What is it? A natural gum made from the fermentation of sugar.

We can purchase three different types of xanthan gum: regular, soft, and clear.

  • Regular/normal xanthan gum is the most common and the cheapest; you can often purchase this ingredient at health food stores as well as from most DIY suppliers. It creates hazy gels that I generally describe as slimy and snotty.
  • Soft & clear xanthan gums create far more pleasant gels than regular xanthan gum; they feel far less snotty and are are much more carbomber-like in terms of clarity and skin feel. I’ve worked with both soft & clear xanthan gums from a few different suppliers and can’t really tell a difference between the two. I’d feel confident using one instead of the other, and I’d say you only need one of them.
INCI Xanthan Gum
Appearance Fine off-white granular powder. Regular xanthan tends to be a bit more cream coloured while soft and clear are a bit whiter.
Usage rate 0.01–2%
Texture Regular/ normal: Once hydrated it creates slick, slimy gels.

Soft & clear: Once hydrated they create slippy, cushiony gels.

Scent Nothing strong
pH 6–8
Charge Anionic
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in formulations? In gels, xanthan gum creates the body of the gel. In emulsions, it can be used to stabilize and thicken.

I don’t like the feel of gels thickened solely with regular xanthan gum; I find them to be slimy and unpleasant. I prefer to use regular xanthan gum around 01–0.3% in emulsions—at that low usage rate, it contributes a lovely slip and added stability to the emulsion.

Soft & clear xanthan gums are far more versatile than regular xathan gum as the skin feel and consistency is far more appealing.

Do you need it? No
Strengths Effective natural gelling agent and thickener.
Weaknesses Regular: Unappealing consistency, poor leave-on skin feel to some people.

Soft & clear: More expensive than regular, not as readily available.

Alternatives & Substitutions Consider guar gum or hydroxyethylcellulose.

I find soft & clear xanthan gum don’t thicken as strongly as regular xanthan gum, so if a formulation calls for regular xanthan gum and you’re using soft or clear, you’ll want to use a bit more. I’d start with 20–30% more, so if a formulation called for 0.4% regular xanthan gum, I’d try 0.5% soft or clear xanthan gum.

If a formulation calls for soft or clear xanthan gum, and you want to use regular instead, I’d use 20–30% less. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the skin feel and appearance will be different. If you’re making an emulsion that contains a small % of xanthan to thicken and stabilize you likely won’t notice a huge difference, but if you’re making a gelled product and xanthan gum is the star gelling ingredient, you definitely will.

How to Work with It Pre-disperse it in glycerin or oil (depending on what else is in the formulation) before combining it with water to fully hydrate. I usually choose oil as the pre-dispersing medium when it is available as xanthan gum cannot clump in oil.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, xanthan gum should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks The inclusion of xanthan gum in emulsions can amplify the soaping effect.
Recommended starter amount 30g (1oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Xanthan Gum


Posted on

December 7, 2018