhydrous formulations, re-fat cleansers, and boost conditioning.
In foaming cleansers, isoamyl laurate improves foam, boosting it and making it creamier (usage ~1%).
|Do you need it?||No, but I would recommend having at least one lightweight liquid ester in your pantry.|
|Refined or unrefined?||Isoamyl laurate only exists as a refined product.|
|Strengths||Isoamyl laurate is a light, non-greasy emollient that’s natural and feels downright lovely.|
|Weaknesses||It can be hard to find.|
|Alternatives & Substitutions||The best alternatives will be other light, liquid esters like Neossance® Hemisqualane, Coco-Caprylate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, or isoamyl cocoate. I don’t recommend Isopropyl Myristate as it has more of an “oily” feel.
If you don’t have any light liquid esters, a fast-absorbing carrier oil can work as well. Fractionated coconut oil, Camellia Seed Oil, Rosehip Oil, and Hazelnut Oil could all work well.
|How to Work with It||Include isoamyl laurate in the oil phase of your formulations; it can be hot or cold processed.|
|Storage & Shelf Life||Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry,|
|Tips, Tricks, and Quirks||You can also purchase isoamyl cocoate; this is a similar product made from whole coconut oil instead of isolated lauric acid.
Isoamyl laurate is approved as a food additive.
|Recommended starter amount||60–100mL (2–3.3 fl oz)|
|Where to Buy it||Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.|